Monday 17 February 2020


Finished February 17
March by Geraldine Brooks

I've had this one on my shelf for a while, and finally got to it. This book was inspired by Little Women and imagines the story of their father, Mr. March. As the book begins, March is embedded with Union troops as a chaplain, involved in a battle that isn't going well. Following the battle, as he makes his way to a plantation house taken over by troops, he realizes that he has been there before as a young man, when he worked as a peddler. It was here that he first came face to face with the realities of slavery.
The story mostly stays in the time of the Civil War, but it also wanders back to his days as a peddler, his first meeting with Marmee, and the early days of their marriage, outlining how he gradually became the man he is now, and how he came to be where he is.
I found it interesting to see both him and Marmee as more complex characters than they appear in the stories of their daughters.
Brooks based March partly on Louisa May Alcott's father Bronson, but also on other historical figures and using other historical information, particularly around the Civil War, which Bronson did not serve in.
My copy also has an interview with Brooks, and a reading guide for the book.

Lake Season

Finished February 15
Lake Season by Denise Hunter

This novel is the first book in a series at Bluebell Inn, in the town of Bluebell, North Carolina. Molly, Levi, and Grace Bennett are stunned whenever their parents are killed in a car accident. Their parents had been in the midst of plans to renovate their family home back to its early use as an inn. Grace was in her junior year in high school. Levi worked as a project manager for a construction company in San Francisco, and Molly was going into her final year of a hospitality degree, looking forward to a placement in Italy, something she'd worked hard towards, even learning Italian.
But Grace is determined to stay in Bluebell to finish high school, and so the siblings agree to take on their parents' project, finish the renovations of the inn over the winter to be ready to open for the season, and build the inn over a couple of years to make it a more appealing property for buyers.
The book then jumps ahead to near their opening time, with a young man, Adam Bradford showing up hoping for a room on the Memorial Day weekend, just in time to help Molly with the translation of some furniture kit instructions.
Adam is a writer, successful but not confident. He has chosen to write under a pseudonym to both protect his privacy and to create a safe space for his image of himself. He has chosen Bluebell as a spot for his new novel, on the advice of his mother, but is having an episode of writer's block, something he's never had until now. He only identifies himself as a researcher to Molly and her family.
At one time, the inn was used as a post office, and Molly discovers an unsent letter within the wall by the old mail slot. This sets her on a hunt for the sender and recipient, and she involves Adam as a research guide.
This had an interesting plot and I liked the characters of all three Bennett family members, and of Adam. There is a small town intimacy here, as well as a strong closeness between the siblings despite their differences.

Sunday 16 February 2020

The Elephant

Finished February 15
The Elephant by Peter Carnavas

This lovely little book is a great addition to any library with a children's section. It tells the story of a young girl, Olive, who lives with her dad and her granddad. Her mom died when she was very young, and she really only knows her through pictures. Olive can see that her dad isn't happy. He has a routine when he gets home, but he's really just going through the motions. When Olive looks at him, she sees a large grey elephant beside him, one whose shadow darkens everything around it. She knows that until the elephant goes away, he won't get better.
Olive's been thinking about this for a while, and she finally shares it with her friend Arthur who reads a lot and who knows how to listen. Arthur offers her some good advice, and begins his own reading about elephants to see if he can learn things to help her.
At school they are celebrating the school's 100th anniversary at the end of term, and all the children are asked to bring something old to show the others and share the story of. Olive wants to bring her bicycle, but her father has taken it to mend and still hasn't fixed it. Her granddad offers some options to her: a typewriter, and a record player, but while Olive enjoys them, they don't hold the same meaning for her.
Olive loves getting met after school by granddad, especially on the days he is wearing his purple backpack. On those days, she knows they will have some sort of adventure. But there are times when her granddad is sad too, and has his own grey creature by his side.
As Olive and Arthur work together to find a way to make the elephant go away, Olive also wants to help her granddad and thank him for providing the colour in her own life.
This is a great book to help kids understand when someone in their lives is struggling with depression. The use of the various animals brings the idea of depression to life in a physical way, and the way people work together to make things better for everyone shows that there is often a way forward past the depression.
The illustrations for this book are simple, yet show so much. From the jacaranda tree that Olive loves to sit in to think, to Olive, Arthur, her teacher, her dad, and her granddad, to the grey animals (especially the elephant with its tiny black top hat) and the various objects that play a role, the line drawings bring the story to life for young readers.
I loved it.

Secrets at Cedar Cabin

Finished February 14
Secrets at Cedar Cabin by Colleen Coble, read by Devon O'Day

This is the third book in a series, but the first that I've read. Bailey Fleming is working as a geriatric nurse in a seniors home in Michigan. She is still reeling from discovering her husband was already married, and then she gets the news that her mother has been murdered.
Bailey is mourning the sudden death of her mother, trying to figure out who would have killed her, and processing the aftermath of her fake marriage when she discovers that her mother had a big secret, and that someone is now after her with murder intended as well.
Bailey runs with only the bare minimum: the secret stash her mother left her, her handbag, and her cat. She is smart enough to hide her trail, and she runs to the cabin that her duplicitous husband gave her as a settlement to try to get her to keep her mouth shut about their relationship. It is several states away, in Washington, and when she gets there, the place has had the utilities shut off and is a mess.
She also discovers that she has an unexpected connection to the town of Lavender Tides, and as she begins to research her past, she also finds that the FBI are looking at her and her property as well.
This is a book with lots of secrets that need to be uncovered, with women being trafficked to high bidding renters and buyers, and with people who have faith that things will work out.
With a fast-moving plot, and interesting characters, I enjoyed the book, especially Bailey's cat Sheba, who is attached strongly to her.

Saturday 15 February 2020

My Heart Fills With Happiness

Finished February 13
My Heart Fills with Happiness / sâkaskinêw nitêh miymêyihtamowin ohci by Monique Gray Smith, illustrations by Julie Flett, translation into Plains Cree by Mary Cardinal Collins.

This small picture book was the TD Grade One Book Giveaway for 2019. It is told in both English and Plains Cree, with both languages together on the page. The story depicts a young girl and boy as they tell of the many things that fill each of their hearts with happiness, from people to activities to food and comfort. The illustrations bring these things to life, showing job and contentment in the children, their family members,
I loved the use of colour and the depiction of the indigenous people in a positive way that allows children to see themselves in a story. A fantastic choice.

Something To Remember You By

Finished February 12
Something to Remember You By: A Perilous Romance by Gene Wilder

This novella begins with a young American army medic experiencing the frontlines during the Siege of Bastogne in late 1944. Back in London, after recovering from his injuries, he is drafted into the intelligence service due to his quick thinking and his facility with languages.
While awaiting training and deployment, he meets a young woman, a Danish refugee, who is also working for the war effort. Their feelings for each other are strong despite their limited knowledge of each other. When she inexplicably disappears, he is relentless in his search to find out what happened to her, a search that coincides with his new deployment.
This story tells of an intense romance during wartime, and the risks and plots that the two engage in as they go undercover in German-occupied France.
I found it engaging and with nice touches of humour.

The Coldwater Warm Hearts Club

Finished February 10
The Coldwater Warm Hearts Club by Lexi Eddings

Lacy Evans has returned to her home town from the big city with her life feeling broken. She made some bad judgements there, and she lost her business and her fiance. She also still has a huge debt hanging over her due to the betrayal of the man she thought she could trust.
She can't handle living with her parents, so she takes an apartment that comes with a resident cat, one that doesn't seem to like her much at first. But she finds old friends, and a job that she can enjoy, and begins to settle in. Coffee shop owner Jacob Tyler seems different from the charming but flirtatious boy she knew, maybe partly due to his military experiences. Her ex-boyfriend Daniel Scott seems friendly, but what is going on with his marriage?
Lacy begins to get to know these people from her childhood as an adult, and finds more beneath the surface than she thought. When one of the locals noticed a need and responded to it with an offer of assistance, a group was formed, the Warm Hearts Club. The members identify needs and work together to meet those needs, whether it is for the basics of life, a little respite for a tiring caregiver, or a new way forward for someone who's been stuck in a rut for far too long. Lacy joins this community and finds herself considering a future in town, but her past has a way of coming back after her, and she might be in more trouble than she realizes.
I liked how every chapter had a quote at the beginning from one of the characters in the book. It gave me more insight into some of the more minor characters in a charming way.
A nice read.

Friday 14 February 2020

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss

Finished February 8
Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam

Chandra is a professor of Economics at Cambridge University. He is a very driven man, focused tightly on his job and his research. His wife divorced him a few years ago and remarried an American psychologist and lives in Boulder, Colorado. His son Sunny has succeeded in business in his own way, but not to Chandra's expectations. Sunny lives in Hong Kong. His daughter Radha has been estranged from Chandra for years, and he doesn't know what she's doing or where she is. He's put some pressure on his ex-wife and son to divulge information about her, which they haven't given in to. His youngest daughter Jasmine is a senior in high school and lives with her mother.
As the book opens, Chandra is up for a Nobel Prize, and is considered a favourite. But he doesn't get it. Shortly after, he is hit by a bicyclist in an accident and suffers a minor heart attack. His doctor advises him to take some time off, something Chandra gives into reluctantly, and he finds himself in California.
Through the book we gradually see how Chandra got to where he is now, and how his relationships with these people have developed. He is put into a situation where he admits some of these truths to those around him, and to himself.
My book club read this, and related to some of the family dynamics and ambitions shown here. We generally agreed that Chandra has a long ways to go in terms of mending relationships with his family, and with recognizing his own role in these relationships.

Sunday 9 February 2020

The Great Halifax Explosion

Finished February 6
The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism by John U. Bacon, read by Johnny Heller

This narrative of the Halifax Explosion of 1917 is new one on this tragedy. I've read a few, both fiction and nonfiction, and find it endlessly fascinating to find out the stories of the individual people affected by this terrible event. This particular books has one focus on the relationship between Canada and the United States, giving some historical background, showing how Boston in particular came to the aid of Halifax, and how the cooperation between the countries changed the way they related to each other.
Bacon also chose to look at the experiences of one soldier, from nearby Wolfsville, John Ernest Barss, who worked in Montreal before the war, enlisted as a matter of character, was passionate about the need to fight for several months until he became disillusioned and then injured, and returned home shortly before the explosion. He responded as a medical helper, and this experience caused him to become a doctor. His story brings the actual war experience into the story, as well as giving some family history that relates to the theme of the relationship between Canada and the U.S.
Like the other books I've read on this, it covers the actions of the two ships involved up until their collision, and looks at the effect on a number of individuals in the city, on the surrounding area, and at the longer outcomes, such as the court cases involving the owners of the two ships.
The other books I've read didn't really look at the chemistry of the explosion itself, with the enormous power involved and the heat generated.
As I'm planning to visit Halifax for the first time later this year, I was glad to be reminded of this terrible event in the town's history and it's ongoing effects.

The Blue Demon

Finished February 3
The Blue Demon by David Hewson

This is the eighth book in the Nic Costa series, and I've enjoyed all the ones I've read. Set in Rome, Nic is called in as part of a team to deal with the a murder and threats related to a G8 meeting held in the heart of the city. The team is called in by the president, exercising a right he has seldom used in defiance of the prime minister, who planned the high level meeting of leaders.
As the book begins, an Italian politician has been kidnapped and his driver murdered. The clues in the case lead back to a dissident terrorist group that was active decades earlier, but could that really be the case. As the intrigue builds, and the various police and security groups push for their own forces to take control, more and more is revealed. There is lots of conspiracy here, and greed, and arrogance. And Nic finds that he learns more about his own father and the role he played in politics when Nic was young.
As usual in Hewson's books, there is a lot going on, in politics, in art and archaeology, and in the struggle for power. The Blue Demon of the title is an ancient being from an earlier time's legends, but one very real to one man who believes he has a mission to fulfill.

Finding Lucy

Finished February 2
Finding Lucy by Eugenie Fernandes

This picture book follows a young girl as she first paints for herself and the joy of it, then tries to please various others that view her work with critical eyes and try to have her paint to their preferences. She finds that no matter how hard she tries, they aren't satisfied and she become more and more unhappy.
It is interesting to see how they tell her that what they see is less than what the painting is to her, and how she begins to work their ideas into her work, trying to be polite in her interactions with them, even when they aren't polite to her.
I liked the twists and turns as others came and went and the surprise when she kissed the frog. Lucy encouraged others even when they weren't happy with her work.
It is her cat, whose has been with her from the beginning, that finally reminds her of how she began painting and why she did it.
This book is full of colour and movement and there are so many small things to see when you look at it, just like a good painting.
This book is a reminder to readers that we are all individual and should express ourselves in the way that feels right to us, no matter what others say.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Gentle Spectrums 2019 wrap-up post

Gentle Spectrums 2019
Ran Feb 1, 2019 to Jan. 31, 2020
I completed all but one category.

Hosted here, this challenge has several categories to read books in. They are: 
1. Limitless Palette - Colours
The Red Daughter by John Burnham Schwartz. Finished May 7
The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns. Finished June 8
Golden Age by Jane Smiley. Finished November 5
2. Canadian
21 Things You May Not Know about The Indian Act by Bob Joseph. Finished April 3
Prairie People by Robert Collins. Finished October 26
3. Continents
The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin. Finished January 26
4. Fashion and Decor
The Gown by Jennifer Robson. Finished August 24
5. Educational
Farsighted by Steven Johnson. Finished March 1
The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King. Finished September 10
6. Hope and Triumph
Before You Were Born by Deborah Kerbel, illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo. Finished April 30
Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey. Finished June 15
7. Animals
Queenie Quail Can't Keep Up by Jane Whittingham, illustrated by Emma Pedersen. Finished February 9
A Catalog of Birds by Laura Harrington. Finished April 7
Land Mammals and Sea Creatures by Jen Neale. Finished May 24
The Wolf Wants In by Laura McHugh. Finished June 27
What Cats Think by Mies van Hout and John Spray. Finished January 12
8. Natural Environment
9. The Arts
The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce. Finished December 14
10. Toys and Hobbies
Craftfulness by Rosemary Davidson and Arzu Tahsin. Finished July 4
11. Healthfulness.
Breathe In, Cash Out by Madeleine Henry. Finished June 2

The Silent Assassin

Finished February 1
The Silent Assassin by Lori Andrews

This thriller features a female doctor, Alexandra Blake,  who specializes in communicable disease research and works for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP). Her father died in Vietnam when she was a young child, and she had an unconventional childhood. She is involved with a musician, but the two haven't really defined their relationship beyond the present. As the book opens, he is leaving for a European tour, and she is called in to attend an autopsy on a man found in a dumpster, with some conflicting clues about his status and death. She is also involved in a project to repatriate some skulls of Vietnamese people that were brought back to the United States as war trophies by soldiers. Although confiscated as soon as they arrived in the U.S., the skull have been in storage, untouched, for years. Back in the war, they were painted and used in disrespectful ways. Alex is asked what she can do to remove the evidence of this, and is ordered to participate in the repatriation ceremony. She is also told to identify at least one of the Vietnamese victims.
As she works on these projects, she is drawn back into her own personal history and the loss of her father.
This novel is part of a series, but I haven't yet read others. I enjoyed the character and the story. The action moves quickly, and there is lots of suspense and drama, and several more people die before the final act. The personalities of the characters play a role, and it was a page-turning read.

Saturday 1 February 2020


Finished January 31
Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto, translated by Michael Emmerich

This small book contains three novellas: Night and Night's Travelers; Love Songs; and Asleep.
All are told from the point of view of single women, relatively young,
Night and Night's Travelers is a story told by the sister of a man who has died quite young. She is the younger sister, and she remembers his influence on her, his relationship with a visiting American girl, and his relationship with another girl she is close to. As she reflects on the brother she has lost, she also looks at his influence on these other women, and the secrets she has about him.
Love Songs is told from the viewpoint of a young woman who is temporarily out of work, and finds herself thinking about a past relationship and the woman she competed with for the love and attention of a man that wasn't worth it in the long run. She finds herself wondering about what has happened to this woman, and also spending too much of her time drinking alcohol. As she reconnects with this figure from her past, she also is able to close a chapter of her life.
Asleep is told by another young woman out of work. She has a lover who is a married man, one with a senior position at the offices she worked at briefly. It is not a typical affair, but it is one that she thinks about. She spends a lot of her time sleeping, more and more as the days pass, but she also thinks about a woman she was close friends with, who has now passed away, and it is this friend's influence that enables her to deal with her situation before she loses herself completely.
All three stories have a woman who focuses on a person who has died, which is interesting. All of them seem to have something to learn from this past relationship that helps them to deal with their lives in the present.

13th Canadian Book Challenge February Roundup

Add you reviews for February here

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And be sure to check out the list of what everyone's read in the banner at the top of the page.