Saturday, 24 July 2021

The Poetry of Strangers

Finished July 23
The Poetry of Strangers: What I Learned Traveling America with a Typewriter by Brian Sonia-Wallace

This memoir is composed of several essays on different experiences the author had while interacting with the public in different environments as a public poet. He started his journey in this line in 2012 shortly after returning home to California after studying abroad. He had a borrowed typewriter that wasn't in the greatest shape and he sat outside an event and offered poetry to those waiting in line. He asked them to pay what they thought the poem was worth, and he found many of the people did indeed think that it was worth something. Following that he decided to see if he could make a living doing this work, and he did. He found himself not only doing public sidewalk poetry, but also corporate events, weddings, entertainment venues, and "in residence" appearances. He helped one aspiring immigrant to get his poems published. He interacted with people running for office, recovering from devastating fires, living lives outside the norm as itinerant buskers, craftsmen, seers, and poets. 
He worked writing poetry on Amtrak trains, at the Mall of America, and at the Electric Forest music festival. He taught others, both adults and children. He made friends and made connections, some of them very deep. He looked into himself and found skills he didn't realize that he had.
Through many of his situations, he includes examples of poems that he wrote at those events. For his experience with the immigrant, Jeremias Leonel Estrada, he includes some of Estrada's poems as well. All of these I enjoyed. 
His experiences took him all over the country, and opened his eyes to experiences he might never have come into contact with otherwise. This is a fascinating account of his experiences that enlightens the reader and gives hope. 

Friday, 23 July 2021

The Christmas Boutique

Finished July 20
The Christmas Boutique by Jennifer Chiaverini

I've read other books by this author, but none in this series before, so I found it helpful that there was a little introduction to each of the featured characters that gave me some background, but not so much that a regular reader of the series would find it repetitive. 
The novel moves through several narrators with each in their own well-labeled section and only overlap when it was needed for perspective. For each of these sections, there is background that relates to what is happening in the present, giving us insights into character, circumstances, and motivations. 
The time period covered here is quite short, only a few days, but a lot happens. As the book opens it is a beautiful winter day, but a heavy storm is predicted, so people are either delaying going out to do things until the storm is over and things are cleared up, or they are  trying to get everything they need done as quickly as they can. Elm Creek Quilts is in their slow season and one of the staff has been pulled away by other needs, causing some friction. In the town, things are gearing up for the annual Christmas Boutique, run by one of the local churches and benefiting a local charity. When the storm moves through, it damages the regular venue for this event and Elm Creek is approached as an alternate, giving a lot of preparation to do in a short time frame and we see the role that each of the characters plays. 
I enjoyed this brief taste of life in this small town and a glimpse of the characters, giving me a sense of which ones interest me more and which ones less. I'd say it is a good taster for the series.
For those who quilt, there is a lot of description of various quilting patterns as well. 

The Dress in the Window

Finished July 18
The Dress in the Window by Sofia Grant

The main part of this story takes place in 1948 and 1949. Jeanne Brink is the older of two sisters, and had been the girlfriend of an attractive and well-off medical student before the war. But after Charles was killed, she finds herself moving in with her younger sister Peggy and Peggy's mother-in-law, Thelma. Peggy's husband Thomas was also killed in the war, his body still in Guadalcanal. Peggy was pregnant when he died and moved in with Thelma. Her daughter, Tommie, is a tomboy and mothered by all three of the women. 
Jeanne soon finds herself a job in the steno pool in an office in Philadelphia, across the river, and her salary augments the widow's allowance that Peggy receives. But both girls have dreams beyond their circumstances. Jeanne has been interested in sewing ever since her mother acquired a Featherweight machine and has gradually learned to become a master at the craft. Jeanne has always dreamed of designing her own clothing, and has studied fashion and art drawing and refined her skills to be able to both design from scratch and to take inspiration from the New Look fashion coming out of Europe. They've been trying to do this work on the side, but it hasn't been paying out despite their hard work. 
The girls grew up in better circumstances, with their father owning a textile mill, but his early death followed more recently by their mothers, has left them with nothing. 
As they try to hold on to their dreams, and take any opportunity that might bring them closer to the life they dream of, secrets they've kept from each other, and secrets that have been kept from both of them, threaten to tear the small family they've made apart.
This is a tale of loss and love, of hope and despair, of the beginning of original American fashion for the masses, and of family.
I really enjoyed learning more about fashion and fabric, and I loved the characters here, each having their own dream. 

Monday, 19 July 2021

All The Devils Are Here

Finished July 17
All The Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

The Gamaches are visiting Paris in anticipation of the birth of Annie and Jean Guy's second child. Armand's godfather Stephen Horowitz has also come to the city. As all the adult members of the family get together for a meal at one of their favourite restaurants, Juveniles, Stephen arrives late, which is unusual for him. After an enjoyable meal, as they are going their separate ways, Armand and Reine-Marie witness Stephen being deliberately run down. 
After getting him to the hospital, Armand starts digging into what Stephen has been doing, looking for clues as to why someone targeted him now. Stephen is mostly retired these days, but he has definitely made enemies in the past, so is one of them finally taking drastic action or is this something related to the present? 
We see here into Armand's relationship with his son Daniel, a side of his personal life that we haven't really seen much of before and this is an interesting development. We also see the dynamics between Annie and Daniel and a bit of Daniel's wife. I always enjoy seeing more of this personal side. 
But of course the main story is the one behind the attack on Stephen, and when a visit to his apartment results in the discovery of another body and an obvious search, things get even more serious.
Armand calls on an old friend, high up in the police force in Paris, but after an anomaly or two begins to wonder who he can really trust and how well he knows people, even those of long acquaintance. It was interesting to have Reine-Marie take a role in the investigation as well, using her research skills and library contacts. 
The city of Paris itself plays a role here, with major sites from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre appearing. It was interesting to see the characters in this new setting. 
Every book in this series brings a fascinating story, with a unique plot and crime and new developments for the main characters. I always enjoy them. 

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

The Last Flight

Finished July 14 
The Last Flight by Julie Clark

Claire Cook, wife of an influential man planning a senatorial run, has been living with domestic abuse for years. She's tried to leave, and failed. She has a plan now to disappear, with the help of an old friend, but when her plans go awry and she finds herself at the airport headed to Puerto Rico, and another woman strikes up a conversation that offers a different opportunity, she finds herself agreeing to switch identities and flights with Eva and takes her flight to Oakland.
Eva James is also running from her life, and she isn't honest with Claire about what she's running from. She isn't proud of what she's done the last few years, but she hasn't seen another option, and now she fears that her time is running out. Getting a fake ID is proving difficult, and so when this opportunity arises to switch with someone, she jumps at it. 
When Claire lands in Oakland, she finds that the flight she was supposed to be on has crashed, with no survivors. She is stunned and she can't reach the friend who has helped her before. She decides to go to Eva's house and take some time to figure out her next move and there she finds some clues to Eva's real life. 
This is a story of domestic abuse, about the difficulty of getting away from such a situation when you lack the power in the relationship, and about other abuses of power and privilege. 
This was a book that grabbed me and kept me reading to see what happened to both women. It is a book about how things are beginning to change, and people are starting to believe those who speak out against those who would manipulate and use them. A book that makes you think about the bigger issues.

The Sentinel

Finished July 11
The Sentinel by Lee Child and Andrew Child

This episode of the Jack Reacher novels takes us briefly to Nashville, and then to a small town a ways north of the city. When Reacher arrives in Nashville, he looks for a few things, including music, and finds himself in a bar with little ambience, but with musicians who sound good to him. Unfortunately, they are just finishing up, and when he leaves he encounters them outside and finds himself in a position to assist them. 
A few days later, he is on the road and gets picked up by someone who needs help finding his way. Reacher decides to go on with him to the destination, and finds himself in this town that has recently been a target of ransomware. The IT manager, Rutherford, has been fired despite him being the one warning his bosses and trying to guard against this situation. The two men meet when Reacher prevents something happening to Rutherford, and they both get arrested. When they join forces to try to figure out why Rutherford is targeted, and start digging deeper, they find themself making a few new aquaintances.
As often happens, there is more than one group of bad guys, and somethings they cross over between groups. 
This is an interesting look a topic that is definitely a current event at publication time and still a topic of much discussion. As always, Reacher is thoughtful, empathetic to those in a bad situation, and aware of the bigger picture. 
A good read.

The Dilemma

Finished July 10
The Dilemma by B.A. Paris

This novel is around a mid-life couple, on the verge of a 40th birthday party for the wife Livia. Livia has been planning this party almost since her wedding day, when her parents not only reneged on their promise to give her a big wedding, but didn't even attend. She and husband Adam have had some rocky times, but have lasted and their marriage is stronger than ever. Adam didn't become a civil engineer as he planned, but he has an career he loves as an accomplished furniture maker. Livia eventually accomplished her career goals too. But their biggest pride is in their two children, Josh, whose existence forced the marriage, and Marnie. 
Marnie is studying in Hong Kong for the year, and her exams are scheduled later than originally thought, so Livia is at first disappointed that Marnie won't be able to attend, but then discovers something about her daughter that makes her less eager to see her back home. She is putting off telling Adam about it as she knows it will devastate him and the two are close. 
Adam has been contacted by Marnie who has arranged a short trip home between exams to attend the party as a surprise for Livia, getting a deal because of the indirect route she is taking. But then he hears terrible news that may affect her trip and is torn between letting Livia enjoy this party she has dreamed of for so long and telling her what he knows.
This is different than her previous books, in that these family secrets aren't the psychological suspense she done before, but more subtle than that.
Added to this is the rift between Livia and her parents that her early marriage started. She has reached out a few times over the years, but has not been able to reconnect with them. 
There are more issues, some that include the children, and some that came and went over the years. An interesting book that raises questions about the secrets we keep to protect others. 
But when there is 

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Comfort and Joy

Finished July 9
Comfort & Joy by Kristin Hannah

High-school librarian Joy Candellaro is still grieving the loss of her marriage after finding her husband and sister together eleven months ago. She isn't sure how she's going to spend the two weeks she has off over Christmas, and is trying to create at least the look of the holiday at home. But when her sister meets with her with more news, she finds herself needing to get away, and flees for the airport.
There, she takes a flight that ends in disaster, and finds herself trying to escape even further, walking away and finding herself at a small lodge by a lake where she checks in to the otherwise unoccupied resort and befriends Bobby the young boy who lives there with his father Daniel, and is also recovering from a loss in his life. 
As she and Bobby bond over creating a Christmas at the lodge and helping Bobby with his grief and other issues, she finds herself looking for a new future and considering life beyond her divorce.
This is a tale of loss and hope, of looking at things through new eyes, and finding a future despite dealing with grief. 
Joy is a positive woman, who has a good work environment and coworkers who care about her. She also cares about others and this shows in her interactions with Bobby. 

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Little Big Love

Finished July 7
Little Big Love by Katy Regan

This novel is told in three voices: Zac Hutchinson, who is ten years old; his mother Juliet; and his grandfather Mick. A few months before Zac is turning eleven, he witnesses his mom at the end of a disappointing date, the first date she's had in a long time. That night, she makes a surprising confession to him, one that she doesn't remember making the next day, but that impels him on a mission that he was already thinking of. That mission is to locate his father, Liam Jones. Liam was supposedly the love of Juliet's life, but has not tried to stay in touch with her or be part of Zac's life. 
Zac's grandmother talks about what a bad person he was, really demonizing him, and his grandfather seems to agree. Zac spends a couple of days a week at his grandparents after school, bonding with his grandmother through baking and with his grandfather with nature documentaries. 
When Zac was just a few weeks old, his uncle Jamie died in an accident, but the whole truth of that night has yet to emerge for everyone. Zac himself has been told one story, and he has been focused on his similarities to his uncle, such as their common interest in cooking creatively. 
Zac's best friend Teagan is his co-conspirator in his mission and she has her own issues, living in a damp apartment, struggling with asthma, and missing her own dad who has remarried and seems to want little to do with her anymore. 
Zac is also struggling with being bullied due to his weight. And soon after Juliet's disastrous date, Juliet has her eyes opened to this struggle.
The two kids are great characters, smart and creative, and they really do their best to follow up every clue in their search for Liam. Juliet is a good mom, who is struggling herself with the loss of Liam, the responsibility of raising a child on her own, and her own self esteem issues. But she takes Zac's situation seriously and works to make healthier decisions going forward. 
Mick is a recovering alcoholic, who started his journey to sobriety a few months before Zac was born, and has always felt inferior to his wife. He struggles with the choices he has made, and it is only toward the end of the book that we see how his self esteem and feelings of precariousness in his relationships made the situation what it is now. 
This is a book that is both uplifting and heartbreaking, but ultimately a human story. 

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

The Speed of Falling Objects

Finished July 6
The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer

This teen novel was a real pageturner. Danny Warren is almost seventeen and living with her mom in Oregon. When she was seven, she lost an eye in an accident, and shortly after her parents split up. Her mom is a nurse and Danny has taken on a lot of the knowledge of that job, reading the journals her mom brings home and having conversations about the cases described. She good at, and interested in, science. 
Her dad, Cougar, has a television show where he travels around the world, doing dangerous things, and using knowledge and ingenuity to get out of dangerous situations, usually with a celebrity in tow. Danny has only seen him a few times since he left and she feels that due to the compensations that she's had to learn to deal with her new physical reality, he doesn't feel she measures up to the standards he's set anymore. He tends to call her by her full name Danielle, instead of her preferred nickname.
Danny's best friend is adopted and is part of a large family, but still longs to know about her birth parents. The two are close, have each other's backs, and both feel outside the normal social groups at school. 
When Cougar suddenly invites Danny to come on one of his shows with a hot teen idol as the guest, she both longs to go to get closer to her dad, and is afraid that once again she won't measure up. She also has to deal with her mother's reluctance to let her go/
On the trip, into the Peruvian rainforest, the small plane the group is in crashes, and Danny discovers many things about her dad and the others on the trip, and about her own resources to deal with the dangerous situation.
I liked Danny, and her reactions to the situations and attitudes that she dealt with. This experience had her coming out of her shell as she had to do things and be part of a team in a way that she wasn't used to. 


Finished July 4
Followers by Raziel Reid

This is definitely a type of book I don't normally read. This teen novel is set around a group of teenagers who are on a reality television show in Beverly Hills. Most of them have either money or the illusion of money, and most of their parents are also part of the show. The novel moves from character to character and the chapters are structured to begin with Instagram posts on the character that is the focus of that chapter. They are titled with the Instagram profile name and give the number of followers, and then a few comments that appeared on that profile. 
It begins with one of the young stars Hailey Paley reached the point of a million followers, which she decides to have a party to celebrate this achievement. 
Then we have her cousin Lily enter the story. Lily lives with her mom in a trailer in the Valley and she's just had a bad date, one where she ended up in jail charged with a crime. Hailey's mom has decided this event and her being taken in by the Paley family for a time will help ratings. So Lily is bombarded by paparazzi, met by a team from the show, taken to the Paley house in Beverly Hills and installed in the pool house. Cameras are rolling almost all the time, and Lily must figure out what is real and what is staged, and how she feels about it all. It takes a little ways into the book for Lily to get an Instagram account of her own, and some time for her to find her feet. But she's used to relying on no one but herself, and has a summer job as a lifeguard on one of the beaches, and she has a good head on her shoulders.
Getting immersed into a world of status, money, alcohol, and drugs is a big change, and decoding the terminology of this generation and their social media took me a while. This is a very dysfunctional environment and that becomes obvious through some of the behaviour that we see. A window into another world.

My Wrap-Up for the 14th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

My goal this year was 30 books and I made it to 46, so am very happy with that.

I'll also participate and run the book club I'm doing this year. 
I meant to put up the post sooner, but it was only when I went to post my first book that I realized that I had not. 

1. When We Were Birds by Maria Mutch. Finished July 5
2. The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa. Finished July 10
3. The True Story of Ida Johnson by Sharon Riis. Finished July 28
4. Maria Chapdelaine by Louis Hémon. Finished August 1
5. The Girl who Rode a Shark by Ailsa Ross and Amy Blackwell. Finished August 23
6. The Swinging Bridge by Ramabai Espinet. Finished August 23
7. 1967: A Coming of Age Story by Richard Doornink. Finished August 25
8. The Afterlife of George Cartwright by John Steffler. Finished August 30
9. Roanoke Ridge by J.J. Dupuis. Finished August 31
10. Benjamin's Blue Feet by Sue Macartney. Finished September 3
11. Led Astray by Kelley Armstrong. Finished September 27
12. Once Removed by Andrew Unger. Finished September 29
13. Shape Up, Construction Trucks! by Victoria Allenby. Finished September 30
14. Starlight by Richard Wagamese. Finished October 1
15. The Wars by Timothy Findley. Finished October 8
16. Blue Sky Kingdom by Bruce Kirkby. Finished October 16
17. Summer Constellations by Alisha Sevigny. Finished October 27
18. Duck Days by Sara Leach. Finished October 31
19. Raven, Rabbit, Deer by Sue Farrell Holler, illustrated by Jennifer Faria. Finished November 4
20. Teaching Mrs. Muddle by Colleen Nelson, illustrated by Alice Carter. Finished November 5
21. The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan. Finished November 17
22. Snow Days by Deborah Kerbel and Miki Sato. Finished November 28
23. The Ever Open Door by Julie Band. Finished November 29
24. The Library Bus by Bahram Rahman, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard. Finished November 30
25. A World of Mindfulness by editors and illustrators of Pajama Press. Finished December 2
26. Journey to the Hopewell Star by Hannah D. State. Finished December 4
27. Bomb Girls by Barbara Dickson. Finished December 8
28. The Rogue Wave by Paul Nicholas Mason. Finished December 12
29. Victory Colony, 1950 by Bhaswati Ghosh. Finished January 3
30. The Blondes by Emily Schultz. Finished January 4
31. Her Aussie Holiday by Stefanie London. Finished January 13
32. The Push by Ashley Audrain. Finished January 22
33. Uncharted by Kim Brown Seely. Finished February 10
34. Midnight Cab by James W. Nichol. Finished February 18
35. The Deadly Hours by Susanna Kearsley, C.S. Harris, Anna Lee Huber and Christine Trent. Finished February 21
36. Swallow's Dance by Wendy Orr. Finished February 24
37. Season of Fury and Wonder by Sharon Butala. Finished March 28
38. Just Their Luck by L.A. Donahoe. Finished March 29
39. Proof I Was Here by Becky Blake. Finished April 2
40. Juliet's Answer by Glenn Dixon. Finished April 8
41. The Healing by Lynda Faye Schmidt. Finished April 27
42. Two White Queens and The One-Eyed Jack by Heidi Von Palleske. Finished May 12
43. How a Woman Becomes a Lake by Marjorie Celona. Finished May 20
44. The Dutch Wife by Eric McCormack. Finished June 13
45. Aubrey McKee by Alex Pugsley. Finished June 23
46. Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay. Finished June 29

The Full Scoop

Finished July 2
The Full Scoop by Jill Orr

This book is the fourth book of a series set in the small town of Tuttle Corner, Virginia and featuring Riley Ellison, small town journalist. Riley is single, recently split amicably from her boyfriend Jay when he took a job in D.C.
Her coworker and friend Hal Flick died a month ago when his car was forced off the road. The case is still unsolved. Hal was working on the case of Riley's grandfather's death a few years ago, which Riley also suspected was a murder, but that was set up to look like suicide. Riley has taken some time off work and then some part-time weeks to deal with Hal's estate and her own grief, but she is now headed back to work at the Tuttle Times full time. Another coworker, Holman is also a good friend and the two often hang out together and he helps her as she continues to look into Hal's and her grandfather's deaths.
Other friends include her high school boyfriend Ryan and his Swedish girlfriend Ridley, who have recently opened Mysa, a cafe in a former Tavern. She is also spending time with Lindsey Davis the new county prosecutor. Riley has also started to date Ash, a recent addition to the town who runs the local funeral home. Riley gets out and about in town often walking her dog Coltrane. 
Riley's mom Jeannie has set her up with a subscription to an astrology site that sends her daily updates. Jeannie is also the local Uber driver.
With the former sheriff, now in jail, saying he knows more about the two deaths and indicating he's willing to make a deal with the information, a file of documents Hal left for her, and her own ability to sniff out a story, Riley has a lot of leads to follow. 
Part of the plot in this novel figures around a New Year's Eve party at Ash's cousin Toad's house with a Gatsby theme. 
I liked Riley, and her strong sense of self. She's still unsettled in terms of her love life, but she has a job she enjoys, a circle of good friends, and a home she loves. She stands up for herself and those she cares about. This was a good read. 

Friday, 2 July 2021

Because Internet

Finished July 1
Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

This book was fascinating. I've always been interested in language, poring over my mother's old linguistics textbooks when I was a kid, but this book brings a lot of linguistic theory into the now with its focus on how the internet changed the way we use language and the way that we communicate.
It sometimes looks back further at how other technology changed communication as well and looks at how societal change feeds the way language changes. For instance it looks at the telephone and how greetings were suggested and adapted for that new broadly adapted form of communication and compares that to the way that different pieces of the internet changed language and communication.
It looks at both formal and informal types of communication and generational differences between broad groups as the internet grew and changed and became part of everyday life. 
There was so much here in terms of ideas that made me think and bits of communication history I hadn't been fully aware of before. 
My favourite part was in the section on memes where the author talked about an embroidered piece that she made based on a common meme, that she then adapted to be more personal to herself.  She comments
Both memes and needlework are collective folk texts that spread because people remix and remake them. The words "text" and "textile" have a common origin, from a Proto-Indo-European root teks, "to weave." Writing and weaving are both acts of creation by bringing together. A storyteller is a spinner of yarns, and the internet's founding metaphor is of a web. If we go far enough back, before printing presses and cameras and photocopiers introduced the notion of faithful reproduction, all transmission is re-creation. Teks is also the root of the word "technology," which at one point meant a systematic treatise on an art or craft, or even a grammar, before it referred to a study of mechanical or industrial arts (a 1902 dictionary gives the examples of "spinning, metal-working, or brewing") and then to digital tech.
Since I am a needleworker, this really hit home for me. Since I also work with a lot of internet pieces, and have helped other navigate the internet as part of my job, this all connected for me. 
A fascinating look at language, social change, and human adaptation. 

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Elevator Pitch

Finished June 29
Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

This novel makes you look at elevators in a completely different way. In New York City, an elevator falls and all occupants are killed. It was a nice touch to have one of them doing an actual elevator pitch at the time. When a second elevator accident kills too, questions start arising about what is happening, and what caused the falls. 
Barbara Matheson is a reporter for a New York City paper. She covers mostly politics and business, and lately she's been writing a lot about the mayor, Richard Wilson Headley. .She calls out behaviour that  she considers sketchy, even if it is "how things get done." In this case it is the awarding of a construction contract to a firm owned by a big political donor. As she enters the story, she is at city hall with a crowd of reporters, hoping to ask questions. And she definitely gets a reaction. Along with the mayor are a few of his staff, including his twenty-five-year-old son, Glover. Glover and Richard have a not-always-smooth relationship, but Glover is bright in a techie way and helpful in certain areas. 
Barbara also has a difficult relationship with her child, daughter Arla. Barbara got pregnant when she was young and when the father wanted nothing to do with it, she considered her options. Her parents offered to take on the raising of Arla, and there was no secret that Arla was her daughter, but more recently, after her parents died, there have been tense discussions between the two women. 
Meanwhile, police have found a body, badly beaten and with an attempt to disguise the identity of the victim. As they research his identity and look for why this man was killed, one of them, Jerry Bourque is also dealing with PTSD and guilt from a recent case. 
There is also a group of people in the middle states of the U.S., who have organized their resentment at those on the coast and have acted out their frustrations in violent ways. A couple of them, including the head of the organization are in New York City, and questions arise about the ties to some of the accidents happening there. 
Conversations between a boy and his mother in a different font are interspersed through the story and only make sense as things are revealed near the end. 
I liked how all these storylines wove in and out of each other in a natural way, and not all the clues lead somewhere. 
As I said at the beginning, I also like how Barclay makes you think about ordinary, everyday things in a different way. This is something he does in many of his books, both the standalones like this one and The Accident, and many of the Promise Falls series. His characters are ordinary people who did things that you and I do, and then some of them get caught up in situations beyond what they could ever have expected. Even though this is a long book, it's a quick and satisfying read. 

Bargello Needlepoint books not worth purchasing

Finished June 26
Bargello Needlepoint: A Pattern Directory for Dramatic Creations by Justine Pfefferie
Bargello Needlepoint Guide for Beginners: Basic Bargello Needlepoint Instructions by Rebecca Weber
Bargello Needlepoint: Detail Instructions to Bargello for Beginners by Sarah Jarrad
Bargello Needlepoint for Mom: Learn to Basic Bargello Needlepoint - Guide for Beginners by Montavious Bulger

I'm reviewing these four books in one review as despite having different covers, titles, and authors, they are essentially the same book, and none of them is really worth the purchase. I was looking for more books on bargello or florentine stitch and these were under $10, and looking like they might have something unique. 
They are all poorly written with many spelling and grammar mistakes and some have pages repeated within them, or sections repeated under different headings. Cryptic notations seem to indicate they have taken content from webpages. Some include small black and white pictures of patterns and finished stitching, but not all are bargello stitches. 
The one with the orange design on the cover, the one with the heart design on the cover, and the one "for mom" are word for word, page by page exact copies of each other. 
The Pattern Directory one includes a little more history and some patterns, but nothing that you can't find in any real bargello or florentine book. If you are going to buy one of these, I'd recommend that one for the extra content. 

July Reviews for 15th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

 Here is where you add your reviews for books read in July 2021 for this challenge which just launched. 

Remember to link to the review itself! You can also add comments below.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Aubrey McKee

Finished June 23
Aubrey McKee by Alex Pugsley

This novel is set in Halifax, Nova Scotia and the city itself is almost a character here. The title character is the narrator of the novel, and he is looking back on his youth, growing up in Halifax from childhood until his early twenties. 
Aubrey is the only son in a large family of daughters. His father is a lawyer and his mother is a feminist. His growing up years are in the 1970s and 1980s, and he covers his place in his family, the dynamics of his parents' marriage, and some extended family members.
He also talks about his life outside the house, and the various groups of friends that he hangs out with at different periods. This includes his time playing competitive tennis, his experiments with drugs, and a band that he was part of. We also see glimpses of a few friends, both male and female, but one that plays a larger role here is Cyrus Mair, the last generation of a venerable Halifax family, a boy who is smart, yet a misfit. 
In some ways this book reminds me of A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Updike with the dynamic between the two boys. 
This book is a character-focused novel and one it is easy to lose yourself in. 

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

15th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

 It's time to be thinking about the next upcoming challenge. 

I'm pleased to be hosting this challenge again.
I've made a separate page for the signup link and any questions you might have.

Link to the Challenge Page.

Friday, 25 June 2021

Mostly Dead Things

Finished June 20
Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

This is a most unusual novel. It is set around a Florida family who are all reacting in different ways to recent losses. The main character here Jessa, is a woman in her thirties, who runs a taxidermy shop. The shop was her father's and he taught her most of what she knows. He tried to train her brother Milo as well, but Milo didn't take to it as naturally as she did.  A few months ago, Jessa's father killed himself at the shop, leaving her to clean up the mess. Jessa has thrown herself into work, but isn't doing well. She and Milo are also both grieving the loss of Milo's wife Brynn who has left the family. Jessa considered Brynn her best friend, but she also had a sexual relationship with her. Brynn left behind her son Bastien in his teens and her daughter Lolee who is younger. Jessa's mom is grieving in a different way. She is both free of a man who was very dictatorial in his life, and missing him as a partner. Her way of reacting is very different. She wasn't really involved in the shop before, but now she is taking the pieces and posing them in sexual ways in the window. When a nearby art gallery sees this, they take her on to do a show, and things really get wild. 
Jessa is reacting in a very prudish way to her mother's actions, both aghast at the blatant sexuality, and upset at the way the taxidermied pieces are being taken apart and repurposed. She is also drawn to the owner of the gallery, another strong woman named Lucinda. 
Bastien is also an interesting character. Like Jessa, he is trying to hold the family that is left together, but his methods are off the map. This is a novel that took me places I didn't even know existed and expanded my mind in wild ways. 
I also loved that the author is a librarian. 

The Lost Apothecary

Finished June 18
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

This is a novel of two timelines. One timeline is recent past (pre-Covid) where we have an American woman, Caroline Parcewell, who has discovered her husband's infidelity just before their planned 10th anniversary trip. They were going to London, someplace she always wanted to go, and her parents prepayed the hotel. Caroline, after confronting her husband, decides to go to London alone. 
After dropping her bags at her hotel, she heads out to a nearby pub, and gets propositioned by a man encouraging her to join a group to go mudlarking. After consideration, she joins the group and in her mudlarking finds a small glass vial with what looks like a bear on it. 
She decides to revisit her first love, history, and, on the advice of the tour leader, goes to the British Library for assistance. There she meets a map librarian Gaynor, who she connects with and the two start digging.
The other timeline is in the late eighteenth century, where a middle-aged woman Nella runs a small hidden shop in inner London where she dispenses remedies, many of them fatal, to women where the object of the dose is a man. Her story begins with a young servant Eliza looking for a potion for her master on her mistress's advice. She is a country girl, who has been educated and tutored by her mistress and has an aura of calm about her. While Nella has a bad feeling about helping Eliza, it all seems smooth, but a subsequent client is of a higher class than normal, and her situation draws unwelcome attentions that forces action.
There is an underlying theme here of the advantages that men take over women in both the past and the present, and of what control the women may have over their situation. As Caroline struggles with her feelings about her husband's betrayal, and looks to her own future, she considers her options. Nella doesn't see as many options for herself, and as we learn her backstory we see how she progressed from healer to one dispensing harm. 
I found this book really captured me and I was caught up in both stories within the novel.

The Widening Stain

Finished June 16 
The Widening Stain by W. Bolingbroke Johnson

This novel has a very interesting backstory. First published in 1942, the novel takes a humorous stance on academia and librarianship. It was published under a pseudonym that was never officially revealed, but gradually became known as the only work of fiction by Cornell historian and literature professor, and New Yorker regular Morris Gilbert Bishop. The closest he came to acknowledging it was in a limerick. 
The introduction to this new edition, by Nicholas A. Basbanes gives us this background with all its fun and intrigue. Bishop was a well-respected academic with a large body of professional publications and fluency in at least five languages. Much of his work was in the area of Romance languages or history of the Middle Ages. This novel exposes his more whimsical side, and also shows another of his whimsical expressions, that of limerick writing. In The Widening Stain, Professor Parry takes on this skill with limericks. Bishop thought that the serious analysis of poetry and the serious poets had taken away from the enjoyment of the format by the average reader. He celebrated those who wrote "light verse." Bishop never commented publicly on what led him to write this tongue-in-cheek novel. 
The library described in these pages matches that of the Uris Library at Cornell 
The first death in the novel is thought at first to be an accident, but not everyone is convinced, and librarian and chief cataloguer Gilda Gorham is one of the questioners. The second death makes it clear that the first wasn't accidental. 
The Wilmerding Library has recently acquired a new head librarian, Dr. William Sandys. Other players here include several professors, including a number of bachelor professors who lived in a set of apartments on the upper floors of the Faculty Club. These include Assistant Professor Angelo Casti of the Romance Language Department, a young man who seems intent on borrowing a manuscript even though he has a copy of the microfilm; Professor Belknap of History, a tall dour man who often bought books at auction and donated them to the library; Professor Hyett of the Classics Department, an older man who often engages in patter with the young librarians; and Professor Parry of Dramatics who makes suggestive comments and creates limericks for all occasions. Other key characters here are Assistant Professor of French Lucie Coindreau, a young attractive woman with a tendency towards sulkiness and an interest in the art of divining; and the well-travelled and observant janitor Cameron. 
Just after the President's reception Miss Gorham comes upon the first body and soon after she begins making lists and thinking about who and why the victim would be murdered. 
This was a fun read, with lots of humour, and I really enjoyed Gilda, the main character and amateur sleuth. 

Monday, 21 June 2021

The Little Teashop on Main

Finished June 15 
The Little Teashop on Main by Jodi Thomas

This small town novel is set around three female friends. The book begins with a foreword that is set after the action of the novel. A man is watching two girls have a tea party at a gravesite. The story proper begins with their first meeting of the three girls when they were six just before starting school and had a tea party. It was also the day that Shannon's mother left, never to return. 
The story then jumps to the point where the girls are starting their lives after high school. Shannon is following in her father's footsteps and going to a military college in Colorado Springs. Another friend of the girls, Jack Hutchinson, the man we saw in the foreword is also there a year ahead of Shannon. He was also inspired by her father Mack. Jack's family has a construction business and his two older brothers have gone into the business, but Jack has a passion for flight that takes him in a different direction. Shannon is focused on technology and learning the IT side of military work. Zoe is headed to New York City to attend dance school and try to make it as a dancer and actress. Zoe was raised by her mom Alex, who, several years ago, started her own bakery business in town, living in a small apartment above the shop. She's made the shop a success, but has aspects of the job that she isn't as enthused about like wedding and birthday cakes. Emily is still a shy and uncertain girl, but she's defied her mother enough to head off to a small Christian college. There is also a shy young man, Fuller, who has an interest in Emily's welfare and tries to keep an eye on her. 
There are several romances in this book, but the underlying story is of the friendship of the girls and of the closeness of Zoe and Alex, and Shannon and Mack. As single parent households of only children, they both have a strong bond that is now a remote one as the girls head out to start their lives and there are some lonely times for them over the next few years. The story takes us through the four years of Shannon's schooling, and lets us see how their lives develop during that time and into the next step in their lives. We already know that one girl will not survive more than a few years, but it takes us to near the end to see who that is. 
This was a feel good story for the most part, with some sad episodes. It speaks though to the lastingness of true friendship, friendship that survives distance and time to remain true. 

The Birthday Present

Finished June 14
The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine

This is one that I missed when it came out, although I generally enjoy her books. The story is told by a man who is the brother-in-law of an up-and-coming Conservative politician in the days of Maggie Thatcher. The politician, Ivor Tesham, is in his early thirties, and unmarried. He has been having an affair with Hebe Furnal, a young married mother looking for more excitement that her marriage has offered her. She likes his expensive gifts, like pearl necklaces, and the excitement of the liaisons. For her birthday, Ivor has decided to surprise her. She is told to wear suggestive clothing, and he arranges for two men to take her off the street, like they are kidnapping her, and bring her to the house where he waits for her. The house he is at is that of the brother-in-law and his sister. They are away for the weekend, and he has borrowed their house before. This is to keep his affair from coming to the public eye.
But this time, something goes terribly wrong, and the car the men are driving is in an accident. Hebe is dead, one of the men is dead, and the other man is badly hurt and left in a coma. Ivor is in a panic about what to do, and he ends up making the choice to not come forward. 
Many things happen because of his decision, innocent people have their lives upended, and the threat of discovery hangs over Ivor going forward. As he tries to stay on the periphery of those affected, he finds himself affected nevertheless.
This wasn't my favourite by the author, but the plot was an intriguing one. I didn't really connect to the characters though.

Sunday, 20 June 2021

The DutchWife

Finished June 13
The Dutch Wife by Eric McCormack

One of my cousins recommended this book to me as one her favourite reads, so I hunted down a copy. The narrator, who is never named, is a writer whose wife is a lawyer and who both travel quite a bit. The book opens in a very conversational style, addressed to "Gentle Reader" and it ends with a note addressed the same way. It is written to seem that it is the author talking, an interesting way of telling this fascinating story. It is in the first few sentences that we learn about the Guinea worm, a terrible parasite that enters the human body through impure drinking water. This was a plague in the tropics for years, and was still a problem when this book was written. More recently a program funded by a foundation started by Jimmy Carter, former U.S. President has been able to eradicate it successfully. 
The author has recently returned to an Ontario town called Camberloo (a thinly disguised Waterloo, where the author lived and taught for a time) and rents half of a large house. He soon meets his elderly neighbour, Thomas Vanderlinden and becomes friendly with him. Thomas is interested in sixteenth century history and obscure writings, but his own history is something that he begins to share with the narrator, mostly done in a series of hospital visits when he becomes taken ill. 
Over a series of visits, Thomas tells the story of his mother Rachel, her husband Rowland, and the man that Thomas knows of as his father. Rachel met Rowland through her father who was a well-respected judge. Rowland had served as an expert witness on occasion. He was an anthropologist and interested in many different cultures. He traveled often, and at one point was gone for months. After telegraphing Rachel to let her know of his imminent arrival back home, the man who showed up at the door claiming to be her husband was a man Rachel had never seen before. As we learn Rachel's story and what she did when faced with these unusual circumstances, we also learn Thomas's and Rowland's stories. We see Thomas, when he learned of this part of his mother's history, search for Rowland and go on a long and strange journey to distant lands, and we learn of Rowland's travels. 
The title of this novel refers not only to the obvious nationality of spouse, but also is a term for a spouse who is purpose is that of a useful wife, and a term for an object placed between the legs in hot climates to avoid rashes and fungus. Both terms arise in the plot. 
This book is an adventure tale, a psychological mystery, and a tale of relationships. It is a fascinating read. 

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

If The Shoe Fits

Finished June 11
If The Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy

This is the first book in a new series called Meant to Be. This is a romance novel that breaks a few norms. It is loosely based on the Cinderella story, but doesn't follow many of the expected lines. The main character here, Cindy Woods, is a plus-sized beauty. She has just finished her fashion degree at the Parsons School in New York City, specializing in shoe design. Cindy's mom, Ilene, died when she was a kid, and her father Simon remarried to a powerful media producer a few years later. Her stepmom, Erica, has two daughters just slightly older than Cindy, Anna and Drew, and although they ran in different groups in school, they treated each other in a friendly and respectful way. When Simon died suddenly in Cindy's senior year of high school, all three girls were hit hard as Simon was the homebody, the one that provided an anchor and this loss brought them closer. No evil stepsisters here. Anna and Drew are only 9 months apart in age, look like twins, and have begun a career as Instagram influencers. There are also three younger siblings, Mary, Gus, and Jack, triplets that were born through a surrogate planned before Simon's death and carried through after. 
Cindy thought she'd done her grieving at the time of her dad's death, but when her stepmother moved house last year, and all the accumulated possessions were gone through, Cindy found herself hit hard again. Her last year at Parsons wasn't as successful as she'd hoped, which is why she hasn't got plans now, other than to nanny the triplets until a more permanent solution is found. 
Even before Erica and Simon married, Cindy was a fan of one of the reality shows that Erica produced, Before Midnight, a bachelor-type show where a man was set up with multiple women and sent on dates, narrowing it down through the series to a woman that he would then marry. The new season is about to start production and when a couple of women drop out last minute, Anna, Drew, and Cindy get drafted in to take their places. For all of them, this will give some more media exposure, helpful to Anna and Drew in their Instagram influencer roles, and Cindy to highlight some of her fashion creations. Erica worries about the possibility that Cindy will attract negative attention, but Cindy isn't phased.
Cindy's best friend was her roommate at Parsons, Sierra, and she is already missing her even as she returns home to sort herself out and decide where her career lies. The two women talk often and the sudden decision to join the show means that they won't be able to connect for a few weeks. 
When Cindy discovers that the male lead on the show is a man she's met briefly before, things start to get real. 
I loved Cindy's character, she's witty and fun, and a caring person, but not one people can walk all over. She makes friends easily and bonds pretty quickly with some of the other women on the show. We see how, despite the rivalry that naturally exists, people make connections and work together on things. I don't watch reality television, or much of any television really, but this felt a lot more interesting when you learn some of the backstories to the characters that have signed up for the show. 
The writing pops and there is lots of humour and emotional connections with the plot. A fun read.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Bitter Orange

Finished June 9
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Most of the action of this novel takes place at a country house in 1969, but the narrator is looking back on this time as she is dying some years later. Her name is Frances, and she is a woman out of sync with her times. She has lived with her mother until her mother died recently and has taken on work to catalogue the outbuildings and external elements of a country house for the American that recently purchased it. She is a large woman with no experience with men, other than her father who left the family for another woman when she was a child. 
She has developed an interest in architecture of the type she has been hired to describe and written articles, for free, for a small publication in the field, which is how her new employer discovered her.
When she arrives at the house where she will stay due to her tight financial situation, she finds a couple already there. The man in this twosome, Peter, is also working for the American, describing the house itself, and its contents. The woman is Cara, who seems to wild swings of emotion and who is very attached to Peter, although they are not married. Despite herself, Frances gets drawn into their strange relationship, and ends up caught in a situation that will change her life forever.
For me Frances was a victim of her upbringing, her parents' lack of good parenting, and her naivety. Cara is unwell, and prone to violent emotions and wild stories. Peter is both mercenary and weak. Frances just wants to have a friend. 
This is a sad story and I both felt for Frances and was annoyed at her acceptance of her situation. The story is very well written and I found myself caught up in it, both wanting to find out what happened and dismayed with the way things developed. 
The title related to a fruit tree found on the property, which had an abundance of ripe fruit, but it was not edible.

Friday, 11 June 2021

Who Rescued Who

Finished June 8
Who Rescued Who by Victoria Schade

Elizabeth Barnes is a coder and communications executive who has recently worked at a female-oriented tech company. She reacted with a poor joke when under pressure during an interview and was let go as a result. As she struggles to decide what to do now, she gets a call out of the blue from a uncle she didn't even know existed. Elizabeth's father died a few months ago, and he never told her that he had family back in England. He's also left her with one final task that she can do if she accepts her uncle's invitation.
As a city girl, Elizabeth isn't prepared for lift on a small rural farm, with no Internet access. But she finds that her uncle and aunt are very welcoming, and the backstory that her father never shared with her is one that is meaningful to her. As Elizabeth makes friends, discovers that she can have relationships with animals, and reconnects with art, she also finds that life is deeper than the hectic life she's been living lately. 
Elizabeth's discovery of an abandoned puppy has her making unexpected connections, and spending time with her artist uncle has her rediscovering her own artistic endeavours at a younger age. It doesn't hurt that there are some rather good looking and nice men around the village as well as a great coffee shop for her caffeine fix.
This is a book about a woman who's been lonely for a long time without realizing it until faced with the possibility of genuine connections. 

Very Nice

Finished June 6 
Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky

This novel is set around a young writer, who had a successful first novel and is trying to find a way forward, one of his students, the student's family, and the writer's friends and acquaintances. 
The writer is Zahid Azzam, a man rebelling from his mother's expectations, dealing with the loss of his grandmother, struggling financially, and facing writer's block. Zahid has just finished a teaching contract at a university in New York City and, because he must return to India to see his dying grandmother, leaves his dog with one of his students temporarily. He has sublet his apartment, and made a foolish personal choice. When he returns to the U.S. sooner than anticipated, he must find somewhere to stay, try to overcome his writer's block to fulfill his new book contract, and consider his future.
His student, Rachel Klein, is young, nineteen, and has a summer job at a kid's day camp. She is staying at her childhood home in Connecticut with her mother Becca, whom her father left recently for a younger woman. Part of the reason she agreed to look after the dog was that the family dog of the same breed recently died.
Becca is a schoolteacher, so has the summer off. She is still grieving the loss of her dog, Poppy, and this new dog that her daughter has brought home, becomes a replacement for that dog in many ways. When Zahid arrives, Becca invites him to stay and a dynamic begins with these three characters. 
The supporting characters of Rachel's father, Zahid's subletter and her sister, and the brother of one of the children in Rachel's camp all have important roles in this plot as well.
This is a story of impulse and regret, of resentment and jealousy, of the ways in which people are focused on their own needs instead of those of the people around them. 

Heart of Palm

Finished June 5
Heart of Palm by Laura Lee Smith

This book takes place in a small town called Utina along the Intercoastal in Florida.The story is set around one family, the Bravo family. Years before, a chance encounter between Dean Bravo and Arla Bolton led to their marriage and four children. The Bravo family already had a reputation, but Arla was in love and couldn't be swayed by her parents class concerns. 
The story is set decades later, after a tragedy has come to the family and years after Dean has left. After he left Arla bought a restaurant and her son Frank manages it. Daughter Sofia cleans it to a shine every day before it opens, and still lives at home with her mother. Carson has a career in the financial services industry and lives not far away with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Bell, but things are going wrong in both his professional and personal life.
With developers suddenly interested in both the family home, Aberdeen, and the restaurant, the family must come together and decide what is the best decision for the future. 
There are many connections between the different characters, and different kinds of love. There is rivalry and guilt, and regret. There are dreams that have been set aside, and dreams lost forever. This novel really brings you into the intricacies of this family, and the small town that they are a part of. We see the back story of how they got to where they are, and some of the things that led to their decisions. The town is gentrifying, and things are changing, and the family must come to decisions both as a unit, and as individuals. 
I loved this story and how we gradually got to know the different members of the family, seeing how they felt and what their individual story was as well as how they fit into both their family and their community. 

Friday, 4 June 2021

The News Where You Are

Finished June 2
The News Where You Are by Catherine O'Flynn

Set in England, this book follows a middle-aged man as he worries about his mom, tries to protect his father's legacy from disappearing, and tries to remember those whom it seems no one else is remembering. Frank Allcroft is a presenter for a program called Heart of England Report that does stories on local news for a large area of England. Frank has been in this role nearly twenty years, and was a reporter prior to that. His father was an architect of the mid-twentieth century, lots of concrete and streamlined shapes and as the book opens the second last of the buildings that he designed has been slated for destruction. Frank's dad died when he was only eleven, but their relationship wasn't a close one. Frank's mom is living in a retirement home and seems disengaged with life, and negative in attitude. 
Frank's eight-year-old daughter Mo, is a lively part of this book, trying to find ways to cheer her grandmother up, looking at things with a viewpoint Frank finds constantly surprising, and generally being a kid who cares about the world around her. 
Some of the stories at Frank's work are about people who died and weren't discovered right away. He has started keeping track of these forgotten people, going to their funerals, and trying to remember them in some way. He can't even really explain why he does it. He's made an acquaintance with a woman who worked in the coroner's office who tried to find next of kin for these people and arranged the clearing out of their belongings.
Frank's predecessor, a charismatic, somewhat self-centered man, named Phil, who had moved on to other shows, was killed a few months ago in a hit and run accident that remains unsolved. 
As we discover more about Frank and about Phil, we see how different they are and how the people that interacted with them both see them. 
One man who came up recently in the news, found dead on a park bench, was Michael Church, a man that Jo is trying to find family for. Frank recognizes Michael's face and works his memory to place how he knew him. Once he does that, he finds himself trying to find out more about Michael, following up various clues to this quiet man. 
I found this book fascinating, joining Frank in wanting to know more about Michael and hoping that his mother would find something that would pull her out of her mindset. It has you thinking about the legacies that people leave when they die, how others remember them, and the lives that they touch. 

French Dirt

Finished May 30
French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman

This book is about the time the author spent in a small village in southern France. It was a twelve month period, where he and his girlfriend rented a large stone house (owned by an American couple who had renovated what had previously been a silkworm nursery). He had planned for several months in advance to budget enough money to afford to do this, and they were watching their money carefully. 
At first, they walk around the village and surrounding area, and watch the people, and then they begin to reach out to their neighbours and ask questions and learn about things. 
Richard gets to know the man, Jules, who will help him make a garden of his own (the first he's ever had) when he trades his labour for firewood for the winter. The area is one of many vineyards, most of which get made into supermarket wine, and the wood he gets is mostly old vines, which suit the purpose admirably. His labour is in one of these vineyards, clearing out stones and other impediments to the vines with a group of local farmers. Richard spent his life in large American cities mostly in apartments where he didn't have an opportunity to garden, but he'd been interested since he was a child following his grandmother's gardener around when she visited his parents home near the ocean in the summer. He is in his forties when he has this experience, but it made a huge impact on his life. He changed the name of the village to protect the privacy of the villagers he became friends with over the year, many of whom he remains friends with still.
His Dutch girlfriend Igminia plays a minor role here, and it seems that their relationship didn't last much longer, but the focus of the book is on the village and the garden. He talks about the house, the village, the people that he met while living there, and the garden he created. You definitely get a good sense of the amount of work he put into the garden, visiting it twice daily and spending several hours there. He mostly borrowed the tools he needed, and he had to haul water from a nearby stream, and later, during the hottest part of the summer in August, had to borrow water storage containers and pump water into them from a river with the help of Jules. He asks for advice from his new friends, watches them garden, and works in local gardens as well. 
You can see the love his has for this activity and its results. I really enjoyed this book.

Little Snow Landscape

Finished May 26 
Little Snow Landscape by Robert Walser, translated by Tom Whalen

This collection of short works by the Swiss writer Walser is organized in chronological order of writing. The first short piece, less than a page, is an ode to his home, and the last item is another longer nonfiction piece on his childhood in his hometown of Biel. In between there are both fiction and nonfiction pieces, some about travelling that he did on foot and by train in both his country and in Germany where he lived for many years. I think these were the ones I enjoyed most.
There are others that seem to be jottings of thoughts, such as "Hats" which looks at both headgear and words related to the German word for hat. 
Some of the fiction is more fantastical and he writes in first person, taking on different characters with unexpected meanderings. There are some references to class, such as servants and employers, workers doing tasks, and decisions made about activities due to financial constraints.
The title story is the enjoyment of venturing out for a walk on a morning after a fresh snow. It is a lovely piece. 
This is a nice book to dip into in those short periods of time waiting for someone or for an appointment.