Sunday 27 February 2022

The Turning

Finished February 23
The Turning by Tim Winton

I always find Australian author Tim Winton's books intriguing. This one is a collection of short stories, loosely linked to each other, all pertaining to moments in people's lives where things changed in some way for them. Most of these stories are told in the first person, and the narrators range in age, and sometimes reappear in a later story. 
Some of these characters we see as children, just as they are coming into adolescence and finding their way, having an encounter that makes a difference in their lives. Sometimes they make a decision to leave somewhere or to return somewhere and that too influences their life in a way they hadn't anticipated. 
Some of these turnings are awakenings, others are a return to a past that was never fully dealt with. All of them take place in Western Australia and give a sense of the land there, the ocean and the landscape. They take place in small communities or rural areas. 
Winton takes you inside the characters' heads, seeing what they are thinking and feeling so that you feel what is happening to them, how it affects them. 
These events are sometimes small, sometimes big, sometimes peripheral to the their lives in many ways except for the effect they have. 
A great read. 

Left You Dead

Finished February 22
Left You Dead by Peter James

This is the seventeenth book in the series featuring Roy Grace, a police officer in Lewes, Sussex. Grace gets a case that seems straightforward, but he keeps feeling that something isn't quite right. Niall and Eden Paternoster are returning from a visit to a country house. She likes to look at them, and he feels that this is the life that he will someday be living. Niall is currently unemployed, picking up a few shifts for a friend that has a taxi, usually ones in the middle of the night. Eden has a good job, and it's one that she enjoys. 
Niall wants to get home to watch some live sports on TV, but Eden reminds him that they need cat litter and he keeps forgetting. So they stop at a local grocery, and she gets out to run into the store, and never comes back. 
At first Niall thinks that maybe she got distracted, but when he goes in, he doesn't see her anywhere. When he goes home, she isn't there. He figures that she's gone to a friend's place in an effort to teach him a lesson. So he waits until morning to start making enquiries and comes up empty-handed. 
This is when the police get called in, and they start asking some questions as well. The police suspicions, based on what they see and find, place Niall in the suspect box, and he isn't sure what's going on. 
As the story progresses, we see things from a variety of viewpoints, Niall's, Grace's and others. We get insight into the relationship between the couple and into the dynamics of the police hierarchy as well. There are side stories here as well as the main story of the missing woman, and we learn more about Grace as a person as well. 
I enjoyed this book and will definitely look for others in this series. 

Saturday 19 February 2022

The Geography of You and Me

Finished on February 16 
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

This teen novel opens with two teenagers Lucy, fifteen, and Owen, sixteen, stuck in an elevator together as the power goes out. Lucy's family lives on the 24th floor of this New York City building, and Owen's father recently started as the building manager and lives in the basement. Until now they hadn't exchanged any words, although Lucy had noticed him. 
After they are released from the elevator and discover the power outage is widespread, they stay together, going out for supplies and then up to the roof of the building, staring at the dark city and the stars. 
Soon after, Lucy's family moves to Edinburgh, keeping the apartment for occasional use, and Owen and his father start moving west. Even though their communication is sparse, the two can't stop thinking of each other.
This is a story of first love, of long-distance relationships, of family, and of growing up.
I liked both the main characters and most of the secondary characters here, particularly Owen's dad who is dealing with his own losses. A feel-good story.

Friday 18 February 2022

Those We Left Behind

Finished February 16
Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville

This is the first in the series featuring DCI Serena Neville of the Belfast police. She is just returning to work after her cancer treatments and struggling with how it has changed her relationship with her husband. Years ago she had a case where two boys, Ciaran and Thomas, were involved in the death of their foster parent, and it still haunts her. One boy confessed, but she had never really believed the confession. Now, he is nineteen and getting out of youth custody. The probation officer assigned to him, Paula Cunningham, comes to Serena for some background on the young man. Paula finds him a little odd, but she knows he isn't stupid. Thomas has been out for a while, and has a job, an apartment and a car, and hasn't shown any issues of problematic behaviour. Ciaran is eager to see his brother, but seems nervous and unsure how to behave on his own. 
The son of the man killed, Daniel, is sure that Thomas was the one who killed his father, and he begins to exhibit unpredictable behaviour when he learns of Ciaran's release. 
When someone ends up dead, and Serena gets the case, both she and Paula think the brothers are connected. Especially when they get threats of their own. But can Serena break through to Ciaran now when she couldn't before, or will these two women find themselves in danger.
After recently reading the second book in this series, I decided that I had to read the first, and while I knew from the second some elements of this one, I still found myself hoping that Serena's intuition would lead her in the right direction. 
I liked Serena as a character and I also liked Paula here. Both are women in careers that put them in contact with dangerous people and they both are used to relying on their guts to warn them of dangers. As they combine what they know to find the answers to both old and new crimes, they also find themselves up against their superiors. 


Finished February 16
Sight by Adrienne Maria Vrettos

This teen novel is set in a small town in the western United States that is gradually being gentrified. The main character, Dylan is sixteen years old and living with her mom. When Dylad was just five years old, she had an experience when she zoned out and had a vision about one of her schoolmates. It threw her completely, and when she told her mom, her mom took her seriously and had her talk to the police. Her young friend had gone missing and Dylan's vision helped them to find the body of the young boy. She's had similar experiences over the years, each one leading to the discovery of a body. 
Because the authorities took DNA samples from all the men in the area back in the case that began her experiences, and didn't find a match, people started calling him the Drifter, The kids even had a song they sung about it. Dylan doesn't like talking about her experiences and none of her friends know about her ability. Only the local sheriff and deputy and her mom knew for a while. When her dad found out, he took off and she hasn't seen him in a while. 
Now she has a feeling the Drifter is back and moving closer. More people having been moving to the town of Pine Mountain recently and they just voted to change the name to Paradise Mountain. There's a new girl Cate in town too, Dylan's age, and because her dad is building a house near where Dylan lives, they get thrown together. Dylan finds herself confiding things that she never thought she would, and her old friends, Pilar, Thea, and Maybe seem to be pulling away from her. 
As Dylan begins to allow herself to focus on her visions more, trying to identify the male figure she sees, she also finds herself acknowledging the positive aspects of this unusual gift. But it isn't easy for her to make this change.
I liked the character Dylan and her friends. The community has been a close one, with the kids growing up together most of their lives, but now with the changes of gentrification, the community is adjusting slowly. 
Dylan's gift goes beyond just these visions, and she finds herself learning more about herself and her family as she begins to embrace her abilities. 

So Say the Fallen

Finished February 12
So Say the Fallen by Stuart Neville

This is the second book in the series featuring DCI Serena Flanagan of the Belfast police. It is also the first one that I read. Serena is assigned a case that looks fairly straightforward. A man, Henry Garrick, who was in a car accident a few months ago and lost both his legs has been found by his wife dead, with the means to kill himself at hand. 
The widow, Roberta Garrick, first called her priest Peter McKay before he summoned the police. 
Serena has a lot on her mind, with things not going well in her personal life, and having questions about her future. Her superior is planning to resign soon, and doesn't have a lot of patience for Serena's sense that something isn't quite right about this case. 
As Serena digs deeper into the widow's past and the reverend begins to have doubts about his own actions, things slowly move forward and Serena has new questions. 
I like the Serena Flanagan character, how she doesn't doubt her professional intuition even when her personal life is having issues that make her question some of her choices. She is a complex character with nuances that make her interesting. 
The case includes a few people who don't want to see anything but the obvious, and Serena must take risks to follow her suspicions through to the end. 

Sunday 13 February 2022


Finished February 8
Threadbare by Monica Ferris

This novel is part of the Needlecraft Mystery series. The stories are set around the character Betsy Devonshire and her needlework shop Crewel World on the shores of Lake Minnetonka. 
This novel begins with the discovery of a body in an alley. The body is that of a homeless woman, and although it appears to be one of exposure following unconsciousness, the local police chief thinks that there is something off about it. One of Betsy's customers is related to the woman and is concerned that she is being looked at as a suspect, so she asks Betsy to investigate. When a second homeless woman is found dead, it looks more suspicious, and that woman also has a connection to one of Betsy's customers. 
As Betsy begins to dig into the women's personal lives and pasts, she uncovers some information that may be uncomfortable for her customers. Her investigation also takes her to Fargo, North Dakota, and she stops in at the stitching store Nordic Needle, a real-life store brought into this story briefly. I liked that touch. 
Betsy is a diligent sleuth, trying to follow every loose end. I appreciated seeing the thread of the homeless develop through this story, and the issues that women of low income have when it comes to housing. The characters that were homeless here were treated with respect by the author. 
As always with this series, a pattern is included at the back of the book. In this case, it is a beginner Hardanger pattern. 

Saturday 12 February 2022

Queen of Dragons

Finished February 4
Queen of Dragons by Shana Abe

This is a later book in a series and I am now going back and reading the earlier ones. Here, a young woman named Maricara from the mountains of Romania is the queen of the drakon community there. But they are being threatened by locals that know of their ability to change into different forms. Maricara was born as a peasant, but she developed her skills early, and was taken from her home at a young age to be wed to the dragon leader. Now that he has passed away, she is the leader, and must worry about this threat to her people. She has become aware of men with skills like herself who have come from elsewhere and been hunted and killed nearby. She determined to go to England, where she knows where they were likely from, a small drakon community who has taken great care until now to hide themselves and their abilities. Her arrival brings both alarm and the consideration of tactics to the small community of Darkfrith. 
The chemistry between Maricara and the leader of the English community, the Earl of Chasen, is undeniable and he feels that he has the right to claim her as his own. But Maricara is a woman who knows what it is like to be claimed and held by another, and she protects her independence as she knows how. 
This is a tale that started before this book, but becomes an urgent fight for survival and the future of their kind here. 
Involving strong feelings, conflicting views on the visiting drakon, and the dangers now coming from outside their community, this is a tale that becomes more of a page-turner the further into the book one reads. 
I liked the independent nature of Maricara and the respect she earns from some of the English drakon. A good story that I want to read more of. 

Behind Every Lie

Finished February 2
Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald

This is a real page-turner of a novel. It takes place mostly in the Seattle area, with a quick journey to England. Eva Hansen wakes up in the hospital confused and uncertain where she is. She has been struck by lightning and the last thing she remembers is being at a restaurant celebrating her mother's recent award. One of the first things she learns after waking is that her mother Kat is dead, found murdered in her own home, and Eva's car was near her mother's house and she was found in a nearby park.
Eva doesn't believe that she had anything to do with her mother's death, but the police seem to suspect her, and because she can't remember, she doesn't know what happened. 
She decides that she must dig into her and her mother's past to clear her name and find out the truth. This takes her back to London, where she was born, and as she digs deeper, she is unsure who she can trust.
Her brother Andrew seems unsure whether to believe that she is uninvolved, her partner Liam seems to be trying to keep her from talking to the police, and she has doubts about her own behaviour. 
As her memories slowly come back to her and she learns her mother's secrets, she realizes that things are more complex than she realized. 
This book had me gripped to find out what happened next. One secret after another is revealed, slowly as Eva along with the reader learns the truth. Eva is a woman who has been unsure of herself for many reasons, one who hasn't trusted her own instincts until now. 

Monday 7 February 2022

A Line to Kill

Finished January 28
A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz

This is part of a series where a fictionalized version of the author, also named Anthony Horowitz, works with an ex-cop turned private investigator, Daniel Hawthorne. He essentially shadows Hawthorne as he investigates a case and writes it up as a book. Hawthorne is reserved, not talking about himself to Horowitz much, and disdainful of Horowitz's intelligence. 
This is the third book in the series, but the only one I've read. I received it as a gift this past Christmas. 
As the book opens, Anthony is having a meeting with his publisher and they want Daniel to come to the meeting as well. He tells Daniel about it, and he comes and makes a favourable impression. They are told about a new literary festival that they've received an invitation to, and even though the newest book isn't out, so they don't have anything to flog, Daniel seems eager to go, so Anthony agrees. 
The festival takes place on the small island of Alderney, and the group of authors is small. They include a TV chef who has a new book, a children's author, a woman who says she can communicate with the world beyond, a local historian, and a French poet. All but the local historian meet as they wait for the plane to take them to the island. 
Once on the island they meet the organizer of the festival and soon after the sponsor, a wealthy casino owner who is also pushing for a planned power line to cut through the island, a project that has significant local resistance. Anthony also discovers a man that Daniel once arrested also lives on the island, and he begins to wonder if that was why Daniel agreed to come. 
As the festival gets underway, and Anthony and Daniel spend more time together, he learns more about this man and his background. 
When someone is found killed, and the local police aren't immediately available, Daniel gets brought in to look at the case, and Anthony comes along with him.
This series is definitely an interesting idea, and one wonders how much the real author resembles this fictional version. The case has lots of people with opportunity and many with motives, but it is a slower read than many mystery books as the case progresses slowly and the characters are mostly shallowly drawn. A decent read. 

Friday 4 February 2022

February Reviews for 15th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

 My apologies for not getting this up earlier this month.

Link your reviews in the Mr. Linky and add comments below.