Wednesday 30 June 2021

Aubrey McKee

Finished June 23
Aubrey McKee by Alex Pugsley

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

Tuesday 29 June 2021

15th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

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

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

Link to the Challenge Page.

Friday 25 June 2021

Mostly Dead Things

Finished June 20
Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

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

The Lost Apothecary

Finished June 18
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

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

The Widening Stain

Finished June 16 
The Widening Stain by W. Bolingbroke Johnson

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

Monday 21 June 2021

The Little Teashop on Main

Finished June 15 
The Little Teashop on Main by Jodi Thomas

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

The Birthday Present

Finished June 14
The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine

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

Sunday 20 June 2021

The DutchWife

Finished June 13
The Dutch Wife by Eric McCormack

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

Wednesday 16 June 2021

If The Shoe Fits

Finished June 11
If The Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy

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

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Bitter Orange

Finished June 9
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

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

Friday 11 June 2021

Who Rescued Who

Finished June 8
Who Rescued Who by Victoria Schade

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

Very Nice

Finished June 6 
Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky

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

Heart of Palm

Finished June 5
Heart of Palm by Laura Lee Smith

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

Friday 4 June 2021

The News Where You Are

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

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

French Dirt

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

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

Little Snow Landscape

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

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

Thursday 3 June 2021

Taking the Reins

Finished May 24
Taking the Reins by Katrina Abbott

This teen novel is the first in a series set at a high end boarding school (Rosewood) in the United States. The central character is Brooklyn Prescott, who has returned to the country after living in England for the last two years. Her father is involved in government security and the name she goes by is not her real one, a precaution arranged for her safety. 
She is a bit nervous about some of the celebrity-related and wealthy girls she'll be going to school with, but also eager to make a fresh start. She feels that she has been less outgoing and popular than she would prefer. She finds that even though it is an all girls' school, there is plenty of interaction with the nearby all boys' school which caters to a similar demographic. 
The school does has some quirks though, like the requirement to participate in the school through doing regular work at the school. When she finds that she has been assigned laundry work, and that her shift conflicts with the dressage club that she's been pining to join, she must try to find a way to make it work. 
There is lots of socializing here, and we hear more about that than the studies, and we also begin to see the hierarchy that has developed at both schools and the way that the students interact even outside of sanctioned times. 
With romance, a bit of suspense, and lots of action, this book is a quick read. 

June Reviews for the 14th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

 Welcome to the spot to post your last month's reviews for this challenge. I'll be hosting the 15th annual challenge starting on July 1st. 

Please link to your review below.