Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Do Not Become Alarmed

Finished April 4
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy, read by the author.

This book has a lot going on, and more depth than I first thought. Liv and Nora are cousins who have always been close. Liv, a director, introduced Nora, a teacher, to her husband when she had a party that included some of the people involved in one of her films, Raymond is an actor who's had a decent amount of success, allowing Nora to stay at home with their young children, Marcus, eleven and June, six. He's also black, so the kids are mixed race.
Nora had a difficult relationship with her mother, who has died recently, and Liv suggested that the two families, including Liv's husband Ben, and childredn Penny, eleven and Sebastian, eight. take a cruise for the holiday season instead. The cruise leaves from the California coast and goes down the coast of Mexico and Central America.
On board they meet an Argentinian couple that they become friendly with. The couple has two teenage children, sixteen and fourteen.
Mostly they all stay on board the ship and enjoy the amenities, with the adults in particular enjoying the ability to check the kids into the Kids' Club and do their own thing. But as they reach a country that Liv regards as relatively safe, (unnamed, but evidently Costa Rica) they look at doing one of the shore excursions. Liv suggests zip-lining at a location that also has animals, but then the Argentinian man invites the guys for golf with a guy he knows that lives there. So the three women and the kids go on the excursion, an accident causes them to be diverted, the woman and the guide become distracted, and the kids disappear.
The story is told from multiple points of view, including both adults and children. So while the reader knows what is happening with the kids, the parents do not, and always seem to be a step behind what is going on.
There is also a side story of a young Colombian girl Noemi, who is being taken by her uncle from her home with her grandmother to her parents who are in New York illegally.
This is a story of many things, from white privilege to organized crime to migrants. Some of the characters are definitely unlikable, such as Penny, while others have more complex personalities. I liked Marcus quite a bit. I enjoyed the read and the ideas here.

The Summer of Sunshine and Margot

Finished April 4
The Summer of Sunshine and Margot by Susan Mallery

This novel takes place over a few months. Margot and Sunshine are fraternal twin sisters, raised by a grandmother, who has since passed away. Margot has gone to college and used her people skills and her love of travel to become an etiquette coach. She is particularly good at helping people adjust to new cultural situations. She has just been hired by Bianca, an older actress, well-known for her spontaneous and inappropriate behaviour that is engaged to a diplomat from a small European country. Bianca wants to make this relationship work. Meanwhile, she is living with her son Alec, an academic with an interest in history who has made a home of an historic monastery. Bianca wants Margot to live in while she coaches her.
Margot finds the monastery fascinating and uses her off time to explore the building and the grounds. She also becomes friendly with Alec.
While successful, Margot has a weak spot for her old boyfriend, a man who has dumped her repeatedly, but keeps coming back expecting to resume where he left off. Margot is determined that he won't be in her life again, but with a family history of women making bad relationship choices, she isn't hopeful for a better relationship.
Sunshine didn't go to college, finding herself easily diverted from her goals by the interesting men she's met along the way. She's had a spotty career as a nanny, making great connections with the children, but often leaving everyone in the lurch when someone attracts her interest. She too, is determined to stay the course in her new position as nanny to eight-year-old Connor. She's also determined to get her college degree, signing up for her first course. Connor's father Declan is worried about his son as the two recover from the relatively sudden death of Connor's mother from cancer. He has a busy career as a landscape architect, and needs some stability in his son's life. Sunshine and Declan prove to be sounding boards for each other as they each move forward in their lives.
This was a fun read, and I liked the relationship between the sisters, which was close without being cloying.

21 Things You May Not Know about The Indian Act

Finished April 3
21 Things You May Not Know about The Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality by Bob Joseph

I took my time reading this as I wanted to think about some of the things outlined here more deeply. There are so many things to be ashamed of about this piece of legislation. It was a way that the government reneged on the nation to nation agreements that had been agreed upon in the treaties, and tried to separate the people from their culture. In spite of saying they wanted to have the native people adapt they constricted them from accessing the markets available to other Canadian, separated families, and tried to prevent people from talking amongst themselves.
Everything done under the Act was done against the indigenous people, not for them, and when others tried to speak out about the wrongs being done, they were silences as well.
I think all Canadians should read this and think about how they would feel if they were the ones subjected to this Act.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Montaigne in Barn Boots

Finished April 1
Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles through Philosophy by Michael Perry

In this book Perry talks about his discover of Montaigne's writings, his affinity for many of his musings, and his own take on the philosophical ideas in Montaigne's work. This is an intensely personal book, as he talks about his own moments of doubt and his worries.
I've always enjoyed Perry's books, and this was no exception.
Perry has read Montaigne in translation, but also read many of the critical works about both Montaigne himself and his writings. He cites some of these ideas in his nine essays, as he delves deeper into the ideas of Montaigne.
His essay titles here illustrate the way he brings his own life into the ideas. In the first Reading Like a Chicken, where he talks about pecking his way around Montaigne gives us a glimpse into his approach to his philosophical reading. In Roughneck Intersectionality, he talks about the differences in background between himself and the philosopher and the things they have in common. In Confound the Fool, he talks about the unending quest for understanding human nature. In Shame, he reveals his own angst and failures around expectations and outcomes. In Marriage, he talks about Montaigne's unusual relationship with his wife, and his own marital dynamics. In Amateur Aesthetics he talks about his own cultural influences, the subjective nature of beauty, and about the importance of context. He says
I am free to savor six kale chips and an episode of It's Okay to Be Smart then dive into a tub of Costco Cheese Balls and a four-hour Reno 911 binge-watch. "I now, and I anon, are two several persons," Montaigne once said, the upshot being, the "other people" necessary to achieve the cosmopolitan state of generative tension required for aesthetic fruition sometimes reside within the same body.
something I can definitely relate to. In Kidney Stone Wisdom, he compares Montaigne's experiences with the plague of kidney stones, and his own. While Montaigne talks about his ongoing experiences as a chance to strengthen his character before witnesses, Perry summarizes his less dignified response to the experience and expands it to include other bodily frailties more evident with age, and how some of these have provided edifying lessons.
In Meditating on Faith, Perry discusses his own experiences with religion, meditation and yoga. From his fundamentalist Christian upbringing to his introduction, via his wife, to yoga and meditation, he shows his questioning nature. He talks about the struggles with monkey mind, yet how
Whether it is due to having been raised in a large family or just general wiring, I am able to withdraw deep into my head in nearly all circumstances. As a shy person I sometimes go into public to write, which may seem counterintuitive but in fact self-consciousness is a catalyst for withdrawal. The presence of strangers compels me to lower the louvers and focus directly in on the task at hand.
He ends with What to Do, a summary of what he takes away from reading Montaigne. He says,
It seems that somewhere around my current life stage, people make one of two moves: Some stiffen, dig in their heels, and attempt to block the future; others reinvigorate life by blending it with the spirit of youth. I hope I will -- and I am working to -- bend toward the second. I am not talking here about the embarrassment of an oldster trying to vibe with the kids. Nor am I talking about abdicating principles. I am talking about offering a hand, opening new doors, and sometimes -- when new blood is best -- stepping aside and standing down. 
An edifying and satisfying read.

Thursday, 28 March 2019


Finished March 26
Bina by Anakana Schofield

This novel is unlike anything I've ever read. I loved the writing and the character right from the stary, and I could barely put it down. I've already talked it up to one of my co-workers.
Bina is the narrator of this tale, writing her thoughts, her warnings, her remarkings on bits of paper she finds around her house, such as the back of receipts. She is talking to the reader, and makes that clear a few times by what she writes. The book is divided into titles sections, some quite short and others very long. The first one, a short one is Warnings and the first page of that makes clear that that is indeed what this is meant to be. The second page of this section has Bina introducing herself, and one of the first things she makes clear is her name. It is pronounced Bye-na, not Bee-na.
This information is followed by an address to the reader
I don't know who you are, or the state of your life. But if you've come all this way here to listen to me, your life will undoubtedly get worse. I'm here to warn you, not to reassure you
Bina repeats herself a lot, wanting to make clear the message that she is trying to get across to the reader, yet still trying not to implicate herself in anything she shouldn't.
As her story gradually becomes more clear, you begin to understand what she has been accused of, and what she has actually done.
I liked her. She is feisty and wants to make sure others don't make the same mistakes she made. She is looking back, recognizing where she made a wrong move, and regretting some of the things she did. Bina is a nice woman, a woman that genuinely cares about people, and that is both her strength and her weakness. She knows that she has been taken advantage of, but isn't sure what she should have done to get out of it, only how she could have not got into it in the first place.
This is a story of people. People like Bina, who care about other people, and people like Eddie, who don't. Bina is a survivor, but one who struggles greatly.
The book has footnotes that are helpful in providing additional explanation, with some reaching back to a previous book by the author that I haven't read, but am now intrigued to.
Her first two warnings are about letting in men into your life. One comes via a ditch, and one comes via a door, and neither one led to good times for Bina.
So that is what the next two sections of the book are Ditch and Door. When Bina needs to think, or escape a situation, her refuge is her bed, or in the Irish language, Leaba, thus the name of the next section. She prepares herself well when she enters her bed, as she is not doing this for the first time in her life. As she herself writes,
When I go to bed, I really go to bed. Alone. All alone. There's no one invited in. There's no one to invite in. The first time I went to bed I didn't get back up for two months. This time I haven't counted. 
The last section, a long one, is Remarkings, and again she is clear about this. She writes
My name is still Bina and these are my remarkings.
Remarkings are different from warnings.
But you will find warnings within the remarkings
If you are careful enough to notice them.
And if you don't, I can't help you.
It's how it has to be.
As you can perhaps tell from the quotes above, the book has bits written in free verse, a nice way to place the words that makes them even more meaningful. Sometimes Bina refers to herself by name as if she is talking about someone else. Other times she talks in first person. There is a lot of beautiful wordplay going on here, and I loved it. I can hear her voice in my head, and I'm listening.

Lying in Wait

Finished March 19
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

This psychological suspense novel starts with a crime, the murder of a young woman, but only gradually reveals the motive as we get deeper and deeper into the book. The viewpoint alternates between a few characters. Lydia Fitzsimons is a middle aged woman, who I understood had issues right from the start. She seems a bit detached from the people around her, in her own little world. But she's definitely not stupid, as some of her choices show.
Laurence is her only son, and as the book begins, he is in high school. He's a young man who doesn't fit in well with his peers, and has no real friends. He's overweight, and can be both perceptive and disingenuous. When he does finally make a friend, he chooses someone who is also unpopular, but for very different reasons.
Karen Doyle is a woman raised in very different circumstances. Her family didn't have much, but she was close to her older sister Annie, the rebellious one in the family, and knew her parents cared about her, even if they weren't demonstrative about it.
The two families are drawn together, because the woman that either Lydia or her husband Andrew killed (you're never really quite sure whose action was the final one) was Karen's sister Annie.
As the story develops and time passes, we see the characters in different ways, and I changed how I felt about them as the story unfolded.
An interesting read.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

The Woman in the Window

Finished March 18
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, read by Ann Marie Lee

This psychological suspense novel had a couple of mysteries going on, one that I guessed fairly early on, and one that surprised me. The main character, the one whose head we are inside, is Anna Fox. She is a woman in her late thirties, a child psychologist, who has undergone some kind of trauma that has caused her to be agoraphobic. This is the first mystery.
Anna lives in a large 4 story house in Harlem. On the ground floor is the entrance, the kitchen and living room, and a small bathroom, painted red. One floor up is her husband's study and her own office, and a storage closet, along with another bathroom. The next floor up has the master bedroom suite, and the top floor has her daughter's bedroom and a spare room. Anna also has a tenant in the basement, David, who's been there a couple of months. The idea to get a tenant came from her psychiatrist, who suggested she give a reduced rent for someone who could help out with small repairs, errands etc.
Anna talks to her estranged husband Ed and young daughter Olivia regularly. She gets groceries including a lot of red wine delivered, and her psychiatrist and physical therapist visit her at home. The remainder of her day is spent online, where she participates in a forus for agoraphobics, ands plays chess, and looking out the windows at the neighbours she can see, and watching noir movies.
Anna uses her camera to zoom in on her neighbour's activities and uses the internet to do some research on them, to find out background information. She really has no other contact with the outside world.
A change occurs when she gets new neighbours in the house across the small park next to her house. The Russells move in and she sees the husband and teenage son on moving day as she looks out. Soon after the son, Ethan, visits with a candle, a gift from his mom, and Anna surprises herself by letting him in and having a nice visit with him. Is it because she misses the previous contact she had with children in her job, because she misses her own daughter? Who knows.
When another chance encounter due to outside actions cause her to meet the woman of the house, she finds she likes her quite a bit, and feels the possibility of a friendship beginning. A second visit by the woman only deepens this feeling.
When she sees a terrible thing happening to the woman in the house across the way, she wants to help. She calls the police, and tries to do more. But the police doubt her story, and her alcoholism, the pills that her doctor has prescribed her for her situation, and her situation have the reader questioning her as well.
How confused is she? What has she seen, and what has she imagined? This is the second mystery. Anna's own questioning and some of her behaviours are erratic and unreliable. She is a well-meaning woman still recovering from a trauma that also has an element of guilt to it. She's been stuck in her house for nearly a year, and the isolation isn't helping.
I liked Anna, and I worried for her, and I wanted her to be okay. The story was well-developed and had its surprising moments, and I enjoyed that as well.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Hum If You Don't Know the Words

Finished March 16
Hum If You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais

This novel is set in 1976 and 1977 in Johannesburg, South Africa. There are two main characters that you have narrating the plot. One is a nine year old white English girl, and the other is a middle-aged black woman with a college education.
It gets off to a slow start, but I was soon fully engaged. I'd left this read for my book club until the last minute, but it was no problem reading the whole book in one day.
Robin Conrad is the nine year old child. Her parents have an English background, and her father is a mine supervisor. She is left out of the play activities of the other children in her neighbourhood as they are all of Dutch background. She is also a bit of a tomboy, and would rather play with boys than girls, which the boys definitely want no part of. Robin has a twin sister, Cat, that one only gradually discovers the truth about. This was an interesting aspect of the book and of Robin's character.
When a tragedy befalls Robin's parents, she goes to live with her aunt Edith, who is a flight attendant, and often away for long periods. This obviously won't work well with being responsible for a small child, and it is some time before Edith finds a solution, and she doesn't find it on her own.
Beauty Mbali is a teacher in the Orange Free State. Her husband worked in the mine, but died of work-related disease. She has two sons who live with her, Khwezi who is 13, and Luxolo who is 15. She also has a daughter, Momsa who is 17, and who she has sent to live with her brother in Soweto so that she can go to high school. As the book begins, she has received a letter from her brother saying that her daughter is in danger, and she travels to Johannesburg to see what is happening. But she arrives on the day that black students are holding a peaceful march relating to their curriculum, and the police respond with force. Momsa is missing, and Beauty can't find her. She must stay to search for her, and the best way to do that is to get a job as a servant.
It is this way that the two stories come together.
I liked the diverse characters shown here: Edith, who travels internationally; some of Edith's male friends who are gay; Robin's Dutch neighbours; Robin's parents' black maid, Mable; Edith's neighbours, the Goldman family, who are Jewish; and the caretaker in Edith's apartment building, who is coloured.
As we see Robin work through her grief, and her guilt, and look to do the right thing in her own mind, we also see how the various people around her deal with their life situations.
I really enjoyed this read, and the touches of humour that came through despite the serious plot. My book club members mostly enjoyed these aspects as well.

The Ruin

Finished March 14
The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

This novel, set in Galway, Ireland is a real page-turner. It is the first in a new series featuring detective Cormac Reilly. The book starts with an event from 1993. Cormac is a young policeman, sent out to respond to what he believes is a domestic incident. He has trouble finding the house, and when he gets there finds a teen girl and a young boy and their dead mother. The radio in his car is broken, and the house has no telephone, so Cormac takes the two children to town to the hospital. He tries to follow up on the case, but isn't given any encouragement by his superiors.
Now, it is twenty years later, and Cormac, recently part of a special ops team, is back in Galway with his partner Emma. The move is partially for Emma's job, but also because Cormac could see that they were going to disband his unit and figured it was a good time to leave. But once back, he is frozen out by most of his colleagues, and put on cold cases.
Meanwhile, a young intern, Aisling, discovers she is pregnant. She knows it is the wrong time to have a baby, that she will lose her chance to become a surgeon if she does. So when she returns home from her hospital shift and lets her boyfriend Jack know about her condition, she also shares the difficulties, which causes him to take time to think as well. When she finds him still gone when she wakes, she isn't sure what to think. Has he taken the news harder than she thought? But then, two police arrive at her door and let her know that they found his body in the river, a suspected suicide.
With everything else going on in her life, this is too much of a shock for Aisling. She's is numb, and not thinking clearly. But there is someone else on the scene who is thinking clearly, and acting on those thoughts. It is Jack's sister Maude, a woman who hasn't been in his life for the last twenty years. And Maude doesn't believe that Jack's death was suicide. And the police aren't interested in her theories.
Cormac becomes involved in the case, when he is asked to look again at the death of the woman he found twenty years ago, Maude and Jack's mother. Did she really die by her own hand as the police thought, or was someone else involved. As Cormac digs into the old case, he finds himself finding that outside influences have effects on investigations, both past and present, and he must make difficult choices.
This is a great series introduction, and I definitely want to read more about Cormac and his colleagues.


Finished March 8
Ties by Domenico Starnone, translated by Jhumpa Lahiri

Separated into three parts, this short novel tells the story of a marriage, not a happy one. The first part is from 1974, twelve years into the marriage, and is letters from the wife to the husband. He has left the family for another woman, and she doesn't understand why, and is angry and frustrated. She is also in desperate financial straits, unable to make rent and provide for the children's needs. Her letters show her emotional state and her situation.
The second part is in the present and the husband and wife leave their apartment for a holiday by the beach. They're arranged for the grown children to stop by and look after the cat. But when they return the door is jammed against something and they find their apartment disturbed and in cleaning it up and picking things up, they are each reminded of the past.
The third part is from the children's point of view, both back during the separation and now and we see how their parents marriage affected them.
This novel is poignant, and fascinating. Once I got into it, I could barely put it down.

The Sunshine Sisters

Finished March 5
The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green

This novel follows three sisters, Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy, all daughters of the actress Ronnie Sunshine. Ronnie wasn't a great mother, she was too much focused on being the center of the attention herself. She wasn't patient, or a good listener, or any of the things her daughters wanted her to be for them. But now she is nearing the end of her life, and she looks back with regret on the time wasted, the things she didn't do for her daughters.
The action starts there, but then skips back to 1981, when she is pregnant with her youngest daughter, Lizzy. We see various vignettes like this from the past, for each of her daughters.
Before the children were grown, she'd divorced, and her ex remarried, and the girls weren't part of his new life. They grew apart from each other, each with their own issues. We see them in their lives. Nell as the manager of a small truck farm, not far from where she went to high school, in Connecticut. Lizzy in New York City, making a name for herself as a chef. Meredith overseas, plugging away at a job, without the confidence to realize her own worth.
As their stories unfold, and as they come back together at their mother's insistence, they find each other again, and find themselves as well. An interesting look at three women, with the same mother but very different outlooks.

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted

Finished March 2
The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg

This was a fun read. Stories that shows small acts of liberation by a variety of female characters. The title story is definitely a fun read, and there's another related one, where the same character doesn't eat anything that she really wants to.
There are stories of relationships, aging, loss, friendship, and many other moments that I could definitely relate to. The women here are generally middle-aged. Some are married, some are not. The stories had me laughing out loud at shared experiences, feeling umbrage on behalf of the behaviour of other characters towards these women, and generally enjoying it all.
I always enjoy Berg's books, and this one has a lot to offer.


Finished March 1
Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most by Steven Johnson

I really enjoyed the insights from this book and posted a couple of excerpts to friends as I was reading. He gave great examples of decision making, both personal and societal. His first societal example is the decision to bury Collect Pond, a source of fresh water, in New York City in the early nineteenth century. There was another option put forward, but the short-sightedness about the city's growth ultimately resulted in the bad decision. Johnson talks about how, although we often see ourselves today as looking at the short-term, we actually are able to make better long-term decisions today than we were then.
Johnson's first personal example of long-term decision making is also from the nineteenth century, and consists of a list found in Darwin's notebooks, on two facing pages in two columns, with one column listing reasons to marry and the other reasons not to. We know that he did marry six months later, so we know the decision he reached, which his also wrote at the bottom of the second page.
This idea of listing pros and cons is a much-used tool in making decisions. I've certainly used in in my own life at several instances. What Darwin's example doesn't show is the weight he gave each point in the list, the argument for which Benjamin Franklin gave in a eighteenth-century letter to Joseph Priestley about a decision he was making at the time. Franklin called this Moral or Prudential Algebra.
We have more tools available to us now, and we usually term these types of decisions deliberative decision making. The systems we use today are engineered to keep us from falling into preconceived assumptions.
A societal decision that is more present day that Johnson comes back to repeatedly through the book is the decision by the U.S. Government to go into the compound in Pakistan where they suspected Osama bin Laden was hiding. Johnson gradually shows all the different elements of information and decision making tools that were used in this case, how they were calculated and guarded against failure, and looked beyond the attack itself into outcomes and how they would manage different scenarios of those.
As he shows, these complex decisions have been shown to have several qualities: they involve multiple variables; they require full-spectrum analysis; they force us to predict the future; they involve varied levels of uncertainty; they often involve conflicting objectives; they harbor undiscovered options; they are prone to System 1 failings; and they are vulnerable to failures of collective intelligence.
This last point is important to understand. By definition, groups bring a wider set of perspectives and knowledge to the decision making process. But they are also vulnerable to their own set of failings: collective biases and distortions due to social dynamics. There are a number of tools designed to overcome such vulnerabilities.
Techniques such as making a full-spectrum map of all the variables and potential paths available; predictions about where those paths might lead, and weighing the various possible outcomes against the objectives. Johnson devotes a chapter to each of these three elements of decision making.
He then has two chapters: one on large social decisions, such as battling climate change, and one on personal decision making, such as those facing the characters in George Eliot's Middlemarch.
Literature, and real life both are used in many examples in the book, and this use of examples really worked for me in understanding the decision making process better.
I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

This Could Hurt

Finished February 25
This Could Hurt by Jillian Medoff

This novel is set around the Human Resources department of a company, Ellery Consumer Research.The head of the HR department is Rosa Guerrero, a woman who leads with compassion. Other department members include Leo Smalls, a benefits vice president who is devoted to Rosa, and who has very little in his life outside of his job; Rob Hirsch, a middle-aged married father of two who is increasingly unenthused with the jobs he has before him; Lucy Bender, a single woman looking for her passion and a chance to prove herself; Kenny Verville, a senior manager who considers Ellery a stepping stone to a better future.
Lucy is also Rob's "work wife" and the two are close allies. Kenny's wife has a more high-powered job than he does and is very competitive. Rob would love to be able to afford to buy a home for his family, but money is a big worry for him.
As the book begins, Rosa encounters some health issues and some of the staff try to rally around to cover for her and manage her communications with others in the organization.
The book has organizational charts placed at intervals through the book that show the relationships and the reader can see how things change. The book ends with organizational charts going into the future, showing how various characters go on in the future on a professional level.
Anyone who has worked in a midsize or bigger organization will be able to recognize some of the dynamics here, and the work environment.
We see the various characters change, and adapt to new circumstances. I really enjoyed this read.

Sometimes I Lie

Finished February 22
Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

This is an interesting book.Amber Reynolds is in hospital after a car accident. But at first she doesn't know that. To others she appears to be in a coma, but in reality she slips in and out of awareness. As she gradually learns why she is there from the people around her, and begins to remember the missing days of her memory, we also learn about her childhood, and about her present day life.
We learn about her job gradually, and about her relationship with her sister and her parents. But as the books title says, sometimes she lies. But of course she isn't the only one who lies, and so, as the reader, one isn't sure how much to believe, or who to believe.
As you gradually learn about what really happened, sorting out what is true from what isn't, you also find your mind influenced by information that you assume.
This was a very interesting thriller, with a very intriguing ending.

Night of Miracles

Finished February 20
Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg, read by the author

This novel features a few characters that live in a small town in Missouri called Mason. Lucille has lived in Mason all her life, and is in her eighties. Her mind is still keen, and she holds strong to her values. She never married, but has a young woman in her life, Maddy, that she treats as a daughter, and whose young daughter Nola considers her a grandmother. Lucille has been teaching baking classes, but they've been getting more popular, and she is looking to take on an assistant. She has also recently made friends with her new neighbours, Jason and Abby, a couple with a young son, Lincoln. As Abby faces some health issues, Lucille spends time with Lincoln, making a new friend.
Iris Winters is new to town, leaving Boston after the breakup of her marriage, a decision she still revisits. She befriends her neighbour Tiny, who runs a local taxi business. Tiny is a large man with a big heart, and he begins to ask Iris's advice on his love life.
At the local diner, Polly's Henhouse, one of the waitresses, Monica, is beginning to take steps outside her comfort zone after the recent death of her much-loved mother. She's long had a crush on one of her regulars, and begins to consider how to make a move to indicate her interest.
As we get inside the heads of Lucille, Iris, Monica, and Tiny, we see the importance of relationships and communication. All the lives of these people are intertwined and as they grow closer, they also overcome barriers.
This is a story of love, of loss, of friendship, and of new beginnings. I really enjoyed it. And the baking made my mouth water.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Other Worlds

Finished February 16
Other Worlds by Barbara Michaels

I usually like Barbara Michaels fiction as they have a touch of both mystery and paranormal. This one is a little different. The setup is a fire-side meeting between a number of famous men: Harry Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle, the psychoanalyst Nandor Fodor, and others. Most of those attending have met similarly before and shared stories of unusual and mysterious situations, then give their own ideas on the truth behind them. This particular meeting has two stories.
One happened in small town Tennessee, where a family is first threatened by noises, which grow to more physical manifestations, threats of death, and a reappearance decades later.
The other is in small town Connecticut, where a recently remarried woman finds that her new husband's interest in the paranormal seems to threaten her children, and bring her unpleasant notoriety.
Each of the men has their own take on the situations, with some agreement but it is a woman author who tells the last story and whose intellect is a match for the mens'.

A Chill in the Air

Finished February 12
A Chill in the Air: An Italian War Diary, 1939-1940 by Iris Origo

This diary was a fascinating look into the experience of being in a country at a very uncertain time. Iris Origo was the daughter of a British mother and an American father. Her father died when she was a young child, and left instructions that she not be raised in either of her parent's home countries, but somewhere else, where she could be free of nationalistic feeling. He suggested Italy, His widow, Iris's mother Sybil followed his advice. She rented, then bought a villa in the hills above Florence and raised Iris there. Iris was a debutante three times, in Florence, London, and New York, but she fell in love with an Italian, Antonio Origo. Together, they defied both their families' plans for them and bought an estate in southern Tuscany that was in very bad shape. The estate included twenty-five farms. The young couple were determined to return the land to fertility and its inhabitants to prosperity. Following the death of her young son Gianni in 1933, she spent some time away, mostly in England, but was back home at the estate by the time that war rumours were beginning.
Iris's godfather was William Phillips, the American Ambassador in Rome, and she had a multitude of other highly placed connections, both socially and politically. She had befriended Virginia Wolff during her time in London, and both she and Antonio were well-liked among the local people.
This diary is about her feelings and reactions to what is going on politically and was meant for her eyes alone, as she sorted through what was happening around her. It doesn't include her private life at all. She kept another diary later in the war covering the years 1943-1944 and it was published in 1947, showing the actions of many of the Italian people during this time, and doing much good for the country's reputation following the war.
I was fascinated by this book, and really got a sense of what was happening, from the feelings of the people for Mussolini, the propaganda that was distributed, and the uncertainty for the future.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Queenie Quail Can't Keep Up

Finished February 9
Queenie Quail Can't Keep Up by Jane Whittingham, illustrated by Emma Pedersen

This engaging picture book uses word repetition, alliteration, imagery, and onomatopoeia to bring the story of this young bird and her family to life. As Queenie's parents and siblings rush around around, she keeps getting distracted by the interesting things around her, noticing other creatures, plants, and other bits of the world around her. It is only when her wider outlook on the world enables her to sense danger before the rest of her brood that they begin to value her unique way of being.
I liked the simple drawings which showed movement and a softness of detail. I especially liked the fat bumblebees. I also liked how the use of sizing, colour, and placement in the words of the story made the noises of the birds come to life, and drew the reader the emphasize the actions and urgings.
This is a delightful story of stopping to take delight in the world around us, and valuing the contributions that we may not always recognize as being helpful.

The Light Over London

Finished Feb 5
The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

This novel has two timelines. As the book begins, Cara Hargraves meets her boss Jock at the house one of Jock's clients wants them to go through the contents of. This is a relatively new job for Cara, as she makes a new start on her life following her divorce. She's moved to the small town her grandmother lives in, and taken a job with an antique dealer. She's studying most evenings to learn about antiques and isn't really interested in a relationship yet. When she finds an old diary from World War II in a tin in the house, and the owner isn't interested, she asks to keep it to track down the story behind it and perhaps the family of the diary writer, and gets permission.
The second storyline follows the writer of the diary, Louise, a young woman from the country, aching to move away from the life her mother has planned for her. She has a dream of going far away and of studying math at university, but her family situation didn't allow her to go beyond high school. As the diary begins she meets a man at a dance and begins a relationship. This small step of independence gets her brave enough to make another move and enlist as a female volunteer in the ATS. After training she gets assigned to a position with the anti-aircraft guns.
Cara knows only the initials of the diary writer, and has a picture of her in uniform, recognizing it as the same uniform her grandmother wore in the war. This makes her curious about her grandmother's past as well, something her grandmother has always been reticent about. Cara finds that her new neighbour, a history professor, is helpful in her search, and she begins to come out of her post-divorce depression.
As we see both of the women take steps in their new lives, and find their way forward, with the help of friends, we also see Cara unravel a bit of her own past.
I enjoyed this book

The Kitchen Daughter

Finished February 2
The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

This novel follows Ginny Selvaggio, a young woman who had been sheltered from the difficulties of life by her parents, as she adjust following their sudden deaths. Ginny has Asperger's syndrome, and has spent a lot of time cooking, learning about food, and following food blogs. When she feels uncertain, making food, or thinking about making food, is her comfort.
Ginny's sister Amanda seems to think that she will now make the decisions about what is best for Ginny, without even asking her, but Ginny doesn't necessarily want these things.
As Ginny goes through old recipes looking for comfort she finds that cooking her grandmother's recipe also brings the ghost of Grandmother, with a cryptic message. Ginny is startled and unsure of what to make of this. She wants to decipher the message and she wonders whether cooking other recipes will also bring the ghosts of those people. And she begins to try things.
Along the way, taking comfort from the long-time family house cleaner, Ginny also begins to venture out, to make friends, and to explore the home she lives in more thoroughly, finding family secrets along the way.
This is a coming of age story, a story of loss, of love, and of food.
The author is a food blogger herself, and with food at the core of Ginny's life, this book evokes the tastes and smells of the recipes that Ginny makes.
I read this book quickly, enjoying it thoroughly, even the parts that made me cry.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Signup for Gentle Spectrums 2019

After skipping a year, I'm back participating in this fun challenge.

Hosted here, this challenge has several categories to read books in. They are:
1. Limitless Palette - Colours
2. Canadian
3. Continents
4. Fashion and Decor
5. Educational
6. Hope and Triumph
7. Animals
8. Natural Environment
9. The Arts
10. Toys or Hobbies
11. Healthfulness.

It should be interesting.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Need To Know

Finished January 25
Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

This spy thriller has CIA analyst Vivian Miller at the verge of a breakthrough to a Russian sleeper cell. But when one of the faces in the cell is that of her own husband, she freezes, unable to process what this means.
Vivan met her husband Matt just as she was beginning her career. They now have four children, including one with special medical needs. Many decisions have been made during the course of her career, that brought her to this dilemma. Her choice to join the unit looking at Russia. Her choice to take only a short maternity leave after her first child. Her choice to have Matt stay home with the kids to keep her better health coverage. Their recent move to a bigger house in a better neighbourhood that stretched their finances. She can't afford to turn in Matt, but how can she not.
As the story develops, I saw her missteps, and her courage to not go past a certain point in her ethical dilemma. I saw how she got herself into an even more difficult situation that she was in to begin with. This is a story of espionage that I hadn't imagined before, and one that kept me reading.
And an ending I won't easily forget.

That Part Was True

Finished January 22
That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay

This novel has two main characters. One is British Eve Petworth, reader, single mother, and middle aged woman finally starting to live her own life. The other is American Jackson Cooper, novelist, divorced man with no children, who is questioning his career.
The connection between them begins when Eve writes to Jackson saying how much she enjoyed one of his books. The two soon discover a shared passion for good food and the creating of it. Their correspondence continues over a period of months, mostly one that others in their lives are not aware of. They share recipes, talk about their lives, and find comfort in the ongoing conversation.
Outside of the letters and emails, both have lots going on. Eve's daughter Izzy is planning her wedding, and expressing regret about the recent loss of her grandmother, Eve's overbearing mother. Jackson has a bit of a writer's block, and is starting to date after the end of his marriage. Both have great confidants: Jackson's actor friend Dex, and Eve's housekeeper and friend Gwen.
This is a story of a friendship as it evolves, and we see each character deal with life's challenges and learn to trust themselves.

Come From Away

Finished January 21
Come From Away by Genevieve Graham

This novel takes place during World War II in rural Nova Scotia. The author was inspired by a historical rumour. It was known that there were German submarines operating along the Atlantic coast of North America during the war, and there was a story that some of the men from one of these ships came ashore one evening and attended a local dance. There is no historical face to base this on, but Graham thought "what if..." and this story was born.
At the center of this story are two characters. One is Grace Baker, a young Nova Scotia woman whose three older brothers have all joined the war effort. One in the navy, one in the merchant marine, and one as a infantry man. Grace longs to do something herself, but instead remains at home, and runs a general store for a neighbour who has health issues.
The other character is Rudi Weiss, a young man in the German navy, assigned to a local submarine, and part of a group of young men who were allowed off the ship to attend a dance. At the dance the two meet and are attracted to each other, but go there separate ways.
But circumstances bring them together again, and this becomes a story that shows the human element of war, the power of second chances, and a young woman learning that things aren't always black and white.

A Howl of Wolves

Finished January 21
A Howl of Wolves by Judith Flanders

This is the fourth book in the series featuring editor Samantha (Sam) Clair. Here it begins as she is out at a play that her upstairs neighbour Kay is in, along with Kay's six year old son Bim. With her is her boyfriend, Jake, a homicide detective. Kay and her husband Anthony are both actors, and rent the second floor of Samantha's house. On the third floor is reclusive Mr. Rudiger, an insightful man who has become a good friend. As the play unfolds, it first appears that someone is playing a practical joke, making up a prop figure to look like the director of the play.
But, as Jake realizes, and Samantha soon catches onto as the play ends, the prop has been replaced with a real man, and he is dead. Samantha helps Kay and Anthony out as the days go on, assisting with keeping an eye on Bim, both at the theatre and rehearsal space, and outside of them.
On the work front, Sam is dealing with an upcoming sales presentation, and angling for her author to get a key spot before the buyers. Luckily she has a good team on her side, with some good contacts.
I like this series for the humour included, with lines that make me laugh out loud.
I also like the plots, and how solving them often requires specialist knowledge, a good eye for details, and good contacts, all of which Sam has. I also like the secondary characters, from Samantha's lawyer mother Helena, to Jake, the other tenants of the house, and Sam's coworkers and friends.

Ghost Riders

Finished January 16
Ghost Riders by Sharon McCrumb

This novel takes place in the North Carolina mountains. Part of it is from the 1860s when the war reached this area, and is centered around a young married couple Keith and Malinda Blalock and a young lawyer, real-life Zebulon Vance. Keith was brought up by his mother and stepfather, and leans toward the Union side, but many of the men of the hills side with the south. When Keith is finally forced into the Confederate Army, Malinda is determined not to let him be alone, and she follows him. Keith ends up in the men commanded by Vance, and thus their paths cross for the first time. Keith and Malinda end up on the Union side, but in a sort of unofficial capacity, fighting in the hills that are their home.
More than a hundred years into the future, mountain man Rattler and wisewoman Nora Bonesteel are drawn into the story as rebel reenactments draw the spirits of the past into the present creating a dangerous situation.
I enjoyed the history of this novel, learning more about how the war affected the backcountry of North Carolina, and about the man trying to do the best for the people of Appalachia, Zebulon Vance. Any civil war pits neighbour against neighbour, and sometimes even brother against brother, and this was certainly true for the United States Civil War. Seeing some examples of how this played out was eye-opening.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Kingdom of the Blind

Finished January 15
Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny, read by Robert Bathurst

I've always enjoyed this mysteries, for the inclusion of the personal life of the characters, and for the complex story they tell. Here, Armand is under suspension from his role as head of the Surete of Quebec for his actions in the previous book. Jean-Guy was also under suspension, but his has been lifted and he is now acting in Armand's role. Isabel, injured in the last book, is still on leave.
As the book opens, Armand is off to a meeting he has been summoned to by a letter. But the letterhead has the name of a dead man, and the contents of the letter give no indication as to the purpose of the meeting. Armand is intrigued, but wary.
When he arrives at the house, about twenty minutes away from Three Pines, he finds one car. Before he can enter the building, another car arrives, that of Myrna. They find that they have received the same letter. A third person arrives, a young man with a unique style, that they don't know.
The three of them soon discover that they have been named liquidators (executors) in the will of a woman they've never met, Bertha Baumgartner. They have some time to think about it before accepting, and as a snowstorm is moving in quickly, they find themselves all in the village of Three Pines. As the story of the Baumgartners and their odd inheritance history is revealed, they also find that there are some in the village that have met Bertha, as her preferred title, the Baroness.
This is but one of the stories of this novel. Although Armand is on suspension, he is still trying to track down the missing drug shipment from the previous novel. His drive to recover the missing carfentanil is a noble one, but he crosses some ethical lines as he does so. One of them involves a young cadet that he previously was close to, who has now put her future on the line in a misguided action.
This novel has a lot of twists and turns, reveals and secrets. Some I guessed at, other I did not. The book ends with some interesting changes to the lives of ongoing characters, and I will be interested to see where these changes take them.

Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo

Finished January 10
Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo by Boris Fishman

This is totally different than what I expected going solely from the title. A middle-aged Jewish couple, both of whom immigrated from Russia, decides to adopt a baby when they are unable to have one of their own. The couple, Maya Shulman and Alex Rubin, live in close contact with Alex's parents. Maya came to the United Sates as an exchange student, while Alex came as a child with his family. Maya always had a dream of owning her own restaurant, but instead she took the more practical route, and works in a local hospital as a technician. Alex works in his father's canning business.
As the book starts, it has been eight years since the adoption of their son, Max. It was a difficult decision to adopt, and when Max first runs away, and then is found to have some quirks unlike anyone the family knows, Maya decides they must hunt down his young birth parents and learn more about his background. There is no particular aim in Maya's quest exactly, it is just something that she feels she must do to make Max fully their own. The title comes from the one request the young parents gave Maya and Alex when they met at the time of adoption.
The book has an interesting dynamic between Maya and Alex, not always a good one, and between Maya and Alex's parents.
There is some inward looking at first for Maya and her son, but when she decides to hunt down Max's birth parents, the young family goes on a cross-country trek from their home in New Jersey to Montana. Along the way they encounter landscapes new to them, and people that captivate them in different ways. One begins to wonder what Maya's plan really is.
This was a very hard book to pin down, and one that took me to places I didn't expect.

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore

Finished January 7
Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones

This teen historical novel has intrigue and magic. The novel takes place in 1818, and begins in London. The main character, Annis Whitworth, is sixteen years old and lives with her aunt Cassia. Her father travels a lot, and Annis has long suspected that he was a spy. Now she has just learned that he is dead, and that his money seems to have disappeared.
Annis and her aunt, though not living extravagantly, will have to move to smaller quarters and work to earn their keep. Annis believes that following in her father's footsteps is a natural move, with her first case to find his killer, but her attempt to convince the authorities does not go well. Around the same time, Annis discovers that she has the ability to sew glamours, that is to use needle and thread and a fixed mental intent, and transform cloth into what she envisions. In some cases, this ability even extends to changing the appearance of the wearer to the appearance of another person. Annis is new to using this ability, and can't always control what the outcome will be exactly.
As she and her sister move to a small house, and take only one young girl as a servant, Millie, she works under another identity as a seamstress sewing glamours for ladies.
But her original aim to find her father's killer is still there, and she finds herself both watching others and being watched as she works toward this end. Millie too has her own secret skills, and they will come in very handy here.
This novel shows both the historical expectations for someone of Annis' situation and class, and some interesting ideas around magic in this setting.

Nobody's Baby But Mine / This Heart of Mine

Finished January 6
Nobody's Baby But Mine / This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

This two-in-one book contains two romance novels that are connected through the fictional Chicago Stars football team. The first book, Nobody's Baby But Mine, has Dr. Jane Darlington, a Mensa-level physics professor, discouraged by her lack of family as she nears her mid-thirties, who is neighbour to a young groupie of the Chicago Stars football team. The groupie wants to do a favour for some players and connives to have Jane pretend to be a high-class call girl as a birthday present for star quarterback Cal Bonner. Jane has no plans to see Cal beyond this, but fate offers a different outcome.
The second book, This Heart of Mine, has Molly Somerville, the younger sister of Chicago Stars owner Phoebe Somerville Calebow, in a vulnerable state. She's feeling discouraged about her life, despite her successful children's book series featuring Daphne the Bunny and her friends. She's had a crush on quarterback Kevin Tucker for years, but his women tend to be model beautiful and not much for intelligent conversation. Molly knows that she has a tendency to self-destructive actions when she gets in these moods, and decides a little R and R at the family cabin would be a good thing. What she doesn't know is that Kevin is already at the cabin, sent there to do a little thinking about some of his recent risky escapades. After a bad beginning, the two get along, until Molly makes a impulse move that catches Kevin by total surprise. They part ways, but fate, and Phoebe and her husband Dan, have them getting back together before too long, and learning more about each other.
Both stories have some silly situational things happening, but the characters are interesting and show growth as the stories move forward. with some side stories coming in to add even more interest. I enjoyed them

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Misadventures of a City Girl

Finished January 4
Misadventures of a City Girl by Meredith Wild and Chelle Bliss

This romance novel begins as Madison Atwood's divorce has become final. She's tired of fending off the sympathies (real and nosey) of others, tired of seeing her ex with his new love in the news and on friend's social media, tired of putting off the reporters looking for her side of the story. She looks for a place that will let her get away, spend time by herself with a little R and R and no phones or computers. She picks a place upstate, called Avalon Springs.
When she gets there, she finds there is a little more group activity than she is looking for and instead of attending orientation, she heads off on a hike on one of the trails. She finds a hot spring, the one the spa takes its name from, and gives into temptation, strips, and goes in.
But as it turns darker, she finds she is being watched, and she is at first scared, then annoyed, then intrigued.
The man who came upon her unexpectedly, Luke Dawson, owns the land the spa in on, and lives higher up the mountain, seldom interacting with the public. He's dealing with his own issues, and isn't looking for a relationship, but the unexpected and sexually charged encounter keep returning to his mind.
This is a story of two people, who have chemistry, but live in very different worlds. Madison is a sought-after makeup artist, and her job will keep drawing her back to Hollywood. Luke is not comfortable around groups of people, and likes his privacy.
A light, fun romance with some graphic sex scenes, and a few barriers to overcome. An enjoyable read.

Half Spent was the Night

Finished January 2
Half Spent Was the Night by Ami McKay

This short novel follows the characters introduced in The Witches of New York, which I haven't read yet. It takes place beginning on December 29th, and ending on January 1st. The year is not specified here, but it is obviously in an earlier time.
There are three witches living together, Adelaide Thom, Eleanor St. Clair, and Beatrice Dunn. They receive invitations to a grand masquerade ball from a new arrival to New York. The ball is to take place on New Year's Eve, and the attendees are to RSVP in person at the hotel. Two of the witches are eager to go, but the third is not.
All of the witches have questions on their mind. One about dreams she has been having that seem to point to something in her future. One about what choice she should make for her future, and one about choosing between a faraway love and what she feels are her responsibilities.
The woman hosting the ball is an unknown, and yet she seems to know a lot about all three women, as well as about many others in town.
Past figures are likely to appear at the ball, but sometimes that past must be faced before one can deal with the future.
I loved this tale, with both the situations each woman was facing, the magic so evident here, and the strong relationship these women have with each other. A great read.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

My Sister, The Serial Killer

Finished January 1
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

The author and setting of this novel are Nigerian. As the book opens Korede has been called by her younger sister Ayoola to the apartment of her boyfriend, Fedi. Ayoola has called her to help get rid of the evidence that she has killed Fedi. As we soon learn, this isn't the first man that Ayoola has killed, nor the first time that Korede has helped protect her sister by concealing evidence.
Korede is a well-regarded nurse in a local hospital. Ayoola designs and sells clothing. Both women still live at home with their mother. Their father was a strong disciplinarian that both girls feared rather than loved. Ayoola is a very beautiful woman, who always has men interested in her. Korede is much plainer, but she has her own dreams too. Korede feels both angry and frightened that she has been caught up in the crimes of her sister, but can't see a way out.
One of the hospital patients is in a coma, and Korede often sits in his room, and tells him what she can tell no one else. But when her sister intrudes on her work world, Korede feels even more torn than she did before.
This is a fascinating look inside a woman who has been trained from the beginning to be her sister's keeper. Her sister someone she both loves and hates, but she must decide whether that love will always guide her, or not.

Penguin Days

Finished January 1
Penguin Days by Sara Leach, illustrations by Rebecca Bender

I thoroughly enjoyed the previous book about the young autistic girl Lauren, Slug Days, and was excited to have her story continue. Here, she and her family are driving out to North Dakota for her aunt's wedding. Lauren is going to be a flower girl at the wedding.
The long car ride is only one of the challenges that Lauren faces here. She has to get used to some new people, including her Uncle Raymond, who can speak cow, her Almost-Uncle Charlie, and three cousins: Kevin, Zoe, and Sophia.
She and her cousins have to wear new clothes, and it is the "penguin suit" that Kevin complains about wearing that inspires the book title as well as some action in the book. Lauren doesn't like scratchy clothes and her imagination takes her in an unusual and fun direction for alternatives.
It's neat to watch Lauren develop here, and conquer new situations, and make new friends.
The illustrations are charming, and really bring the story to life. From penguins to cows, scratchy dresses to pug onesies, they added to the story. I particularly liked the photo style pictures at the end. I hope to see more Lauren books.

My 2018 Reading Wrap Up

What a great year of reading!
My goal was to read 150 books, and I managed to read 154, finished the last one in the last hour of the year.

Here is the breakdown.
Adult: 128
Teen: 10
Children: 16

Category and Genre:
Fiction: 122
Nonfiction: 32
Short Stories: 2
Essays: 2
Biography/Memoir: 17
Mystery/Thriller: 29
Historical Fiction: 26
Fantasy: 8
Science Fiction: 3
Romance: 17
Horror: 1
Western: 3

11 books in translation
French: 5
German: 2
Croatian: 1
Italian: 1
Spanish: 1
Swedish: 1

31 books set in Canada
59 books set in the US
46 books set in Europe

23 Audiobooks
1 ebook
1 graphic novel

Where I Got Them:
47 books were borrowed from the library
102 books I owned
The other 5 were borrowed from others

Male: 49
Female: 99
Both in one book: 5

Books that were part of a Series: 34
Books that I gave away after reading: 83
Review copies: 34

Goodreads 2019 Book Challenge

I haven't done this one before, but it was posted in a group on Facebook and I thought it sounded interesting.

1. A book that was nominated for or won an award in a genre you enjoy
2. A book with one of the 5 Ws in the title (Who, What, Where, When, or Why)
3. A book where the author's name contains A, T, and Y
4. A book with a criminal character
5. A book by Shakespeare or inspired by Shakespeare
6. A book with a dual timeline
7. 2 books related to the same topic, genre, or theme: book 1
8. 2 books related to the same topic, genre, or theme: book 2
9. A book from one of the top money-making genres (romance/erotica, crime/mystery, religious/inspirational, science fiction/fantasy, or horror)
10. A book featuring an historical figure
11. A book related to one of the 12 Zodiac Chinese Animals (title, cover, or subject)
12. A book about reading, books, or an author
13. A book that is included on a New York Public Library Staff Picks list
14. A book with a title, subtitle, or cover relating to an astronomical term
15. A book by an author from a Mediterranean country or set in a Mediterranean country
16. A book told from multiple perspectives
17. A book of speculative fiction (fantasy, scifi, horror, dystopian)
18. A book related to one of the elements on the periodic table
19. A book by an author who has more than one book on your TBR list
20. A book featuring indigenous people of a country
21. A book from one of the polarizing or close call votes
22. A book with a number in the title or on the cover
23. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #1 Something Old
24. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #1 Something New
25. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #1 Something Borrowed
26. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #1 Something Blue
27. A book off of the 1001 books to read before you die list
28. A book related to something cold
29. A book published before 1950
30. A book featuring an elderly character
31. A children's classic you've never read
32. A book with more than 500 pages
33. A book you have owned for at least a year, but have not read yet
34. A book with a person's name in the title
35. A psychological thriller
36. A book featured on an NPR Best Books of the Year list
37. A book set in a school or a university
38. A book not written in traditional novel format (poetry, essay, epistolary, graphic novel)
39. A book with a strong sense of place or where the author brings the location/setting to life
40. A book you stumbled upon
41. A book from the 2018 GR Choice Awards
42. A book with a monster or "monstrous" character
43. A book related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
44. A book related in some way to a tv show/series or movie you enjoyed
45. A multi-generational saga
46. A book with a (mostly) black cover
47. A book related to food (title, cover, plot)
48. A book that was a finalist or winner for the National Book Award for any year
49. A book written by a Far East Asian author or set in a Far East Asian country
50. A book that includes a journey (physical, health, or spiritual)
51. A book published in 2019
52. A book with a weird or intriguing title

David Bowie Book Club Wrap-Up

David Bowie Book Club

I saw this article 
and couldn't resist

So I followed him on twitter and here is the first book.

January: Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd. Finished February 14
February: The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. Finished December 27
March: Puckoon by Spike Milligan
April: Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
May: The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
I can't find any information that this continued past May.
I had trouble getting the two books that I did read, but plan to eventually get the other three and read them. 

2019 PopSugar Challenge

PopSugar is having its 5th annual challenge, and I think I'll try this one again. This time I'm going to try to identify books that fit the challenge in advance so I know what possibilities I have.
Here's their list:
1. A book being made into a movie in 2019.
2. A book that makes you nostalgic
3. A book written by a musician
4. A book you think should be turned into a movie
5. A book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads
6. A book with a plant in the title or on the cover
7. A reread of a favourite book
8. A book about a hobby
9. A book you meant to read in 2018
10. A book with "pop," "sugar," or "challenge" in the title
11. A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover
12. A book inspired by mythology, legend, or folklore
13. A book published posthumously
14. A book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie
15. A retelling of a classic
16. A book with a question in the title
17. A book set on a college or university campus
18. A book about someone with a superpower
19. A book told from multiple character POVs
20. A book set in space
21. A book by two female authors
22. A book with a title that contains "salty," "sweet," "bitter," or "spicy"
23. A book set in Scandinavia
24. A book that takes place in a single day
25. A debut novel
26. A book that's published in 2019
27. A book featuring an extinct or imaginary character
28. A book recommended by a celebrity you admire
29. A book with "love" in the title
30. A book featuring an amateur detective
31. A book about a family
32. A book written by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America
33. A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in the title
34. A book that includes a wedding
35. A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter
36. A ghost story
37. A book with a two-word title
38. A novel based on a true story
39. A book revolving around a puzzle or a game
40. Your favorite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge
41. A "cli-fi" (climate fiction) book
42. A "choose-your-own-adventure" book
43. An "own voices" book
44. Read a book during the season it is set in
45. A LitRPG book
46. A book with no chapters, unusual chapter headings, or unconventionally numbered chapters
47. Two books that share the same title (1)
48. Two books that share the same title (2)
49. A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom (e.g. Big Brother from 1984)
50. A book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage, or convent.

2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

 PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge
Well, this was my first year trying this challenge, and while I didn't complete it, I did pretty good. I had books waiting in the wings on some of the uncompleted ones, but just didn't get to them in time. I'm going to try again for 2019, identifying books early to make it more likely to finish well. 

  • A book made into a movie you’ve already seen [Not Read]
  • True crime
    Hell's Princess by Harold Schechter. Finished October 2
  • The next book in a series you started
    The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley. Finished May 11
  • A book involving a heist
    Old Bones by Gwen Molnar. Finished February 25
  • Nordic noir [Not Read]
  • A novel based on a real person
    Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. Finished June 1
  • A book set in a country that fascinates you
    Sun Dog by Deborah Kerbel, illustrated by Suzanne del Rizzo. Finished May 13 (Canada)
  • A book with the time of day in the title
    My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs by Kazuo Ishiguro. Finished January 24
  • A book about a villain or antihero [Not Read]
  • A book about death or grief
    The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. Finished April 11
  • A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym [Not Read]
  • A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist
    The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka. Finished January 18
  • A book that is also a stage play or musical [Not Read]
  • A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you
    Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez. Finished February 18
  • A book about feminism
    We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • A book about mental health
    Small Things by Mel Tregonning. Finished February 16
  • A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift
    Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg. Finished January 4 (borrowed from the library)
  • A book by two authors
    Too Young to Escape by Van Ho and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. Finished October 19
  • A book about or involving a sport
    Smashed by Lisa Luedeke. Finished March 28 (field hockey)
  • A book by a local author
    Things To Do When It's Raining by Marissa Stapely. Finished April 26
  • A book with your favorite color in the title
    Beyond the Blue Moon 1 of 3 by Simon R. Green. Finished March 20
  • A book with alliteration in the title
    Missing Mike by Shari Green. Finished May 27
  • A book about time travel
    So You Created a Wormhole by Phil Hornshaw and Nick Hurwich. Finished December 7
  • A book with a weather element in the title
    The Prisoner of Snowflake Falls by John Lekich. Finished March 28
  • A book set at sea
    The Flooded Earth by Mardi McConnochie. Finished August 10
  • A book with an animal in the title
    Where's Bunny by Theo Helas. Finished February 28
  • A book set on a different planet [Not Read]
  • A book with song lyrics in the title
    Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell. Finished November 25
  • A book about or set on Halloween [Not Read]
  • A book with characters who are twins
    The Midnight Line by Lee Child. Finished April 30
  • A book mentioned in another book [Not Read]
  • A book from a celebrity book club
    Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd. Finished February 14 (David Bowie Book Club)
  • A childhood classic you’ve never read [Not Read]
  • A book that’s published in 2018
    Say My Name by Allegra Huston. Finished January 7
  • A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner
    Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. Finished May 3
  • A book set in the decade you were born
    Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine. Finished January 4 (set in the 1960s)
  • A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to
    No One Is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel. Finished January 3
  • A book with an ugly cover
    The Finest Supermarket in Kabul by Ele Pawelski. Finished January 26
  • A book that involves a bookstore or library
    How to Find Love in a Book Shop by Veronica Henry. Finished May 25
  • Your favorite prompt from the 2015, 2016, or 2017 PopSugar Reading Challenges
    from 2015:
    A book that came out the year you were born
    The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. Finished December 27, 2018
  • A bestseller from the year you graduated high school [Not Read]
  • A cyberpunk book [Not Read]
  • A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place [Not Read]
  • A book tied to your ancestry [Not Read]
  • A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title
    Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine. Finished September 29
  • An allegory [Not Read]
  • A book by an author with the same first or last name as you [Not Read]
  • A microhistory
    Four Fields by Tim Dee. Finished December 31
  • A book about a problem facing society today
    Shrewed by Elizabeth Renzetti. Finished March 23
  • A book recommended by someone else taking the PopSugar Reading Challenge [Not Read]