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. 

Monday 15 March 2021

Gravity Is the Thing

Finished August 14 
Gravity Is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty

This book, set mostly in Australia, with a short section set in Montreal, is the story of thirty-six-year-old single mom Abigail Sorensen. The book opens just before her thirty-sixth birthday, where she is on a small island off Tasmania in response to an invitation she received for a big reveal. Starting twenty years ago, when she was sixteen, she began getting random chapters to something called The Guidebook in the mail. She has faithfully sent in address changes and responded most of the time to an annual reflection prompt and is interested to find out what is behind the mailings. However, another part of her associates these mailings with her missing brother, as that also happened when she turned sixteen, just after her first mailed chapter. Despite have a good police liaison and following up every lead, they still don't know what happened to her brother, so part of her hopes for that truth as well. 
She finds a group of people near her age, all of whom had kept getting the chapters from The Guidebook, just as she had. The getaway is run by a man named Wilbur, who is the son of the couple who sent out the chapters. After a couple days spent doing a variety of activities,  a select group of those attending are let in on the secret behind the chapters, and the reaction is underwhelming. Some are disappointed, some upset.
After she goes back home, Abigail is invited again to continue with follow-up sessions and something in the universe seems to be telling her to attend. 
There is a lot going on here. We gradually learn Abigail's story, about what happened when her brother Robert disappeared and how her family dealt with the situation. We know that her mom has a new partner Xuang, who Abigail likes, and we learn about her ex-husband Finnegan. Abigail's son Oscar, four years old as the book begins is a large presence in the book too. Abigail trained as a lawyer, but now she runs her own cafe, one called the Happiness Cafe, in north Sydney. 
We see a selection of the chapters that she received, and they are pretty off the wall, and quite short. As I said, they arrive in a completely random order, and she didn't read all of them, or follow all the instructions that they gave her, although she did some, and they did have an effect on her life as she thinks back. 
As we see her relate to the various people in her life: employees, friends, family, and the new people she meets at Wilbur's sessions, we begin to learn about Abigail. I liked her. I think she'd be fun to know. We see her worries and her daily life. We see some of her thoughts as she goes through her days. This is a book about a woman's life, as she considers it and makes the decisions that will determine where it goes next. I really enjoyed this book. It is hard to classify. There are elements of romance in it at times, but mostly not. There is the mystery of her brother's disappearance, which continues throughout, but is just one of the plot lines. It is really just about life.


Finished March 9
Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

I have enjoyed Alice Hoffman's books and until I came across this one, didn't realize that she had written books for children as well. This story takes place in the small town of Sidwell in the Berkshire mountains. Twig's mom grew up in the town and when Twig was young, they would visit their grandparents there. But after they died, Twig and her mom moved back to town. Her brother, James, also moved back with them, but their father did not. Twig was quite young when this happened and she doesn't really remember her father. James doesn't leave the house very much because he has a secret, and it is one not easily hidden. 
Sidwell is a town that has a legend of a monster, and recently there has been graffiti appearing to be written by the monster warning of consequences should his home be destroyed. The home in question is the forested area of town, just behind Twig's house and quite extensive. It is owned by a family that doesn't visit often, and there have been rumours that they might be planning to sell it to developers. Next door to Twig's house is a dilapidated cottage, that has been empty for decades. Now the family that owns it has suddenly moved back and they have two daughters, one, Julia, the same age as Twig. But Twig's mother warns her against the house and its occupants as it was the home of witches, and once, long ago, a young woman from that family cursed the men in Twig's family. 
As the town ramps up the focus on fabled monsters, Twig fears for her brother James, and his future. She wants him to be happy, but can he still be himself?
I loved this book about this small town, the fear of what we don't know or understand, and the power of love. Twig is a researcher and she looks for information, doesn't just accept what she's told. She has supportive adults in her life, and learns how to be a friend. 

The Story Sisters

Finished March 8
The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

This novel tells the story of three sisters, Elv, Meg, and Claire from their childhood into their twenties. The story begins shortly after a defining moment in two of the sisters' lives. Something happened to Elv as a result of her trying to prevent something happening to Claire. This incident was never shared with their third sister, or their parents, but it resulted in Elv creating a fantasy world that had its own language and stories. Elv told the fairy stories from that world to other children, who were enraptured by them, but as the stories became increasing dark, others were scared by the stories and her following began to fade away. Elv too became a darker child, rebellious, entering a world of drugs, sex, and chaos. Their parents separated when the girls were quite young, and their mother Annie was for a time bound by her own loss as a result of their father leaving. 
One constant in the girls' lives was their grandmother, who had homes in both New York City and Paris, and the girls regularly went to Paris once a year, where they had their favourite shops and eateries. They also were close to one of their grandmother's friends, Madame Cohen, a woman who had survived World War II as a young Jewish girl and who had her own secrets. 
As the girls grew older, Meg grew studious and serious and became less involved with her older sister Elv, and there grew a resentment between the sisters, with Claire the bridge between them. But Claire too had her own guilt, over what Elv experienced as a result of saving her, and over what later happened to Meg. It takes intervention from her grandmother and Madame Cohen to save her from her demons and bring her to a more hopeful future. 
For Elv, a better future also required intervention, although it took a long time, and it was Annie and an older man who Annie called on for help that ultimately made the difference as Elv's truth came out and she faced it. 
This is a story of trauma and its long term effects, of sisters and the complex relationship that can develop, and of the power of story. 

Thursday 11 March 2021


Finished March 6
Foe by Iain Reid

This novel is full of suspense, and it just keeps building. The narrator here is Junior, a man who lives with his wife Hen in an old farmhouse in the country. As the book begins a visitor arrives unexpectedly late in the evening, and Junior is told that he has been chosen to go somewhere as part of an initial test for a colony of people to live away from the earth. Junior isn't really interested in this and wants to just live his life as he has been.
He works in the nearby feed mill, and, although most of the farmland around them is now farmed by corporations, he has a few chickens that he looks after, and gets satisfaction from.
The visit by this representative, Terrance, from a government-affiliated organization called OuterMore seems to unsettle both Junior and Hen. He doesn't stay long, only to tell them about the project, called The Installation, which is a temporary resettlement of people in space on a man-made planet that orbits the earth, and that there has been a lottery and Junior was chosen to be part of the project.  He doesn't have any say in the matter. 
This is where it started to get seriously creepy for me. Terrance talks about the microphones on the screens being always on, and how they don't exactly do active listening, but they pay attention to words of interest. In this case, it is any talk of space, travel, planets, etc. 
After the visit it takes a while for the couple to get back to normal to feel comfortable again, but they do and days and then weeks, and then months go by. Until two years later Terrance is back, and he is taking all kinds of measurements of Junior, fitting him with sensors and such. 
There is a growing feeling of menace of disbelief that this is happening, that Junior and Hen have such little control of their own lives. And Junior doesn't trust Terrance. He feels that there is information that is being hidden from him, that there is another agenda. There are times that Terrance talks to Hen by herself and Junior feels jealous and concerned. 
This novel moves slowly, but has a growing feeling of unease of low-level suspense that something is going to happen beyond what already has. There is a lack of background to the situation, to where exactly they are, to how they ended up there, to how Junior and Hen came together. This book gave me a feeling in the pit of my stomach of dread, of wariness. 
An amazing read, and so well done. Understated. 

Tuesday 9 March 2021

The Brothers York

Finished March 5 
The Brothers York: A Royal Tragedy by Thomas Penn

This history book covers the years 1461 to 1485 and looks at the British monarchy during this time, specifically the House of York. The book has a helpful family tree so that you can see where the royalty at this time fell within the larger royal lineage in Britain. 
As the book opens Henry VI is king, the last of the Plantagenets, but he is a weak king, addled in mind, and with only one child, a son that came later in life. 
Throughout this time, and beyond, questions are raised about whether the children in the official marriage of the king are actually his, and this is definitely one of the things that was raised with Henry VI. Henry's cousin Richard was not making a claim for the throne at first, but was attempting to rule in his stead due to his mental instability. It was Richard, who was Duke of York, whose three sons are the subject of this book. His oldest son became Edward IV, and his second son Edmund was killed when he was, before most of the action takes place. The third son, George, Duke of Clarence was never king although he had ambitions, and the last son became Richard III. 
All three of the brothers taking lead roles here, Edward, George, and Richard are strong-willed, ambitious men, but they had different ways of going about their public and private lives. 
This book is heavily researched, and goes into the details of their relationships with each other, with other European rulers of the time, and of the upper classes within England, who played decisive roles in the determination of who had control at any time. Coming late to a battle, or not showing up at all despite promises made, had impacts that were far-reaching.
It was also interesting to see how each handled the finances of both the nation and their personal household, and what their relationship was to Parliament. Although they didn't rule during this time, the women in the royal family also have decisive roles, whether it was bearing heirs or holding court while the king was absent. The women's reputation also impacted the reputation of the king for good and for bad. 
I enjoyed getting to know this part of history better than I had and seeing the ways that politics has changed so little over the centuries. 

Saturday 6 March 2021

Death of a Village

Finished February 28
Death of a Village by M.C. Beaton

This is part of the Hamish Macbeth series, set in the Highlands of Scotland. I have dipped into the series, reading them completely out of order. This is the 18th book in the series. 
There are quite a few plotlines happening in this one, making for a fast moving story. The village in question is a remote fishing village named Stoyre, in Hamish's beat. When he decides to go see it, as he hasn't in a while, he finds things very different. People are more quiet and seem very wary. There is a new preacher in town, and Hamish wonders whether he is a powerful speaker, as there seems to be a religious element to the situation. 
Another plotline is Hamish's love life, whether the local reporter Elspeth Grant is a possible love interest, or just an occasional partner in dealing with suspicious situations. 
There is also a local seniors home where one option for residents is to sign away their home for a place to be cared for. More than one local seems to have died shortly after moving in, and an older lady in his village elects to go in to see what is happening. She gets more than she bargained for, but finds an unexpected ally. 
As various other crimes are resolved by Hamish and he gets both media attention and accolades from his superiors, he worries about being promoted out of his comfortable life, and works to find a solution that will leave him where he is, but not jeopardize his job. 
As always, I enjoyed the various plots, and like how Hamish gets along with the various people in his village and isn't afraid to take on a challenging situation. 

Float Plan

Finished February 27 
Float Plan by Trish Doller

This is my second book about sailing this year! This one is fiction. The main character here is Anna, a mid-twenties woman who works as a waitress at a pirate-themed restaurant in Florida. Less than a year ago, her fiance died by suicide and she's been grieving. His parents kicked her out of their shared apartment, which she couldn't have afforded on her own anyway, and she moved back into her mom's house and shares a room with her sister and niece. 
On the morning this story begins, an alert lit up her phone, reminding her that this was the day they were due to leave on a planned sailing trip through the Caribbean. It triggers something in her and she decides to do it. She gathers her stuff, shops quickly for supplies, does a quick clean of the sailboat (which was left to her in his will) and leaves.
She doesn't give notice at her job, and she doesn't tell her mom until after she's gone. But that first day (and night) of sailing has her realizing that she isn't experienced enough or confident enough to do some of the parts of this trip on her own, so she advertises for an experienced crew member. 
The guy that applies, Keane, has his own issues, but he's an excellent sailor and not only does the job, but teaches her the skills that she will need to continue on her own as well. 
I liked how Anna used the trip and the things that she had planned to do along it with her fiance to work through her grief and think about what she wanted for herself. Most of the trip had been planned by him, with her just acquiescing to his choices, so this is enlightening for her to find that she enjoys some of his choices and not others. It teaches her to trust herself, to know her own value and capabilities and to really think about her future more instead of just working in a dead-end job. 
It also highlights the world of sailing, the friendliness and camaraderie that exists, how people give advice, and help each other. She finds new friends, some through Keane and some on her own. 
At the beginning of the book she thinks she can't live without her lost love and in the journey of this novel she finds that she can, that she doesn't need anyone else, but sometimes she definitely wants a partner to share things with. 
It is a romance, but there is depth here as well.   

Thursday 4 March 2021


Finished February 25
Dig by A.S. King

This book just blew me away. I had heard good things about it, so borrowed it from my local library and it exceeded my expectations. This story is told in three parts, each consisting of multiple chapters. Part One is Introductions where we get introduced to some of the main players in the plot. Part Two is Our Cast in a Blender. Part Three is Our Cast in a Strainer.
Part One is itself split into sections, and each section has a list of the cast in order of appearance. It is interesting that not all the cast are people, and not all the people have actual names. Some people are named for an attribute or behaviour, others for a relationship or role. Some of the cast are other creatures, some are inanimate objects, and some change names in different situations. 
Part Two starts to really mix the cast members up, having them encounter each other and situations in different ways. 
Part Three takes the cast through defining moments, facing up to difficult situations, decisions, and new knowledge.
The novel begins in April 2018, and then jumps back a few weeks and moves forward from there throughout the rest of the book. Each chapter takes us either to the viewpoint of a cast member, or to a description of a scene. Many of the main cast are teenagers struggling with a variety of typical issues as well as some less typical ones: trying to fit in or define their identity, rebelling against parents, making friends, working, dealing with illegal or illicit substances, exploring sexual feelings, bullying, school, race, and facing loss. Two of the main cast members are older adults, influenced by specific events that happened back when they themselves were teenagers that affected their life views. These two older adults, a couple, have hidden these things from each other, and they are estranged from most of their children, and don't know their grandchildren well, if at all. 
As we see these various cast members cross paths and interact with each other, we also see how they are connected in different ways, and how they are all moving towards the crucial date from the beginning of the novel, where things come to a climax. 
This is a coming of age story and a story of secrets, personas, and hope for a better future. Some of the teenagers have relatively good relationships with some of the adults in their lives, and others less so. There are judgements, and impressions, reactions and defence mechanisms. 
There is just so much to talk about in this book, that it would be a fantastic book club choice. 
I loved this book so much.

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Swallow's Dance

Finished February 24
Swallow's Dance by Wendy Orr

This middle grade book takes us back to the Bronze Age in the Aegean Sea. As the book begins, an earthquake shakes the small island that Leira and her clan live on. Leira is about to start her initiation as a priestess and her mother is next in line to become the head priestess, or Lady. But her mother is badly injured in the earthquake, and is left unspeaking, in a state of disorientation, unable to walk or reason. Leira's father is the owner of a ship that trades goods all around the sea and their family is one of the leading families. Many homes are damaged and the population retreats into the hills and countryside, taking over the homes of others and struggling to find a way forward. 
After a short while, Leira's father decides to take her, her mother, and a servant along on their next voyage, to the large island of Crete, where they will request help and healing from the leaders there, and stay with her older brother who is acting as a trader for them there.
But even Crete has been affected by the earthquake and there are things that don't seem right in the relationship with the leaders there. Despite misgivings, Leira's father feels he must leave them there and return after his trading voyage. But things quickly go from bad to worse when another earthquake hits, and Leira must grow up quickly, taking charge of her small family unit and finding a way to survive that still honours her clan and provides the small group of women with a livelihood. 
Leira is a kind girl, relating to people of all classes even from the beginning, and this empathy and willing to connect serves her well in her challenges. She has pride, but also recognizes what she must do to survive. She finds a way to be true to her Swallow Clan, honor her origins in the priestess class, and accept a new way of making a livelihood in her situation. She asks for help in a respectful way, both from the people she meets and the gods, and she finds unexpected answers. 
The more I read, the more this story and the character of Leira drew me in.