Friday 29 October 2021

Parallel Lines

Finished October 29
Parallel Lines by Steven Savile

This suspense novel has a unique plot. Adam Shaw is dying of ALS, and his is worried about what will happen to his eleven-year-old son Jake when he can no longer care for him. Jake has Down's syndrome and Adam's wife Lily has predeceased him. Adam works for an insurance company and calculates numbers for a living, and he has determined that he needs 2.5 million dollars to ensure Jake is cared for. Adam can see no way of getting this outside of a unique way of robbing a bank, and so armed with a gun for show, he puts his plan in motion. 
The branch of the bank he chooses is a small one, and he's visited a couple of times before to get the lay of the land, but now that he has put his plan in motion, the other people in the bank and those connected to them also play a role and he can't predict their actions. There are two customers in the bank, a man and a woman, one of whom tries to interfere with his plans. The bank manager has issues and worries that go beyond the current situation. Of the four tellers, one is a widow with a secret friend and a regret, one is just out of a relationship and wonders about her future, one has a strong moral center, and one has a past that makes her a threat. The loan officer has recently had a series of losses in her life and during the robbery has a revelation that is unexpectedly hopeful. The security guard has a past as well, one that feeds directly into the current situation. 
Adam's own body is also unreliable, even with his medications, and he must rely on these strangers in ways he never expected. 
I read this book in one sitting, needing to know what happened to each character


Finished October 28
Crow by Amy Spurway

This novel is one that drew me in and had me caring about the various characters. Set in Cape Breton, Stacey (Crow) Fortune has returned home from Toronto to die. She's had a touch time lately, with her engagement broken off and then being diagnosed with inoperable brain tumours. She's starting to have trouble with her vision and has episodes of being very ill. 
She is hopeful to see her two best friends, but is aware that they've had a falling out and Allie no longer speaks to Char. Allie has recently had a loss of her own and is at a loose end, not handling it well. Char has recently returned home after a long absence, and is also having issues.
Crow has known all her life that her father was Alec Spenser, the only son of a wealthy family. Alec disappeared before she was born, presumed drowned in a boating accident. His family wants nothing to do with her, but Crow's mother Effie Fortune made a point of taking her to the family home at one point and makes no secret of her parentage. Crow had a bit of a wild time in her teens, having multiple short romances, and always returning to a secret lover, Willy, who was also a bit of an outcast. 
Besides her mother, she has numerous family members in the area, including her aunt Peggy and her uncle Mossy. 
As Crow finds purpose beyond her own impending demise, she becomes closer to the community she fled after high school, finding new friendships, and new connections with her family. She learns more about where she comes from, and the legacies that come to various family members. She reconnects with old friends and finds new depths to those friendships. 
This is a novel of coming home, of the importance of community, compassion, and connection, and of the nature of love. 
A fantastic read. 

It's Getting Scot in Here

Finished October 26
It's Getting Scot in Here by Suzanne Enoch

I chose this book to meet a reading challenge, where I needed a kilt on the cover of the novel. This light historical romance has a lot of humour in it. It's not quite a send-up of historical romance novels, but it comes close. Set in 1816, the novel follows two main characters. Amelia-Rose Baxter is a smart young woman, the only child of her parents. Her mother has always aspired to a title and has already refused several offers of marriage for Amelia-Rose that are from nice but title-less men. Amelia-Rose feels that too often she has to pretend to be what she is not, a flirtatious simpleton who is agreeable and willing to submit to whatever a man says with no opinion of her own. She's tried, but she keeps reaching a point where she can't keep her mouth shut and so she is now getting a reputation for being mouthy and unfeminine. 
Niall MacTaggert is the youngest of three sons of Angus MacTaggert, a titled Scottish laird and his English wife Francesca Oswell. Francesca was the only child of a viscount, so that title has also come down to her eldest son. For eighteen years, Francesca has lived at her family home in London with her daughter Eloise, and the boys have lived in Scotland with their father. Francesca has control of the money she inherited, which Angus needs for his estate, and the two reached an agreement that she would contribute the necessary monies on condition that all three boys marry English girls, one of her own choosing, before their daughter wed. 
Now Angus has just received word from Francesca that Eloise is engaged and he doesn't hesitate to let his sons know of this agreement and send them down to London. The eldest Coll has drawn the short stick on taking his mother's choice of bride, but is highly resentful of that and not at all willing to submit. The middle son Aden is ambivalent, and Niall is the peacemaker in the family. Their father has told them that English girls are pliable and will submit to whatever form of marriage they propose, including one that leaves the woman in London, visited only for the purpose of creating an heir.
Francesca has been apprised of her sons trip and has already signed a contract for Coll and Amelia-Rose to marry, but she is definitely not the pliable English girl he expects, and his first meeting with her goes very badly indeed. The plot continues with Niall trying to keep Amelia-Rose interested in Coll, and trying to bring Coll to reason, but he finds himself falling for this smart woman himself. 
This has lots of fun around stereotypes, both English and Scottish, and lots of scenes where one is wondering what next, but Francesca is a smart English woman herself and, as she gets to know her sons better, and lets them know the full story of her relationship with their father, she also finds that she gets new ideas of how to make things work in almost everyone's favour. 
A fun read.

Monday 25 October 2021

The Night Gate

Finished October 24
The Night Gate by Peter May

This novel is part of the Enzo Files series and Enzo Macleod is now retired from his job in the  French police as a forensics expert. He has been asked by colleagues to take a look at the site of recently discovered body, buried years ago in a small cemetery. The body came to light when a tree was uprooted during a storm, and was found tangled among its roots. The skull shows that the man had been shot through the head. It would appear that the body has been there for decades, dating back to World War II. 
As Enzo inspects the site, he notices police activity at a house nearby and a police officer, recognizing him, approaches and asks for his opinion on the murder that occured in that house. 
Set in the fall of 2020, this is the first novel that I've read that is set during the pandemic, and I found it interesting how that figured into the action of the novel. 
As Enzo looks at both the historical murder and the contemporary one, he finds an unexpected link between the two, France's most famous painting, the Mona Lisa. With the assistance of some family members, he travels to Paris and to Germany in search of the story behind these deaths.
We also see into Enzo's personal life, his wife, his children from previous wives and relationships, and his interactions with them. 
With some of the action focused on the characters from the war, we see a young Frenchwoman, tasked with keeping the painting safe during the occupation, and two men determined to get ahold of it for their own purposes. 
This is the second book I've read in the series, and I found it quite interesting. 

Tokyo Ueno Station

Finished October 23
Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri, translated by Morgan Giles

This book tells the story of Kazu, a man who wanders the world he lived in before he died, not understanding why he hasn't moved on. No one sees him or reacts to him, but he reflects on his life, working long hours on jobs away from his home, not seeing his children grow up, or spending very much time with his wife. 
He also describes the circumstances that led to his last few years living as a homeless man in the Ueno Station Park in Tokyo, and his interactions with some of the other inhabitants of the park. 
The moments of reflection on the past are interspersed with his observations on the present, seeing how life goes on, and witnessing the passing of others he knew.
This is a very interesting novel, with intimate details of Kazu's life told in such a way that removes the emotion from the experiences. He seems removed from his life, not just by death, but in remembering key moments of his life as well. 
His life also has ties to that of the royal family in a limited way. He is the same age as the Crown Prince, and his son was born the same day as the prince's son. His life in the park is also changed by visits from the royal family. 

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Song of a Captive Bird

Finished October 19
Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

This novel is a fictionalized biography of Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad. The author had seen a poetry book of her mother's as a child and later became fascinated by not only the poetry of Forugh, but of the woman herself and her very unconventional life.
Forugh was born in Tehran, the third of seven children, and the daughter of a military officer. She pushed the boundaries on behaviour, trying to engage in the same activities as her brothers. She began writing poetry at a young age, partly to capture the attention and approval of her traditional father, poetry being a revered art in Iran. But as she grew into womanhood and her life became more circumscribed, she found a way out by marrying at the age of 16 to a cousin. But her urge to write continued and it led her to another life. 
Darznik explores this life, both the poet's inner life and drive to write poetry that broke the norms of her era and gender, and the outer life, as a divorcee, a woman who lived independently, and the mistress of a well-known film producer. 
Forugh comes to life here, with her passion and impetuousness, and her daring to follow her dreams. I enjoyed learning more about this poet and her legacy. 

Monday 18 October 2021

What Strange Paradise

Finished October 18 
What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad

This book grabbed me and didn't let go. It's a short novel and a real page-turner. It starts with a scene on a beach on a Greek island, where bodies of refugees have washed ashore. Among them is a young boy, Amir, but he isn't dead, and when he rises, and sees people coming for him, he runs.
Following that scene, the story alternates with what led the boy to this place and what happens after he runs. In the before sequences, we see him and his family fleeing their home country of Syria and coming to Egypt, hoping to be accepted by a western country, and we see how he comes to be on a boat crossing the Mediterranean Sea and what happens on that boat. In the after sequences, we see him being found by a teenaged girl, and assisted. Vänna has a difficult home life and something about the boy and his vulnerability puts her in protective mode. As the two try to elude the soldiers looking for the boy, they make their way across the island, hoping for a way out. 
The characters of Amir and Vänna are well drawn, and you see their thoughts and their struggles, from Amir's uncertainty about his family's future and his confusion on the ship to Vänna's dissatisfaction with her life and her worry about Amir. The book is fast-moving and intense with some twists and surprises along the way. Highly recommended.

The Book Collectors

Finished October 16
The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories That Carried Them Through a War by Delphine Minoui, translated by Lara Vergnaud

The author, Delphine Minoui, is a journalist who has covered the Middle East, and lives in Istanbul. She also directed a documentary on the same subject as this book. During her work, she heard about a group who had created a library from books they found in the rubble of their town, Daraya. Daraya is a town outside of Damascus which fell under a siege in 2012 and became cut off from the outside world for four years. 
The young men who found the first batch of books and began actively collecting them in one place, where they built shelving and provided studying, reading, and meeting space, had a collection of fifteen thousand books within a month of their start. The collection had range, from poetry to plays, history to science. 
First Minoui tracked down one of the library's founders, Ahmad Muaddamani, twenty-three, who was studying civil engineering before the war. He told her the story of the library, but also the story of this small community, its history of discourse and democracy, the effects of the siege, and the others who supported and used the library. Residents from children through seniors visited and borrowed material, and they even arranged Skype lectures from a variety of speakers. Other men that she spoke to were Omar Abu Anas, a soldier in the Free Syrian Army, who kept a small collection of books protected by sandbags at the front lines; Shadi Matar, who joined the media center of the town and documented the war through photographs; Hussam Ayash, who launched a small local magazine during the siege; Abu Malek Al-Shami, who painted graffiti and murals on the ruins to keep spirits up; Abu el-Ezz, another co-founder of the library; and Ustez, a slightly older man who served as a mentor for the others.
As Monoui tracks the ongoing siege, she also documents the types of attacks they endured, including barrel bombs, sarin gas, and napalm. 
With limited access to internet, most of the communication was through media such as Whats App, with reliance on short messages, and video. 
A book that brings this group of men to life and highlights the situation that they lived in during this difficult time. She also includes a list of the most popular books in the collection and ones mentioned in her conversations with the men. 

Saturday 16 October 2021

A Mapmaker's Dream

Finished October 15
A Mapmaker's Dream: The Meditations of Fra Mauro, Cartographer to the Court of Venice: a novel by James Cowan

This book is a fictionalized tale of a real man. Fra Mauro was a monk at San Michele di Murano who lived in the first half of the 15th century and created the most detailed and accurate map of the world for his time. 
The Fra Mauro of this book lives in the sixteenth century and so is familiar with some of the men who sailed widely and discovered new lands and routes of the time. This book is written as a collection of meditations of that man, talking about the men who've visited him and the types of information that they've shared. Some of them have shared geographic information, but others share philosophical and spiritual experiences, causing him to also have deeper thoughts on these subjects. So this is also a novel of self-reflection. The introduction says that the author came across these writings when doing research on someone else, and was first distracted and then enraptured by these and translated them into English. But as you may note from the cover this is a novel, so there is uncertainty about what is real and what isn't, besides the change of when the narrator lived. 

Classic Spin #28: My Books

I'm participating in the Classic Spin again. 

It's site is here

I have to choose 20 classic books that I want to read and on October 17th, a number between 1 and 20 will be picked and that is the book that I will have to read by December 12th of this year.
Edited on October 18th to say that the spin was for #12, so I will be reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

Here are my books:

1. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Wolff
2. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
3. Dracula by Bram Stoker
4. Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
5. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
6. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
7. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
8. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
9. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
10. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
11. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
12. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
13. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
14. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
15. Persuasion by Jane Austen
16. The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang van Goethe
17. Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner
18. Roxana by Daniel Defoe
19. Howards End by E.M Forster
20. The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

Paris Echo

Finished October 14
Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks

This novel is haunted by the past but set in present-day Paris. Hannah is an American graduate student, in Paris to do research on women living in occupied Paris for a paper she is writing. She is haunted by the memories of her earlier time in Paris when she fell in love and then had the relationship end. She is also haunted by the stories of the women whose stories she finds. Listening to the recorded voices of the women, collected by a small archive in the city, she finds some hopeful, some sad, and some full of anger. Early in her stay, she finds a young woman on the street, cold and tired. She takes her in, letting her stay in the small second bedroom in her rented apartment. The next day, she finds a young man Tariq has also arrived in her flat, a friend of the woman, and she soon agrees to let him stay there.
Tariq is nineteen and from Morocco. He has come to Paris partly to escape his life there, and partly to see the city that his mother, long dead, was from, and maybe learn about her. Tariq is an open young man, who quickly finds a job, and begins exploring the city. He takes on some of the stories that Hannah is researching and connects them to people he sees in the streets. He also learns more about French history and the people of this country, from many angles. 
Hannah has also reconnected with a professor from her earlier time, an Englishman named Julian and finds herself confiding in him and bouncing ideas off of him. He too finds himself drawn into her research, looking up information on that time in history, and making connections for her. 
As the characters grow closer to each other and learn more about the city, its past, and themselves, they also find new paths forward for themselves.
I really enjoy Faulks writing and this book is one I highly recommend.

The View from Penthouse B

Finished October 12
The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman

This is an author I always enjoy reading. Here we have two sisters, Margot and Gwen-Laura, who have agreed to live together in the penthouse apartment that Margot owns. Margot, the oldest sister, is recovering from a very public end to her marriage, with her husband, a fertility doctor in jail for fraud after inseminating some of his clients with his own sperm, in some cases directly. She bought the apartment with some of the money from her divorce and invested the rest. Unfortunately, she invested it with Bernie Madoff, and now has little funds to get by on. Gwen-Laura, the middle sister, is still grieving the sudden loss of her husband, a public school music teacher. It's been almost two years, but she can't seem to move on. Their younger sister, Betsy, has suggested they join forces by living together. So far it is going well. 
When Margot encounters a younger man, also affected by the collapse of the market and invites him to move in, things get interesting. Anthony is handsome, interesting, and a baker of cupcakes and begins encouraging the two sisters in different ways. When Margot's paroled ex-husband moves into a smaller apartment in the same building, the situation grows more complex. 
The story is mostly told by Gwen-Laura, and the reader can see her beginning to take small steps forward as she reengages with life. From dating apps to new work ventures, the sisters and Anthony give each other encouragement and support. 
Lighthearted with touches of humour, this is a feel-good read.

Monday 11 October 2021

The Raven Tower

Finished October 10
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

This book is mostly narrated by a god, a god who embodies a large rock, and whose real name is not told to the reader until well into the story. It is a name that has been lost during the present time of the novel, and in fact the existence of the god itself is not well known at this point. Most of the narrative is directed towards a man that the god does not name either until well into the book, the man Eolo. Eolo is the right hand man of Mowat, another young man whose father has been the Lease of the Raven. The Lease lives in the Raven Tower in the Fortress in the town of Vastai, in the land of the Iraden. The Lease is committed to sacrifice his life to the Raven at the time it is necessary. When the old Raven dies, and an egg is chosen to hatch into the new Raven from the ones who live there, the Lease must also die and his Heir must become the new Lease. Until the Raven can speak again, tokens are used to communicate his words to the Lease and the other members of the Committee of Directions and the Mother of the Silent. The Mother of the Silent is the priest of the forest god, an ally of the Raven and one that protects the Iraden from external threats and internal sicknesses. 
Mowat has long known that he is the Heir of the Lease and understands the responsibilities that go with it. But he is also a leader of men and has been stationed far from home with the soldiers that protect the land. It is only as he has heard of his father's disappearance that he has rushed home, with Eolo by his side. 
Eolo is a farmer's son, but also a man of logic and reason, one who thinks about things and makes connections between actions. He sees the threats to the land of Iraden, and the people who live there. He sees the men who come from other lands, they say to make agreements and trade, but perhaps for reasons beneath the surface as well. Some of them have brought their own gods, some have brought resentments that are longstanding. Eolo must provide wise counsel, but he must also be listened to, and he must protect his own secrets. 
This is a fascinating read, with the tales of gods trying to protect those people who honour them, fighting amongst themselves, betraying each other, and lying silent for years until they can wield power again. 

Cat Nap

Finished October 9
Cat Nap by Claire Donally

This cozy mystery is set in the small Maine town of Kittery Harbor and its near neighbour and larger town Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Sunny Coolidge was a journalist in New York City when she returned to her hometown to help after her father suffered a serious health incident. Unable to get a job in her field, she is working for a local travel company, helping tourists book tours and stays in the area. She has recently adopted a cat, Shadow, who has had a life that hasn't been easy, with numerous homes that have led to a lack of trust in humans. Sunny and Shadow have been making headway with their relationship and have had the help of Jane Rigsdale, a local veterinarian who also grew up in Kittery Harbor, left and returned. 
The two are friends, but also rivals for the interest of local police officer Will Price. When Sunny and her father see Jane have a public altercation with a man, and later find out that it was Jane's ex-husband Martin, they don't realize that things will soon escalate. Martin has been asking Jane for money, and he soon approaches Sunny as well, so when Jane asks her to go with her as moral support when meeting Martin, Sunny agrees. But the two stumble into a crime scene, and Jane soon becomes the prime suspect. Sunny must do her own digging to find evidence to show that there are other people who might have more motive in the murder of Martin.
There are a few chapters that give the story from Shadow's viewpoint as he tries to overcome his trust issues to be closer to Sunny, but occasionally finds himself on the outs, literally, in the cold Maine winter. These sections felt very believable in terms of motivation and actions. 
As the possible perpetrator list grows, Sunny and Jane find themselves facing jealous women, upset pet owners, and even criminals. 
This is my first foray into this series, and I liked it.

Hello, Dark

Finished October 8
Hello, Dark by Wai Mei Wong, illustrated by Tamara Campeau

This picture book was inspired by the author's experiences as an early childhood educator with children with nighttime anxiety. The main character here is a little boy who has been afraid of the dark. He takes control of the situation by talking to the dark, and asking it to be friends with him. He first expresses his worries about the dark and how it makes him feel. He then talks about some of the good things about the dark, how it protects those creatures that are active at night and allows us to see the moon and stars more clearly. This is when he makes his offer of friendship, describing how they can talk to each other, play imaginary games together, listen to music and count sheep. 
The illustrations show the dark as a shape, but not as a monster, more as a shadow, and I loved the details of the boy's room and the outdoor world. His interest in vehicles is clear. 
This is a book that directly addresses the fears that some young children have about the dark and allays them. I liked that the boy took control, a good message for kids about how they interact with things in their world, as a active participant. 
I think this will be a useful book for many families. 

The Paris Librarian

Finished October 7
The Paris Librarian by Mark Pryor

Having recently read The Paris Library, and noticing this on one of my shelves, I pulled it out. This story is also set around the American Library in Paris, but in the modern day. It is part of a mystery series featuring Hugo Marston, the head of security for the American embassy in Paris. His roommate Tom is in the FBI, and they are both single.
One acquaintance of Hugo's is Paul Rogers, the director of the American Library.  Hugo has a friend whose friend is doing research on an aging actress who is said to have been active in espionage during World War II, and the American Library has recently obtained her papers. Paul is working on a novel and Hugo arranges to meet with his late one morning to discuss both, but he finds Paul in a locked room in the basement, dead. It seems like a natural death, but something about it bothers Hugo. 
When another death happens soon after, more questions arise.
Hugo has a contact in the French police and brings her into the case early, before it is even established that a crime has occurred and that helps them gather information that otherwise might have been lost. 
One aspect of this case that intrigues Hugo is a death in the past, long before, that has an interesting connection to Paul. 
I enjoyed the character of Hugo, with both his professional knowledge and instincts and his personal life. The various staff at the American Library are minor characters here, but still somewhat interesting. The library is in many ways just a backdrop for the larger story. 

Wednesday 6 October 2021

Childhood, Youth, Dependency

Finished October 6
Childhood, Youth, Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen, translated by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman

The first two parts of this memoir, Childhood and Youth were first published in 1967, and the third Dependency in 1971, with the translations in 1985 and 2019 respectively. Here, they have been brought together in one volume. 
Ditlevsen was born to a working class family in Copenhagen with a father involved in unions and socialism and a mother who valued reputation and looks. She was close to her brother, who was a few years older. Despite her teachers' encouragement, she was not able to go on to high school, leaving at the age of fourteen to work, first as household help and eventually in officework. 
From a young age, she wrote poetry, inspired by the world and people around her and her own imagination, writing beyond her own experiences, "lies" as her brother put it, and hoping to become a published writer someday, despite her father telling her that women weren't poets. 
She found a couple of men that encouraged her, but it was only with the third, the editor and publisher of a small literary newsletter that she gained success, as well as her first husband. 
She was very focused on her own life and needs, and the men that cared for her, living an insular life of sorts, surrounded by literary people and academics, and not largely affected by greater world events. 
I found it interesting that despite being a young woman during World War II, when Denmark was occupied by the Germans, she seemed hardly affected by their presence or their actions. The men in her life continued to go about their normal lives, with some entering the world of the resistance in small ways. 
She is very frank about her relationships and her personal life in general including her addiction to drugs that arose through her fourth husband, and her choices around him. 
This is not a happy book, despite her success as a writer, but it is a compelling read and one written with skill. 

The Paris Library

Finished October 5
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

This novel has two timelines, one in Paris starting in 1939 and going until 1944 and the other in small town Montana starting in 1983 and going until 1989. The link between the two is Odile, a French woman who married an American just after the war and settled in the town, Froid, in Montana. 
In Paris, Odile is interviewed and gets a job at the American Library, a place she is in awe of and has aimed to work at for years. We see Odile as well as the other staff at the library over this time period, getting to know the situations and some of the personalities.
Odile's father is a high-ranking police officer who doesn't understand Odile's need for a career and just wants to see her happily married, bringing home junior officers to Sunday dinner to try to make a match. Odile's twin brother Remy is interested in politics and trying to change the world. 
Odile makes friends with her coworkers as well as some of the regular staff, including a lonely wife of an American diplomat who becomes a volunteer at the library.
Odile is young and impulsive and at times her actions end in regret. We see how one of these actions compelled her to make her choice of an American husband and run from her life in Paris.
In the modern day story, teenage Lily is close to her mother Brenda, and finds herself unmoored when Brenda becomes ill. Lily has long been fascinated by Odile, a woman who has never really fit in in their town, and has recently called on her to find out more about her and Paris, using a school assignment as leverage. With Brenda's illness, Lily spends more time at her neighbour Odile's house and even begins to learn French from her. As we see Lily go through her high school years, dealing with the changes that happen in her family and the normal angst of growing up, we see how Odile is a positive influence in her life, guiding her in a way to learn from and avoid some of the mistakes that Odile herself made in her youth. 
This story is a sad one, although it has many joyful moments. Odile's choice to run from her life, cutting off all ties is one that to me is heart-wrenching, both for her and for those she left behind whose stories after that we don't know much of at all. There is so much they won't have understood about her never returning, and it seems like they may not have tried which is even sadder.
Lily's story is more hopeful, despite her own losses, partly because of Odile's influence in her life. 
This was an interesting story which compelled me and made me reflect. 

All I Did Was Shoot My Man

Finished October 2
All I Did Was Shoot My Man by Walter Mosley

This is the 4th book in the Leonid McGill series. Set in New York City, Leonid is a former criminal who has gone legitimate (mostly), works as a private investigator, and one of the things he does is try to rectify some of the things he did in his earlier life. 
As this book begins he is fighting a low-grade fever and waiting to meet a bus carrying women released from prison, specifically to meet Zella Grisham. Eight years earlier, Zella came home early from work one day due to feeling ill. She walked in on her boyfriend Harry Tangelo in bed with her best friend Minnie Lesser. She reached for the gun in the top drawer of her dresser and shot Harry, injuring him. She was in a disassociated state at the time and doesn't actually remember doing it, but doesn't deny it. Interestingly, both Harry and Minnie had their own apartments, so having their assignation in her place seems like it was just asking to be discovered. The judge was being inclined to go light on Zella given the circumstances until an anonymous tip came in saying that information related to a large theft of money would be found in her storage locker. Zella was given several years in jail, and made life choices based on her sentence.
McGill was involved in the placement of that evidence (something he had done in other circumstances as well) and feels guilt over how it affected her life. He was able to get the evidence reexamined and get that case against her dropped and get her out of jail. He has also found her a place to live and a job. But all of these actions have awakened the guilty of that crime and it seems like many people associated with that crime have been killed and tortured. As McGill tries to protect Zella, and get to the bottom of the case, it takes him to the highest levels of the company the crime was committed against, and back to his own past. 
McGill is also facing issues in his personal life, starting to search for his father who he has recently learned is alive, dealing with his oldest son's first serious relationship, and sorting out his feelings about his wife and a former lover. His wife Katrina is showing behavioural changes and he is worried about this change.
His younger son Twill is now working for him, and showing himself to be very much like his father in terms of personality and judgement. When McGill has Twill involved in a case, Twill shows initiative in making his own decisions and going beyond his remit. 
This is the second book that I've read in the series, and I find McGill to be an interesting and complex character. He is smart and quick to react to a situation. This book lets us see more of his family and the relationships between the members of that family as well as some of his associates. Mosley is a fantastic writer and I've loved everything I've read of his.

Tuesday 5 October 2021

The Cow Said Boo!

Finished September 30
The Cow Said Boo! by Lana Button, illustrated by Alice Carter

This delightful tale is perfect for coming up to Hallowe'en. The book begins with the cow hanging out her laundry while dealing with a head cold. Instead of saying "Moo!", it sounds like she is saying "Boo!", so when she stumbles into the clothesline and gets a sheet caught around her, she ends up scaring all her other farm animal friends by looking and sounding like a very large and scary ghost.
As often happens when people are scared and then find out that the thing that scared them wasn't really scary, after their fear ends, at first they get a little angry.
But that night, a fox creeps onto the farm up to no good, and the cow is able to scare the fox as well, saving all her friends from this dangerous intruder. Her friends realize that not only had she saved them, she was ill, and so they rally together and look after her until she is well and can say "Moo!" again. However, as often happens when you spend time closely with someone who is sick without protection, the other animals have now caught her cold, and so the noises they normally make come out sounding odd as well. 
The back inside cover offers instructions on how to wash your hands (or hooves and paws!) properly to keep from getting or passing along a cold through touch.
The illustrations really bring the story to life and show the personalities of the animals. 
A fun and lighthearted read about a group of friends. 

An Irish Hostage

Finished September 28
An Irish Hostage by Charles Todd

This mystery is part of the Bess Crawford series. It is the summer of 1919 and Bess is home waiting to make a decision about her future as she knows the hospital doesn't need all the nurses that they did during the war, and she doesn't want to take a job from someone who really needs one. Short term, she has been asked to be maid of honour by a fellow nurse that she rescued when their ship was attacked. Her friend, Eileen Flynn is from Ireland, as is her fiance Michael Sullivan, who has just been demobbed from the British Army. 
But things in Ireland are tense with the British looking to guard against more uprisings like the one that occurred during the war. Bess's parents are worried about her travelling across Ireland to attend the wedding. Bess suggests asking Simon's friend Captain Arthur Jackson, an American pilot to fly her directly to Eileen's family home instead. This is seized on as a good solution to the issue.
It is Bess's first flight and she loves it, but she finds on arrival that things are more difficult than anticipated. There are some in the community who resent the Irish that served in the British forces during the war, and there are rebels looking for opportunities to further their cause, some with more appetite for violence than others. Bess finds that Michael has disappeared, presumably kidnapped, and although Arthur argues that they leave, Bess cannot abandon her friend, and sends Arthur to let her family know and see what more can be discovered. 
As Bess learns more about Eileen's family, from her rebel leader cousin Terrance who is supposed to give Eileen away at the ceremony to the local priest who is a close confidant of Eileen's grandmother, she finds she needs her nursing skills, her sharp mind, and her strategic intuition to be able to cope with everything that happens. Luckily, besides Terrance, she soon has another ally from an unexpected source.
This book gives insight into the complex Irish political situation of the time, without demonizing any of the players. Bess shows her strength, both of mind and body as she often does and stays calm even when things get very tense. I enjoy her as a character and enjoyed this setting and situation as well.

Sunday 3 October 2021