Wednesday 30 September 2020

Catch-22

Finished September 28
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

I've owned this book for years, but picked it up for the Classic Challenge. I'm glad to get it crossed off the list and portions of it hit home, but overall I can't say that I enjoyed it. My version of it had a new preface by the author, where he talked about his intentions compared to things some critics have said about the book.
The main character in the book is Yossarian, who is a bombardier in the American military during World War II, now stationed in Italy. He has legitimate worries about his survival, and is frustrated with his superior officer's habit of continually raising the number of missions the crews have to do before getting leave back home.
There is a lot here around the bureaucracy of the military, and of governments in general. Whether it is someone who was on a flight manifest for a flight that crashed, and is therefore declared dead, even though he tries to argue that he is right there, or a man who had barely arrived in camp, just dropping off his stuff in his tent before going out on a mission, never to return, and therefore is in limbo. Never formally arrived, so can't be formally declared dead. There are many instances of this sort of thing happening that show the frustration felt by those controlled by the bureaucracy.
There is also a theme around the image of the senior officers, competing for approval from their superiors, for promotion, or for favourable media coverage. Their decisions aren't made for the benefit of the men, or even the strategic military goals, but for personal reasons.
Another theme that really got me angry, as I'm sure it was meant to, was the theme around financial gain. One man, starting out as the chef in the canteen, kept advancing his activity around procurement, making money off trading goods of various types. The situation kept escalating and got to a point where the collateral damage of men's lives, civilian lives, and even battles with the enemy didn't matter at all, as long as money was being made.
The catch-22 of the title alludes to the idea that if you are able to claim to be unfit due to being crazy, then you aren't actually crazy.
As Yossarian watches more and more of the original group of men he works with get killed or injured, or simply disappear, he becomes more and more mired in his hopelessness and fear for his own survival, acting out however he can to protest the situation.

Monday 28 September 2020

Led Astray

Finished September 24
Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong by Kelley Armstrong

This collection of stories covers a lot of the worlds that Armstrong has created in her novels, with characters of a wide variety of paranormal types.
Stories include those set around Cainsville, Darkest Powers, Age of Legends, and Otherworld. Two of the stories are original to this collection, but others have appeared in a variety of other collections, and that information is given near the beginning of the book.
Some stories have a touch of humour to them, which I enjoyed as well. Others were very dark, almost horror.
Kelley Armstrong is an author I've been meaning to read for quite a while, so it was nice to start with a collection like this to give me a taste of her writing that is wider that one novel and one world. I can certainly see why she is so popular.
Another thing I like about her writing are the strong female characters. They aren't adjuncts to men, but lead characters who often set the direction for the story themselves.

Sunday 27 September 2020

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

Finished September 23
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

This is the second book in this children's fantasy series, and I meant to read it after reading the first years ago, but only just got around to it. The first book was The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and I can't believe it has been eight years since I read it!
The girl in question is September, and she lives her usual life in Nebraska on a farm with her parents. It is World War II, and September's father is away in Europe fighting, her mom works in a factory where they make airplanes, and September doesn't really fit in at school. To be honest, ever since she returned home from her first adventure in Fairyland, she's longed to return, to see her friends Ell and Saturday, and talk again with the Green Wind. It's been nearly a year now, and she is turning thirteen. She's had a lovely birthday and is outside in the fields near her home, looking over the books her father has sent her, when it happens again. A rowboat flies through the air near her, and she chases after it, right back into Fairyland. But this time, things don't feel right.
She's landed in a strange forest, where everything is made of glass, and one of the first things that she notices is that there are no shadows. Now, September knows that last time she had to leave an important part of herself behind, her shadow, but why does nothing have shadows here? What has gone wrong? Is it because of her shadow? She longs to find answers and to set things right again, but as she soon discovers, the problem originates beneath Fairyland, and she must visit the Sibyl to gain access to this world, where things are very different than they are above ground.
As September takes on the problem and realizes the full extent of the trouble, she also makes new friends, but she isn't sure whether she can trust everyone she meets.
Also following the boat into Fairyland are two crows, siblings who find much of interest in this world, and we see snippets of their adventures as well.
I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel and I understand there are now five books in this series along with a couple of smaller stories that fit into this magic world. Great fun!

Cathedrals of Flesh

Finished September 22
Cathedrals of Flesh: My Search for the Perfect Bath by Alexia Brue

This memoir covers a few weeks in the author's life when she had an idea with Marina, a friend of hers to start a business in New York City operating a traditional-style Turkish bath. The idea began in Paris where the two visited several baths in this style. They loved the atmosphere, the process that was followed on a visit to the bath, and the interaction between the bathers. She then decided to go to Turkey to check out the baths there, and found it was a declining industry for the most part. Marina joined her for a few days here to explore alongside her, She did learn and few things, but found that the baths weren't as well-kept as she'd expected, and decided to take her research to a few other countries that had a public bath culture. Following this she got the opportunity to join an archeological dig in Corinth that included a public bath. She did find some things of interest here, but didn't like the dig leader's manner and it didn't live up to her image of what it would be.
Her next country was Russia, first in St. Petersburg, and then Moscow. Marina joined her for a day in St. Petersburg and then for the Moscow portion of the visit. Here she was first introduced to the idea of hitting oneself, or a fellow bather, with birch twigs as an added element of the bathing experience. The baths here were much hotter, and also not always that well-kept.
From Russia, she went to Finland, where he boyfriend joined her for part of the time. Here she entered the world of wood-fired saunas and found the baths well-run and very health oriented. Here they also used a branch of birch as an added stimulus. Along with her boyfriend, she took an excursion with a local family into the countryside to experience a lakeside sauna. Her final bathing experience was in Japan, and she was enchanted by the experience here. Some of the baths are fed by hot springs, with the sulfur smell I remember from my childhood hot springs experiences here in Canada. Besides Tokyo, she also visited Kyoto and a bath that was more of a spa experience with multiple offerings.
There is a list of baths in various counties at the back of the book, but of course since the book came out in 2003, it would be only a starting point for anyone interested. I was surprised at the many Canadian locations that were not included here, so I don't think it was a necessarily well-researched list to begin with, but more of ones that she'd heard of in her travels.
As I said, I grew up going to many hot springs in Alberta and B.C., all based on natural hot springs. Banff is likely the most well-known of these. I also like a good bathing experience of any type and have found memories of my multi-stage bathing experience at Baden-Baden in Germany, which sounds similar to her Paris experiences.
As of the book's publication, and what I've been able to see online, I don't think she ever opened a bath business, and now is probably a bad time for these sorts of businesses. Hopefully, we will get a vaccine that works well and be able to enjoy these lovely experiences again in the future.

Fall of Poppies

Finished September 20
Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War

This is an anthology, with stories from a number of female historical fiction writers. All of the stories have some element of love in them, and are set either during WWI or after, but looking back to it in some way. A few of my favourite writers are included, which drew me to the book.
The Daughter of Belgium, by Marci Jefferson is set in Belgium during the final days of the war. Amelie is a young Belgian woman whose home, shop and family had been attacked during the first year of the war, and her parents died shortly after. She was taken in by Edith Cavell and worked in the clinic helping out wherever needed and learning nursing skills. Now Cavell is dead and Amelie’s fear is growing for her future as the clinic is evacuated. She is staying to try to protect the property, along with her young daughter, Hope. There is also one patient unable to be moved, that she is tending to.
The Record Set Right, by Lauren Willig, is set more than sixty years after the war, when Camilla (Millie), a woman who married and emigrated with her husband to Kenya and built a life there, returns to England at the request of her brother-in-law. They are the last two of their generation and there is history between them that needs to be dealt with.
All For the Love of You by Jennifer Robson is set in Paris in 1925, where Daisy finds out at her father’s death that he lied to someone about her back in 1918, that has changed her life. Daisy is an American woman, in Paris with her physician father, who had worked as a secretary, handholder, and artist at a charitable organization that created masks for men who faces were damaged by the war to provide them a way to move about in their lives with less attention.
After You’ve Gone by Evangeline Holland is set in Paris in the last days of the war.  A Scottish black woman entertainer, must now find a way to move on with her life after the loss of her American husband Charles in the war, leaving her in poverty and without hope. As she walks to the station, she meets a group of Americans and becomes a tour guide for the city where she has so many memories.
Something Worth Landing For by Jessica Brockmole takes place in Remorantin, France, in the last days of the war, when a young American pilot encounters a young French woman in a hospital and offers to be her husband to protect her honour. She writes him letters as he goes off on what will be his last mission, and he has wire interchanges with his mother and thoughts of the young woman he is now tied to.
Hour of the Bells by Heather Webb takes place in a couple of small towns on either side of the French German border, in the last days of the war. A German woman, who married a French man and moved to his home is now mourning the loss of both him and their only son, and worries about her status without her family. She hates Germany for taking her men from her and devises a plan for revenge.
An American Airman in Paris by Beatriz Williams in set in Paris in the spring of 1920 where a young man, a pilot during the war, taking refuge finally in the arms of a woman suffering her own losses, is faced with a past he has tried to forget, and offered a way forward.
The Photograph by Kate Kerrigan, takes place in Ireland in 2016, where Bridie, the granddaughter of a member of the 1916 Uprising, in preparation for a commemorative ceremony learns something about her great-aunt Eileen that influences her attitude in the present
Lastly, Hush by Hazel Gaynor, set in November 1918, where Annie, a midwife, works to help a premature baby thrive after his birth, while worrying about her only surviving son Will, somewhere in France, and Will encounters his last battlefield engagement. 

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Glaxo

Finished September 13
Glaxo by Hernán Ronsino, translated by Samuel Rutter

Ronsino is said to be one of the best modern writers in Argentina. Here, Glaxo is the name of the small town where the actions of this short novel take place. There are four parts, each told from a different point of view and at a different time, but all related to the same events and how they affected people's lives. 
The first part is told by Vardemann in October 1973. Vardemann has home from prison, and is working in his father's barbershop. He knows that he wasn't guilty of the crime he went to jail for, but he doesn't know what really happened. He sees his childhood friend Miguelito, ill and with little hope of recovery, and he watches as workers come and remove the train tracks that served the town. 
The next part is told by Bicho Souza in December 1984. As a young man, Bicho was a friend of Vardemann along with a couple of other guys that all hung out together. The showing of an old movie from that time has brought back memories for him, when Vardemann used to pretend to be Kirk Douglas and Miguelito pretended to be John Wayne and they would have a shoot-out in the street after the movie was over. Another friend that he meets for lunch has recently seen a woman from their past, the wife of an older man, but whom they all lusted after. She talked to him and told him her reasons for leaving town so many years ago. 
The third part is told by Miguelito Barrios in July 1966, when he sees Vardemann return from prison. He thinks back a few years to when he often rode horses with an older man, Folcada. Miguelito's father was a horseman and he was killed accidentally when breaking a horse. Miguelito worked for the railway, unloading the cargo and delivering the parcels that came off the train. He thinks of his interactions with Folcada and how first Folcada's wife and then himself left and never came back. 
The fourth part is told by Folcado in December 1959, about his relationship with his wife, his suspicions, and the actions that he took based on them. 
As we see the stories all come together at the end, we see what a fantastic writer Ronsino is. A brilliant novel.

Monday 14 September 2020

The Drowning Spool

Finished September 10
The Drowning Spool by Monica Ferris

This is the seventeenth book in the Needlecraft Mystery series. I've read a few of the others, but haven't stuck to the order. Here, Betsy Devonshire, owner of the needlework shop Crewel World, near Minneapolis, has to find a new water aerobics class location while her usual pool undergoes repairs. One of her fellow classmates tells her about one at the right time at a local seniors complex, Watered Silk. Watered Silk is in an old silk factory building, and while a tad more expensive than she would like, Betsy signs up.
On her first day, the program coordinator approaches her as she is leaving to run a class for some of the crafty ladies and she agrees to do a series of classes in punch needle. I found this interesting as I recently did my first punch needle project. It seems that Betsy's is a little different than the one I did and more interesting. There is a template for a pattern for this craft at the back of the book, with basic instructions.
The water aerobics instructor, arriving one morning early, finds a body in the pool. The security guard on that night is the son of a friend of Betsy's and asks her to look into it as he seems to be under suspicion. The interaction with the friend was the one part of the book that made me uncomfortable, as their is race involved and I didn't always like Betsy's tone on this.
Once the body is identified, Betsy looks at the three men involved in the victim's life, her roommates, and also continues to try to figure out how the body got into the secured area. Not everything works out well here, but Betsy is often in the right place at the right time, sometimes through her planning, but sometimes luck.
Betsy's personal relationship is a part of this book as well, with her live-in boyfriend Connor pressing her for a more permanent commitment, and has him working in her shop a few times.
Betsy is diligent and persistent and has a local police contact that comes in handy from time to time.

The Sari Shop

Finished September 9
The Sari Shop by Rupa Bajwa

Reading this book came about because of a reading challenge that I am participating in that had a requirement to read a book that had won the Sahitya Akademi Award for English, an Indian book award. I looked through the list and chose this one, which was the winner for 2006.
I really enjoyed the story, but I was challenged by some of the terms I wasn't familiar with.
The main character is Ramchand, a young man working as a clerk in a sari shop, the Sevak Sari House, in Amritsar. We gradually learn of his past, growing up as an only child of parents who had their own small shop and lived in a room behind it. His father had ambitions for him, intending to send him to an "English medium" school so he could become more than a shop owner. Sadly, tragedy struck his family, and thus Ramchand did not attend the school his father hoped for, and is now a clerk rather than a shop owner. There are five other clerks in the store, and Ramchand is the second from the bottom in terms of hierarchy.
When one of Amritsar's elite plans her wedding, Ramchand is tasked with taking saris and other garments to her home for consideration. This experience opens him up to new ideas and new possibilities. While he has occasionally spent money on books, he now makes considered purchases, and begins to study English with dedication. He also starts thinking about things beyond his day-to-day existence. But an experience with a co-worker's family brings him back to the cold hard reality of the world he lives in and the place he is expected to take within it.
I was hopeful for his future as he started to study and open his mind to new ideas, but discouraged by how easily he lost hope.
This book definitely showed me a world that I wasn't familiar with and expanded my knowledge of India.

Saturday 12 September 2020

My Summer of Magic Moments

Finished September 8
My Summer of Magic Moments by Caroline Roberts

This is a feel good romance novel. Claire Maxwell, a newspaper reporter and columnist, has recently finished her treatments for breast cancer and been given the all clear. Then her husband announced that he's found someone else. Now divorced and back to work, she's decided to take most of her annual vacation and go back to the seacoast she spent many a childhood vacation to spend some time alone and reflect. She still has to prepare her newspaper column for the week she returns and that is on her mind, as well as the upcoming sale of the marital home.
The cottage she rented is a bit more dilapidated than she expected and her journey to get there wasn't smooth, but the views are spectacular and she enjoys the sea and the challenge of the walk to the nearest small seaside town, where she can buy supplies. The magic moments idea in the book's title comes to her here, those small moments in life that can lift one's spirits, assuage the soul, and provide comfort through memory. She tries to gather these moments from those around her, and those she meets.
She makes a new friend in the small town as she begins a new hobby, baking bread, and starts to reengage with life through her mom and her sister and sister's family. She is also intrigued by the man who is staying at the cottage nearest hers, who she sees first at a distance, and then later when she needs some help with something that goes wrong at her cottage.
As she prepares to move house, and create a new home for herself, she is also looking forward to life again, realizing that life is precious and we don't know how long we have, so she is savouring it and taking hold of those moments as they arise, however unexpected.
A great read, especially for the times that we find ourselves in. The author reached out to the public for the magic moments in their lives as part of her writing of this novel, trying to include as many as she could within the confines of the story.

A Circle of Wives

Finished September 7
A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante

This suspense novel keeps you guessing for a long time. Plastic surgeon John Taylor is found dead in a hotel room, and while at first glance it looks like it may have been a natural death, the police officer in charge is careful to wait for the autopsy before giving an official statement regarding the nature of death. For the officer, Samantha Adams, this is her first homicide investigation and she is determined to solve it and do it well.
Things get a little more dicey when it comes to light that Taylor had more than one wife. It appears that there were three wives, and they weren't all aware of each other. What drew these women to John and how did he manage to juggle them along with his demanding career. As Samantha digs deeper into his life, she discovers the women in his life weren't the only ones that may have had issues with John. His work partnership had started to become more divisive as well.
We also get a glimpse into Samantha's home life, her past career issues, and her love life. Samantha came across as very human, and with a lot to figure out for herself besides her career aspirations.
The lives and motivations of the wives gradually unfolds, and I liked Samantha with her dedication to solving this unusual case.

Monday 7 September 2020

Marrow and Bone

Finished September 6
Marrow and Bone by Walter Kempowski, translated by Charlotte Collins

This novel was released in 1992 in German and only recently translated into English. The main character here, Jonathan Fabrizius, is a freelance writer who mostly lives on an allowance sent to him by his uncle who runs a furniture company. Jonathan lives in Hamburg in a room in an apartment. His girlfriend of six years, Ulla Bakkre de Vaera has a part-time job at a museum, a fascination with cruelties enacted and represented in art, and lives in another room in the same apartment. Their landlord is a older widow of a general that they have little interaction with.
Jonathan was born in 1945 as his mother and uncle fled East Prussia ahead of the Russian advance. His mother died as a result of the birth and her body was left in the small town that he was born in, with his uncle taking a young peasant woman who had lost her own child along on their flight to nurse the young baby. Jonathan's father, a Wehrmacht lieutenant had also died in East Prussia, on the Vistula Spit, when a bomb hit him.
As the book opens, it is 1988 and Jonathan receives a letter from a motorcar company offering him a trip to scout out a planned journalist event to launch a new vehicle. Jonathan would be writing the publicity article to draw the journalists to participate. The trip would be in East Prussia. Jonathan has never returned to the land of his birth, but this opportunity intrigues him with the possibility to see it. He would travel with a driver and a PR person from the motorcar company, and work with them to identify places to see and make note of.
As Jonathan decides to do this, he also holds back a bit from Ulla, not sharing with her this information until after he has committed, but there are also things that Ulla is hiding from him, and this is a turning point in their relationship.
Jonathan's experiences in East Prussia, his interactions with local people, the visiting of historic sites from churches to bunkers also lead him to make peace with his personal history of this place and the losses he suffered from the death of his parents.
Jonathan has an active mind, and we see his thoughts throughout as his mind wanders from the matters at hand and into reflection and supposition. I really enjoyed these thoughts and how varied they were and how he looked at his life and the world around him. Visiting a country that had been settled by Germans in the past, changed hands several times, and is now part of Poland is touched with the relatively recent history of the Second World War and the Nazi presence there. This too is a part of how the characters interact with the people as they visit this area.

The Western Wind

Finished September 5
The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

This historical novel is not your typical mystery. It takes place over four days in February 1491, in a small English village. The narrator is the local priest, and the main subject of the book is the supposed death by drowning of the village's wealthiest man. I say supposed because there is no body, only the tale of a witness, or maybe more than one witness.
The story is told in a backwards fashion with the most recent day appearing first, and the earlier days coming in reverse order. As the story begins, the dean is present, living in the dead man's house and looking into his death, looking for a reason, for a murderer even. He has told the priest to announce a system of long pardons given for all who make their confession in these four days before lent, a pardon of forty days. Another thing that is important to know is that just before the events of this book, the village had a wedding celebration for one of the women who married a man from a nearby village. She was the priest's younger sister, and his only family, and he genuinely misses her.
As we work backwards over these four days, we see the background of some of the village people: The victim, Thomas Newman; the priest and how he came to be where he is in life; Oliver Townshend and his wife, the couple that had sold off most of their land to Newman over the last few years; the dean's reasons for being in the village so soon after the death. Each of the things we learn adds to the information about Newman's death, the people in the village that he interacted with and who depended on him for their livelihoods, his relationship with the priest, and the priest's relationship with the various village people and the dean. All of these things help the reader to understand what happened, and why it happened and what has happened to bring us to the final day included here.
The information about the confessions is quite interesting, the priest implementing a degree of privacy for this purpose that was unusual for England at the time, based on information that Newman provided from his wider experience. I also found it highly unusual how much of this the priest shared with the dean, and what he withheld.
The writing is excellent and one gets a real sense of the village and the life lived there by the inhabitants, and the precariousness of it all. I found it engrossing.

A Quiet Girl

Finished September 4
A Quiet Girl by Peter Carnavas

I love the illustrations in Carnavas' books, both the way he draws nature and the quirky individualism of his human characters. But the other fantastic things about his books is the subtle, yet meaningful way in which he tackles larger issues and makes them real for kids.
Here we have Mary, a young girl who is thoughtful and quiet. We see her noticing the world around here (especially the individual noises different things make), engaging in thoughtful activities, and sharing them, quietly, with her family. But her family is loud, her using tools, devices, toys, and loud talk regularly. They don't hear here and tell her to talk louder. But Mary stays true to her self, and is a quiet girl. She becomes quieter and notices more and more things in the world around her, not just the sounds of it, but the sight of things, the smell of nature, and the feel of a breeze. She is present in her world in a meaningful way. At first her family just continued on with their normal noisy behaviours, making her feel like she wasn't even there. But then the did notice that she wasn't interacting with them, and they looked and called loudly for her. They didn't see or hear her. So they stopped and got quiet too, and listened, really listened. And they heard the noises of things around them, things that included Mary's voice singing a quiet small song as she fed the birds. And they realized what they had been missing in their normal activities.
The book includes a two page introduction to mindfulness at the end, giving some suggestions in how to be present in your world like Mary is in hers. I really like the last suggestion when they ask you to close your eyes and listen and identify the quietest sound that you can hear. Beautiful and simple to do and so, so satisfying.
Under the sound of my grandfather clock, the soft whish of my dehydrator in the kitchen, the hum of appliances, I can hear noises through the open window from outside, my cats' quiet breathing as they sleep near me, and feel the breeze coming through the window.

Benjamin's Blue Feet

Finished September 3
Benjamin's Blue Feet by Sue Macartney

This lovely picture book features Benjamin a young blue-footed booby, a bird native to the Galapagos Islands. Benjamin is a bird that like to gather items he's found and this aspect of the book is a great introduction into the vast amount of garbage littering our oceans. He calls his finds treasures and gives them names that describe them. It is when he finds a shiny object that reflects his image that he then compares himself to other birds that he sees around him, finding himself not measuring up to what he sees and likes in other creatures. His beak is too straight and long, unlike that of the Warbler. His wings are also long and wide with bristles, and he likes the penguin's sleek wings better. But his feet bring him more bad feelings, being large and blue and floppy, unlike the sticky clawed toes of the iguana.
When Benjamin uses his treasures to alter these parts of his appearance, he thinks he has improved himself, despite the laughter he now seems to generate from those who see him, but when he goes about his normal activities, he finds that his body the way it was designed is all as it should be, and what he saw as flaws are features that help him to survive and thrive in his environment. A great view on self-image, individualization, and body consciousness.
The book ends with a one-page statement about the issues raised in the book, particularly that of ocean trash. The front end papers also have wonderful drawing of other Galapagos creatures with their names. On the dedication page, the publisher also has a link to a downloadable glossary of information about the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.
The illustrations here are lovely and eye-catching, and the expressions are perfect for each scenario. A lovely picture book for every child's collection.

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Paris Never Leaves You

Finished September 2
Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman

This novel takes place in 1954, with flashbacks to World War Two in Paris. The main character, Charlotte lived in Paris and was working in a bookstore during the war. Her husband Laurent was killed while fighting and she was raising her young daughter Vivienne on her own. The owner of the bookstore was in a German camp, and Charlotte and her friend Simone ran the store. Charlotte tried to be careful in the actions she took, aware of the need to protect her young daughter, but Simone sometimes took risks, such as setting the clock in the store to Paris time rather than the German time they were supposed to be using. When a German officer begins coming to the bookstore, Charlotte is even more careful, but a couple of situations have her developing a complicated relationship with the young man, Julian Bauer.
In the present, Charlotte has been sponsored by a colleague of her father's, Horace Field, to come to New York and is working as an editor for his publishing company. She is good at her job, and Vivi is growing up to be a loving and thoughtful young woman. Horace and his wife Hannah have not only sponsored them, but given them an apartment in their own home. Hannah is a therapist and has tried to talk to Charlotte about her experiences, but Charlotte keeps her past to herself, not wanting it to follow her into her new life. Horace was injured in the war and is now confined to a wheelchair, but he is still an extremely capable and observant man, and he feels that he and Charlotte have more between them due to their war experiences.
They both have their secrets, but Charlotte is now getting letters from someone in her past, and Hannah seems to be encouraging Vivi to dig into this part of her life as well, causing disputes between Charlotte and her now-teen daughter.
I liked how this book dealt with a character who lived through the Occupation of Paris but wasn't involved in the Resistance, who was just trying to stay alive. The focus on the stresses on ordinary people was one not often seen in fiction of this time period. There is also some guilt that Charlotte carries from this time that has some complexity to it, and that she needs to deal with to be able to truly move forward with her life.
Definitely recommend this one.

Roanoke Ridge

Finished August 31
Roanoke Ridge: A Creature X Mystery by J.J. Dupuis

This book takes place in the mountainous temperate rainforest area of Oregon. The main character, Laura Reagan, is a science nerd who runs a website dedicated to promoting science, gathering information on new discoveries and providing information in a friendly accessible way. But she grew up in this part of Oregon and her father shot some of the little existing video that appears to be showing a creature whose existence is debated: bigfoot. Laura spent a lot of time with her father, camping and exploring the wilderness and is comfortable in the outdoors.
Now one of her professors, Berton Sorel, one of only three people that knew where that footage was shot, has gone missing while doing preparatory work for a documentary on the subject. His wife has asked Laura to come as support and to help search for her husband, and Laura is willing. She arrives with a close friend, Saad, a man that one senses that she wishes was more than just a friend. Also going on in the area is an annual Bigfoot Convention. After meeting with the professor's wife, and attending some of the convention talks, Laura and Saad meet with the forest ranger group organizing the search for the missing man. They are assigned a ranger, and an EMT to search with, but as they approach the area, they find more then they bargained for.
With skeptics, fanatics, tourism promoters, and academics the convention goers are prolific and it seems like they are everywhere. But there are other elements in play here as well, including groups of militants armed to the teeth and ready to shoot at anything that moves.
Laura isn't sure who she can trust or rely on besides Saad, and with more bigfoot sightings things only get murkier.
This was a quick and fast-paced read, that I enjoyed. I liked the media quotes regarding bigfoot sightings of the past that headed the chapters, and the scientific discussions that became part of the plot.

The Afterlife of George Cartwright

Finished August 30
The Afterlife of George Cartwright by John Steffer

George Cartwright was a real historical figure from the 18th century. He was born in England, and spent time in India and Labrador. He ran a trading post in Labrador and developed a relationship with some of the Inuit there.
This book takes the information from Cartwright's real life and adds to it, more fully developing the character. This book was on several award shortlists when it came out and won a first novel award. The premise for the book is George Cartwright caught in a kind of limbo after his death, where he wakes up in a room in the inn he died in, and has his hunting bird there, with his horse in the stables below, and goes about activities.
These activities are mostly roaming the countryside and using his bird to hunt, but he gets occasional glimpses into the real world as it develops over the many years he is stuck in this situation, and has entered that world invisibly on occasion. But for the book, his story is in the past. He makes diary entries reflecting on his life and what he did, all of which start the same:
1819. May. Wednesday 19. Wind S.W. light. 
We also get entries from his real life diaries and the book makes connections and enlarges upon what is there so we get a better picture of the world he lived in, the people he interacted with, and how he treated them. Despite his reliance on the Inuit, and the things that he learned from them, he still regards them as lesser than himself, and that is obvious in a few different situations in the book. His companion, Mrs. Selby seems more enlightened in that regard, but still takes the advantages that the situation offers. In some cases he treats the natives with regard, but when it comes right down to it, he doesn't respect them in the same way he does his contacts in England. His relationship with Mrs. Selby is a different one, part business and part personal, and she definitely wants more than he is willing to give. He is a lonely man, but that loneliness is due to his choices as much as anything. This is a man looking at his life and regretting certain things and seeing things in a new light, but still a man of his times.
An enlightening read.

The Remedy for Love

Finished August 27
The Remedy for Love by Bill Roorbach

This story starts off very low key and intensifies quickly. Eric is a lawyer in a small town in western Maine, with his own small practice. His interest is in environmental law, but there isn't a lot of work in that area available to him, so he does what work more common. As the book opens he is in a grocery store picking up some things for a dinner he has planned for his wife from whom he is separated. When they separated, they agreed to meet monthly to reexamine things and see if their situation changed. He wants to make it special and has bought things that he knows she likes. Ahead of him in line is a young woman who seems to be struggling. She doesn't have enough money to pay for what she has chosen, and she seems unkempt and needing a wash.
After some time, he pays for what she can't afford, and after purchasing his own items and returning to his car, sees her walking down the road with her heavy bags. A storm is predicted, and it is already starting to snow, so he slows beside her and offers her a lift. She accepts readily. He tries to start conversations with her, but she isn't very forthcoming, and wants to be dropped off along the highway in a remote area. She says she is living in a cabin by the river, but that is quite the walk. He drops her, but then finds himself coming back and following her, helping to carry her purchases to her destination, more than a mile through the woods. Once there, he sees that she isn't set up for the coming storm and insists on getting more wood for her small stove, the only source of heat she has. He gets a few things for her, and then leaves. Once back at his car, his concern and guilt, and other emotions return and he impulsively returns to the cabin with all of his purchases as well, offering them to her for no discernible reason, and surprising her in a vulnerable position.
He truly is a well meaning man with no ulterior motives, but he knows that she has legitimate concerns about his interest. So when he gets back to the road and his car is gone and he too is not dressed for the storm, he ends up back at her cabin.
As we watch the two people in the cabin grow more comfortable with each other and reveal more about themselves, we also see the loss that each has gone through and how it has affected them, making them put up false fronts for the sake of privacy and ego. The storm is a real force here, almost a character itself as it comes in and continues to affect them for more than a day. These two people are both vulnerable and sad, and they respond to each other in meaningful ways.
A very good read.

September Reviews for 14th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

Wow! Can't believe it is September already, although in many areas school return is delayed this fall. There was a lot of reading done in August, and I'm looking forward to seeing what people get read in September.

Remember to comment if you can, but posting is the most important to log your books. I've seen some of the fall release lists and there are a lot of ones I'm interested in. How about you?

Don't forget to fill in the contact form at the bottom of the blog page if you want to join in on this month's book club. Our read for September is Starlight by Richard Wagamese.