Tuesday 31 August 2021

A Smile

Finished August 31
A Smile attributed to Raoul Follereau, illustrated by Hoda Hadadi

This picture book takes French author and humanitarian Raoul Follereau poem and brings it to life with Iranian artist Hoda Hadadi's illustrations. This poem was written more than a century ago and has been translated into many languages since. 
The illustrations follow a family as they awake in the morning, set off on a walk, visit a bakery, inspire people both well-off and in need, take treats to school, listen to music, and enjoy life with others in their community. 
With a wide variety of smiles, exuberant and quiet, and fun details to seek out in the illustrations, this book will have readers smiling as well, eager to share the story with others.
I loved the bright and colourful illustrations with elements of collage and paint, and the endpapers with the smiling plants. Each page has animals, signs, or other small details to delight the observant reader. 
A short description of Follereau's humanitarian work in included at the end of the book. 


Finished August 31
Reset by Sarina Dahlan

This dystopian novel imagines a world after a major war that has killed off most of the human population. A man who was in space when it happened and had already dabbled in planned communities decided to find the survivors and bring them together in a utopian community of four linked cities in the Mojave Desert. To prevent future building of alliances and resentments, he devised a system to reset everybody's memories every four years. Children are created in medical labs and raised to adulthood, gaining education and having their skills assessed. This technical learning, whether it is scientific, literature, or arts-related stays with them through any resets, but long-term relationships don't exist and neither do any prejudices developed during that four years. 
At each reset, people are assigned names, jobs and housing, provided with food, entertainment credits and an AI to assist them. Everyone is vegetarian. Life is generally good, with no one homeless or hungry. Some resources are limited, such as water, but these are distributed equitably. They all revere the man who created this community, known as the Planner but have been told very little about the Last War to prevent such feelings arising again. 
But some people have dreams of their past, remembering things that brought them strong emotions, mostly around love, and they desire to remember more, to connect with the people that they loved so strongly, and resist the "Tabula Rasa" reset. Thus there grows a resistance of sorts, secretly brewing a potion that brings these dreams to the surface, reviving such memories. 
The inspiration for this utopia is the John Lennon song Imagine, and it is an anthem of sorts for people. 
This story follows a few characters. Aris is a scientist, a woman who only engages in short term relationships, and embraces the ideas of the community. One of her short term lovers, Benja, has dreams of a man he loved before, and wants to remember more and regain that love. He is an artist and seeks out the group known as Dreamers that try to bring their dreams back into memories. This obsession will take him into dangerous territory and draw in the leader of the Dreamer group Metis, who is also searching for his past lover. 
This is an interesting story about the issues with an ideal world, the problem of control versus individuality, and the nature of love. 

The Only Girl in the World

Finished August 30
The Only Girl in the World: a memoir by Maude Julien with Ursula Gauthier, translated by Adriana Hunter

This memoir is a dark tale of a girl raised by a autocratic father that thought he was superior and who chose his future wife when she was herself a young girl, raising her to be able to educate a child to the purpose he envisioned, being a future world leader able to survive difficult situations. He had been active in the Resistance in World War II, and was a member of a secretive Freemason group. 
His war experience led him to ensure his daughter was able to do several things: sit for hours without moving; not let her feelings show through any facial expressions; navigate in the dark under time constraints; and have the skills to make it through concentration camps.
For the first, he began by having her sit still in his presence, but soon had her sit on a stool in the dark cellar, where there were rats, with bells on her clothing so he could tell if she moved. He trained her to keep her emotions, including preferences to herself, letting nothing show on her face, and making choices quickly to not give away weakness. He structured her entire day with tasks and lessons, having her work with laborers he hired to build things, look after the few animals on their property, assist in butchering animals for meat, and attend his every need. Her food intake was controlled, and often her bread was left to go deliberately stale before she was allowed to eat it. She had no medical or dental care, but had strange scars on her body that she still doesn't know the origin of. 
He had seen that musicians were often kept from death in the concentration camps and so had her learn multiple musical instruments including piano, accordion, violin, and drums. This became one of her comforts in life. She also took comfort in the animals on the property, trying to take time to show them love when she could. 
Her mother, under her father's power from a young age, participated in the control enacted on her, exacting punishments and showing resentment on her as well. But from time to time, her mother also spoke against her father, with Maude afraid to agree lest it be used against her later. 
It was through the influence of a music instructor that Maude was eventually able to leave her father's home, and begin to make a life for herself, but it took years for her to find appropriate therapy and begin to deal with the issues created by her strange upbringing.
Her father seems to be both selfish and delusional, but ultimately a weak man. But he made her life full of constant fear and I am glad that she was able to escape and now life a good life. 

Monday 30 August 2021


Finished August 29
Quakeland: On the Road to America's Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles

This science novel by journalist Miles looks at the nature of earthquakes, mainly in the United States, both those naturally occurring and those that happened as a result of human actions. Many people think of earthquakes as something that happens in specific parts of the country like California, Hawaii, and Alaska, but as Miles travels around the country, she goes to many locations that have experienced major earthquakes in the past and/or lie of fault lines and that pose real risks of catastrophic earthquakes in the near future. 
She looks at the relatively short history of our understanding of earthquakes and how we have learned what we do know. She talks to many scientists from across the country, sometimes going on expeditions with them and accompanying them on research trips, lectures, and other explorations. While her main focus is on the risk of earthquakes in different parts of the United States, her discussions include earthquakes that have happened in other parts of the world, both in the distant and near past. I really enjoyed how she explored the subject from so many different angles. She looks at the study of core samples from fault lines, using tree rings to date earthquakes from the past, how actions such as mining, fracking, reservoirs, and other human activities have caused earthquakes in different areas and how we discovered and are still studying this connection. 
As a journalist she shows her discoveries through the science she is explaining in easily understandable terms, and doesn't impose judgement. She talks about the difficulties of mitigating risk due to much of the existing infrastructure not built to withstand the complex forces that earthquakes can have, and how they are one of the few natural disasters that it is difficult to predict in advance. 
She shows the scientists she talks to as people, with their own quirks and personalities, and makes her explorations come alive through her personal experiences. I learned so much from this book, and found the research that is going on in this area of science fascinating. 

The Other Alcott

Finished August 28
The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

This is a tale based on May Alcott, Louisa May Alcott's youngest sister. May lived in the shadow of Louisa, and in the shadow of the character Amy from little women. The book begins just as Little Women is published and Louisa is receiving the first reviews. May did the illustrations for the book (which are included at the back of this book), and some of the reviews spoke negatively about the illustrations. Louisa tried to protect May from these, but May did take them personally. Louisa was supporting the entire family with her writing, including many years of art instruction and living expenses for May. Hooper has done a great deal of research for this novel and the main elements from May's life are here. In the afterward, she explains what characters and events she changed, but they are pretty minor. The two sisters were close, but both ambitious and passionate about their art, which made them both sometimes resentful of the time they had to take care of the family that they both loved dearly. May lived in a time where women artists struggled to get access to art instruction, let alone make a living at it, and it was only through the support of other female artists, particularly American ones, and a chance encounter with John Ruskin, that she finally took the risk to sell some of her work and begin to support herself. While Louisa was almost completely focused on her writing, May also longed for a marriage with a spouse who would support her artistic ambitions. We see her engaged in romances, but she had trouble finding someone who lived up to her dreams in this way. May studied not only in nearby Boston, but also in Rome, London, and Paris, and her work was accepted twice into the famous Paris Salon exhibition. She was in her late 30s when she finally met the love of her love, a Swiss man named Ernest Nieriker, who was much younger than she was. They married quickly and moved to Paris. She was just beginning to fulfill her dreams both professionally and personally when tragedy struck. 
I grew up reading and enjoying Louisa May Alcott's writing, and really enjoyed getting to see a bit of her personal life and that of one of her sisters. I wasn't aware of May's being an artist, and that she had known many of the other female artists of the period, including the more famous Mary Cassatt. The details of the education that was offered in art, and the struggles to succeed that women had more than men of the time was very interesting. I particularly found it interesting that one of her main sources of income through her art was doing work in the style of Turner, both copies of his pieces and ones of her own using a similar style, focused on the light and colour that he used. This article gives more information on her as an artist including some images.  As I read, I was hoping that May would take the risks and get recognized for her talent, and that she would meet a man worthy of her. This book really captured me, and gave me insight into the real people portrayed here.

Saturday 28 August 2021

By the Light of the Crescent Moon

Finished August 26
By the Light of the Crescent Moon by Ailsa Keppie

This memoir is one that is sometimes uncomfortable to read as Ailsa gives up her autonomy and even her identity to the man she falls in love with. Her story is an extreme version of one many women have, where they try to become what someone else expects them to be, and lose themselves in the process. The author didn't feel loved growing up, and her need for love was thus easily exploited by a handsome man who focused on her, telling her how lucky she was to be chosen by him. She gives us some idea of her life before meeting him, showing that she had explored her sexuality to some extent, but hadn't had a real relationship before Said. Ailsa was a successful circus performer, skilled in her trade, and with other entertainment related skills as well. 
Once they started living together, she made the decision to become Muslim, and this decision process isn't explained here, but her main story begins after she has converted and started to dress in more conservative Muslim clothing, and stop contact with most of her previous friends. Seeing how she became isolated and found new friends and acquaintances in the same situation as herself and grew ever more conservative in her dress and activities really exemplified her desire to please her now husband. 
Her visit to her family in Nova Scotia shortly after becoming married described her husband's charm and the persona he presented publicly, different from the one he sometimes showed her. Said comes across as a selfish and self-centered man, focused on his own needs and pleasures. He changes Ailsa's name to a Moroccan one that is similar and she complies, he celebrates her moves to more intense religious behaviours as rewards for himself, he refuses to help her with looking after the house or with the children they have as he wants her not to become dependent in case he must go away to work, but he doesn't provide for her financially or emotionally. He is a taker, not a partner. 
Ailsa knows there is something wrong with their relationship even as she submits to him more and more, and it is only when he suggests a way for her to get out of her situation (although no help in doing it) that she breaks free.
This is a story of a dysfunctional relationship by a woman whose lack of self esteem allowed her to fall further and further away from her true self. There are glimmers from time to time as she makes a connection or takes an action, but it is a long time before she can connect with her own wants and needs again. 
At times this book was difficult to read as Ailsa abased herself, but it was satisfying to see her finally recognize that this relationship was not one of love at all and find a way out for herself. I hope she finds strength in her self as she moves into the future without becoming dependent again.

Crossing the City

Finished August 24
Crossing the City by Michel Tremblay, translated by Sheila Fischman

I read the first book in this series Crossing the Continent a few years ago. This picks up shortly after that book left off, and Nana has been in Montreal for a few months now. Part of the reason that she is there is to look after her infant brother Theo, something she resented at first, but she has now grown fond of him. As the first World War has begun, Nana is worried about the safety of her family in Montreal and comes up with a plan to keep them safe.
We also see the story of her mother Maria, as she makes the decision to leave Providence, Rhode Island, where she has been living for years. She has a brother in the RCMP who lives in Montreal, and sisters there as well. She has been seeing an older man after the supposed death of her husband, who did not return from a sea voyage, and who she suspects has a second family elsewhere. Finding herself pregnant and faced with a dilemma, she decides it is time to return to Canada with and ask her brother for assistance. 
We see her reception in Montreal and the family interaction as she reunites with her siblings. 
With Nana, as we see her go off to set her plan in motion, we see the decisions that she makes and how she deals with unexpected obstacles. For some, she takes actions herself, and for others, she is given advice by kind strangers. Nana grows here, in experience and knowledge, and has good instincts. She observes the workplaces of her mother and aunt and sees how they are different than what she envisioned. 
I liked seeing both these characters dealing with difficult decisions and circumstances and making a choice that feels right for them. 


Finished August 23
June by Gerbrand Bakker, translated by David Colmer

I had previously read Bakker's novel The Twin and really enjoyed it. This novel is set in two time periods, both on the same day in June. On Tuesday, June 17th in 1969, Queen Juliana stops in a town for lunch. She is on a tour of this part of the Netherlands, and has already visited other towns in the morning. She is accompanied by an artist who has been commissioned to make a sculpture of her, a woman who is also a sister of the Order of the Sisters of Charity. Also accompanying her is a woman who is a representative of the government and who briefs her on the places she is visiting, the people she is scheduled to see, and other pertinent information. The Queen would prefer the young secretary travelling in another car to be her companion and thinks about how to make that change. As she meets local dignitaries and steps outside the planned itinerary a couple of times, she notices things: the people that she sees along the roads she travels, the names of farms she passes, the manner and gestures of people, shops and vehicles, landscape and more. She is polite, but also a bit of a rebel.
Several of the people she notices or interacts with are also prominent in the June decades later. It begins with a woman lying in the straw in the loft of a barn. She is thinking about the past, both the long ago past and a more recent one, her fiftieth wedding anniversary. She thinks about how different the anniversary would have been if she'd had a daughter there instead of just three sons, how more pleasant it would have gone. Her three sons are gradually revealed to the reader, Klaas, married with a daughter of his own, Dieke, who plays a large role here; Jan, who lives in Texel and has not married, and who has a task he has taken on this day in the cemetery nearby; and Johan, who has been changed due to an accident he had several years ago and lives in a group home. As we gradually learn about the woman in the hay, why she has retreated there from her family, and learn about this habit of hers when she is upset and needs to think, we also learn about the event in 1969 that changed the family forever. 
The three sons have issues of their own and these are also revealed through both their own thoughts and actions and through her memories. We see the issues in their lives and how they react to them. Dieke has her own questions about what is happening on this day. Why is her grandmother in the loft and behaving in the way she is? What is her uncle Jan doing and why? We see her interactions with her parents and her own secrets. 
There are also two other characters featured outside the family. One is the town baker, a lonely man haunted by the past, and a woman recently returned to the town who has resentments, memories, and impulses of her own. 
There are so many subtleties here, and underlying stories. Even the animals have significance, the ones on the farm, the birds in the cemetery, the various dogs who appear. Also plants from trees to potted cactuses, have a meaning and play a role in what happens.
Looking through the book again after reading, I noticed more things, and saw deeper connections between the events that occur. On the surface, little happens in the book, and yet there is so much that is revealed on these days separated by time but linked in several ways. 

Friday 27 August 2021

Guest Post by Ailsa Keppie, Author of By the Light of the Crescent Moon

 Today we have a guest post by a Canadian author whose book just launched. 


Why I wrote By the Light of the Crescent Moon – Ailsa Keppie

I remember starting to write about my life about 25 years ago. I had just finished
working as a trapeze artist in the circus and had converted to Islam. I had become an
unemployed, married, pregnant, Muslim woman in a matter of only a few months.
The change had been such a shock that even my friends had reeled back when I came
out. Many of them turned away, not knowing how to be in relationship with someone
who seemed so radically different than the person they’d known up until that point. 

I had always known, even when I was still in high school, that I wanted to ‘live life’ and experience more so that I could express my fullest potential to touch people’s hearts and souls. Back then, I did everything with one foot on the gas and one on the brake pedal. I could never fully find my flow. I had searched many paths and I finally thought I had found something that spoke to the completeness of being human—Islam. However, although this path taught me much, I found out years later, that it was still not my destination in life. 

Throughout these years I wrote off and on, mostly in my diary. I wrote about my passions and my struggles, my children and my work. But it wasn’t until I had finally broken free from my marriage and left the religious practices of Islam that I finally found my voice. I was back in Canada, having re-trained as a massage therapist, raising my four girls. Life seemed full and yet I found solace in my morning practice of writing a page a day of my memoir. I would sit with my iPad and punch in the words, finally allowing myself to feel all those moments that I had lived through. I cried over every page. 

There were times I could feel myself detaching from the emotion. My words on the page would become robotic…. ‘this happened and then that…’ kind of thing. I would get up in a daze and wonder why I felt so foggy. Little did I know that I was doing my own therapy with every push of the keys. I would sit down again with the words the next day, asking myself ‘if I was writing about someone else, what would they be feeling now?’ And then I would be off again in a flurry of emotion. 

After finally writing the last page, I remember wondering ‘so what do I do now?’, where does this go from here? A friend suggested a local writing coach and I met with her. She was super supportive and spent six months reading my manuscript. Then the difficult task of chopping and changing my words and listening to her suggestions. Finally, it was ready for an actual editor! 

The excitement of sitting with a real editor and having her tell me my story was great, was such a beautiful validation of my work on it.  We again re-worked the whole manuscript and began the process of publishing my book with OC publishing. This book is the culmination of decades of living and years of writing. It feels like a moment to cherish. I also realized through writing this book that my mission to help others find their own empowerment has finally taken front and centre in my life. This book is my story and what I hope will be inspiration for others who have ever felt trapped in their lives. Freedom comes from letting go and grieving the past while also looking forward and finding hope. 

Ailsa Keppie



Friday 20 August 2021

Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone

Finished August 18
Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone by Phaedra Patrick

This novel is set in the small Yorkshire town of Noon Sun. Benedict Stone is a jeweller, with his own shop that used to be his parents. When he was a young man, and his brother a child, their parents died while on a trip. Benedict took care of his brother Charlie, becoming the responsible one in the family, but something happened that caused a rift between the brothers and they haven't spoken in nearly two decades. Charlie moved to the United States, and Benedict met a woman, Estelle, and married. But now Estelle has moved into a friend's condo while the friend is away and Benedict is scared that she might not return. Benedict is in a rut in his life, caught up in a need he has created and without a passion for his work. 
When his sixteen-year-old niece Gemma arrives on his doorstep and enters his life, she causes a series of changes, in his home, his work, and his attitude. Reopening artifacts from his parents connects the two generations of the family and as Gemma learns the meaning of various gemstones, and shares them with Benedict, his friends, and his customers, it reignites his creativity. Gemma also plots various plans to bring Estelle back to him, which he finds himself following. Her presence also creates the need for Benedict to reach out to his brother, causing them both to face the past and reveal the secrets they share. 
A book that will inspire optimism. I also enjoyed learning about the meaning of various gemstones. 

The Wild Heavens

Finished August 13
The Wild Heavens by Sarah Louise Butler

This first novel, by a B.C. author is a winner. The main line of the story takes place over a 24-hour period, but the narrative also reaches into the past, all the way back to childhood. Sandy (Cassandra) Langley never knew her father, and when her mother died when she was young, her grandfather, Aidan Fitzpatrick, took her in. Aidan had a defining moment when he was a young man, one that resulted in him leaving his faith, and turning towards a life based in science and nature. He bought the land near where he'd had this experience and spent a lot of time in his cabin there in the interior of B.C. He carved a life-size statue of the creature he encountered and called it Charlie, a name that would become a codename for the creature among the small group of people who he shared the knowledge with. He became a large animal veterinarian, and both worked as a vet and taught. When he adds his granddaughter to his household, it is shortly after giving shelter to a victim of domestic abuse, Eva, and her son, Luke. Luke is around the same age as Sandy and the two soon became companions and studied together, first homeschooled and later taking the long trip into town for school. 
In the present day narrative, Sandy's children have left home and she lives alone in the cabin. The sound of a whiskey-jack wakes her in the night and she follows a trail up the nearby mountain and along the ridge, through the snow and mulling over the changing nature of the trail that she follows and various incidents from her past.
This story was mesmerizing, emotional with a touch of the otherworldly, with a deep basis in nature and the awe that experiencing it brings us. It is a story of yearning, of love, of relationships. A story of loss and of hope. As we gradually learn Sandy and Aidan's stories, and see their lives unfold, we care about what happens to them and wonder along with them about Charlie and his fate. 
A beautiful book.

Tuesday 17 August 2021

Crazy Salad

Finished August 10
Crazy Salad by Nora Ephron

This collection of articles dates from 1972 to 1974 and was published in 1975. The articles all have a focus on women or issues relating to women. Some are related to social events of the times, some to politics (there are quite a few around Nixon and Watergate) and some to specific female figures. I really enjoyed the essays, and found many of them were still very relatable nearly fifty years later, which is definitely sad to contemplate. Ephron is a very good writer, and she lets her personality and some of her personal bias come through here, which makes the essays feel more intimate and relatable. Having recently read Dorothy Parker, I particularly liked the essay on her, and I also really enjoyed the two Crazy Ladies ones which speaks to expectations on women and women who defy those expectations. A few of these are reviews and Ephron does not mince words when she doesn't think a book lives up to its buzz. 
Altogether a great collection and one I found both enlightening and engaging.

Sunday 8 August 2021

In the Kingdom of Men

Finished August 5
In the Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes

This novel is set in the late 1960s, with some backstory for the main character before that. Gin (Virginia) Mitchell has had a life filled with loss. Much of this is summarized in the first few pages. Her grandfather was a Methodist preacher and her grandmother submissive but secretly rebelling, saving enough to escape back to her family. Her father died in the Korean War, and her mother soon after from cancer, and then her grandmother died. At the age of seven, Gin was taken in by her grandfather, a staunch Methodist preacher and hardscrabble farmer who denounced all that was worldly, prayed often and vociferously, but didn't judge anyone by their race. She took solace in books and sports, trying to hide both from her grandfather and not always succeeding. When one of the most popular boys in the area, Mason McPhee, took at interest in her, she jumped at the chance to escape, and they were soon married.
After another tragic loss, he accepted a job from Aramco, to work as a drilling foreman in Saudi Arabia, and the two found their world utterly changes. 
Given a company house to live in, with luxuries beyond what they'd had before, they are also limited in what they can do. Gin can only leave the compound with her husband's permission, and is expected to behave in ways that don't appeal to her. She makes a couple of friends of women who also rebel against the expected order of things, and tries to make friends with those in more servile positions. Mason is smart and was on a college scholarship before marriage intervened, and he doesn't buy in to the racial inequities prevalent in the company's way of doing things. His actions are dangerous to those in charge and while he and Gin and determined to see it through, others are working against them.
I loved Gin, and her adventurous, curious nature. She tries to see the world through the eyes of others, whether it is Bedouin men and women, her Indian houseboy, or her Israeli friend. She takes to the camera, finding opportunities to see the world in yet another way. She listens, she reads, she tries different food, she  judges people by their actions, not their backgrounds or skin colour. She is a survivor. 
Taking us to the Middle East, when the oil industry there was in its early stages, the author opens a window to a past world that lets us see a world that has echoes in today's. A fascinating read.

Wednesday 4 August 2021

New Boy

Finished August 4
New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

This novel is part of a series of books of books from Hogarth Press to retell works by Shakespeare for a modern audience. Hogarth chose well-known authors to select a play of their choosing and retell it. Chevalier chose the play Othello for the project. 
Her setting is a public school in the suburbs of Washington, D.C in the 1970s. Osei, the son of a Ghanaian diplomat and his wife is at his fourth school in six years. It is a month before the end of term, and he is the only black boy at the school. He is in the last year before middle school, grade six. 
There are two teachers for that grade, a younger woman, Miss Lode, and an older man, Mr. Brabant. Their attitudes around race play a part in the story as well.
Because I knew this was an Othello retelling, I knew the direction the story was going to go, and I was sick at the way one boy, Ian, was setting Osei up to make judgements that weren't based in reality. Plus knowing how kids are at that age makes the story work too. 
This story is very well done, with the groups that end up being created at school, the racial issues of the time, and the way young love works at that age with its uncertainty and newness. I went to school during this time as well, although in Canada, and can definitely relate to the way this played out. I hung about at recess the same way these kids do, jumping rope, playing casual team games, and sitting around in groups. I was often the "new girl" although not in the same way Osei was, with the differences and expectations he faced. However I was aware of this kind of thing happening with other children, and knew this prejudice existed. A gut-wrenching tale of manipulation and prejudice well told. This was a book I had planning to do with my book club last year, and am disappointed now that we didn't get to it. I think it has a lot of potential for discussion. 

Tuesday 3 August 2021

A Betting Woman

Finished August 3
A Betting Woman: A Novel of Madame Mustache by Jenni L. Walsh

This book was inspired by a real life woman who showed up in California during the Gold Rush and made a name for herself as a French-speaking female croupier, one of the first croupiers of either sex. The author had heard about her first via a nickname, Madame Moustache, and did research on the woman. Born Simone Jules, perhaps of France, perhaps of New Orleans, and later taking the name Eleanor Dumont, this woman traveled all over the west, including briefly into Canada, and made a name and a living for herself. At times she was flush and had her own establishment, at others she was near destitute. 
Walsh took the bare and sparse facts she found and built on them to create the fully-developed character depicted here, a woman who valued her independence, who knew her own worth, and who kept her private life private. The reader gets a sense of life in the west during those times, the lawlessness that prevailed in many, particularly smaller places, and the variety of dangers the people faced from angry men with weapons to diseases. Madame Dumont, as she was known for much of her career, faced all of these, and made her decisions in how to face each with thought and calculations. Walsh has made her origin New Orleans, and brings in other issues of the times from racism and the U.S. Civil War to the treatment of women and their lack of rights. 
A lively and adventurous tale.

Cuckoo's Flight

Finished August 1
Cuckoo's Flight by Wendy Orr

This story follows on Swallow's Dance, picking up with the granddaughter of Leira from that story, Clio, who is now at a similar age that Leira was at in the earlier story. Set in the Bronze Age on the island of Crete, Clio's mother and grandmother are potter's. Their communities, and others on the island are threatened by raiders who come to kill and ransack. Clio's father Hector is a sailor and a horseman, and she has shared his love of horses. But recently she had a bad fall and now one of her legs is permanently injured and she can no longer ride her horse Gray Girl. Hector has thought about this and has been building a version of a chariot where Clio can sit and be pulled by her horse, nearly as good as riding her. 
With the threat of raiders more imminent, the decision has been made to send the ships out to trade at the very beginning of the trading season in the hope to gain better goods in return and be back earlier in case of an attack. Clio and Hector have depended on Petros, a goatherd and his family to help look after the horses, which are located near the town but outside its walls. 
Unbeknownst to them, Mika, a young girl from the fisher community has been watching them, aching to do what Clio can with the horses, while her brother Dymos harbours resentment at the townspeople who live better lives than he does. 
As we follow the plot through Dymos actions on his feelings, Mika making herself known to Clio, and the threats on the town, we see both girls grow into their strengths and make themselves vital to the defence of their community. 
There is much here on family and the community working together, whether building defences or fighting the raiders, and an outcome that will change many lives into the future. But the core story is one of the two girls are their passions and worries as they face their destiny. Clio must trust her instincts and do what she can do help her friends, old and new. Mika must dare to break away from her family to go where her heart and duty leads her.
I loved both girls as well as many of the other female characters here from Clio's mother Selena and grandmother Leira to the representative of the goddess, The Lady, and Clio's friend Delia. This book brings history alive and shows how the girl learn new skills and come to believe in their futures with more hope and self-determination.

Hannah's War

Finished July 30
Hannah's War by Jan Eliasberg

This historical novel is set near the end of World War II in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the title character, Hannah Weiss is one of the team working on the atomic bomb. Hannah was born in Austria and was working at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Germany before the war. Over the course of the novel we see her backstory. As a Jew, she was relegated to a lab in the basement with little support. But she had a curious mind that did well with her tasks. As the likelihood of war drew near, and the threats to those close to her grew larger, she also grew worried about what any work of hers would be used for. 
In the time in Los Alamos, the other narrator is an American agent, searching for a spy in the small community. Messages have been intercepted that have drawn attention and concern that someone may be sharing data with scientists in Germany. The search quickly narrows in on Hannah, but the agent is drawn to her in a more personal way as well that may affect how he does his investigation. 
This was another interesting story about a smart woman, and this one inspired by a real woman who was key to the development of the bomb, a scientist names Lise Meitner. 
Although inspired by her, the story is largely fictional and I found the character of Hannah a fascinating one. It was also interesting to see the dynamic between the agent and this smart, yet vulnerable woman. The gradually revealed backstory to Hannah and her activities both before the war and now was well done and made sense to me. 
A good read.

Meet Me in Paradise

Finished July 27
Meet Me in Paradise by Libby Hubscher

This is a story two sisters, sisters who were raised by a loving single mom who was also a journalist. Their mom died while on a story assignment when the oldest, Marin was in high school. Ever since then, Marin has played it safe and made their home a welcoming place for her sister Sadie to return to as she followed in her mom's footsteps by becoming a photojournalist. Marin had intended to become a journalist herself, and had applied to Columbia, but in the end she went to a local university and now works for an advertising company writing for their campaigns. 
As the book opens, Sadie is just returning back from another trip, and she convinces Marin to take a sisters trip with her to a tropical island resort in Saba. This is a big step for Marin as she hasn't left her home state of Tennessee in years. Things go wrong from the getgo when Sadie doesn't make the flight, urging Marin to continue and saying she'll take the next flight. As Marin adjusts to the situation, she faces weather issues, as well as her developed fear of dangerous situations.
But a helpful stranger, new friends, a beautiful place, and the challenge of the dares that arise. Sadie also has her taking pictures of her adventures to prove she is trying new things. 
As we gradually learn what has brought each of the two women to where they are in their lives, the supporting characters, from the helpful stranger to local Saba people get filled out as well. 
This is a story with both hope and sadness, with love and loss, with humour and tearful moments. 
I enjoyed the read, the characters, and the way the plot developed, including the use of letters. I also learned a lot, through Marin's adventures, about an island I'd only heard of before.

Monday 2 August 2021

August Reviews for 15th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

 Add your links to Reviews of books that you read in August that meet this challenge.

Add a comment below as well if you'd like to say something more about the book, your progress, or anything else related to the challenge. Enjoy!