Thursday 18 July 2024

Sorry, Bro

Finished July 13
Sorry, Bro by Taleen Voskuni

In San Francisco, Nareh Bedrossian is focused on her career as a journalist, working six days a week and hoping her boss gives her a chance at a story beyond the human interest stories she's been given up to now. She lives with her mother and grandmother and her Armenian heritage is very much a part of her life, despite her father's efforts to Americanize their family. Her long-term boyfriend Trevor is also a hard worker, and when he springs a proposal on her in a busy bar surrounded by drunken tech sector workers, she is struck dumb. He is off to business meetings overseas for a few weeks, so she has some time to really analyze how she feels and what she should do now.
She tells her mother about her uncertainty, and her mother, finally emerging from the deep grief she has over Nareh's father's death, pushes her into looking for love within her own culture. Explore Armenia, a big cultural event that happens every three years, is beginning, and Nareh's mom has her sign up for numerous events to meet eligible men. Her mom also does research through her many connections and comes up with a list of possibilities for her. 
Nareh does find herself captivated by someone she meets at her very first event, but that person is Erebuni, a woman. Nareh has identified as bisexual for years, but since she's been with Trevor for years, her attraction to Erebuni is unexpected and a little scary. She is scared that her feelings won't be reciprocated, that her family won't accept her relationship, and that she isn't herself ready to be out of the closet. 
All of these things combine to force Nareh into making a choice. 
I found the Armenian aspect of this book to be overwhelming, with many terms not explained. I think it would be helpful if the author had a list of these terms with definitions at the back of the book. Still, her Armenian identity becomes such a big part of her life, personally and professionally, that it just felt somewhat unrealistic. I've read other romance books that exist in cultural groups, and haven't encountered this much culture overkill. 
An okay read, but I had to force my way through parts of it. 

Wednesday 17 July 2024

The Book of Dreams

Finished July 12
The Book of Dreams by Nina George

This novel was a definite page-turner for me. It in hard to pin down exactly what type of novel it is in terms of genre. It definitely has elements of magic realism in it, but also some coming of age elements, a touch of mystery, and romance. It is a novel that had me feeling a lot of different emotions as well. 
The story follows four people and we are allowed into the thoughts of three of them. The book begins with Henri Skinner, a journalist who grew famous as a war reporter and then moved into more biographical work, telling the stories of people from all corners of the world. 
In one particularly dangerous situation in Sudan, he used his body to protect the female photographer who was in the same vehicle as he was. In the aftermath, she took a photo the reverberates over time, and the two came together to create a child, Sam. 
Sam is now almost fourteen, but his mother has discouraged contact with Henri, but Sam invites him to a Father-Son day at his school. Henri is on his way there, when he stops on a bridge to look at the river and witnesses, with three other people, a young girl falling off a boat. Henri jumps in to save her, and brings her to shore, but is then in an accident, and ends up unconscious in the hospital. 
Sam begins to visit him there, hoping he will survive and they will get to know each other. Along with Sam, in visiting Henri is Eddie Tomlin, a former lover of Henri that he has named as the person to determine medical issues if he isn't able to. She is forced to revisit their relationship and the deep love she has for Henri. 
Sam also discovers a twelve-year-old girl, Madelyn Zeidler, a dancer who is a patient in the same neurological care area as Henri, and once he knows how she came to be there, he tries his best to help her find her way back to life. 
Sam is a synesthete, and his abilities allow him to connect to people's emotions and presence in unique ways, making him a considerate and thoughtful observer and participant in people's lives. 
We get to see Eddie's memories of her time with Henri, and we also get to see Henri's memories of his life, from his work, to his childhood traumas, to his longing for a connection with his son. While in a coma, Henri experiences different versions of his life, struggling to choose which one is real, and showing us feelings that he never expressed to those he cared for. 
We also see how Sam is managing his life to make room for his father and Madelyn, and how he feels an outsider in his own family. 
Along the way are doctors and nurses, each with their individual characteristics, round out the story in interesting ways. 
I really loved this book, and I found it released some of the feelings I had been carrying with me recently. 
In the afterward, the author talks about how this book is the third book in her writing that has been shaped by her experiences of death and dying, mourning and surviving. I found this quite interesting. 

Tuesday 16 July 2024

The Paris Lawyer

Finished July 11
The Paris Lawyer by Sylvie Granotier, translated by Anne Trager

This novel revolves around Catherine Monsigny, a young lawyer in Paris. When she was a young child, Catherine was the only witness to her mother's murder, which happened in a park near where they lived in the Creuse, a department in central France. She didn't see what happened but heard it and remembers a few things. The murderer was never caught. 
She and her father moved away, as he found it hard to live in the area without her mother. They have a reasonably good relationship with each other, but aren't close. He has told her little about her mother, despite her questions. 
As the book opens, Catherine is heading to court to defend a man, Cedric Devers, accused of assault and battery. She is also trying to convince her boss, Renaud, to let her take defend a case of murder, allegedly by a woman whose husband has died. The woman Myriam Villetreix, is an immigrant from Gabon, brought to France by a family as a domestic, who escaped and showed up at a Paris refugee center. A farmer, Gaston Villetreix had posted an advertisement looking for a wife, and the two ended up getting married. After six years, he died. Some time after, Gaston's cousins accuse her of murder by poisoning, and she is now in jail awaiting her trial. 
As Catherine works on the murder case, memories of her childhood begin to resurface. She feels that there is something she knows that might solve the case of her mother's death as well. 
She also sees Cedric again, and a casual relationship develops between them. 
This is a very slow-paced mystery novel, with time spent wandering in the countryside, talking to people in the area, and doing research. As Catherine works her way closer to answers and to getting the accused to trust her, she finds herself unnerved by certain events. Only in court is she confident and calm, determined to do her best for her client. 
I found it interesting to see this brusque matter-of-fact character soften a bit as the reader gets to know her. She is ambitious, but also nervous. She wants love, but isn't sure what love really is. It took me a while to get into the story, but I did find it more captivating the further I got into it. 

A Painted Doom

Finished July 11
A Painted Doom by Kate Ellis

I was so enjoying the last Kate Ellis that I read I decided to immediately read the next one in the series. As is usual for this, there is an historical plotline that is gradually revealed through the archeological work that occurs in the novel and through letters or other writings that are given at the beginning of chapters. Here the historical is about the Merrivale family, a well-off family of the late 1400s that had links to the Earls of Devon, and who were loyal supporters of the House of Lancaster in the Wars of the Roses of that time. Recently, a skull was discovered when digging was done in an area of land not built on for some time, where a new town hall is planned for. Neil thinks that they may be excavating the foundations for a manor house of the Merrivale family. 
Meanwhile, in the present, farmer Terry Hoxworthy is preparing an old barn on his land for possible sale. He has roped his teenage son Lewis into helping him, and Lewis makes a discovery in the old barn's loft that comes into play later in the plot. He also sees a large wooden panel with a disturbing scene painted on it that he recoils from. The following day, when the local planning agent comes by, he brings Neil with him to check for any historical significance relating to the old barn. Neil also discovers the panel, which he soon identifies as a 'painted doom', a panel often displayed prominently in churches to depict the horrors that awaited those who weren't destined for heaven. 
Terry also finds something else on the property, a man's body, apparently a victim of murder. As the modern story unfolds, we get stories of the more recent past, the death of a minor celebrity, and, excitingly, a new coroner, a competent and confident young woman, Laura Kruger. We also see a different side of Gerry Heffernan, Wesley's superior, on both personal and professional levels. 
I enjoyed seeing the development of the different repeating characters in the series, and seeing them in lives beyond the professional. 
I liked learning about 'painted dooms' and their history. Bringing in the personal correspondence of the Merrivale family brought aspects of the story a more personal slant, and as always there is a modern day parallel to the story of what happened in the Merrivale family. 
Altogether, a satisfying read.

Saturday 13 July 2024

The Bone Garden

Finished July 8
The Bone Garden by Kate Ellis

This is book five in the Wesley Peterson series. This book is set around an excavation of a Renaissance era garden at an estate called Earlsacre Hall. The property was recently bought by a trust and they are restoring the main building as an arts centre and having the gardens brought back to what they were once. Local archeologists are working first to see what they find, and under a stone plinth that held a sundial they discover a body. While the local pathologist agrees that the body is likely hundreds of years old, it does look like it was a murder victim that was buried alive. When more bodies appear, the work gets delayed a bit, and things look for complicated for the historical situation. 
In the present day, a body is found in a nearby holiday park and the only clue that Wesley and his time can find is a newspaper cutting about the restoration at Earlsacre. Wesley has also had a call from a local lawyer requesting advice on a personal matter that he hasn't disclosed. They agree to meet at a cricket match they are both playing in, but the lawyer disappears and is later found murdered. 
Neil appears here as well, coming in to assist with the archeology work at the site. 
Rachel, another police officer, also takes a role here both professionally and personally as she is part of the murder investigations, and finds a new attractive man that seems to be interested in her. 
I really enjoy this series, seeing how the different central characters react, and how they are changed by the experiences they have. I also like how the police characters lives are rounded out by there personal lives, whether is is Wesley's wife Pam preparing to return to teaching, or Wesley's superior talking about his choir rehearsals. 
The archeological story is also interesting, especially as it might have a personal connection to Wesley's family. The bodies date back to the struggle between the York and Lancaster lines of the royal family, which is a time period I find interesting. 

Wednesday 10 July 2024

Scandalized

Finished July 7
Scandalized by Ivy Owens

This romance novel was a page-turner. The main character Georgia (Gigi) Ross, an investigative journalist for the L.A. Times, has been travelling for hours after working on a big story in London. Her last flight, from Seattle to Los Angeles is cancelled, and there is a big line of people waiting for a hotel room. While waiting at the airport, she sees a man that she is sure she knows from somewhere, and it finally comes to her when she is in line for a room at the hotel. He is Alec Kim, the older brother of her best friend from early childhood to grade eight, when the friend's family moved away. When he recognizes her after she introduces herself, and offers to help, she finds herself fighting her fears to accept. 
Her fears are partially due to the story she's been working on, a private nightclub in London, where it appears that people have been taken advantage of in some pretty awful ways. She's worked hard on investigating the story, but it has also meant that she's seen some pretty dark stuff, especially to women at the hands of men. But Alec seems to be a nice guy, and she had a crush on him back in the day, so she accepts his offer. 
When it appears that the attraction is still there for her and the feelings seem to be reciprocated, she finds herself having a night to remember with him. It is only the following day that she realizes that there was another reason that he looked familiar to her. 
As the connection continues, she finds that there is a tie-in to the story that she's working on, but Gigi has to be careful of journalistic ethics around this important story, and what it might mean to involve him, even if he agrees. 
I liked the chemistry that came across between Gigi and Alec, and the connection from the past that made everything both deeper, and uncertain. Uncertain because she isn't aware of his life since then, even though his life has been one that the public has scrutinized in detail. I also liked the friendship Gigi has with her roommate Eden, which showed another element of her life. 
A great read. 

Tuesday 9 July 2024

The Paradise Problem

Finished July 5
The Paradise Problem by Christina Lauren

This romance novel is a lot of fun to read, as one would expect from this author duo. Anna Green married Liam "West" Weston so that both of them could access subsidized family housing at UCLA. Both had needed an affordable place to live to finish their degrees, and Anna's friend Jake had suggested his brother as a solution. Anna had started in pre-med, but ended up in fine arts, and Liam was working on his graduate degree in economics. Anna signed some papers when they moved out and went on with her life, working low level jobs and painting as much as she can. She has a manager for her art, but hasn't hit it big. Liam is now a professor at Stanford, specializing in corporate culture. He is also one of the four children of the CEO of Weston Foods, one of the country's biggest grocery chains. His father has always expected Liam to take the reins as the next CEO, but Liam wants none of it. Both of his brothers, Alex and Jake, as well as his little sister Charlie work there in executive positions, but Liam has managed to make his own way after his father cut him off when he was in university. 
Now Charlie is getting married, and Liam is expected to make his appearance at the destination wedding at a resort in Indonesia. He is also expected to bring his wife. 
Anna hadn't realized that they were still married, and she also had no idea that Jake and Liam were part of this wealthy family. When Liam shows up on her doorstep to ask her to play at being in a committed marriage with him, she has to admit his timing is good. She's been trying to pay all her dad's hospital bills, but has recently lost one of her jobs, and is taking a day to distract herself. With Liam's offer to give her money in exchange for her appearance, she knows it will help her situation immensely.
Liam's lies to his family also included Anna being in med school as he didn't realize she'd changed her career track, so there is another lie that she has to play along with. 
The setting is beautiful, a luxury private resort, with ocean cabins, exquisite food, and lots of fun activities. The family not so much. The tension between Liam and his father is huge, and hanging over Liam is a clause from his grandfather's will that means Liam won't get his inheritance until he's been married five years, which is coming up in a few months. Liam's mother, Janet is passive aggressive. His older brother Alex is just plain aggressive, and Alex's wife Blaire seems to drink an awful lot. Jake is, of course, the only one that knows the real story of their marriage, but he's only too happy to assist. I really enjoyed the parts that included Alex and Blaire's children, particularly their oldest, Reagan. She's at the age that things get hard, puberty, and Anna is only too happy to give some life advice and support. 
There are a lot of things going on under the surface here, but Anna and Liam find themselves getting along in ways that they hadn't expected, not to mention feeling some chemistry between them. There is fun banter, real attraction, and some great romance going on. I didn't put it down until I finished it. A definite winner.