Monday, 17 May 2021

Double-Running of Back Stitch

Finished May 6
Double-Running of Back Stitch by Louisa F. Pesel


This book was one my mom sent me, an embroidery instruction book meant for school use from 1931. Except for a couple of photographs of historical embroidery at the front of the book, all of the pictures are in black and white. There are detailed instructions, and many charts that show how to do the rows from the samplers that are included here.
The Preface was great, and I loved the last paragraph:
There is another aspect which is not always realized in this work done by the counted thread, and that is its value in regard to health. The work needs sufficient concentration to keep the mind occupied without undue strain, and I have proved by experience with my pupils the worth of this. After a short time spent in working at a design, very often the obvious weariness following a long day in school or office will disappear. In these days of rush and hurry, I believe half an hour each day spent in embroidery of this type would act as a real tonic, and, in addition, workers would have the satisfaction of knowing that they were helping to establish once more in this country the old designs made and worked by their ancestors many years ago. 
This was a great find, and I really enjoyed going through it. It will stay on my shelves as a potential resource for future work. 

Monday, 10 May 2021

Worth the Weight

Finished May 4 
Worth the Weight by Mara Jacobs

This is the first book in a romance series that is now up to eight novels. They take place in the Copper Country area of Michigan. The main character here is Lizzie Hampton. Lizzie grew up in this area, but left years ago for college and then made a career in PR, now running her own agency representing sports figures and celebrities. She is good at what she does, but her personal life is not such a success. She hasn't had a serious romantic relationship, and in fact, her last relationship was in high school. 
But a few years ago Lizzie met someone she thinks she might find a future with and so she made a plan. A plan that involved her losing a ton of weight and getting her body into shape again. It also involved her getting comfortable with that body, especially in an intimate situation.
Her body shows its past, and Lizzie isn't sure that she can deal with that, so she decides to hunt down her old high school boyfriend and test her newfound body out on him. After all, he always wanted her, but she held out back then. 
Finn Robbins still lives in her old hometown, and he's divorced, but as Lizzie soon discovers when she renews their relationship, he came out of the marriage with two children. He is also facing challenges with the medical condition with one of his kids and his life has revolved around them and doing what he needs to get his daughter the help she needs. 
Lizzie's organizing and PR skills kick in and before she knows it, she's more deeply involved with this family than she ever planned or expected. Along with her two best friends, Katie and Alison, she makes her plan reality, but has to figure out if her plans have changed. 
A fun read, with a sympathetic and relatable heroine. 

The Finders

Finished May 2 
The Finders by Jeffrey B. Burton

This mystery story is centered around dog handler Mason (Mace) Reid. He lives in the suburbs of Chicago and owns several dogs that he has trained as cadaver dogs. He subcontracts to the police as the main part of his work, but also runs some dog training classes. 
The story has two preludes. One is of a woman being kidnapped, and the other is of a police officer and her partner responding to a call from a concerned neighbour that results in a case of carbon monoxide poisoning and a puppy that has survived against all odds.
Jumping forward, Mace has taken on the dog and trained her, now named Viro, as a cadaver dog. But she seems to have extraordinary senses around her work and her very first case leads to an unfortunate incident and the discovery of a kidnapper. 
But there is an even darker criminal associated with this case in a loose way, and he has taken a personal dislike to Mace that leads to entrapment and murders.
I liked the character Mace, with his real love for his four dogs. He is living close the edge financially and needs his work to make ends meets for him and his dogs. He is divorced and just starting to get interested in a new relationship, so when he meets a police officer that also has an interest in Viro, he begins to have hope for a future. The officer, Kippy, isn't ready for a relationship, but she is interested in Viro's abilities and in the case that seems to have Mace as a target. She is an intelligent and driven officer, putting in the extra work. 
This book is the first in a new series featuring Mace and his dogs. I look forward to seeing more of some of the police officers that appeared here as well. 

Sunday, 2 May 2021

May Reviews for the 14th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

Two more months to go for this challenge. How are you doing. I've done more Canadian books this year than I did last, but still have so many I want to read.


Use the linky to add links to the reviews for books read in May. Please link to the review itself. 


Saturday, 1 May 2021

Girl A

Finished April 30
Girl A by Abigail Dean

This was a novel that I couldn't stop reading. Girl A, real name Alexandra or Lex, is at a women's prison in England as the book opens, called there to meet with prison authorities. Her birth mother was incarcerated there and has named Lex, her oldest daughter as the executor of her will. Lex must decide whether she wants to take on this burden.
Lex now lives in New York City and travels all over the world for her job in corporate acquisitions. She loves the work and is good at it. She hasn't seen her siblings in years. One isn't even aware of his birth family. 
The book gradually reveals what happened to this family and the children who were traumatized by their experience. There were four boys and three girls in the family. They lived in a small town in a house remote from others. The abuse started with control and slowly, so slowly escalated to some of them being chained in their rooms. Girl A was the one who escaped, the one who brought help that freed the others. She was the one that led to them all starting with other families. 
Now she must talk to them all to get them to agree on what happens to what their mother left behind. The house they were held captive in, and a small amount of money. 
Lex and Edie have an idea to repurpose the house to give it a new and better meaning. But can she convince the others? 
This is a book that reveals its story gradually, with chapters for each child that Lex meets with, labelled with their assigned letter and their real name. There are some missing and we find out why. Each one has a story, some worse than others. This is a story of love gone wrong, of psychological and physical abuse, and of recovery. Lex got lucky with the couple that took her in, and with the psychologist, Doctor Kay, who was assigned to her. She doesn't like to look back, but she must now. 
Her oldest brother is getting married soon too, and that event also lurks on the horizon. Will she go? How will she react to that. 
This is a story masterfully told. So well done.

Read Men Knit

Finished April 29
Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson

This romance book is centered around two twenty-year-somethings that have known each other since childhood, but face a major loss in their lives by coming together. Jesse Strong is the youngest of four adopted brothers, held together by the strength of their mother and their shared family. With their mother, known to all the neighbourhood as Mama Joy, suddenly passes away, he must join his brothers in figuring out what is next. 
They grew up in an apartment above the knitting store run by Mama Joy, and were all taught to knit at a young age, finding comfort and discipline in the act of creativity. The oldest brother, Damien, has launched his career as a financial analyst in the world of investment and keeps his old bedroom mainly as a closet for his upstyle wardrobe. The next two brothers, real half-brothers, Lucas and Noah, have just begun their careers, Lucas as a firefighter and Noah in the world of dance. The apartment is still a base for them even though they don't spend all their nights there. Jesse hasn't settled yet, either in his career choice or in his personal life. He is a bit of a player, and hasn't stayed in any one job too long.
One mainstay in the knitting store has been Kerry Fuller. Kerry has been working part-time in the store, as the only employee for years and even though she has now finished her degree in children's counselling and art therapy and works part-time at the community centre, she finds it hard to leave the knitting store. 
As Jesse fights to keep the store open and viable and keep the home they have above it, the brothers rely on Kerry to help them learn what they need to know to give the store a fresh start with the ideas that Jesse brings to it. Will this major life event mark a change in Jesse's life for the better, and what will Kerry's future bring her?
This is a story of love and loss, of learning and growing, of finding common ground and families coming together through adversity. The only thing missing for me was a knitting pattern. This book cried out for one to be included. There is humour and sadness, but an overall sense of hope for the future, for the main characters, and the community as a whole. 

The Healing

Finished April 27
The Healing by Lynda Faye Schmidt

This novel draws from the author's real life experiences, featuring the fictional character Cate Henderson, starting just as she's leaving her abusive husband and starting a new life. She leaves Calgary and stays for a few months in her daughter's home on Vancouver Island while her daughter and son-in-law are overseas. While there, she focuses on her own mental and physical health and finds herself drawn to a man visiting family. While Cate cares strongly about all three of her children, they are now adults and have their own lives. Celeste is settled in B.C. with her husband. Dana is still living a life of exploration and adventure, and Taylor is starting university. 
The new man in Cate's life has her moving to parts of the world she never considered before, and adds another adult child to her life. 
This is a book that explores mental health challenges, physical health challenges, and the risks and rewards of new relationships and new places to live. It is the story of a woman starting a new period of her life, focusing on her own health and her own needs for really the first time in her life.
That is not to say that she doesn't respond to the needs of her children, but that she achieves a balance to her life that she hasn't had before.
This is a novel of hope.

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Guest Post by Lynda Faye Schmidt, author of The Healing

Guest Blog for Canadian Bookworm

I'd like to welcome Lynda to the blog on the occasion of her first book which launched yesterday. Below she'll share with you the inspiration for the book and I'm including a link to the publisher site for more information. It seems very apt to do this on International Book Day. Pick up a book and celebrate.

Shonna

 


By Lynda Faye Schmidt


What Inspired Me to Write ‘The Healing.’ 


I’d been on a healing journey for more than twenty years before I’d acquired enough insight and wisdom to write The Healing


In my early thirties, the challenge of being in an abusive relationship with someone who suffered with chronic depression had me desperate for a lifeline. I devoured self-help books, did an authenticity dig, and went for counselling as part of my survival kit.


Fast forward ten years and I was even deeper in the muck. Despite all the work I’d been doing, I was still in that relationship, but refusing to admit how toxic it was. I went into a deep, suicidal depression. It took a five-day stint in a mental health ward to kick things off in the right direction and over a year of intense therapy that included medication and counselling before I rediscovered the will to live.


Lucky for me, I had close relationships with my family and a fulfilling teaching career that kept my light burning even in the midst of escalating verbally and sexually abusive behaviours from my husband. I deepened my self-awareness and mindfulness practices, and it wasn’t long before I realized that I could never find what I was yearning for until I loved myself enough to leave him.


That’s when things took off in new and seemingly limitless directions, and where the story of The Healing begins.


I had always dreamed of being a writer someday, but life seemed to take me in different directions until I started to live a life that honoured and respected who I am. It is my belief that my true heart’s-desire to be a writer could never manifest as long I was living somebody else’s version of who and how I should be. 


It didn’t happen overnight. It was a long journey to get here. I started scribbling poetry in the back of elementary school exercise books. Over the years, I’ve filled a massive pile of journals, written some children’s books for my kids, and drafted stories from snippets to full-length novels. I’ve received a pile of rejection letters. I had one disastrous quasi-publication experience with a shyster, but I never let go of my dream. 


In 2012, I scratched out the first five pages of The Healing, then promptly forgot them amongst the distractions of health challenges and my move to the Middle East. I created my blog, Musings of an emotional creature. I was a contributor for DQ Living magazine. Then, I recovered those first five pages of The Healing and wrote my first draft. I shared my accomplishment with my friend Danielle, who gave me Anne O’Connell’s contact information. After a query and exchange, a Covid-19 lockdown and a total re-write, The Healing is ready to be launched in April of 2021.

My hope is that people will be inspired by The Healing to begin the work of discovering their own unique journey into wellness. Whatever their personal challenge, I hope that reading my book will encourage others to endure the lows and enjoy the highs, to trust the process of life, and to know, without question, that they matter. Whatever struggles life brings, they will pass. And it is in braving the struggle that we find our strength.


The Woman in Red

Finished April 22
The Woman in Red by Diana Giovinazzo

This is a fictional tale highlighting the life of a real woman in history. Anita Garibaldi was born in 1821 as Ana Maria de Jesus Ribeiro da Silva, the daughter of a gaucho in the Santa Catarina area of southern Brazil. She left school very young and worked with her father, learning the skills of his trade. But he died in an accident when she was still a child, and her mother moved her and her sister to a town where they could live with her godfather. 
Giuseppe Garibaldi had left Europe in exile after fighting for freedom for the Italian people and a united Italy. He found his way to Brazil where he joined their fight for independence and the two were drawn to each other immediately upon meeting, and she began to use the name Anita. 
This novel explains the significance of her taking that form of name in an interesting way. 
She was a strong willed woman and fought in the Brazilian battles, at one point becoming separated from Giuseppe during battle, and captured by the Imperial forces, but she managed to escape despite being pregnant, and rejoin him. Soon after the two moved to Uruguay, where they led a more peaceful life for a few years, marrying and having more children. When the Argentines tried to take over Uruguay, Garibaldi formed a legion of Italian expatriates and fought once again for freedom. With Italy showing more hope of unification, the family returned to Genoa in 1848, and fought for independence from the Austrian Empire. Once again, Anita was by his side, but she died in retreat when she was pregnant and ill from malaria. 
This book expands her story to include an earlier arranged marriage for Ana, more details about the rebellions they participated in, her actions with the creation of the redshirts in Uruguay and the role she played in stirring up support there and in Italy. It also shows her personal life, her early struggles as a female who didn't fit well into traditional female roles and fought against men controlling her life, her relationships to other women, and her children.
I really enjoyed learning about this historical figure, someone who hadn't been on my radar before.


Friday, 23 April 2021

Survivor

Finished April 20
The Survivor by Gregg Hurwitz

This suspense thriller begins with a man standing on the ledge of a high-rise in Los Angeles. He is there because he plans to kill himself, but while he's out there the bank inside is robbed. Nate Overbay, the man on the ledge has rushed in to save people before, but he is haunted by a time he didn't rush in, and his best friend did, and died for it. 
When he looks in and makes a connection with a dying bank employee and realizes more people will die if the men robbing the bank aren't stopped, he looks for a chance and finds one. He stops the robbery, and prevents more deaths, but he becomes known to the man behind the crime, and that is a dangerous place to be. 
For he is Pavlo, a powerful Ukrainian gangster, a man the cops would like to catch but haven't been able to pin anything on, and when he finds Nate, he gives him a task and a deadline, and Nate's teenage daughter Cielle's life is in the balance. The men that Pavlo works with are dangerous and violent and Nate is fighting his own body. 
Nate's PTSD from his time in the military has estranged him from his wife and daughter, but now he is back in their lives, trying to protect them from the attention he has brought on himself. He doesn't know who he can trust, and he has his own demons to deal with. 
But when he discovers the reality behind his task, he wants to find a way to do the right thing and still save his family. 
Nate survived childhood loss, losing his best friend, and his family, but this will be the biggest test of survival for him yet. This is an edge of the seat read, hard to put down and with lots of action and violence. It also has moment of love, intimacy, and truth. 

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Shiver

Finished April 18
Shiver by Allie Reynolds


This novel takes place in the ski resort of Le Rocher in France. The narrator is Milla, a young British woman who has received an invitation to go to the resort just before the season starts to reunite with people she last saw ten years earlier. Milla was a competitive snowboarder and she worked hard all the rest of the year so she could spend the season training and competing in competitions. Ten years ago the British national competition was due to be held at this resort and she decided to spend the season there so she could get as much training in as possible. 
The novel jumps from the present back to the time ten years ago when these people last met. 
In the earlier time period, Milla spends a lot of time with other snowboarders, but one of them in particular seems to be her nemesis. Saskia is also British and her older brother Curtis is also a competitive snowboarder. But Saskia seems to have a mean streak and will do whatever it takes to win. There are a few interactions where she seems to be sabotaging Milla, but nothing conclusive, and other snowboarders warn Milla to be careful around Saskia. Milla is drawn to both Curtis and Brent, British snowboarders, but she doesn't want to get involved in a serious relationship afraid that it will distract her from her training. She still finds herself getting involved though. 
In the present time period, everyone was invited by email, and a staff member takes them up the cable cars to the top level, but then things get weird. Present are Milla, Curtis, Brent, Heather, and Dale. All of them were snowboarders except Heather, who was a waitress at the resort, and in a relationship with Dale at the time. The couple are now married. Some people are invited by Curtis, and others by Milla, so who is really behind this get together. We know that ten years ago Saskia went missing and has just been declared dead. That was the purported purpose behind this meeting, to remember her one last time together, but is there more that someone wants from them? As things get more tense and the situation puts them out of touch with the rest of the world, none of them is sure who they can trust.
When there are recurring signs that someone else is up there with them, they try to guess who it is. Could it be Saskia herself, and why after all this time would she bringing them together in this way. Milla has something to hide, but what that secret is is not revealed until the end, when we know all the secrets. 
This is an edge of the seat read, as you wait to see what will happen next and who will be left standing at the end. A suspenseful read.

Ghost Hawk

Finished April 13
Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper

I first came across Susan Cooper as a teenager, but I hadn't been aware of this book, so I was glad to come across it. This is historical fiction, with a touch of fantasy, and focuses on two boys. 
It starts with Little Hawk, a boy of the Pokanoket people. As the book opens, Little Hawk is preparing to go on his initiation journey, a journey that all boys take as they become men. There are four boys going out at this time, including Little Hawk's good friend Leaping Turtle. They take little with them: a bow, a tomahawk, and a knife. They go in the fall and return in the spring, and live in the wilderness alone through the winter. They must make their own shelter and find their own food. They must fast until the are visited by their Manitou, the animal spirit that will guide them throughout their life. 
Little Hawk goes through many trials during his journey, but he finds more when he returns, and finds his village almost deserted. Disease has ravaged it, leaving few survivors. He must gather with other nearby people and create a new village.
As he does this, he learns more of the leader Yellow Feather, who has negotiated a peace with the white men who have come recently to the land. And he interacts briefly with the child of one of them, a boy named John Wakeley. 
Some time later the two boys meet in a different place and this meeting will change both their lives irrevocably. From there the story follows John for the most part, as we see him make choices that will alienate him from some of his countrymen, and take him farther away from the places where he and Little Hawk met and continued their unusual friendship. 
This is a story of the early settlers in the United States, their interaction with the native people, and the prejudices and actions that determined the fate of both. 
The author includes a section at the back giving more historical information and context that will be useful for readers to place this book in the history of this continent. 

Smoke and Mirrors

Finished April 12
Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths

This is the second book in the series featuring magician Max Mephisto and police detective Edgar Stephens. This book is set in 1951 in Brighton. It is in November that the book begins, and Max is in a pantomime at the local theatre. Two tween-age children go missing from a local neighbourhood, and Edgar is involved in the search. But soon a winter storm moves in and the snow makes the search more difficult. When the bodies of the children are discovered a few days later, they are found under the snow with pieces of candy leading to them like a trail. 
It makes Edgar and his team Emma and Bob think of Hansel and Gretel, and when it turns out that the two were putting on a play using younger children as actors that is reminiscent of the fairy tale, they start looking at the adults who were mentors to them.
There are also echoes from a decades earlier child murder at a pantomime, and some of the people in the Brighton area may be connected to that earlier event. 
Max's newly discovered daughter Ruby is in a production nearby, and she appears here in a peripheral way, and we see the beginning of her relationship with Edgar.
Edgar takes his job very seriously and works on the case tirelessly, foregoing sleep and sustenance, so you get a real sense of his empathy and commitment. 
I had just read book number three in this series, so it was nice seeing more of the background of the characters here. Emma is interesting as she has taken an unusual job for a woman of her background, and she doesn't advertise her class when at work. Her parents don't necessarily approve of her career choice, but they do support her choices. 
The whole aspect of fairy tales and their history is interesting as well, and I really enjoyed this aspect of the work, seeing how surprised some of the adults were at what they learned, and what creativity the children had. 

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

The Blood Card

Finished April 10
The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths

This is the third book in the Magic Men series (also called Stephens and Mephisto), but the first one that I've read. The story is set in 1953, in the days leading up to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Edgar Stephens is a Brighton police detective, the head of the murder team there. Max Mephisto is a magician. Both men were on a team referred to as the Magic Men in World War II, where they used illusion to try to fool the enemy. 
Max discovered a few years previously that a liaison with a snake charmer back years ago has resulted in him having a daughter, Ruby, who is also looking for a career as a magician. Edgar is now dating her and hopes to marry her. 
Edgar has two police officers on his team, Emma Holmes and Bob Willis. They are both good in their own way, but Emma is very driven, feeling that she has to prove her worth. 
Both men are contacted by a man called General Petre who tells them that another man they worked with during the war has been murdered and getting them looking into his contacts and following up leads. It seems both to make sense and a bit strange, but the two men agree to assist. While Max follows up with other contacts in the theatre industry, Edgar goes off on a quick trip to the United States to meet a man there. It seems that there is a threat to disrupt the coronation and given that it is less than two weeks away, things move pretty quickly. 
When a fortune teller in Brighton is also found dead in a suspicious manner, Edgar wonders if there is a connection and Emma takes the case seriously, getting involved with the woman's family to investigate all possibilities. 
I really enjoyed the characters, both the two main male characters Edgar and Max, and the two women who have large roles in the plot here, Emma and Ruby. This is an interesting case, dating back to incidents in the war, and with danger on more than one front.  

Juliet's Answer

Finished April 8
Juliet's Answer by Glenn Dixon

This memoir captures just over a year in Dixon's life, one where he made choices that changed the trajectory of his life. He had heard about an organization in Verona, Italy called the Club Di Giulietta, that had taken on the task of responding to the thousands of letters sent to Juliet. The majority of these letters were about relationships, and they arrived in many different languages from all over the world. 
Glenn had been teaching Shakespeare to high school students in Canada for two decades and had managed to get permission to view the near-perfect second quarto of the play Romeo and Juliet at the British Library on his way to Verona. He had arranged to volunteer during the summer holidays at the Club, answering some of the letters. 
Glenn's story gives background on his life, both as a teacher and his personal life, falling for a woman who only sees him as a friend. 
Near the end of his summer in Verona, he writes his own letter to Juliet, looking for guidance on approaching this woman one more time given that they are both single and unattached. 
The book takes us through the next year of his life, showing him teaching the play Romeo and Juliet to a high school class, with the interactions between him and the students, and how their personalities come into their reactions to the play. It also shows him making the decision to start a new phase of his life, and to begin that, at the end of the school year, he arranges to return to Verona and volunteer as one of "Juliet's secretaries" once again.
There is a simple map of Verona showing the points of interest related to his time there, and a section of photographs as well. 
This is a story of reflection and self examination as Glenn evaluates his life and makes the choice to move in a new direction. 
He gives interesting information on Verona and its relationship to the story of Romeo and Juliet and the other people he meets that run or are involved with the Club. I also found his teaching with the students as they worked their way through the play very interesting, taking their time and really thinking about what was happening and what it meant. 

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Everything at Last

Finished April 7
Everything at Last by Kimberly Lang

This book is part of a series set in the small coastal town of Magnolia Beach, Alabama. Molly Richards has lived in Magnolia Beach for a couple of years now, and runs a coffee shop called Latte Dah. She rents the guesthouse belonging to an older woman, Mrs. Kennedy, and here Mrs. Kennedy has to go out of town just before the annual fair and she leaves Molly in charge of the Children's Fair portion, something Mrs. Kennedy has run for years. Molly hasn't even been to the Children's Fair and she calls on her best friend Helena for moral support and advice. The fair raises money for local charities, including animal rescue and Tate Harris, local veterinarian and friend of Helena has been a little involved in the past.
As Tate helps her sort out the massive amount of paperwork Molly's been left, they also get to know each better, finding themselves drawn to each other. Molly's not been involved with anyone since she's arrived in town, and she has a past that left her in limbo. When her newfound attention with the fair brings that past to light, things get a bit dramatic. 
I liked the small town atmosphere, where everyone knows everyone's business, but has each other's back against outsiders. And I liked Molly's cat Nigel, who has quite a personality (no, there's no talking cat though). 
This is a nice romance, with a bit of drama, and women who find their own way through their difficulties in life for the most part. 

Murder As a Fine Art

Finished April 6 
Murder As a Fine Art by David Morrell

This historical fiction novel focuses on a real historical figure and his writings, as well as a real crime that he wrote about. These are Thomas De Quincey and the Ratcliffe Highway murders. But it expands from there to center the story around a fictional copycat crime of the Ratcliffe Highway one, with the killer drawing De Quincey down to London from his home in Edinburgh for purposes that only gradually become clear. 
It is 1854 and detectives are a relatively recent addition to the police. Ryan is one of them, and is called to the scene of the murder. He is in plainclothes and wears a hat to conceal his red hair as Irishmen are often a target when things get tense. The constable who was doing his rounds and came upon the scene, Becker, is eager to become a detective and his diligence has Ryan including him in the investigation. 
Thomas De Quincey really did write about the Ratcliffe Highway murders, describing them with such detail that they seemed like he'd seen the events himself. Morrell has used this story as a jumping off point, using De Quincey and his daughter Emily as characters in the story. I particularly liked Emily.
At the back of the book, the author supplies an explanation of how he came to write the book and the research that he did, which including immersing himself in the world of 1854 for two years as he gathered information on what life was like during that time, down to the food, the clothes, and the streets themselves. 
This book is a literary mystery, a historical what-if, and an excellent read. I also noted that it is the first book in a series around Thomas De Quincey as a character, which means we should see more of Emily and perhaps the two policemen too.

Block 46

Finished April 4 
Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson, translated from the French by Maxim Jakubowski

This is the first book I've read by this author. It is also the first book in a series featuring profiler Emily Roy and true crime writer Alexis Castells. Emily Roy is an interesting character. She was trained at Quantico and worked for the RCMP, but now works for Scotland Yard. She has a past that is hinted at here, but offers a lot for further exploration in later books. She can be brusque and even harsh, but she knows how to use diplomacy and charm in certain situations. 
Alexis Castells, a French woman now living in England, whose own partner was killed by a serial killer, is friends with Linnea, a Swedish jewelry artist now living in England, who is found murdered near the beginning of this book. She has encountered Emily before when she was researching one of her books, and due to these two links, she gets drawn further into this case than is normal for someone outside of the police or supporting organizations.
The story moves back and forth between London and the west coast of Sweden, but the majority of the action is in Sweden. As the story begins, Linnea is supposed to be having her debut as the new jewelry artist for a major jeweller, but she does not show up. A couple of times a year, Linnea went on her own back to Sweden, spending time by herself and seeing friends there. That is where she has been, and was supposed to be flying in from. Shortly after being reported missing in England, her body is found in Sweden, strangely mutilated and in an outdoor hidden area near her home there.
The mutilation links her death to the bodies of two boys that have been recently found in England, buried in a public park. That is how Scotland Yard and Emily get brought into the case. Alexis accompanies Linnea's relatively new husband and her new boss to Sweden, and because she is a capable woman, takes on the task of inventorying Linnea's house there while they go back to England. Spending time with Emily, she soon gets seconded as another set of eyes and mind to Emily's research on the case. 
There is a second storyline here as well, one from World War II. A German medical student, is interned in Buchenwald where he is first working as a laborer and then gets seconded to a medical experimentation unit. We see him during this time and into his life after the war, when he moves to the coast of Sweden near where Linnea's body was found. We know there is a link, but we only gradually learn what that link is, and why Linnea was killed. 
I liked both Emily and Alexis and the way they interacted with each other. I liked the Canadian link here through Emily as well. There are also a lot of interesting secondary characters: Linnea's childhood friend who lives nearby her home in Sweden and some of the Swedish police. 

Monday, 5 April 2021

The Weight of Silence

Finished April 2
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

As intimated by the title, silence plays a multifaceted role in this novel. Seven-year-old Calli Clark hasn't spoken in three years, since her mother Antonia fell down the stairs resulted in the stillborn birth of a daughter. But, while in kindergarten, she gained a friend Petra Gregory. The two young girls seem to know what each other is thinking and work as a team together. Calli has also used some sign language that she uses when necessary. 
As the book opens, early one morning Calli awakens with the need to go pee. She can hear her father downstairs and knows that he is due to go fishing with a friend, leaving very early. She waits, holding herself and trying to distract herself until he is gone. When it is quiet, she sneaks downstairs,but at the door to the bathroom, her father calls her from outside, so she goes. 
Their relationship is complicated. Calli loves her father Griff, but she also fears him. He is a large man, burly and gruff, and works away from home, up in Alaska, coming home in between shifts. Calli's older brother Ben, who is twelve has similar feelings about their father. 
When she goes outside, Griff both insults her and reaches for her, and tells his friend, Roger, when he arrives that he will come later, but he wants to spend time with his daughter now. After Roger leaves, Griff pulls Calli toward the woods, on a mission to respond to a rumour that he's heard from his friends. 
Around the same time, Petra, who often doesn't sleep well, looks out her window and sees two figures, one of them an adult, in the woods. She decides to join them, reasoning that since one is an adult her parents won't mind. Petra's father Martin is a university professor, popular with his students, and welcoming to those lonely while away from home. Her mother Fielda is much younger, a local girl whose mother runs a cafe that they met at. They both dote on the young, precocious girl and love her dearly. Martin wakes early and when he finds Petra missing, he wakes his wife and they do a further search and then call the police. 
Immediately they think of Calli, and the police check her house finding her missing as well. Both girls are in their pajamas and Calli hasn't taken any shoes. Reinforcements are called for and the media is alerted. 
To add to the plot, Antonia grew up best friends with Louis who is now Deputy Sheriff. They care deeply for each other, and planned to marry one day until a falling out in their senior year of high school. Louis went off to university and found Toni married to Griff when he returned. They've tried to stay friends since, but Griff is a jealous man, and Louis' wife resents his friendship, so they are cordial but distant. 
Besides the silence of Calli, there is another. Toni has no real friends, because she can't expose the reality of her life with Griff to anyone. 
As the families of the missing girls and the wider community widen their search, more and more of the truth comes to light. 
This story was captivating and I loved the personalities of the young girls and how they worked as a team. I also felt for Toni's isolation, created by her circumstances and her choices, and how close her relationship to her children is as opposed to those with anyone else. 

Friday, 2 April 2021

Proof I Was Here

Finished April 2
Proof I Was Here by Becky Blake

I love finding another great Canadian author and this book is a great read. The main character Niki has moved to Barcelona to join her fiance. He is working here and she arranged the packing up of all their stuff in Toronto and followed him. Their wedding is set for a few weeks after she arrives. But days after she arrives, he calls off the wedding, and says that he no longer wants to marry her. 
Niki grew up poor and she was flattered by her fiance's attention, but now she is left reeling. She leaves their apartment in a panic to get away and takes nothing with her, no wallet or keys or anything of real value. She finds herself living among the homeless, among pickpockets and buskers, squatters and graffiti artists. 
To add to the situation, just before leaving Toronto, she gave in to a strange impulse and tried to shoplift a scarf, and she got caught, She has a summons to appear in court shortly after her wedding date, but has no intention of going. Still, there is a worry in the back of her mind about what that will mean.
Now, on the streets she is stealing again, learning how to pick a mark, how to distract attention. She is also learning to see those people she really didn't notice before and the things that people throw away that are still of value. 
Her life has changed dramatically and she has to determine how she will live. 
I liked seeing how Niki adjusted to her situation, connecting to others, and discovering a side to Barcelona that she wouldn't have seen if this hadn't happened. 
Niki isn't a bad person, but she's made some bad choices, and had some bad things happen in her life, both recently and long ago. I liked seeing how she discovered herself in new ways. This book really grew on me the further I got into it.

Finbar's Hotel

Finished March 31
Finbar's Hotel devised and edited by Dermot Bolger, written by Roddy Doyle, Anne Enright, Hugo Hamilton, Jennifer Johnston, Joseph O'Connor, and Colm Toibin

This linked set of stories are all occurring on the last Thursday the Dublin hotel will be open. The building is a rebuild of one that burnt down thirty years ago, and except for the longlasting carpet, it hasn't aged well. A Dutch firm has recently purchased it and will be razing it to build a new hotel.
Each story here is centered around one room on the first floor of the hotel, with the occupant(s) and their  actions making that story. Two of the hotel staff, the manager and the night porter have somewhat larger roles in the stories, reappearing in more than one. Both of these men have been at the hotel for years, long before the fire that destroyed the earlier building. One, Simon the night porter, because he has worked here for that long, and the other, Johnny Farrell the manager, because his father became a part-owner in the hotel years before and he played here as a child. 
Interestingly, the writers here have chosen not to identify which of them wrote which portions of the book. 
One room has a man who is staying in a hotel room for the first time in his life. He can't identify the reasons that led him to this night, and he feels awkward at times, but determined to see the experience through.
Another room has two sisters who haven't seen each other in years. One left Ireland decades earlier when she was just seventeen and now her sister wants to meet to talk about her mother and dig into her reasons for leaving, but will she finally tell the truth?
In a third room, a young man has smuggled in a cat, but his purpose for doing that is unclear, and the outcome up in the air until the end of his tale. 
Another room is taken by a man the night manager is sure he recognizes although the name on the register is not one he knows. Will he confront the lodger to verify his identification and check the motives behind the stay?
A woman in one room is staying there as part of a series of hotel room visits across the country, all related to a medical diagnosis she's been given and a betrayal she finds hard to face. 
Another woman is staying at the hotel based on a memory of an early boyfriend and how they happened upon that long ago fire. She is thinking of both the discovery of her father as one of the firefighters on scene and the men that have passed through her life.
The last person to have their story here is a criminal engaged in a crime out of his comfort zone and determining his next steps. 
I enjoyed seeing how these characters lives bumped up against each other, usually very briefly, and how this night meant something different to each one, but was important to them in some way. 

April Reviews for the 14th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

 This is where you add your reviews for books read in April



Thursday, 1 April 2021

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

Finished March 30
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

This teen novel written by two sisters is told by Alaine Beauparlant, a senior in high school, whose parents were both born in Haiti. Her father is a psychiatrist and her mother is a television journalist. They've recently separated and Alaine lives in Miami with her dad while her mom works in Washington doing political news. When her mom has an on air meltdown, Alaine must struggle to understand and deal with the reactions from her fellow students at her private school. 
Alaine is also working on a history project for school and she tries to take her project in a different direction than expected and get back at some of the kids teasing her. It backfires and Alaine is exiled to Haiti to stay with her aunt, the Minister of Tourism there, and her mom who has gone to ground while she determines her next steps. 
As Alaine discovers what is behind her mother's actions, and learns more about the country of her parents, she also learns about the family curse that her mother has never shared with her. Alaine's aunt is also involved with a children's charity and Alaine interns there as part of her remote schoolwork. She also gets to know her mother better, as she comes to term with her mother's medical diagnosis.
There is a lot of Haitian history and culture here, and of course food. 
The book is made up of school reports, texts, emails, articles, transcripts, letters, diaries, and other written material that come together to give a bigger picture of Alaine and her world.
I enjoyed learning more about Haiti, and liked the sassy character of Alaine. This book has a little of everything: romance, drama, mysticism, and humour. 

Just Their Luck

Finished March 29
Just Their Luck by L.A. Donohoe
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This romantic novel with a twist of drama has a good plotline, and the author shows definite promise. I found some of the dialogue stilted though, and there were parts where things didn't flow smoothly. I believe this is a self-published imprint, so it could be that an editor would have helped. It is also a first novel, so a good effort there.
Sarah, the main character, is a woman in her twenties who has just left her longtime boyfriend due to his cheating. She's made a dramatic exit, and left some damage behind, making her ex, Travis, somewhat vindictive. Sarah has chosen to move to the small town where her sister Terri lives with her husband A.J., and she's bought a house there. I was never clear on what Sarah did for a living though.
Arriving in town, she has a literal run-in with a local man, Sam, and they both leave the scene quite angry. It takes time and the intervention of A.J. to get them talking to each other.
As Sarah makes her house feel like home, she gets to know others in town, has an old friend and her parents come to visit, and becomes closer to Sam.
With romance, drama, and humour, this young woman moves into a new phase of her life. 

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Season of Fury and Wonder

Finished March 28
Season of Fury and Wonder by Sharon Butala

This collection of short stories is told from the point of view of older women. Each story has a woman in her older years telling her tale. The women have a variety of experiences but have all had interesting lives with ups and downs. Some are trying to change their lives, some are trying to hold on to what they have, and some are looking for meaning and connection.
There are ten stories, and each is inspired by, or in response to, a classic short story (or in two cases a poem and a play), and that connection is noted at the beginning of each of these stories. Thus these are both a tribute to those writers and an insight into women's lives. 
I loved the explanation of how these stories came to be in the preface and I also enjoyed an online panel where the author, along with 3 other Canadian older female authors discussed the older women characters in their recent works. It was a fascinating and insightful experience. 
What Else We Talk About When We Talk About Love tells of an unexpected experience of love and wonder when visiting a relative in a hospice.
Grace's Garden tells of a woman trying to hold on to her independence.
Elephants has a woman visiting an art gallery and being reminded of her past loves and friends.
Soothsayer is centered on a woman who has always been aware of her ability to sense things beyond what most see, and who having an unusual experience with a bird thinks on the men in her recent life.
Pansy tells of a woman visiting the town she grew up in and being reminded of her losses in life.
The Things That Mattered has a woman weeping and examines herself dispassionately to understand why.
Guilt: A Discussion is told by a woman living in long term care home, having regular get-togethers and talks with three other women there that have them looking back on their lives, where she makes a surprising confession.
Sisters has three sisters who have travelled from other parts of the country to one sister's home for an annual meeting.
The Departed is told by a woman at a large family Christmas gathering observing everyone there, yet feeling alone.
Downsizing has a woman going through a list of old boyfriends to see if she can find someone to be with now to avoid being alone.
A truly enjoyable reading experience, where I paced myself, allowing one story a day to savour each one.

Yellow Wife

Finished March 27
Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

This historical novel was inspired by and based on real historical characters, which I love. There are also some real historical figures who appear in the story. The author had recently moved to Richmond, Virginia when she saw a plaque about the couple who inspired this story and dug into their history to learn more.
The main character of this novel and the one we see through the experience of is Pheby Delores Brown. She was born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia and raised unusually. The plantation owner's sister schooled her in everything from reading, math, and geography to piano, and even on one occasion took her out shopping as if she were not a slave. Pheby lived with her mother Ruth in a room in the Loom House and both worked as seamstresses and weavers for the plantation, doing both fine work and clothing for the other slaves. When the master's sister died and the master married, she did not continue this treatment, and took against the girl. 
As the book opens, Pheby has recently been moved to serve the master's wife when her maid that she brought with her died of fever. The master has made this choice, not his wife. Pheby is looking forward to her eighteenth birthday as she has been promised freedom then. 
But things conspire against this fate, and her hope of eventually marrying her fellow slave Essex Henry, who has been allowed to hire himself out to save money to buy his freedom. Instead, she is unexpectedly shipped to Virginia to be punished and sold at an infamous jail, nicknamed Devil's Half Acre. There she is taken by the jailor into his household and given both kindnesses and ill treatment by him as she figures out what she must do to survive in this hostile new world. Living right in the heart of the jail, she witnesses atrocities daily and is limited in what she can do to make a difference in the lives that pass through. 
I found this book very interesting, showing an aspect of the system of slavery that I hadn't seen before. The character of Pheby was interesting, but so were many of the secondary characters that emerged. I appreciated the author's note explaining her inspiration and research as well to place this work in context. 

Monday, 29 March 2021

Chances Are

Finished March 25 
Chances Are by Kellie Coates Gilbert

This is a romance with a bit of drama, and the first in a series set in small town coastal Oregon. Allie Barrett is on her way to the small town of Pacific Bay as the book begins. She driven there from Texas with her ten-year-old son, Ryan. Allie has recently divorced from her son's father, Deacon Ray after she finally got tired of him cheating on her. When her mother's brother Tarver, who left Texas before she was born, leaves her his home and fishing boat in Oregon, she decides it is a good opportunity for a fresh start. It is unclear what Allie did for a living back in Texas, but here she plans to get the boat going again to run a fishing charter and whale watching business. This will take money, which is in short supply, and a time investment from Allie to learn the business from a hired captain and get the necessary licenses. 
Allie is made welcome in the town, but she finds a lot of work ahead of her. The house has been neglected and needs both cosmetic and maintenance repairs, and the boat has been sitting idle for a while so also needs some work. This is a story of hard work, but also a lot of luck as Allie meets people who help her (a lot) and even when faced with obstacles finds unexpected solutions arise for her. 
Ryan is a good kid, and her ex is aimless and unfaithful, with an eye to any opportunities that arise for him, but not a bad man in most ways. 
This was a pleasant read, with some interesting plotlines. 

Monday, 22 March 2021

The Daughters of Mars

Finished March 21 
The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally

This novel takes place just before and during World War I, following two sisters from small town Australia through the war. Both Naomi and Sally are nurses, Naomi in Sydney and Sally in Macleary, where they grew up. As the story begins their mother is in the last stages of cervical cancer, being looked after at home by Sally after her regular work at the local hospital, with occasional visits and respite for Sally from Naomi. Sally is the younger sister, and she resents Naomi for some things, like escaping their small town, but also feels tied to her by other experiences.
Both girls apply to go overseas when there is a call for nurses, and both are chosen. Naomi has pressured Sally to stay home to look after their father, but Sally fights to find her own life. They are in the same batch of nurses to ship out, and it takes them some war experiences to find friendship as well as sisterhood. They are often in the same group of nurses, and form friendships with these other women, from a variety of backgrounds. They are also in contact with officers in the Australian army, army doctors, and orderlies and various friendships, and romances develop between the nurses and these men during the years of the war. 
The women go through a variety of harrowing and draining experiences, with all of their skills called upon. They serve in receiving wounded men in the harbour of Gallipoli, on the island of Lemnos, and in France. They grow into their adult selves and find internal strength through these experiences as well as the determination and support for each other that they didn't have before the war. This novel was nominated for numerous awards and won several, and was a book that I could barely put down despite it being a doorstopper. Both Naomi and Sally are deeply drawn and you get a real sense for their characters. There are also several supporting characters who come to life through their interactions and reactions to the situations they are faced with. Well worth the read. 

No One You Know

Finished March 20
No One You Know by Michelle Richmond


This book starts with a woman meeting someone unexpectedly and then jumps back twenty years to when he first became a person she was aware of. The main character here, Ellie Enderlin, had an older sister Lila who was a math prodigy. Lila had given up her other love, riding her horse Dorothy, to focus on math. She was specifically focused on proving Goldbach's Conjecture. Both sisters are still living at home with their parents in San Francisco, and Ellie is a sophomore at college when Lila doesn't come home one night. Less than a week later, her body was found, with head damage near a hiking trail. 
The police enquiry didn't result in an arrest, and Ellie was able to confide all her feelings in a professor that she was close to, Andrew Thorpe. He showed sympathy when she asked for an incomplete in his course, and then encouraged her to talk to him about Lila. Ellie was unaware that Andrew had an agenda. But a few months later, after she'd confided quite a bit about her sister and her own life in regards to her, Andrew revealed that he was writing a book, a book about Lila. Despite Ellie requesting several times that he not do this, that he had betrayed her trust, he went ahead with the book, and in it he named who he thought had killed Lila. That man was never arrested, but his life was changed irrevocably anyway thanks to Thorpe's book. His marriage ended and he lost access to his son. He left his job and moved far away.
Lila had eventually read the book and accepted the version there, but after meeting the man Thorpe accused, she begins to question things. She meets with Thorpe and begins looking at other possibilities. This is a book about secrets, about noticing the small things, about trust and the loss of it, and about relationships in a larger way. 
Richmond is a great writer and she has a sense of the absurd that comes through in the plot here and in one quirky scene where she references one of her own earlier novels. I really enjoyed Ellie's foray into the facts of her sister's death, and how she came to know her more fully as a result. I also found Ellie's career interesting. She is a coffee taster and buyer for a small coffee company, and I enjoyed learning some of the detail of her job.

The Dutch House

Finished March 18 
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, read by Tom Hanks


I started this book back in March 2020 when I was commuting to work and when the commute stopped, so did the reading. I recently started it up again to listen to while I did crafts and really enjoyed getting back into it. Tom Hanks does a great job of the reading, even breaking into song in one part. 
The story is of a place, a house that was bought by an ambitious young man, Cyril Conroy, for his family after it had been sitting empty for some time, empty of residents that is. 
It was bought full of the art, furniture, and other possessions of the Dutch family that built it. From crystal chandeliers to family portraits, Dutch language books in the bookcase and finely upholstered furniture the house was ready to live in. But Cyril and his wife Elna had come from the inner city. He'd made a career in real estate, but Elna had trouble adjusting to life in such a house, especially with servants who did the work she'd be used to doing. They had two young children, Maeve and Danny, and soon Cyril's wife left, at first for India to work with the poor there. For much of the book we don't learn her story, but she does return to it near the end. 
Meave and Danny were raised mostly by the two women working in the house, sisters Jocelyn and Sandy, who loved them as if they were their own. Danny started going with his father on the weekends to visit the buildings that he owned, help him collect the rents and learn about the business. Right down to the nuts and bolts of maintenance. But a single man of that kind of wealth attracts some attention and a woman had set her sights on Cyril. By this time, Maeve was in college and Danny in high school, and by the time the young single mother Andrea married Cyril and moved in with her two daughters Norma and Bright, Cyril was in her hands. Thus, when Cyril died young, the first thing Andrea did was kick Danny out of the house. Maeve and Danny soon discovered that she had maneuvered things so that she was the sole heir of the estate and the only thing Danny had access to was an educational trust fund. 
As the book begins, Danny and Maeve are sitting in a car on the street looking at the house and wishing they still lived there, so their circumstances are pretty clear from the beginning and how they got there soon gets told. 
The rest of the book tells of their growing up, starting lives of their own, but never able to let go of this house that had been their home. The story is told from Danny's viewpoint and Hanks brings him to life. We see his relationship to his sister, his happenstance meeting of his future wife and how his sister played a role in getting them together, how his history led to his career decisions and some of his personal ones. We also see how Maeve made Danny her project, giving up her own goals to ensure that he became a success despite Andrea's manipulations. 
Andrea is the stereotypical evil stepmother, a caricature of a person. The other characters are more complex, and the story makes some lovely turns bringing it to a quite unexpected ending that seems perfect. 

The Good Doctor

Finished March 17
The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut

This book was shortlisted for the Booker and other prizes and takes place in a more remote part of South Africa. A newly graduated doctor, Laurence Waters, has signed up for his community service and chosen their hospital to do it at. Everyone at the small hospital is surprised. They haven't been looking for more staff. In fact, they aren't very busy at all. 
The town they are in is an anomaly. It is a planned chosen with the location chosen by remote bureaucrats and has no natural attractions. It was for a time the base for a homeland leader, but he is no longer in power and the few bits of government that came due to his presence are now gone. The town has little to offer, a small grocery store, a cafe that tried to also be a hotel for a time, and not much else. 
The staff at the hospital is small: the director, Dr. Ngema, a black woman hoping to get an appointment elsewhere; Frank Eloff, the narrator, an Afrikaner doctor hired to replace her, that stayed even when she didn't go; the Santanders, a doctor couple from Cuba; and Tehogo, a young native man who failed his exams for a nurse but does nursing and orderly and other odd jobs.
When Laurence arrives there are only two patients and one soon gets transported to the nearby city hospital for treatment. The hospital is poorly funded and lacks basic supplies, which limits what they can accomplish and what their patients can be treated for. It is soon apparent that Laurence is an idealist who wants to make this job an altruistic sacrifice for himself.
Frank is unhappy with his arrival, and doubly so when he learns he must share his small room with the new doctor. This is due to a lack of furniture, and the race of the few staff. Even though Tehogo is of lower rank, he is black and thus Laurence and him cannot share a room.
There are several plot points here, one involving a young roadside vendor, a woman that Frank has become involved with, Tehogo and his activities, and new activity around the nearby border. 
One of the reasons that Frank applied for this job and didn't leave when Dr. Ngema's appointment fell through is his marital situation. He is separated from his wife who is seeking a divorce, and she left him while having an affair with his best friend. Frank really has little in the way of outside ties except his father, with whom he has a complicated and distant relationship. 
This is a slow and sad story, a story of hopelessness and apathy, yet somehow one that draws you in. 

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Malice Aforethought

Finished March 16
Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles


This book was first published nearly a century ago and the plot and characters are definitely of that time. It is set in a small country town in England where Edmund Bickleigh is a doctor. Edmund was a bit of a player with the ladies before finding himself maneuvered into a marriage. His wife is domineering, and, once married, uninterested in the physical side of the marriage. Edmund continues to philander with the local ladies, yet never harbouring any thoughts of ending his marriage until a young and not-very-social heiress moves to their area. He suddenly begins to consider using his medical knowledge and access to drugs to end his wife's life, freeing him to move on to his new relationship. 
He tries to take his time, and plan things out carefully, but there are things out of his control, and he makes a careless mistake, opening himself up to suspicion and an arrest. 
This novel takes us through his actions, including the court scene, and the ending is one that is extremely ironic. 
None of the characters are particularly sympathetic, so for me, this was more about the plot than the characters. We don't see any point of view except that of Bickleigh, and the other characters lack depth.

Your Truth or Mine?

Finished August 14 
Your Truth or Mine? by Trisha Sakhlecha


This book is set mostly in England, near London, but the main action in India. Roy Kapoor is there filming a travel documentary and his wife Mia is arriving imminently to host his sister-in-law's wedding. The book begins with a brief scene in London at Roy and Mia's house, where police arrive to question Roy about the disappearance of a young woman Emily, who he has worked with. It quickly jumps back in time three months to Jaisalmer, India where the wedding of Mia's sister Addi and her soon-to-be-husband James. Mia's father died when she was a child, and the family moved back to India from London, renting out their home in London. Roy and Mia have been married for a few years, but they've been on rockier ground lately as Mia wants to start a family, but Roy wants to invest more time and money in his career. Mia has planned Addi's wedding in the traditional Indian style, making it the wedding that Mia herself didn't have as Roy's family didn't approve of her. 
Through the wedding and its aftermath, the story of Roy and Mia is gradually revealed. Also revealed is the story of Roy's relationship with Emily. Are they more than coworkers? Were they having an affair? Mia is an ambitious young woman in the fashion industry, taking risks and trying to move up in her company. She travels a lot for business, sourcing material and meeting with both vendors and buyers. Roy also travels a lot, but he is still freelancing and trying to create his own shows rather than working for others. 
As their history is revealed, so are the fault lines in their relationship and each of their weaknesses. I was definitely more sympathetic towards Mia, even though she made some bad choices. Roy seemed to me like he never really grew up and took responsibility for his life. He just did what he wanted when he wanted and expected others to support him either before or after the fact. This is a story of families, of lies, and of how the truth will eventually be revealed.