Monday, 15 October 2018

News of Our Loved Ones

Finished October 1
News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt

This novel looks at one French family and how key moments changed the stories that they would live. The family lives in Normandy, in a village that was occupied by the Nazis in World War II. Some of them will stay in the village, some will go to Paris, and some even further away.
The story moves around in time, moving backwards and forwards and focusing on different people as they meet significant moments in their lives.
From a young girl's crush on a boy she sees from her window, to a doctor's visit, to a hobby of painting, to a walk along a Paris street, each character has moment where their story turned and became a different story.
This is a story of family, of the stories that make a shared history, of how a small moment can affect a life. I really enjoyed it.

Where the Wild Cherries Grow

Finished September 29
Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine

This light novel takes place in two time periods, 1919 and 1969.
In 1919, Emeline Vane, a young woman, is still grieving the loss of all but her youngest brother, Timothy, in the war, and the deaths of her parents. Her father had left the house that they lived in on the coast of England, but no money. Her uncle has agreed to pay for the schooling of her young brother, but is insisting that the house be sold. Emeline is in a state of grief in which she is barely surviving. She is not eating, and for her the house represents the last bit of their family life.
When her uncle arranges for her to be sent away to a rest home in Switzerland, she seizes a moment in the train station in Paris and runs away.
She has no money, and no destination. She only knows that she doesn't want to be shut away for her own good.
In the later time period, Timothy's daughter is seizing a time when her father is very ill in hospital to seek to declare her long missing aunt dead, so that she can sell the estate to a developer. Because of the rush she is in, she goes to the lawyers who have been looking after the estate for all these years, a small firm, where a new lawyer, Bill Perch, is given the task as his first case. Bill goes to the house and finds information there that shows Emeline's state of mind, but there is something about her and the situation that makes him want to do the job right and try to find her if she is still alive.
As Bill follows in Emeline's path, we see him grow into a determined young man, as we see Emeline find a new future for herself that is not so very far from where she left.
A story around grief, love, and faith that hooked me and kept me reading.

La Femme De Gilles

Finished September 28
La Femme De Gilles by Madeleine Bourdouxhe, introduction by Elisa Albert, translated and with an afterword by Faith Evans

This short novel by a young Belgian writer, was first published in France in 1937, and with World War II soon upon the country, her work became largely overlooked. The story is set in a rural area of Belgium, and follows Elisa, a young mother, as she finds that her husband is having an affair.
Her reaction is the story.
Elisa lives near her family, and visits them often, but doesn't have a confiding relationship with them, and shares her pain with no one. She observes her husband and his distracted nature and watches him. She even follows him on one occasion when he leaves the house in the evening, Elisa has two young children and is pregnant with her third. In her time and place, leaving her marriage is not really an option that she considers. Instead, she tries to either redirect her husband's attentions, or wait out this betrayal. She hides her pain, and amazingly even offers comfort to her husband.
This is a story of obsession, of a woman burying her feelings as she tries to hang onto her world.
A poignant story.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Report from the Interior

Finished September 18
Report from the Interior by Paul Auster, read by the author

This memoir takes us from Paul's childhood through to his college days. The beginning was the most interesting to me, the random memories that he still had of those early days of moments caught in time. Memories of school, of friendships, of a love of baseball, realizing how his Jewish ancestry set him apart and his choice to embrace that.
The middle part covered two movies that made a big impression on him: The Incredible Shrinking Man and I Was a Prisoner on a Chain Gang. He describes these movies in detail, speaking of his reactions to them as they unfolded. They were very thorough and you could see the passion he had for these films, but less interesting to me as a reader.
The last part covers his college days and is taken from recently discovered letters he wrote to his first wife, Lydia Davis, which she shared with him. He has none of her letters, having not kept them, so it is very one-sided, and focused more on himself than on anything else. I found it a bit too self-centered to hold my interest.
Definitely not as good as his Winter Journal.

Orhan's Inheritance

Finished September 16
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian

This novel is set in 1990, where Orhan is a young man working in his grandfather's rug business in Turkey. Orhan's grandfather Kemal took on the business after his war service in the fight against Russia in the early twentieth century. As the book begins, Kemal has died, with his body found sitting in a vat of dye. Orhan knows that by tradition, his father would inherit, but the will his grandfather wrote left the business to him, and the house to a woman that Orhan has never heard of, Seda Melkonian.
Orhan's grandfather and father have never got along well, and his father has had little to nothing to do with the business. It is Orhan and his Auntie Fatma who deal with the business.
It is a notebook of drawing, one of many his grandfather had, that the lawyer gives Orhan, that has the address of Seda. She is in a nursing home in California.
Orhan is determined to go there and meet her, not only to convince her to sell the house back to them, but also to find out why his grandfather left it to her.
The letter from Orhan preceding his arrival is a reminder of the past for Seda, a past she long ago put behind her. And as she meets with Orhan, the story takes us back to 1915, the year in which Turkey began the deportation and genocide of its Armenian citizens. As we learn Seda's story, we also learn of her connection to Kemal, and to the rug business that he ran. We also learn a lot about this part of history, a difficult and sad history.
Orhan had his own time of exile, when, as a budding young photographer, he was imprisoned for the subjects of his photographs, and eventually freed on condition of exile. Thus he lived in Germany for a few years before returning home and joining the family business. He hasn't picked up a camera in years. As he leaves to go to California, Auntie Fatma gives him his old camera and an album of his photographs, and, during his trip he finds himself slipping back into the old ways of looking again.
This is a tale of discovery, of history resurfacing, and of hope.
The author is herself of Armenian heritage and part of her impetus for writing the story was for her own children to know their history.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Finished September 14
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie, translated by Ina Rilke

This short novel is told from the viewpoint of a young man who is one of a pair of young men who are sent to the mountains to be reeducated during China's Cultural Revolution. The narrator and his friend Luo are the only two sent to their remote village, and both are the sons of doctors. Another young man in a nearby village sometimes visits with them, and the two boys discover that he has a hidden suitcase of foreign novels.
There is a tailor in the region that travels from village to village making and mending clothes, who has a daughter that he mostly leaves at home. This young seamstress is friendly to the boys, and Luo begins to court her by reciting stories that he knows. Their village headman also enjoys their stories, and allows them to take time off work to go visit a larger town nearby where they could visit a cinema and return to recite the story of the film to the rest of the villagers. Luo has an extraordinary gift for storytelling, but at the times where illness strikes him, the narrator can also do a fairly good job. The narrator was also lucky enough to bring his violin, and he often played music, to distract them from their life as it was in the mountains.
When the boys are able to borrow one of the books from the boy in the next village, they read the book by Balzac often enough to memorize it, and the young seamstress is particularly enamored of this story.
We see the difficult work the boys must perform, the lonely life in the small mountain village, the release that they long for, and the ways they manipulate those around them to make their lives easier. It is a story of endurance, of hope, and of the power of story.
The author himself spent more than three years undergoing reeducation, and ten years after his release, emigrated to France.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Finished September 13
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

This novel is based on the real life of Joy Davidman and her relationship with C.S. Lewis. Joy was an American woman, a writer and a poet, when she began writing letters to C.S. Lewis.
In 1946, Joy's husband Bill called her late one night as he was going through a mental struggle. She tried to talk reasonably to him, but this time he hung up on her. Their home was in a far-flung suburb in the Hudson Valley, a distance from town. She had two young children. As she struggled against the panic she felt, she found herself on her knees, in tears, praying, even though she was an affirmed atheist. She had an experience that she found hard to describe, but said that she felt loved and known, and at peace. Thus began her journey towards enlightenment. Shortly thereafter, she came across an article about C.S. Lewis. She had already read a couple of his books, but found his history of moving from atheism to a search for enlightenment similar to her own, and thus decided to write a letter from both herself and her husband about their struggle, their questions, and doubts.
Joy was a passionate and insightful woman, who questioned many things, was well educated, and who had her own health issues. As Lewis answered her letters, and the two began a conversation, she was treated by him as a person worthy of consideration, respect, and worth engaging in vigorous debate.
When the struggles of her marriage and her health brought her to the point where her physician recommended that she leave her circumstances for a time, it became possible for her to go to England, get more affordable healthcare, take time to write, and meet Lewis in person. She spent only a small fraction of her time there with him, living in London for the majority of her visit, and staying with friends, acquaintances, and people they referred her to. With the support she gained, she found herself able to return home and begin the dissolution of her marriage. This was not easy at that time, and her marriage being a Catholic one added to the difficulty.
This story is told from her viewpoint, with excerpts from real letters, her poetry, and other historical documents. But much of the story is an imagined one, even though Callahan makes it feel very true. Joy's devotion to her sons, her struggles with faith, and her feelings for Lewis are clear, and this isn't a fairy tale romance.
Joy struggled, as many women still do, between her sense of what was expected of her, and what she felt to be right. She make mistakes, she admitted to faults, but she kept trying to be the woman she felt herself to be, and to claim the life she felt she had earned.
A very interesting story.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

South and West

Finished September 11
South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion, read by Kimberly Farr, with a foreword written and read by Nathaniel Rich

This is a never-before-released glimpse into Joan Didion's famous notebooks. The sections on the South are from June 1970 when she and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, took a road trip through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The include detailed looks at the people she saw around here, the conversations or fragments of conversation that she overheard, the images of small towns and cities that she passed through. She also had a few interviews with people from the south, prominent locally. The topics of race, class, tradition, and history seem to show how little has changed in the nearly fifty years since this trip was made.
She noticed the Confederate flags on everything from towels to clothing, the race divide that did not differentiate between wealth and poverty, and the class divide that did. She noticed how people talked of the past as something they had to hang on to, how people expected their lives to go on unchanged, despite larger change in the world. It was an incredibly engaging piece of writing.
The section on the West is much shorter and deals only with California. It dates from 1976, and the notes were taken for a piece she was to write for Rolling Stone magazine, a piece that was never written. Topics here included Patty Hearst (her trial was on at the time), images of San Francisco, and a visit to Sacramento that brought her back to her own younger days in that city when she was growing up.
Both show her focus, her powers of observation and memory, and her ability to internally stand back and observe even while being involved physically. These are a seldom seen door into the behind-the-scenes life of a writer. In this case, a writer of great skill.

Monday, 17 September 2018

The Lonely Witness

Finished September 8
The Lonely Witness by William Boyle

This novel has an interesting protagonist. Amy Falconetti grew up in a New York City borough, but her mother died when she was young and her father had already walked out, so she was raised by her grandparents. She had an interest in observing people, and she saw the next door neighbour kill someone, and did nothing about it. That incident was a defining memory for her.
After her grandparents died, she moved around and developed a unique style. She drank too much, and partied a lot, and when she finally moved to the area she now lives in, it was to be with a girlfriend whose family was from there, and who came back to help her dad.
But her girlfriend left her, and moved out to L.A., and somehow Amy stayed on, but changed. She started dressing more soberly, and going to church regularly, and became a volunteer who delivered communion to parishioners who were unable to come to church. She got a basement apartment at a good rate, and picked up odd jobs for the little cash she needed to get by.
But one day, everything changes. When she is giving communion to an elderly parishioner, Mrs. Epifanio, the woman expresses concern about another woman who usually comes and sits with her in the afternoon for a bit, but whose son has suddenly come instead, and whose behavior makes her uncomfortable. Amy offers to come the next time Mrs. Epifanio's visitor normally comes, and she meets the young man, who indeed behaves in a very suspicious way. Amy decides to follow him, and does so repeatedly, but is horrified when she sees the young man murdered by someone he knows.
Amy involves herself in the situation, but in very unusual ways, giving her access to more information about the young man and his life. As the murder reminds her of the incident she observed years ago, Amy finds herself questioning her own behaviour, her life, and her future.
When her father suddenly reappears in her life, she finds herself overwhelmed and isn't sure what to do. This is a book about a woman faced with an unusual situation that may be a terrible mistake or an opportunity to start fresh. I liked Amy, and was pleased with her starting to take her life back into her own hands.

Oh My Stars

Finished September 5
Oh My Stars by Sally Kilpatrick

This feel good novel is set in small town Tennessee. Ivy Long lives in Ellery with her mother and younger sister, a place she moved back to after the death of her husband from cancer a few years ago. Her mom helped get her a job at the Dollar General, and she's been mostly keeping her head down and trying not to think about the book her contract says she must submit by the end of the year, after many extensions. Her first book was very popular, but she can't seem to focus on the humour and romance that the next book in the series requires. It's an unhappy coincidence that her series was titled the Merry Widows shortly before she became a widow herself.
This year, her mom signed her up for a week posing as Mary in the drive-thru nativity scene just outside the store she works at. But then she meets the man posing as Joseph, Gabriel Ledbetter, a man who lived most of his life in the city, returned to help out his dad at the farm, and to wait out a malpractice case he is fighting. As a pediatrician, he is a bit out of his element on the farm, but finds some compensations in the people around him, and gradually getting to know his dad better, as well as his own history.
The title of the book comes from a phrase often voiced by Ivy's mom, when she is surprised, and Ivy and her sister Holly have a bet on about who can make their mom say it.
When a real live baby is laying in the manger one evening when Ivy reports for her nativity shift, Gabe is enlisted to check her health before the authorities become involved, and Ivy soon finds herself involved in a situation that takes her out of her resigned state of apathy and into a future she never dreamed of.
With characters that have interesting backstories, and a unique setting, this book brought both tears and a smile to my face as I read.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Every Last One

Finished September 2
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

This novel begins with a typical day in Mary Beth Latham's world. She wakes up before anyone else, has a coffee and some time alone before waking her three children and seeing them and her husband off, then going off to her own landscaping business. Her daughter Ruby is in her junior year of high school, and has a unique sense of style and great self-confidence. She loves to write, and is booked into a summer writing class at a college. Her two sons, fraternal twins, Alex and Max are in their last year of middle school. Alex is a star athlete with decent grades and a small group of friends. Max is a loner, with an interest in music and comics. Both boys are booked into summer camps suited to their interest. Mary Beth's husband Glen is an opthamologist with a quiet manner and a strong sense of order. Their marriage has gotten to a comfortable familiar stage where they each do their own thing, and follow a routine.
Ruby is getting ready for prom, and plans to do it in her own way. But she is also looking at changes in her life and one of them is moving on without her current boyfriend. Kiernan lived next door for a few years when the kids were small, then moved away. When his family moved back to town, they lived on a different street, but Kiernan seemed to latch onto their family, and spent a lot of time at their house. He gradually became Ruby's boyfriend, but he seems to be rubbing her the wrong way lately, and a split-up is due soon.
Ruby had an eating disorder a couple of years ago, and Mary Beth still worries about her a bit, but her main worry now is her son Max, who seems to be too much alone, and not very happy. When Max's stay at camp is cut short, she worries more, and does what she can to help.
But when violence and tragedy come into Mary Beth's life, it is from a direction she wasn't looking, and she must find a way to move forward, rebuilding her life.
This is a book of how someone recovers from an unthinkable event, and we see how various characters struggle with their own role, however small, in what happened. As always, I love how Quindlen puts a story together, and I read this in one sitting.

The Glass Lake

Finished August 30
The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy

This novel follows a mother and daughter over several years. As the book begins, Kit McMahon is twelve years old, and lives with her dad, Martin, a pharmacist; her mom, Helen; and her younger brother Emmet. They live above the pharmacy in the small town of Lough Glass. Helen is not happy, and Kit is aware of that in a sense. She knows her parents having their own bedrooms is not the norm among her schoolmates, but isn't sure what it means. Rita is their live-in maid, who also does most of the cooking.
Kit's best friend is Clio Kelly, whose father is the local doctor. Clio and Kit have spats every so often that split them up for a while, but they always eventually make up. Kit gets along well with Emmet, as he is an easygoing boy. He has a stutter, that makes him less inclined to speak up in public. Clio has a younger sister, Anna, who always wants to join her and Kit, but Clio never wants to include her, and the two sisters don't get on well.
Helen married Martin in a resigned sort of way. He knew that she'd been in love with someone else, but that that man had left her. His love was strong enough that he thought it would work out. Helen is a city girl, and doesn't fit in in their small town, and she hasn't really made an effort. She likes to take solitary walks by the lake.
The small Irish town is typical of many like it. The girls go to a school run by nuns, headed by Mother Bernard, and the boys go to one headed by Brother Healy. A few years back, a solitary nun appeared in town and moved into an empty cottage near the lake. Sister Madeleine lives simply, with the townspeople bringing her what she needs to survive. She listens to their stories, and gives advice when she can. Recently, she began having Emmet visit her to read poetry aloud, which is helping with his stutter.
Also in town is a pub, a dilapidated hotel called the Central Hotel, owned by the O'Briens, the usual assortment of shops, and an auto repair shop. The auto shop is owned by Billy Williams, but he has fallen badly into alcoholism, and and is soon shipped off to a home, while his two sons, Stevie and Michael return to the town, and Stevie begins to run the business.
One evening Helen doesn't return from her walk by the lake, a boat is found overturned and floating free, and winds were high. While the general assumption is that something unexpected happened, Kit worries that her mother's sadness may have led her to do something unthinkable, and she burns the letter left behind.
Meanwhile Helen has been reunited with her first love, and gone to London, and waits for word from Martin that will never come. In her new life, she finds that she has been assumed dead, and she must move on with the life she has chosen.
As we follow her, and Kit through the next few years, we see how their actions lead to challenges for both of them. An interesting story, with some very strong and capable female characters.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Clean Sweep

Finished August 22
Clean Sweep by Michael J. Clark

This mystery novel is set in Winnipeg, around Guiding Light Mission, a mission run by a former convict. Pastor Tommy Bosco found his calling in prison after losing his only son in a drive-by shooting. While everyone knows that Tommy runs the mission, very few know that he also runs a way out of town for those sought after by local criminals syndicates. As the book opens, Paul Noonan is looking for a way out, and Tommy offers it to him. Soon after, a well-known prostitute, Claire Hebert, known as Claire Bear, kills Stephanos, the head of a local syndicate in self defense, and things really go crazy in town. As Claire runs for her life, she draws in friends and acquaintances, including her ex, Tommy. The syndicate has a hit out on her, and several local men are looking for her, from Tommy's dad, Ernie Friday, to The Two Pauls, a couple of men named Paul, each crazy in their own special way, who team up to do jobs.
A local reporter, David Worshuk, of the Winnipeg Sentinel, is also on the trail. And of course the cops are looking for Stephanos killer too. One of the local cops, Miles Sawatski, has been getting payoffs for tips from an unknown source, but he's starting to feel a little weird about that.
This story has elements that reach a long way into the past, and that have a more sinister quality than your usual crimes.
The characters are interesting and complex, from Jasmine Starr, former prostitute now running a sex shop called The Other Woman, to a librarian with a sideline in fake IDs. I enjoyed this story and will be interested in more from this author.

Bring Me Back

Finished August 22
Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris, read by Cathleen McCarron and Kevin Hely

This novel is the third by Paris, and I admit that I didn't like it as much as the first two. It begins with a police statement from Finn, a statement that he admits isn't entirely true. Most of the book takes place 12 years later, but the impact of the disappearance of Finn's girlfriend, the reason for the statement, is huge.
Finn had met Layla by chance and taken her in for a few nights as she was unfamiliar with London, having come from the Scottish island of Lewis, where she had lived with her sister and father after the death of her mother a few years earlier. Layla is only 18 and finds it hard to find a job. Finn is possessive and jealous, and has a violent temper. Layla and Finn had gone skiing in France, and were driving home when they stopped at a rest stop. Finn left the car to go to the washroom, and when he returned, Layla was gone. We don't know how much of Finn's statement is true, and how much isn't, so we aren't really sure what happened between the two of them there.
12 years later, Finn has moved away from the cottage he shared with Layla, although he hasn't sold it, merely left it as it was, before the vacation. Finn is now living with Layla's sister Ellen, whom he met a couple of years ago when they had a memorial service for Layla. He and Ellen have recently got engaged, and now suddenly, it seems like Layla is reappearing in his life. It begins with the appearance of small Russian dolls, the innermost of a series of nesting dolls, which Layla carried with her. But it isn't just one doll, and when emails begin as well, Finn doesn't know what to think. He still has feelings for Layla, but he also loves Ellen, and he is torn.
Finn's longtime friend Harry, and the owner of the local pub, Ruby, also have roles to play here. But nothing is really clear until near the end.

Dreaming the Bull

Finished August 20
Dreaming the Bull by Manda Scott

This is the second book in a series, but I haven't read the others. It is a story around the Boudica, a woman warrior who led a long war against the Romans who were settling in Britain. She is the Bringer of Victory and her role is now taken by Breaca, a woman of strong resolve. The Boudica is part of the tribe of Eceni, and this book begins in A.D. 47. The main Roman character is a decurion, an officer in the auxiliary cavalry, named Julius Valerius. He was born an Eceni, but an incident in his youth has hardened his heart against his own people. The Romans are trying to disarm their enemy as a measure of defence, and this means destroying weapons that have been handed down through generations. As the man in charge of this action, Julius is hated by the Eceni. The Governor of Britannia is Scapula, and he is also hated by the tribes.
As the book begins, Julius meets the Roman Longinus Sdapeze, and grows close to him.
The Eceni are based on the holy island of Mona. One of the leading warriors is Caradoc, lover of Breaca, and father to the young boy Cunomar, son of Breaca. Caradoc is also the father of Cygfa, a young woman who is taking her first battle as a warrior. Her mother is Cwmfen, another strong female warrior. Breaca is heavily pregnant as the battle begins, and so is unable to join in. She sends her son Cunomar under the protection of Dubornos and her beloved hound Hail.
The Emperor Claudius is nearing the end of his reign, and is highly superstitious. When the battle goes wrong, and some of the leading warriors become prisoners of Rome, it is this superstitious nature, and the intercession of the royal physician Xenophon, that help to keep them alive.
I enjoyed this tale, and am now interested in reading other books in the series.

A World of Kindness

Finished August 19
A World of Kindness from the Editors and Illustrators of Pajama Press

This book raises funds for Think Kindness and illustrates what kindness looks like. Nine illustrators works are included here, some from other books put out by Pajama Press, and some original to this work. The actions shown here include waiting one's turn, helping others, being gentle, being polite, apologizing, sharing, and comforting.
The pictures are well chosen to convey the actions, and show diversity. A great addition to any collection.

Sunday, 19 August 2018


Finished August 17
Bullyville by Francine Prose

This novel follows Bart Rangely's year of eighth grade. Bart lived with his parents in the commuter town of Hillbrook, New Jersey, and he'd started grade eight more or less normally. But a few months before, Bart's dad had moved out to live with his girlfriend, and Bart and his mom were trying to go on as normally as possible. That means that his mom hadn't told anyone that his dad had left, just saying he was really busy. And so Bart never told anyone either. It was just easier. But then Bart stayed home from school with the flu, and his mom stayed home to look after him, and it was September 11, 2001. And Bart's dad died.
Bart and his mom got a lot of news coverage, and got treated as a feel good story, but Bart doesn't feel good. He's lost his dad, now for good, and that makes him feel awful. And his friends don't seem to know how to talk to him anymore. So when an offer gets made from the local boys prep school, his mom thinks it is a great opportunity. As much as he fights it, telling her all the rumours about the school, how instead of being called Baileyville, locals call it Bullyville, and how it is supposed to be a horrible place, he agrees to go.
And it is even worse than he expected. He is paired with a Big Brother, a junior named Tyro. At orientation, Tyro seems cold and disinterested, but after Bart starts, he turns into a bully, and he has a team of boys assisting him in treating Bart to a series of torments. Bart knows he isn't the only one being bullied, but he still doesn't seem able to make friends. So he tries to suck it up and pretend for his mother's sake, until finally he can't anymore.
This is a sad story, of how one family can use privilege and weath to itake away consequences of their actions. It is a story of empathy, and the lack of it, and how everything doesn't always work out, and people don't always show their good sides in the end. An interesting story. 

Along the Infinite Sea

Finished August 14
Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams, tread by Kathleen McInerney

This engrossing novel follows two timelines. The first we see is in 1966, when Pepper Schuyler has just sold a car that she found in her sister's barn, and fixed back to new with the help of a friend. She has been looking for a way to ensure that she and her unborn child have enough to survive on without the help of the child's father, and now she feels she has succeeded. Except that the father still wants something from her, and all she wants is for him to stay out of her life forever. She can't believe how naive she was, falling for the moves of a well-known, and married, politician. Only one of her sister's knows her circumstances, and Pepper is too embarrassed to tell the rest of the family. But she does know that she wants this child.
But the new owner of the car, Annabelle Dommerich, has taken an interest in her, and wants to help, even though she doesn't even know her. Annabelle has her own secrets, and it is those that the other storyline reveals. That storyline begins in 1936, when Annabelle is 19, and living with her father in Paris and on the Riviera. Her father's wild life isn't hers, and she mostly keeps to herself, playing her cello, and enjoying her surroundings. She has spent the years since her mother's death in boarding school, learning from nuns, a much different life than the one she is now exposed to. She knows some of what broke up her parent's marriage, her father's philandering, and has no interest in participating in his parties now.
When her brother calls on her to use the nursing skills she learned in school on an injured friend, she finds herself in close quarters with an attractive young German Jewish man, who she finds herself developing feelings for despite herself. As Annabelle finds herself protected, both from reality, and from information that she should have been told, she finds herself making choices for her future that she may regret. From her marriage to a man who loves her well, but whom she doesn't have passion for, to the recurring appearance of the young man she fell for, she tries to find her way to a happy ending.
As we see Annabelle's and Pepper's stories converge, we see how these very different women have their inner strength in common. I really felt swept away by this novel.

Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners

Finished August 12
Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony

This fun novel, coming out later this fall, takes an inside look at a Midwest family where things don't always go as the matriarch wishes. Violet Baumgartner has managed the lives of her husband and children as much as she can, but she can't always control things. The novel intersperses a selection of Violet's annual Christmas letters with events as they unfolded over the months from last fall when her husband Ed retired from his research position at BioTech.
The book opens with an incident in June, when Violet is being questioned by police over someone being punched, and a woman yelling out a question. Violet knows some of the answers to his questions, but she doesn't want to admit it. It is followed by the events beginning in December with Ed's retirement party.
Violet's daughter Cerise loves her mother dearly, but is frustrated that she hasn't acknowledged Cerise's sexuality, in spite of being friendly with her long-term partner Barb. Cerise is now pregnant, and Violet's need to know everything is definitely going to be an issue. Cerise hasn't told her yet, as she is waiting until after her dad's party, so as not to steal the limelight or distract her mom from all the planning. But when someone else discloses the information in front of everyone, things start going a little off the rails.
This book has a lot of humour, the growth of Violet as a person as she comes to terms with her daughter's real life, and family issues all round.
I found it a quick and enjoyable read, that surprised and entertained.

The Flooded Earth

Finished August 10
The Flooded Earth by Mardi McConnochie

This middle grade novel falls into the dystopian subset of climate fiction, fiction, known as clifi, that takes place after the world's climate has caused catastrophic changes. The main characters in the novel are Will and Annalie, twins, and the children of a man, Spinner, who had previously worked for the government trying to find solutions for problems facing the world's inhabitants.
As the book opens, it is forty years after a devastating flood that flooded entire countries, devastated coastal communities and had a huge economic effect. Many countries redefined themselves, opting not to repopulate some areas even after flood waters receded. Refugees found themselves in horrific camps, or living in the abandoned areas of the world.
Annalie was encouraged by her father to apply to the prestigious government boarding school in their country, Dux, and was accepted, but she feels like an outsider. She and Will were raised by their father in one of the abandoned areas and lived off the grid until now. During the flood the military took charge of the government and is still in charge. They are known as The Admiralty. When the authorities come unexpectedly for Spinner, he sends Will to a friend's place and goes for an escape. He doesn't make it to his boat, which The Admiralty has taken custody of, but he does disappear. And the authorities now come to Annalie, asking her questions about her father and making her feel unnerved. After talking to Will, she decides to leave school and go home to join Will and try to find their father. Her only school friend, Essie, daughter of a senior government official who has fallen to scandal, decides to come with her.
As the twins and Essie set off on a sea voyage after Skinner, along with Skinner's enhanced talking parrot, Graham, they are in for a big adventure. The must dodge the government officials that are trying to find them, avoid the pirate ships that prey on boats where they can, and try to decide who to trust as they follow their instincts and carefully choose ports to stop in for supplies. This is obviously the first in a series of books following the children, and I am dying to find out the next adventures for them. The author is well-known for both children's and adult fiction in Australia, and I am pleased to discover her.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

A Start in Life

Finished August 8
A Start in Life by Anita Brookner

This short novel looks at the early life of lonely academic Ruth Weiss. As the book begin, she is forty, looking back on her life to that point. Her major research has been on the women in Balzac's novels, and her immersion in the world of literature is her life now.
She looks back on her life, with her parents, Helen, a high-spirited and successful stage actress mother, and George, a quiet father who had inherited a stock of rare books from his own father, running a small shop of them. For the early part of her childhood, she had primarily been looked after by her paternal grandmother, a woman with a sad European past, who had brought from Europe a selection of large dark wood furniture, classic china and silver, highly pressed table linen, and a deep sense of order.
To the child it seemed as if all dining rooms must be dark, as if sodden with a miasma of gravy and tears. She imagined, across the unknown land, silent grandmothers, purple flock wallpaper, thunderous seascapes, heavy meats eaten at speed. Velvet curtains, the damask cloth laid over only half the table, the intricate siege architecture of the chair legs and cross bars.
As Ruth, named for her grandmother, kept to herself, escaping within the world of literature, she was also aware that although she loved her parents, they would be no support for her, for they were unable to even look after themselves properly. Following her grandmother's death, they hired a live-in woman to do the housekeeping and meals, Mrs. Cutler. George lost interest in the store and began to look for a buyer. Helen began to go straight to bed upon arriving home, supplied their with drinks and a light meal. The two slipped easily into an intimacy with Mrs. Cutler that prevented them from ensuring that she carried out her work, and the house fell into slovenliness, with poor meals.
Ruth concentrated on her studies, mastering French and venturing into the discovery of French authors, including Balzac. She went to college and planned to study abroad in France, where she would be able to do more research on her subject of choice.
But it is her parents, and their worries and lack of independence that would draw her back from her life of independence.
A look at a woman who life has for the most part, passed by.

A Good Day for Ducks

Finished August 1
A Good Day for Ducks by Jane Whittingham, illustrated by Noel Tuazon
This picture book has a young girl and her little brother venturing out on a rainy day. We see them looking out the window at the rain, then getting all their gear on to go outside. The happy illustrations show them enjoying everything a rainy day has to offer, puddles, mud, ducks, and worms. They are both fully engaged in the world around them.
When the lightning and thunder start, mom takes them home, pulling off their wet clothes and changing them into something cozy. She makes them cocoa, and gets them settled at the table with paper and paints to draw pictures about the fun they've had.
This is a book in celebration of a rainy day, of siblings, and of the fun of experience. Like Jane's previous book Wild One, this is a book about children enjoying nature.

The Tinsmith

Finished July 30
The Tinsmith by Tim Bowling

This novel begins in the US Civil War, around the Battle of Antietam. Anson Baird is a doctor working for the Union Army. With a seemingly endless supply of injured man, Anson moved from one operation to the next, amputating, digging out bullets and stitching closed wounds. He has little time for sleep, and next to no assistance. So when he first notices a tall man in a torn uniform helping bring injured men to the medical area, he does so only to notice that he keeps bringing men in, unlike most who disappear quickly. When the man proves even more helpful by serving as a surgical assistant, he is very thankful.
When a civilian is killed in a shocking manner, and the body goes missing soon after, he doesn't connect it with the man until later when men come searching for the body. Once he's made the connection, he works to protect the man and give him a new identity. The man, previously John, now taking the identity of a soldier named William Dare.
We see backwards into John's life as a house slave, looked after by a slave family, and caught as a pawn between a violent and vindictive overseer and the culture he was born into. The story moves back and forth between first the war and John's past, and then many years later, the Fraser river in B.S. and John's past, as William Dare tries to save his fledgling salmon business by asking for Baird's help once again.
This is a story of race, of culture, of reputation, and men whose greed is larger than their morals.
I enjoyed the character of John/William Dare, a man who doesn't really fit in wherever he goes, and of Anson, a man who wants to do the right and moral thing.

My Father, Maker of the Trees

Finished July 27
My Father, Maker of the Trees: How I Survived the Rwandan Genocide by Eric Irivuzumugabe with Tracey D. Lawrence, read by Dion Graham

This memoir is that of Eric Irivuzumugabe, who was sixteen at the time of the genocide. It tells of his life from just before the genocide to a decade later. It is the portion telling of his experience during the days of the genocide, along with the experiences of several other family members that was the most terrifying and poignant. People didn't know which way to go to be safe, and many thought that the violent men chasing them would be after the men and the older boys, so they left the small children with the women, not realizing the extent the violence would reach. Some were hid by brave neighbours, but the practice of violence to those that did hide people was enough to deter many from this action.
Of Eric's immediate family, only himself and two younger brothers survived. In his extended family, some uncles, an aunt and some cousins survived. His grandfather, a man who had survived two previous genocides, did not.
In the shock following these days, looking for answers, Eric was drawn to Christianity and the church and much of the remaining book is about his conversion, the people in the church, both local and foreign that he grew to trust, and his career within the church subsequently.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Something in the Water

Finished July 23
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

This suspense novel really took me by surprise a couple of times, despite the unusual beginning.
The book opens with Erin, a documentary filmmaker and newlywed, in the woods near a country inn that she and her fiance had vacationed in just a few weeks before their wedding. What is she doing there? Digging a hole, a grave to be exact, to bury her husband in.
Most of the rest of the book is a flashback to the weeks leading up to this moment. They include her big documentary project, one in which she follows three people from phone interviews, to meetings while they are still in jail, to meetings either at time of release, or soon after, with a bit of followup. One of the women is from poverty, and has made some poor choices, ending with setting a bus on fire, which has led her to prison. The other woman she follows is a bit older, a successful lawyer, who assisted her mother to kill herself as she was dying a painful death. She is calm and sympathetic, and has her life planned out following her release. The third is a man who has long been rumoured to be a high stakes player in a criminal organization, a man who knows his stuff, but was caught a few years ago for money laundering. Getting him to interview is a coup, and Erin knows it. She doesn't really know why everyone agreed to cooperate with her, and she pulled in a lot of favours to make this work. A lot of her work is done in the weeks and days leading up to her wedding date in the fall, but the releases of all three are scheduled for after she returns from her honeymoon. So between the wedding plans and her work, a lot is happening.
As the wedding gets closer though, there are also new issues arising with her fiance. First he seems distracted, and then worried about finances, and she tries to put aside her worries as she calms him, and accepts some of the changes that he suggests. Things move along, but when the two of them discover something in the water near their honeymoon resort, things really start going south.
This is a story with lots of twists and turns, and surprises. Erin is an interesting character, strong and determined in some ways, and vulnerable in others. It is interesting to see her develop here.


Finished July 20
Charged by Jay Crownover

This is the second book in the Saints of Denver series, but the only one I've read. It focuses on a young woman, Avett Walker, who has made a series of bad choices in her life, seeming to fall a bit lower each time. She has reached a point where she is in jail, charged as an accessory in an armed robbery. And the victims were people she had been friends with, and who were close to her family. She feels too disgusted with herself to ask for help, or to call her father, who has always been there for her no matter what she has done. She is ashamed and scared.
Enter hot-shot criminal lawyer Quaid Jackson, ex-military and with a big reputation. He says that he is her lawyer, and she is to do what he says, but she has no way to pay him. When she finds out who called him on her behalf, she is even more determined to find a way to pay him herself.
Quaid has taken the job without knowing anything about her, but he soon finds out that she's cute and feisty, and up for almost anything. He also finds himself digging deeper to discover what has taken her down the road that she's gone down, and intervening with her family to help her find a new start to her life.
This is a novel of two very determined people, each with their own issues, who begin to change each other's lives significantly. With lots of hot scenes, and some tense situations, this book is a quick read.

The New Moon's Arms

Finished July 18
The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson

This novel was one I picked because of a challenge over at Following the Thread. The story follows a woman, Calamity, as she undergoes some major changes in her life. Her name as a girl was Chastity, but she changed it to Calamity as it felt more fitting to her. Her family was poor, and when her mother disappeared when she was still a young girl, there were all kinds of rumours that put her on the outside at school. Soon after that, a major storm caused destruction to the island where she'd lived until then, Blessée, and when they evacuated that island, her father was offered a house on Dolorosse. When Calamity was sixteen, she got pregnant, and her father kicked her out. She survived, and made a life for herself and her daughter Ife, and eventually when her father became terminally ill with lung cancer, she returned to look after him. As the book opens, she is at his funeral,
When she was young, Calamity was a finder, who seemed to have the skill to locate things that people had lost, but that disappeared around the time her mother did. Lately though, something like it seems to have returned. Calamity feels warm, and her hands go tingly, and something shows up unexpectedly. Her doctor says it is just menopause, but she thinks it is more than that.
At the funeral, it is her pin, that her mother gave her, that she has been missing since childhood. That appearance is followed by others, some former possessions, some larger than herself, and one hurt little boy on the beach near her home.
As new people come into Calamity's life, from old friends, to new men, she finds herself needing to adjust her attitude, and not every interaction goes well. She hasn't talked to Ife's father in years, but finds herself reaching out to him again, and dealing with Ife's choices for her own life. She fights against the term grandma, but loves her young grandson Stanley.
She believes in things that can't be explained, from her finding ability, to the personality of her car Victoria, to the strange physical attributes of the young boy she has found. She calls him Agway, from a noise he makes often, and finds herself wanting to both protect him, and care for him. He reminds her of a child she met a couple of times when she herself was just a child, and we see these memories. There are also a few times where an employee of the local Zooquarium notices things that are odd about the endangered monk seals, and these are interspersed at key moments in the story.
From the salt factories, to the cashew groves, the monk seals to the pressure of hotel chains and resorts, we see how the island and its inhabitants are under pressure to change.
I've all kinds of ideas percolating in my brain about how to take instances and themes from this book and create something, and will post it when it comes to fruition.

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


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!

11th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

The 11th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge
Hosted by Melwyk here.

The theme was highways and byways, and the goal was to read 13 books.
I read 49

Here are mine:
1. Just Like Family by Kate Hilton. Finished July 1
2. Two Times a Traitor by Karen Bass. Finished July 4
3. The Twenty-Three by Linwood Barclay. Finished July 5
4. Cottage Cheese Thighs by Jenn Sadai. Finished July 6
5. The Last Wave by Gillian Best. Finished July 12
6. Hunting Houses by Fanny Britt. Finished July 23
7. The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier. Finished July 27
8. Malagash by Joey Comeau. Finished July 29
9. Road Signs That Say West by Sylvia Gunnery. Finished August 1
10. Firing Lines by Debbie Marshall. Finished August 4
11. Winter Child by Virginia Pesemapeo Bordeleau. Finished August 6
12. Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel. Finished August 13
13. All That Man Is by David Szalay. Finished August 17
14. More Than a Lover by Ann Lethbridge. Finished August 18
15. Campbell's Kingdom by Hammond Innes. Finished September 3
16. Slug Days by Sara Leach. Finished September 23
17. Baby Cakes by Theo Heras. Finished September 24
18. The Dark and Other Love Stories by Deborah Willis. Finished October 1
19. Wild One by Jane Whittingham. Finished October 7
20. Glass Houses by Louise Penny. Finished October 17
21. Purple Palette for Murder by R.J. Harlick. Finished October 21
22. Shallow End by Brenda Chapman. Finished November 8
23. Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley. Finished December 3
24. Timo Goes Camping by Victoria Allenby . Finished December 7
25. The Ghost Orchard by Helen Humphreys. Finished December 15
26. Last Lullaby by Alice Walsh. Finished December 26
27. One Day It Happens by Mary Lou Dickinson
28. Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki
29. A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena. Finished January 14
30. The Finest Supermarket in Kabul by Ele Pawelski. Finished January 26
31. Here So Far Away by Hadley Dyer. Finished February 4
32. Flo by Kyo Maclear. Finished February 7
33. Where's Bunny by Theo Heras. Finished February 28
34. Wash On! by Michèle Marineau. Finished March 15
35. Shrewed by Elizabeth Renzetti. Finished March 23
36. The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson. Finished March 23
37. A Troublesome Boy by Paul Vasey. Finished March 28
38. The Prisoner of Snowflake Falls by John Lekich. Finished March 28
39. The Good Liar by Cathering McKenzie. Finished April 7
40. Ben and the Scaredy-Dog by Sarah Ellis, illustrated by Kim LeFave. Finished April 8
41. Roughneck by Jeff Lemire. Finished April 8
42. Things To Do When It's Raining by Marissa Stapely. Finished April 26
43. Clara Voyant by Rachelle Delaney. Finished April 28
44. Don't I Know You by Marni Jackson. Finished May 4
45. The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley. Finished May 11
46. Sun Dog by Deborah Kerbel, illustrated by Suzanne del Rizzo. Finished May 13
47. Montrose County by Bill Greenwood. Finished May 23
48. Missing Mike by Shari Green. Finished May 27
49. NemeSIS by Susan Marshall. Finished June 29

Then She Was Gone

Finished July 3
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

This suspense novel revolves around Ellie Mack, a bright, pretty, 15-year-old girl who goes missing on her way to the library shortly before her exams, and her mother Laurel Mack, devastated by the unanswered question of what happened to her daughter, Laurel's story begins ten years after her daughter's disappearance, when she finally finds a way to move on.
We go back and forth between Laurel's story, and Ellie's, and sometimes other voices at the moments where their stories cross those of the mother or daughter.
Laurel's marriage to Ellie's father Paul didn't last, and she didn't spend the time on her two older children, Hanna and Jake that they needed, causing distance to grow between her and them. Now that she is ready to move forward, she isn't sure how to start. Enter Floyd, a man near her own age, that she meets in a cafe, and begins a relationship with.
She meets Floyd's daughters, Sara-Jade, a young woman who lives with her mother, and Poppy, a nine-year-old girl older than her years in some ways, and more naive in others. And Laurel begins to reach out to her own children. To Hanna, who has lived quietly alone, spending most of her time at work, and whose apartment Laurel cleans weekly. And to Jake, who lives further away, with his partner Blue, a young woman Laurel barely knows. Laurel also goes to see her mother Ruby, who lives in a nursing home, but still shows Laurel the love and support of a mother,
As the story unravelled, I surmised and suspected parts of the story, but not all of it, and the story is a story of love and want, of sadness and hope. A great read.