Thursday, 19 September 2019

The Good Neighbor

Finished September 10
The Good Neighbor: the Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King, read by Levar Burton

This biographical work covers the whole of Fred Rogers' life, from childhood through his death from cancer. It moves chronological through his life for the most part, occasionally following themes through his work.
He grew up a bit lonely and had health issues as a child. His parents were very wealthy, and his father was head of a family industrial business. His mother was heavily involved in community projects, and that example played a large role in his life.
His love of music and passion for early childhood education led him to the career that made him famous. I found it interesting to see how he developed his career in television, including a stint with the CBC that originated many elements of his Mr. Rogers television role. He brought a huge part of himself to that role, and worked closely with education researchers on every element of his long-running program. In some ways, his family's wealth allowed him to stick to his principles, such as his adamant refusal to allow advertising to children on his shows. He demanded a lot from those he worked with, but also gave a lot himself. Even on his vacations, he would write music and scripts for the show.
I learned a lot about his background and motivations.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Lili Macaroni

Finished September 9
Lili Macaroni by Nicole Testa, illustrated by Annie Boulanger

This picture brings to life the issues surrounding bullying.
Lili grows up feeling loved. She can see bits of herself in other members of her family and make the emotional connection to that person as well. She draws and tells stories and feels good about who she is. She especially likes to draw butterflies with polka dots.
When she starts school, things change. Some kids make fun of her name, some insult her hair, her eyes, her freckles and her laugh. She doesn't feel good about herself anymore. She feels like these things about her are bad things.
We see how she tries to draw a different self on paper, but realizes that it erases those things about herself that she likes in other members of her family, and she can put herself in their shoes, thinking about how they would feel is she shared with them that she didn't like that part of her that they shared.
When she considers how to feel better, her father encourages her to draw her favourite kind of butterfly, She takes her butterfly to school and tells her class why she has it, and why she felt bad before she made it. This is good, showing people how sharing feelings can make others aware of a problem they may not have noticed.
Her teacher handles it well, and things get better at school. Lili now has learned one way to cope with her feelings.
The book includes some activities inspired by this story at the back, a great idea for kids struggling with negativity.


Not to Disturb

Finished September 8
Not to Disturb by Muriel Spark

This inventive black comedy takes place in a country house on a rainy night. While there are some brief interactions with the upper class owners and outsiders, the majority of the action takes place on the other side of the baize doors among the servants of the household.
The staff appears prescient of the events about to take place that evening, with some minor adjustments to be made as additional information is obtained. They calmly go about their business as a violent off-screen action takes place between the Baron, Baroness, and their secretary. The butler and housekeeper are the ones that give direction, as is expected, with major roles also taken by the chef and the pregnant maid.
This is a farce, but also a social statement. This is humour, but it is on the dark side of life. A very interesting read.

Murder in Pigalle

Finished September 7
Murder in Pigalle by Cara Black

This is part of a mystery series featuring Parisian private investigator Aimee Leduc. Aimee runs her own agency with one full time partner and a hacker on call. Aimee's father was a Paris police officer who died in a bomb blast a few years ago. Her American mother ran away when she was only a child. As the book opens Aimee is well along in an unplanned pregnancy, but has not yet told the man who is the father. Her business partner cares for her, and has been solicitous of her condition. Zazie, the teenage daughter of the cafe owners across the street from her office is waiting for her as she arrives in the office after lunch, asking for her assistance in a case where young teens are being sexually assaulted in their own homes. Zazie has been doing her own sleuthing, based in part of her idolization of Aimee and in part from the female resistance activist that she researched for a school project. Shortly after asking for Aimee's help, Zazie disappears.
Aimee is worried that Zazie's investigation may have caught the attention of the rapist, and she desperately follows the clues she has and tries to get the police to recognize the pattern that Zazie identified and look for Zazie as a potential witness.
Aimee is an interesting character, impulsive, loyal, and determined. She also has issues to do with her parents, and with becoming a mother herself, not to mention relationship challenges. I really enjoyed this novel, the first I've read in the series.

Cygnet

Finished August 31
Cygnet by Season Butler

Kid, a seventeen-year-old girl has come to a remote island off the New Hampshire coast to live with her grandmother. Kid has led a peripatetic life, as her parents wandered from city to city, in search of a life. Her mother was a scavenger, who taught Kid to find food where she could and to cook. She also taught her how to avoid the worst of her father's mood swings. But as her parents gradually succumbed to drugs, Kid became more alone, and it was only when social services removed her from her parents that she was taken in by her grandmother Lolly.
The island, Swan Island, is home to a community of retired people, many with a hippie vibe, some of whom resent the intrusion of Kid, especially as her stay lengthens beyond that originally proposed by Lolly. As the book opens, Kid is living alone in Lolly's house, after Lolly's sudden death, hoping for her parents' return, desperately watching as the sea reclaims the land the house is on.
She manages to make her living working for one of the wealthier retirees who wants to remake her past. As Kid rewrites diaries and letters, doctors photographs, and makes other changes to reflect the woman's imagined perfect past, she also begins a relationship with a young man who visits his own grandmother. The young man, Jason, also supplies the island with a variety of legal and illegal pharmaceuticals, and acts as the middleman for their own modest pot-growing business. 
Kid has also grown close to another retiree, who is sinking fast, first through dementia and then through physical setbacks.
There are other nearby islands, one the former home of a beloved poet, another the site of a marine research team from the nearby university, a third a popular camping destination. These islands play a role in Kid's future as well.
As Kid comes to her eighteenth birthday, she must make choices about her life, and find a way to move on without the help of others.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Murder on Bamboo Lane

Finished August 31
Murder on Bamboo Lane by Naomi Hirahara

This book is part of a series featuring police officer Ellie Rush. Ellie's mother is Japanese American and her family was interned during World War II. Ellie's father is white, and her paternal grandmother taught Spanish for years. So Ellie majored in Spanish in college at Pan Pacific West College, and then decided to join the police, following in the footsteps of her mother's sister, Cheryl Toma, who is now one of the senior offices in the LAPD. Ellie is a bicycle officer. A lot of her friends are still in college, including her ex-boyfriend Benjamin Choi, who is Korean American. Ellie's best friend Nay is Cambodian. One of Ellie's jobs is working as a community liaison, and one of her contacts complains about a missing person flyer that has been littering the neighbourhood. Ellie recognizes the missing girl as some she shared a class with at university, and become curious.
When the girl's body is discovered soon after, Ellie becomes involved in the case, and her aunt seems to be encouraging her to stay involved. As Ellie tries to juggle her work, with the relationships there that she is trying to develop to further her career, and her personal life, with some interesting family dynamics and an ex-boyfriend she still cares for, along with an interest in another police officer, she finds herself unsure of which steps are the right ones for her to move forward on.
Ellie mostly bicycles or uses transit, but she does have a car she inherited from her grandfather, a 1969 Buick Skylark that is long past its prime, and which has been dubbed the Green Mile. She lives alone with her dog Shippo in a small apartment in Highland Park. Ellie's younger brother Noah is close to her, but has his own issues.  There is a lot going on here, and I liked the depth of the character development for Ellie. I also liked the variety of ethnicities in the characters.

Evvie Drake Starts Again

Finished August 29
Evvie Drake Starts Again by Linda Holmes

The book begins with a flashback. Evvie is sitting in her car, preparing to leave her husband. This is something she's been thinking about doing for a while. She's packed a couple of things into the car when her phone rights. It's the hospital her husband works at. She thinks it is him, but it is instead someone calling to tell her to come to the hospital as he is badly hurt. She goes.
The book then jumps forward more than a year to Evvie still dealing with a lot of conflicting feelings about her situation. She's played the grieving widow that everyone else, including her best friend, Andy, thinks that she is. But in her own head, she thinks of herself as a monster, while also thinking about how no one ever knew how her husband treated her. They all think he was wonderful. She's living a lie, and doesn't know how to move forward.
Enter Dean Tenney, Andy's high school friend, who played professional baseball until a few months back when suddenly he couldn't anymore. He's spent the last few months getting professional help, trying to figure out why he couldn't do it anymore, but now he needs to leave that world and figure out what to do next. Andy figured that since Evvie's house had a basement apartment, and she would respect Dean's privacy, it was a good solution.
Evvie had been with her husband since she was sixteen, and planned to leave him on the day she'd been with him exactly half her life. Andy is divorced with two young girls, now five and seven, who Evvie is very close with. Evvie helped Andy a lot after his divorce, but she's never shared her own marital woes. Her husband Tim tolerated the friendship as long as she didn't share anything about their relationship, so she complied. Now, she hasn't been able to break down that barrier.
There's a lot of small town life here, both good and bad, a little romance, a little humour. I liked the attention to detail too.
At one point Evvie describes the nearby LL Bean store as being "full of men who want to find themselves but will settle for getting poison ivy on their balls instead." Evvie is a person who wants to help others, but doesn't know how to help herself. I liked to see how she changed over the course of the novel.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

The Migration

Finished August 28
The Migration by Helen Marshall

This novel really captured me. Set in the near future, the world is in trouble. Seas are rising, and communication is becoming worse across longer distances. Then a disease starts to take hold, affecting children and teenagers.
The main character here is Sophie Perella, who lives in Toronto with her parents and younger sister Kira. When Kira is diagnosed with this mysterious illness, Sophie's mother tries various treatments, and finally the two girls and their mother move to Oxford, England, where Sophie's Aunt Irene lives. Irene is involved in research relating to the illness, but also reaching back historically, looking at the Black Death and how it manifested itself.
Sophie becomes involved assisting in her aunt's research, but she also watches stories in the news about the progression of the illness, and tries to protect her sister. The characters also must deal with storms and rising waters as their environment grows more unstable.
Sophie is befriended by a young man whose mother works as a nurse in the local hospital and as the two share their discoveries, a new theory begins to form. Sophie is forced to deal with difficult decisions that affect not only herself, but those she loves, and as she does, she learns that the past may hold clues to the future.
A wonderfully inventive plot, with interesting characters.

The Gown

Finished August 24
The Gown by Jennifer Robson

I'd bought this a while back and been meaning to read it for ages. I took it on my vacation as I knew I would likely pass it on to one of my stitching friends I was going to be spending time with. It was even better than I hoped.
The main characters in the novel are two young women working at the Norman Hartwell workshop. Ann Hughes answered an advertisement in 1939 when she was fourteen and had no stitching experience at all. In fact, that was one of the reasons that she was hired, as she had no bad habits to unlearn. Now, in her twenties, she is one of the senior embroiderers. During her employment, her parents have passed away, and her brother was killed in the war. As the book opens, she is living with her brother's widow in the council house she grew up in. Money is tight and she is faced with new challenges as her sister-in-law considers joining her brothers who have emigrated to Canada.
Miriam Dessin is a young French woman who has lost her family in the war, and is now looking for a fresh start in another country. She had worked at the Christian Dior workshop in Paris, and is highly skilled, but it is only as she takes a huge risk that she is able to find a job using her skills in England.
Shortly after Miriam starts as the workshop, Hartwell is vying for the job of creating the wedding dress for Princess Elizabeth. This event will be an uplifting one for the nation after the privations and losses of the recent war, and they want it to be a huge success. Ann, with the assistance of Miriam are given the job of making Hartwell's designs come to life. They are under immense pressure, not only for the work itself, but for secrecy about the design.
The stories of these skilled young women was wonderful, and the author credits an encounter with the journalist Heather Mackenzie, who connected her with one of the real-life embroiderers of the wedding gown, Betty Foster, for being able to supply the details that made the story what it is.
This is a fantastic read, for the history, but also for anyone who does handwork.

The Islanders

Finished August 23
The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore

This story takes place on Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, and follows several characters, each dealing with their own challenges. Anthony Puckett is a writer whose first novel made huge sales and won critical acclaim. His next novel put him under pressure, and when working one particular section he used something written by a long-dead author, always intending to go back and replace it with something he'd written, but he was outed by one of the advance readers, and this caused huge fallout including his wife kicking him out. He's taken refuge in a small cottage on the island owned by the elderly uncle of a friend. He's desperately missing his young son Max, and feeling shut out by his famous author father Leonard. He's using a fake last name to keep his privacy.
Joy Sousa is a single mom of a young teen girl, Maggie. Her husband left when Maggie was very young, and she's made a life for herself running a shop on the island that sells Whoopie Pies. But now, her landlord is upping the rent, her daughter is less sharing than she used to be, and her ex-husband has reentered Maggie's life. She's definitely feeling the stress.
Lu Trusdale was a successful lawyer until she resigned after having her second child. She's been a stay-at-home mom for a few years, with the family running a tight budget as her husband gets his medical practice started, and he works long hours. Lu wasn't finding fulfillment without some form of outside work, and she's secretly been writing a food blog. Now it is starting to be successful, her husband is pressuring her for a third child, and she must finally step out of the shadows and reveal what she wants to those close to her.
There is lots going on here, and with a small community there is interaction between all these characters. I really enjoyed the various storylines, and liked how they came together.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

You, Me and The Sea

Finished August 22
You, Me and the Sea by Meg Donohue

Merrow Shawe has had an unusual life, Now, she's about to marry the man she loves and things should be feeling good, so why is she suddenly feeling haunted by the past she's left behind. This novel starts with the present, and then takes us back into Merrow's childhood, where she grows up without answers around her mother's death, neglected by her father, and abused by her older brother, Bear. Merrow's parents met in the 1960s when her father Jacob came west to find his future. Her mother, Marigold, was living in a commune called the Freedom Collective near San Francisco, and Jacob joined it too. After a few years, Jacob had saved enough money from his other work off commune to buy a property called Horseshoe Cliff near Osha, a small hippie town. They grew much of their own food, and made a life together. But Marigold died when Merrow was just a baby, and her father doesn't talk about her. A neighbor named Rei, an older Japanese woman, helps out with taking their produce and handcrafted creations to sell in the city. She brings food and provides advice. When Merrow is five, her father gives her a dog that she grows very close to, and when she is nine, he leaves one day, and comes back with Amir, a young boy from India, the adopted son of her mother's best friend who has recently died. Amir and Merrow grow very close, but Bear's abuse grows stronger and now includes Amir as well.
As Merrow and Amir struggle with an increasingly difficult home life, a way out presents itself, and Merrow finds herself considering it.
As we gradually learn what has brought Merrow to the point in her life that was introduced at the beginning, we also find her internal struggles for those she loves.
A great read.

Death in Provence

Finished August 17
Death in Provence by Serena Kent

This mystery features the divorced Penelope Kite, a British woman who took early retirement from her job in forensics at the Home Office. Since her retirement, her stepchildren have been relying heavily on her as an unpaid babysitter for her grandchildren and showing little appreciation for her time. She wants to take time for her own interests, for the life she wants to live. Part of that is a life in the French countryside, and she's found the perfect fixer-upper.
Unfortunately, on her first morning at her new home, she finds a man face down in her sadly neglected swimming pool.  Was he the same man who accused her of living on his property the evening before? He seems to be, but her knowledge of forensics makes her question this. As she meets the others in her village and spends a lot of time with her real estate agent as she deals with issues arising from the crime on her property, she also begins to consider what she will do with her time in her new home.
This was an enjoyable read. I liked Penelope and how she is learning to find a place for herself in her new environment. She's finally coming into her own life. The mystery of the dead man, and subsequent worrying events are intriguing and stretch into the village's past.

Monday, 2 September 2019

The Maker

Finished August 16
The Maker: Crafting a Unique Space by Tamara Maynes with Tracy Lines, photography by Eve Wilson

This inspiring book looks at a variety of creative pursuits
The book has a handmade feel, with a thick board cover and rounded corners.
The first section talks about a wide variety of creative pursuits readers may want to explore and gives short descriptions of each. These are; applique, basketry, ceramics, chair caning, embroidery, fabric dying and printing, felting, glass blowing, knitting, leaded glasswork, leatherwork, macrame, metalwork, papercraft, quilting and patchwork, rug hooking, sculpture, shade making, tapestry weaving, upholstery, willow bending, wirework, and woodwork.
This is followed by more in-depth chapters on a number of these. Each chapter includes quotes from people doing this type of work, examples of a variety of work in this area, a short interview with a maker, and complete instructions for a project.
Wall Art includes a project for a metal wall hanging. Objects includes a project for a wire sculpture. Textiles includes a project for a woven table runner. Ceramics includes a project for a no fire clay vessel. Lighting includes a project for a woodworked light box, and Furniture includes a project for a marquetry table top.
These chapters are followed by a discussion on craftsmanship, sustainable making, raw materials for making, space for making, design, and reworking.
The book ends with a list of various tools, with images and some ideas of makers to follow.
I loved the layout, and found that it make trying out some of these creative pursuits very approachable. The projects chosen don't require a lot of financial outlay or specialized tools, and are good starting points for a beginner.

13th Canadian Book Challenge September Roundup


Post the reviews for the books you read this month here.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

A Single Thread

Finished August 11
A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

This historical novel is set between the wars, in the early 1930s. Violet Speedwell is in her late thirties, working as a typist for an insurance company. She's recently moved out of her mother's house in Southampton to Winchester, where she rents a room in a boarding-house. After her father's death, she found it increasingly difficult to deal with her mother. Violet's older brother George was killed in the Great War, soon followed by her fiance Laurence. Her younger brother Tom did his stint in the war, but came back changed and is now married with a couple of children. Violet has been feeling more and more like her life has no meaning.
She relishes her independence, but finds it hard to live on her meagre salary. She shares the office with two younger women who chat and giggle about the young men they are seeing, and treat her with a pitying respect. Violet is drawn to the cathedral, which is much more magnificent inside than it is out, and tries to stop in regularly.
As the book begins, she's stepped out of work on an errand and finds a service about to begin. She forces her way into the seated group of women, and finds that they are embroiderers who have created the first of many planned batches of kneelers for the cathedral and the service is to accept this offering of work. Violet doesn't have fond memories of her own failed tries at embroidery under her mother's tutelage, but one of the women reaches out to her in a friendly way, and soon Violet finds herself a part of the group, learning how to do the expected stitching and finding a community for herself. This is a story of a woman who, after a period of suspension of her life, finds a new way forward, confident in what she has to offer and brave enough to take what she wants when the opportunity arises.
I liked Violet and her courage to find a new life for herself, and I loved the embroidery theme of the novel, based on real people and a real embroidery project. The characters were interesting and I liked the way the story unfolded.

Mrs

Finished August 8
Mrs. by Caitlin Macy

This was a very interesting read, told from a number of viewpoints. The character at the center of the novel is Philippa Lye a woman married to a man who owns a small family investment bank, one of the last of its kind in New York City. She hasn't joined the usual group of gossipy mothers when she drops her children off at the private school, seemingly oblivious to the expectations of her set. She does her own thing, seems a bit distracted, but nice.
Gwen Hogan knew Philippa back when they were children, and knows some of her past. Gwen had her own career as a chemical engineer, but now is a stay-at-home mom, with a husband who works as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office. They married relatively young, just out of college. She recognizes Philippa at the school, and is friendly, but she is also a bit of an outsider, with less money than most of the other parents, and a scholarship daughter who is smarter than most children her age.
When a new child begins attending mid-year, they all take note, as this is highly unusual. The mother, Minnie Curtis, is unusual too, wealthy but very open about her humble background. She, too, seems oblivious of the rules, and tries to hard to connect with the others,
As we see the dynamics between the women and their husbands, picking and dropping up kids, attending school events and children's parties, we begin to see the issues that are coming.
Gwen's husband Dan is investigating Minnie's husband, which may lead to others, and Gwen sees Philippa's distractedness as a vulnerability that Philippa herself seems unaware of.
This is a slow read, character-driven, with some very interesting situations.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Beautiful Bad

Finished August 5
Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

This psychological suspense novel has three timelines. One takes place on an evening when an emergency call is received at a suburb in Kansas starting with the call. One begins decades before when Maddie worked overseas teaching and writing and first met her now-husband Ian. The other is recent events taking place in Maddie's life, particularly her time with a therapist, leading up to the call she makes.
Maddie always wanted to escape her boring life growing up in small town Kansas. She studied languages, and began working at various jobs overseas. She met her best friend Jo at school where the two connected instantly. Jo became an aid worker, and as their story develops from a time where Jo was working in Macedonia and Maddie in nearby Bulgaria, we see how their estrangement began. It was there they met a number of young men in the British military, one of whom Ian developed a relationship with both women, eventually marrying Maddie as we know from the more recent timeline.
This is another story with unreliable narrators, where we aren't sure who to trust. Why is Jo angry with Maddie, and what happened between them to create the later rift. Do Ian's military and para-military experiences lead him to have violent tendencies? How does his PTSD affect him? What is Maddie's life like with her husband and young son? What happened the night they were camping?
There's a lot going on here, and a lot of uncertainty. All you really know is that something bad has happened, and it isn't over yet.


The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Finished August 3
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

This novel has several storylines surrounding the title character. Nina is in her late twenties, living in a small apartment in the Larchmont area of Los Angeles. She works at a bookstore in the neighbourhood, running a number of programs there including storytimes and a girls' book club. She is a collector of trivial facts and belongs to a competitive trivia team. She has a small circle of close friends, uses her organizer with dedication, and has conversations with her Phil, her cat. Nina suffers from anxiety sometimes and she is about to have a lot of new experiences.
Nina's mother is an journalist who travels widely internationally. Nina has been told that her mother wasn't sure who her father was, and so has never known anything about that side of her family. Once she got to be too big to be carried around on her travels by her mother, she was settled in Los Angeles with a nanny, who she thinks of as a second mother.
As the book opens Nina is approached by a man who says that he is a lawyer for her late father. Her father kept his promise to her mother never to approach her, but she is mentioned in his will, and she has several siblings, nieces and nephews, and other family. This is a shock to Nina, and a bit overwhelming as she gradually meets the various family members. Some of them she quite likes, and others she isn't so sure about.
Nina also sees a man on a trivia team her team matches wits with that intrigues her. Her fellow team members notice and encourage her to make a move. Again, she's not sure.
The bookstore that Nina works in is struggling financially, but her boss and co-worker Liz seems to be handling it, except for the landlord interactions.
As Nina's life absorbs this new information and she considers making changes to her life, she begins to consider her own behaviours and thinks about why she is the way she is.
I really liked this book, especially because I can relate to Nina on several levels. It was a fun read.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Beyond Fate

Finished August 1
Beyond Fate: 2002 Massey Lectures by Margaret Visser

I thoroughly enjoyed this series of five lectures, which explored not only the idea of fate, but went far beyond that, touching on many other ideas including honour and goodness, guilt and shame, revenge and payment, forgiveness and trust. She uses examples from daily life and from history, and shows how the idea of fate has developed and changed over time. This is a series that really made me think about a lot of things including cultural differences.
I liked that each lecture fit my commute almost perfectly allowing me the time to think about the ideas presented before moving on to the next lecture.
There is insight and humour here and a lot of stuff to think about.

My Puppy Patch

Finished July 29
My Puppy Patch by Theo Heras, illustrated by Alice Carter

This fun picture book as she takes her puppy for her first outing.
The story shows her checking Patch's responses to her commands, things she's already taken time to train her to respond to. The two explore the world outside their yard, and they meet one of the girl's friends, Benny who is also walking his dog, a much larger puppy named Smallfry.
They talk about ways they've looked after their dog, like giving them their shots, and the dogs greet each other and romp around.
When the girl and Patch get home, she cleans her and gives her water and makes sure she has what she needs.
I liked that the story showed good ways to look after a pet, and the bond that develops between the child and the dog.
I loved how the endpapers show the two along with the girl's drawings and lists pertaining to Patch.

From 1 to 10

Finished July 27
From 1 to 10 by Mies Van Hout, translation rights arranged by elami agency

This picture book is a great first book for learning numbers. Each number has a double page with the number written largely, and a word below and the illustration showing the word. The words used here are not the usual ones you see, but they are relatable and fun, starting with 1 belly, with a picture of a large blue bear with an oversized red belly.
With its bright colours and simple yet fun and easily identifiable images, this will appeal to a variety of youngsters. (Can you guess the cover picture is 2 ears?). All of the animals depicted in the drawing are happy and smiling, especially the one with 9 teeth! I'm sure my friend at work who does Baby storytimes will love this one.
At the end of the counting is a short section for parents, emphasizing the importance of learning to count, and giving tips on various methods to introduce counting into the child's everyday life.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

Finished July 25
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti, narrated by Elizabeth Wiley

This novel moves back and forth between the lives of Samuel and his daughter Loo, as they settle in the small town of Olympus, Massachusetts years after the death of Samuel's wife Lily, and Samuel's past.
Samuel has a shrine to Lily in their washroom. Everything she left behind from grooming products and cosmetics to slips of paper she wrote lists on is there. Loo is used to it. The shrine has gone with them as they travelled around the country, always moving suddenly, and taking little with them. One thing that has gone with them is Samuel's collection of guns, from his father's rifle to a variety of handguns and long guns. He looks after them, and Loo knows how to use them as well.
Their lives in Olympus are quiet, except for occasional conflicts with locals. Loo doesn't really fit in, and doesn't really want to. Samuel makes a quiet living fishing and gathering shellfish at low tide. As we see Loo grow from a tween to a life after high school, we see their relationship change as Loo tries to have her own secrets and gradually learns those of her father.
Loo's grandmother lives in Olympus, her mother's mother, and this relationship develops very slowly as well.
The twelve lives of the title are represented by the bullet wounds in Samuel's body, and we gradually learn through his history where and how he came by each one, learning also what his life has been, and how he came to meet Lily, and what happened to her.
This is a story of families, of the difficulty of escaping one's past, and of the constant hope for a better future. A very interesting read.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

13th Canadian Book Challenge: August Round-up

Post the reviews for the books you read this month here.
I'll be doing a draw for a prize pack of Canadian books.
Each book read gets you an entry for the prize pack.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

The Stranger Inside

Finished July 21
The Stranger Inside by Laura Benedict

This suspense novel takes place in Missouri. Kimber Hannon works in the sales department for a St. Louis radio station. When she comes home after spending a weekend out of town, she finds that her key doesn't work in her front door, nor does it work in her back door. There's a strange bicycle sitting beside hers, and on it one of her towels dirty with sweat and grease. And there's someone inside. So she calls the police.
While she's waiting her neighbour, a friendly and inquisitive woman who notices most of what's happening in the neighbourhood seems surprised to see her, and tells her that she's met the man inside, a man who says he's leased the house for six months. The police show her the lease document, which seems to have her signature. Kimber can't figure out what is happening. She doesn't recognize the man, and she is panicky not to be able to access her home or her belongings.
As this story unfolds, the suspense builds and ebbs. We see Kimber's dark side, the things that she's done in the past that she'd rather people not know about, the untimely death of her sister, the disappearance of her father for years, and many more unhappy situations.
Kimber is a bit broken, and she's been pretending for years. I read this book in one day, but set it down several times when it got to an uncomfortable scene. A definite page-turner.

Salt Lane

Finished July 20
Salt Lane by William Shaw

This mystery features Detective Sergeant Alex Cupidi, a middle-aged woman with a teenage daughter, who recently moved from London to the nearby fens. She's has a younger woman for her partner, and the first case they come across is that of a body of a woman found naked in a drain. A drain is a drainage ditch in the fenland, and there are a lot of those around, many connected with each other. They don't know if the woman died near where she was found or not. They aren't even sure how she died, but they know she was dead before she went in the water. It doesn't take too long to identify her, but when they contact her next of kin, a son, they find that he was visited the night before by a woman claiming to be his mother. Since his aunt and uncle had taken him in as a child, and he was told by them his mother had died, he is at a complete loss, and isn't sure which woman may really be his mother, if either. And his wife isn't too happy about his interest in the woman who visited them.
When another body appears, this time of a seemingly foreign migrant, Cupidi and her partner aren't sure if the two deaths are connected or not, but they are determined to dig to find out.
Cupidi is also worried about her daughter, Zoe, who doesn't seem to have any friends. Zoe spends most of her time wandering the countryside, watching birds and walking. She doesn't usually take her phone, and Cupidi isn't sure how to help her.
With Cupidi's past coming into the story, with her mom, and former lover, things get more complex, but this is a story of connections, of families, of belonging. I was fascinated.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Girl of the Southern Sea

Finished July 18
Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman

This story is about Nia, a girl who lives in the slums of Jakarta, but hopes for a brighter future. Nia's mother died a few years ago, and her father has been drinking the money away since then, leaving Nia unable to afford to go on to high school as she can't afford the fees. Her mother died giving birth to her younger brother Rudi, and Nia has cared for him since then. Her father makes a living by selling banana fritters from a cart at the train station, but the situation now, with him drinking too much, and owing money to the local alcohol supplier can't continue. Nia is determined to find a way forward that will allow her to do as her teachers and principal urge her to and go to high school so she can become a writer.
Since she was small, Nia has been fascinated by the legend of Dewi Kadita, a Javanese princess who was cursed by her stepmother in jealousy, and found a new home as the Princess of the Southern Sea, Queen of the Southern Ocean. Nia makes up her own stories about Dewi Kadita, giving her a pet monkey and adding more adventures to her life. She tells the stories to Rudi and other local children, and writes them down.
Nia has a good friend her own age, and is friendly with many other locals, including the lady who runs the fruit cart next to her father's at the station. When Nia survives a terrible bus crash, she comes to the attention of others, not all of whom have her best interests at heart, and when she finds that her father has promised her in marriage without even consulting her, she takes things into her own hands.
I liked her strong character, and her unwavering ambition.
This book opens children's eyes to another culture, the more difficult choices and situations faced by children in other countries, and an interesting legend.

P is for Pterodactyl

Finished July 15
P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever by Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter, pictures by Maria Tina Beddia

I heard about this book just before Christmas, but couldn't find a copy then. I recently saw it in a bookstore and couldn't resist. The authors had fund collecting a wide variety of words with silent letters or letters that use different sounds than one expects.
The drawings make it even more fun! See the psychic pterodactyl on the cover? That's just one example of the fun inside. Each letter has a little scene, with a phrase telling a story. And there is often more to discover within that scene.
They include a list at the end of the book that gives pronunciation and definitions for the words used here.

Stitches in Time

Finished July 14
Stitches in Time: The Art and History of Embroidery by Hilda Kassell

This book is one I came across in my mother-in-law's collection that she didn't want anymore. It is a short book split into three sections. The author includes some black and white photographs scattered throughout of various embroidery pieces.
The first part is called History Through the Needle's Eye, and covers some history of embroidery in the United States. She begins with samplers stitched by children, mostly by girls, the earliest documented of which is by Loara Standish, likely a few years before her 1650 death. The one boy she mentions working on a sampler was Lemuel Vose in 1737, and it was left unfinished. Besides describing a number of samplers, and giving some information on the stitchers, she also discusses some other works. Some are pictures of homes and communities. Some included some painting on the work as well, particularly in backgrounds. Some works were patriotic, particularly around the time of the American Revolution.
Also included are some examples of clothing and accessories, such as wallets, suspenders, and vests for men; domestic items such as chair seats (by Martha Washington no less!) and table tops; and textual items such as family records, family trees, and maps.
Into the 1800s there are pictures of ships, rural scenes, and a variety of folk art pictures.
Part Two is Twentieth-Century Embroidery, and the author has included works commemorating soldiers from World War One, Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic, and World War Two patriotism. One in this section that definitely spoke as being from a different time is Mrs. Teddy Roosevelt, Jr's picture depicting the large animals her husband trophy-hunted.
I found some of the more modern works, but immigrants following the Second World War interesting, particularly those by Reet Pukk and Margaret Haas.There are many examples of patriotic pictures and those inspired by historical events. There is also a picture showing the actress Mary Martin embroidering, which she apparently did in her dressing room often. Again, there are some domestic items such as rugs and chair-seats.
She has a number of religious examples as well, many from kneelers, but also from communion rails cushions, altar frontals, and wall hangings.
There are also a couple of examples of vests made by women for their husbands depicting items from their careers.
Part Three is Instructions and here Kassell gives some instructions of making designs, transferring them to the stitching material, the use of working frames and other preparatory helps. She talks about the different kinds of threads available, and the best uses for each one. There are good descriptions with drawings of a variety of stitches including blanket and buttonhole stitch, back stitch, chain stitch, Cretan stitch, cross stitch, feather stitch, fishbone stitch, Florentine stitch, French knot, hemstitch, herringbone stitch, needlepoint stitch, outline stitch, and satin stitch. There is also a section on applique embroidery.
The book finishes with a short bibliography, including books as well as booklets and leaflets.
It was a very interesting read.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Death and Other Happy Endings

Finished July 12
Death and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor

Set in London, this book opens with Jennifer Cole in her doctor's office getting her results from her recent blood tests, as she hopes for help finding a cause for her low energy. She is completely unprepared for the result that she has a rare and incurable blood disorder and has only a few short months to live. Jennifer is in her early forties, divorced after her husband cheated on her when she was in depression after her third miscarriage. She lives alone and isn't currently in a relationship. After commiserating with her best friend, Jennifer is talked into writing letters to the people she has been hurt by, getting out those feelings that she's always hidden behind her niceness.
One letter is to her ex-husband and his wife (the woman that he cheated on her with). Another is to a more recent boyfriend, who also cheated on her. The third is to her older sister, a woman who she has grown increasingly distant from but used to idolize.
Jennifer decreases her hours at work, wanting the distraction that work brings, but not able to keep working full-time, and takes time to reflect on her life. She finds herself reconnecting with people, doing things that are more spontaneous, and being more open to new experiences.
The book has humour, interesting situations, and a few surprises.
An enjoyable read.

Peace River Country

Finished July 7
Peace River Country by Ralph Allen

I picked this up thinking it was about the northwest part of Alberta that my parents grew up in, but the title of the book is more about a goal for the characters. Most of the story takes place in southern Saskatchewan.
As the novel opens, Bea Sondern and her two children Harold and Kathleen are on a train, about to live the town of Dobie. Harold knows they are running away, but the younger Kathleen seems more nonchalant, ready for the next stage of their lives. They talk about what they'll do for a living when they get to their destination, the Peace River Country, and what kind of place it is. Their destination is one that sounds wonderful to people dealing with the drought of the prairies. They talk about the wonderful names of the towns in the Peace River Country, and of the weather. They left Regina in 1933 for Dobie, and now four years later their next stop is Elevator, another small Saskatchewan town. Each town is a step closer to their dream destination.
As the conductor comes to take their tickets, they recognize the long-serving CPR man Chatsworth. He knows their situation and tries to be helpful without looking like he is offering charity. As they reach Elevator, where Chatsworth lives, he offers a room in his own home to them, without first consulting his wife and daughter.
Bea is a hard worker and is quick to find something that she can do to earn a living, whether it is taking in laundry, or cleaning, or doing piecework. Even when sometimes it was clear that she wasn't very good at these things, she still persisted in trying her best.
So what are they running from. They are running from Chris Sondern, Bea's husband and Harold and Kathleen's father. Chris is a good man, well-meaning and intelligent, but he has a weakness for drink, and his alcoholism is an illness that won't let him go. Bea tried to stay, until she couldn't. Now, when, for whatever reason, Chris follows them, even though he knows himself that he shouldn't, they must move on.
We see inside Bea, her love for her husband that still lives, her love for her children, and for the children she didn't have, but wanted. We see her hope for a better future. We see her plans and her preparations.
We see inside Chris, see his knowledge that he isn't good for his family in the state he is in, though he longs for them. We see how he met Bea back in the twenties when he was newly promoted to second teller and she was a waitress in a diner. We see how they married even though he earned less than the minimum amount the bank set for its employees to marry and so he lost his job, and we see how his fall began.
We see inside Harold, his worry and fear of being hopeful. How he longs to be accepted, but doesn't really believe that he will be. How he feels himself an outsider.
This isn't a happy book, but it is an interesting one, a story of its time, of how choices can lead in directions that are unexpected. The story is told subtly, with hints and thoughts and feelings.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

As Long as We Both Shall Live

Finished July 7
As Long as We Both Shall Live by Joann Chaney

In this novel we see inside the mind of various characters. The female protagonist Janice, the other female protagonist Marie, the male protagonist Matt, the female detective Spengler, and the male detective Loren.
Janice knows her husband has been cheating on her, and she decides to get proof, but then what should she do. Marie also knows her husband has been cheating on her, and now the girls have left home, they are increasingly distant from each other. Is the planned outing to the mountains a way forward, a way to reconnect?
Matt keeps a lot of secrets, but he isn't that good at it. Many times, keeping silent is the best way for him to react when he feels cornered. But not always.
Loren has his own past that he has run from, and never talked about again. But now it seems to be coming back to him again. He knows he didn't have a lot of choices back then, but did he make the right one.
Spengler is the new officer in Homicide, and she's getting her fair share of jokes, innuendos, and other crap from her fellow officers. But she has a good home life, and that keeps her going When she's paired up with Loren on this case, she has a few things that she'll learn.
This is a case with more than one unreliable narrator, and a few twists and turns. Some I saw coming, others I didn't. I really enjoyed the read.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Fix Her Up

Finished July 5
Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

This spicy romance novel is the small town of Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York. Travis Ford is a local boy who became a baseball superstar, playing in the majors. He also got a reputation as a ladies man, never staying with one woman for long enough to have a relationship. But after an injury, his skills weren't what they were, and he was traded around a bit before ending up without a contract. So now he's back home, and feeling sorry for himself. Enter Georgette (Georgie) Castle, the little sister of Travis' best friend Stephen.
Georgie has been in love with Travis for years, but never expressed her feelings. Her family knows, but no one has told Travis. Georgie has been working as a clown, making a living doing parties and other events. Now she's looking to step it up and hire some performers and become a larger entertainment company. Only problem is that no one seems to take her seriously, always treating her like a kid. And she's tired of that.
She's easygoing though, and has enough personality to take on Travis. She challenges his attitude, getting him out of his apartment and among the living again, and then she challenges him again, and just keeps on doing that.
And Travis finds himself seeing her in a different light, and feeling guilty for being so attracted to her. But also feeling like he's not felt about a woman before.
And so the story goes.
There is humour, graphic sex, and a decent plot. A fun, summer read.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Craftfulness

Finished July 4
Craftfulness: Mend Yourself by Making Things by Rosemary Davidson and Arzu Tahsin, read by Joan Walkter

This short book looks at the mental health aspect of simple craft activities. It talks about how doing crafts is becoming more popular as more people realize we all have creativity within us. We need to be open to new experiences, to learning new skills, and failing at first as we do so.
They cite their own experiences, the experiences of friends, and various research that has been done to show how engaging in a creative pursuit helps us be happier and more engaged with the world around us.
Doing crafts has been shown to help with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges, and they give some instances of this research and some programs that use crafting to formally address these issues.
They also go through a number of simple crafts: knitting a scarf, creating a pinch pot, making a booklet, drawing, writing, and weaving, to start the reader off. They emphasize the idea of flow, of finding something that really engages you, of being open to trying a few different activities to see what clicks with you, and being aware of the time it takes to gain the basic skills for the that particular craft.
Personally, I engage in a few crafts, and I've been aware for some time of how they help me deal with stress and other issues in my life, but it was interesting to hear about this more broadly.

August Heat

Finished July 3
August Heat by Andrea Camilleri

I'm gradually working my way through this series featuring Sicilian policeman Inspector Salvo Montalbano. Here, Montalbano has had to cancel his planned vacation when one of his officers has a family issue that takes him away. Montalbano's girlfriend Livia isn't as upset as he expected her to be, but asks him to find a house near the beach for rent for friends of hers, so she can spend time with them while he is working and comes to stay.
He finds a house in a great location and things are looking well, until a few days in, things start to go wrong at the house. As each thing happens, the friends grow more upset, until the finding of a body is the last straw. Livia is livid as well, and leaves with her friends, and the dynamic between Salvo and Livia isn't good.
With the case going back six years, Montalbano and his officers dig into the past, and find many things less than appealing.
Like the previous books, there is always some lovely descriptions of food that arise, both from Montalbano's housekeeper, and from his favourite restaurant, Enzo's. This book has Montalbano doing a few unsavoury things as his feelings get in the way of his good sense. As always, I enjoy the other police characters as well.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Fed Up

Finished July 3
Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward by Gemma Hartley

This is a book that will speak to many, if not all, women. In most cultures, it is the woman who does the emotional labour in a relationship, who keeps things up, who organizes things, who makes sure that things get done. It is the mental load of this tasks, noticing what needs doing, what connects to what (if your son has soccer tomorrow, you need to ensure his uniform is clean and ready, dinner is organized to be quick to be done before game time, and any transportation is planned). It isn't just about putting things on the calendar. It's about seeing the connections between things, between people, between tasks, and noting the minutiae in the big picture.
This can be draining, even more than the physical tasks that accompany it are. Gemma looked at this in her own life, and in the lives of many others, doing a lot of research as she wrote this book. Her husband Rob was a man who wanted to do better, but didn't understand emotional labour, and didn't know how to engage more. (Notice that I didn't say "how to help"). They eventually worked out how to share emotional labour more in their relationship, not only because it improved life for both of them, but also to avoid having this dynamic pass on to the next generation.
When Gemma realized that she had to change her own approach and attitude big time, it was an aha moment. They had to figure it out together. If she really wanted this change, and she did, they had to work it out as a team, not as a leader and a helper. She notes that keeping things in balance is an ongoing challenge, but that they both look forward to figuring it out together.
This was an eye-opening and inspiring look at the issue of emotional labour, and offers real solutions to recognizing the value of this work and finding more fulfillment. Highly recommended.

12 Annual Canadian Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

12th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge. This challenge ran from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019
Hosted by Melwyk here
The challenge was to read 13 books, but since I almost made it to 50 in 2017-2018, I'm set that for a goal. I made it to 19.

1. The Tinsmith by Tim Bowling. Finished July 30 (British Columbia)
2. A World of Kindness by the Editors and Illustrators of Pajama Press. Finished August 19
3. Clean Sweep by Michael J. Clark. Finished August 22 (Manitoba)
4. Too Young to Escape by Van Ho and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. Finished October 19
5. Giraffe and Bird Together Again by Rebecca Bender. Finished October 26
6. Our New Kittens by Theo Heras, illustrated by Alice Carter. Finished October 27
7. His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay. Finished November 18
8. Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life by Beverley Brenna. Finished November 29
9. Half Spent Was the Night by Ami McKay. Finished January 2
10. Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny. Finished January 15 (Quebec)
11. Come from Away by Genevieve Graham. Finished January 21 (Nova Scotia)
12. Queenie Quail Can't Keep Up by Jane Whittingham, illustrated by Emma Pedersen. Finished February 9
13. Hum If You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais. Finished March 16
14. 21 Things You May Not Know about The Indian Act by Bob Joseph. Finished April 3
15. Before You Were Born by Deborah Kerbel, illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzio. Finished April 30
16. Washing Off the Raccoon Eyes by Margo LaPierre. Finished May 16
17. Land Mammals and Sea Creatures by Jen Neale. Finished May 24
18. Love Letters to Baruch by Margaret Lawrence Greene. Finished June 29
19. A Synopsis of Woman Suffrage in Canada by Hilda Ridley. Finished June 29

Ten Miles Past Normal

Finished July 2
Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell, narrated by Jessica Almasy

This teen novel has 14-year-old Janie Gorman in her first year of high school, and finding that her life on a farm has drawn attention in ways that aren't great, like the goat poo stuck to the bottom of her shoe creating an odor investigation on the bus to school. Up to now, the decision made by her family, at her suggestion, back when she was nine, to move to a farm and raise goats has been a good one. But now, she has a different lunch hour from her group of middle school friends, and has resorted to scarfing down her lunch at her locker and spending the rest of the time in the library.
Of course the fact that her mom writes a blog about their life on the farm doesn't help, either. As Janie chooses a subject for a school project in the one class she does share with her best friend Sarah, and develops a new friendship with another girl hanging in the library, she also finds herself learning new skills, like playing bass guitar, and quilting, and exploring her artistic side in new ways.
This is a novel of growth, of early romance, of families, and of history.
I liked the book a lot and think Janie is a very cool girl.

Monday, 1 July 2019

What Happens Next

Finished July 1
What Happens Next written by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Carey Sookocheff

This children's picture book takes on the subject of bullying. The unnamed narrator doesn't want to go to school because there is a girl there who says mean things and laughs at them. Other people laugh too. No one speaks up against the bully. The narrator doesn't tell their mom about the bully when she asks at first, and instead takes comfort in the love of their dog Sparky. Sparky is always happy to see them, and shows it.
The book talks about how the narrator feels about the bully's actions, and about how this feeling carries over into bad dreams sometimes, and makes them want to do mean things too. Here, the mom notices that something is wrong and spends time with the child, having fun, and eventually the child confides in her about the bully. Mom is really helpful, and coaches the child about how bullying is often a result of fear and wanting to control something. Mom says that she can go to the principal, but first asks the child if they are willing to try something themselves first to see if it might help.
This has the child learn some problem solving skills, and communication skills and gain some confidence as well.
The drawings are simple, but evocative, and you can see the feelings present in the different situations. A good book to bring up the subject of bullying for kids. I also like that the narrator wasn't identified as either a girl or a boy so that the story is more identifiable for all kids.

13th Annual Canadian Book Challenge: July Roundup

Post the reviews for the books you read this month here.
I'll be doing a draw for a prize pack of Canadian books.
Each book read gets you an entry for the prize pack.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

How Little Bessie Kept the Wolf From the Door

Finished June 29
How Little Bessie Kept the Wolf From the Door by Eliza Coates

I came across this Religious Tract Society publication when going through my mother-in-law's discards. It has an inscription from December 1891, so was published sometime before then.
It is a pretty sad story of a hard-working man, who copied text for a living, his seamstress wife, and their two young daughters.
They live in a large house that has been converted into flats, in a single room, with the girls sleeping in a closet. They barely make enough to get by, and when the man falls ill, they have no money for a doctor or for better, nutritious meals.
Through the girls going to Sunday school and learning the bible, Pilgrim's Progress, and hymns that they sing to comfort themselves, and the interest of another clerk at the man's office, they get others interested enough in their situation to give some support.
In the end, they do okay, but not without many trials and tribulations. I'm not sure that this is the type of book we'd be giving to children today.

A Synopsis of Woman Suffrage in Canada

Finished June 29
A Synopsis of Woman Suffrage in Canada by Hilda Ridley

Going through some belongings of my mother-in-law as we clear out most of her library as she moves, I came across this pamphlet and found it intriguing to read. The focus is on Ontario, where the movement began, but it gives a good overview of the changes to women's franchise across the country.

Love Letters to Baruch: A True Canadian Love Story

Finished June 29
Love Letters to Baruch: A True Canadian Love Story by Margaret Lawrence Greene

This collection of letters includes one letter from 1936, then a series of letters beginning June 16, 1942 and going to January 21, 1943. The first letter was sent during a time the author was close to a man she cared for deeply, and this time was followed by a period of separation beginning in 1937 and ending in May 1942. As the two resume a relationship, Margaret lays bare her feelings regarding the separation and how this time led to her about to go into holy orders as a nun, and her feelings about Baruch (Benedict) who she married towards the end of the letter writing period.
This is a story of a woman, successful in her career as a journalist, and dedicated to furthering the rights of women, laying bare her feelings. She considers the religious differences, the way society would consider their relationship, and the effect on her own career and future. Her belief that women were never truly fulfilled without binding themselves to someone or something created a backlash from the feminist majority when this book was released and when her 1929 book The School of Femininity was rereleased in 1972.
This is a strong and personal correspondence that was released after the author's death with the permission of the letters' recipient.

The Wolf Wants In

Finished June 27
The Wolf Wants In by Laura McHugh

This suspense novel is set in rural Kansas, in and around a town called Blackwater. The main character here is Sadie Keller, the youngest of three children. Sadie's life didn't turned out as she imagined. She got married young and moved back to the area she grew up in when she got pregnant wanting her family near her for support. The marriage didn't last and Sadie now lives alone, with her daughter Lily spending the weekdays with her ex-husband Greg for school.
Her sister Becca and her mom live close by as did her brother Shane before he died recently. Shane's death was unexpected, and unexplained, and Shane's wife Crystle doesn't seem as upset by it as Sadie and her sister would expect, and isn't sharing information with them.
When Shane died, Becca and Lily had to go in and find the family things that they wanted as Crystle was selling or burning everything.
Sadie knew the car that Shane restored was deeded to her mother and she arranged for towing of it, and she took the pie safe that was their grandmother's. The two women also took a bunch of boxes of papers that were out near the bonfire that was going. Sadie is trying to get access to Shane's medical records, but she needs Crystle's permission and that doesn't seem likely.
As the story begins, Becca lets Sadie know that she heard on the news that human remains were found in the woods near them, and there is speculation that they belong to the a young girl who went missing a while back. The girl, Macey, was friends with Lily at one point, as Sadie was friends with her mother Hannah. Sadie hasn't been in touch with Hannah in a while, but this makes her reach out to her.
Another voice in the story is Henley, a young women who recently finished school and is saving to move away and start her life anew. Henley lives with her mom, Missy, a recovering drug addict, youngest in a large family that generally lives on the wrong side of the law. One of Henley's cousins is Crystle and Henley may know something about what happened to Shane. Missy worked as a housekeeper for the wealthy local business owner, and she has been getting Henley to help her lately. When Missy disappears, Henley keeps up with the housekeeping, but also gets on the radar of the houseowner Earl and his delinquent son Jason. She is debating whether she should leave sooner despite not having all her plans in place, but her waiting may put her in harm's way.
This is a story of families, of the scourge of drug addiction in America, and of the value of community. I liked it.

Friday, 28 June 2019

The Girls of August

Finished June 24
The Girls of August by Anne River Siddons, read by Kate Reading

This is a story of friendship. Maddy, Rachel, Barbara, and Melinda used to get together every summer for a week at the ocean. The first year, Melinda wasn't part of the group as Teddy's first wife, a wealthy socialite hosted the party. Now they haven't met for three years, ever since Melinda was killed in a car accident, when Teddy was driving. The others haven't completely forgiven Teddy. When the women first met, their husband's were interns, on their way to beginning their own medical practices. Maddy was a schoolteacher, volunteering at the hospital to get out of the house.
Now, twenty-odd years into their friendship, Teddy has remarried, and convinces the women to let his new wife host the get-together at her family home on an island off the South Carolina coast. There are a couple of catches. One is that Teddy's new wife Baby is younger, much younger, only twenty-two herself. The other is that logistics mean that this year the get-together will be for two weeks, not one.
Maddy is intrigued by the island. She knows that Dan's family had a home on the island before she met him, one that was lost in a hurricane and never replaced. Dan doesn't talk about the island much. The women have had different life experiences, despite their friendship. Maddy quit teaching a few years back after she and Dan weren't able to have children. She couldn't face seeing other people's every day. She became a sought-after caterer, and grew close to her niece, now readying for college in the fall. Melinda and Teddy didn't have children either, but both Barbara and Rachel did.
As the vacation begins, Maddy tries to run interference between her friends and Baby, as their resentment of the younger woman grows. There is a fair chunk of bad behaviour going on here, with the older woman treating Baby like an empty-headed arm-candy trophy-wife, married for her sex appeal. Baby holds onto politeness for a lot longer than I think I would, but sulks and loses her temper a few times too.
It was interesting to watch as the women deal with their issues, learn more about each other, and about Baby's relationship with the island's locals, and deal with the unfortunate events that the time on the island bring them.
This is a novel of getting past first impressions and pre-conceived notions. A novel of friendship and love.

My Husband's Sweethearts

Finished June 20
My Husband's Sweethearts by Bridget Asher

Six months ago, Lucy discovered her husband Artie was cheating on her. When she confronted him about it, he confessed to other infidelities, one's she hadn't known about. Lucy left, throwing herself into her work as an auditor. Lucy's mom thinks that she's made a mistake, and she's been trying to get Lucy to come home. The latest news is that Artie is very ill, and dying. Lucy doesn't really believe this is true, after all Artie is older than her, but not that old, only in his fifties, and he's been sending her love notes and flowers no matter where she travels. But she decides to go home and see.
And she finds that it is true. Artie is dying. And she isn't sure what to do. Artie throws a challenge to her, one she thinks he doesn't believe she'll take on, but she does. She starts to call up the women he's been involved with, both before her and during their marriage, and invites them to visit.
But Artie has been keeping other secrets. They've always kept their money separate, and so Lucy is even more taken aback to find that Artie has been sending money to a woman for decades, to pay for a son that he supposedly fathered.
As Lucy connects with the people who've been in Artie's life, she finds a surprising mix of people, and some of them she connects with in interesting ways. A core group develops that includes two women that Artie has been involved with, along with Lucy's mom, and they work toward bringing Artie to an understanding of the effect that he's had on the lives of others.
This is a story of betrayal, of love, of the connections that people have. It is a story of loss, and of new beginnings. I enjoyed it.