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.