Tuesday 18 October 2022

When Elephants Listen with their Feet

Finished September 15
When Elephants Listen with their Feet: Discover Extraordinary Animal Senses by Emmanuelle Grundmann, illustrated by Clemence Dupont, translated by Erin Woods

This advanced picture book goes through each of the senses, giving an overview of the sense for humans, and then looking at how they are different in various other creatures. In addition to the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, other ways of learning about the world around us are included. These are vibrations, and the sensing of the earth's magnetic field or the electrical impulses of other creatures. There is also a section for special qualities that some animals have, like a lizard that can walk on water, or the suction cup-like toes of geckos. 
There are additional text boxes with facts related to that sense. For instance, sight includes facts on light, a physical description of the eye and how it works, the largest eye found on an animal, and how some animals see better in the dark.
Each sense has several pages of information, with many illustrations to help convey specific animal examples. 
One of my favourite tidbits of information was that the blue-tongued skink's tongue reflects ultraviolet light, helping it defend itself from predators. 
The book has an index near the back, containing a list of all the animals discussed and the pages they are mentioned on. There is a second index on the topics covered in the book. 
I learned a lot from reading this book myself, and it is a perfect choice for any child curious about animals. 

Monday 17 October 2022

Changing Habits

Finished September 12
Changing Habits by Debbie Macomber

This novel follows three young women as they grow from girls into women and make a choice to become nuns. They all entered the same order in the late 1950s or early 1960s, and eventually their lives crossed. For a variety of reasons they took their vows, and around ten years later, in the early 1970s, they each separately left the convent to return to ordinary life. 
Angelina Marcello lost her mother at a young age, and as an only child spent a lot of time with her father at his restaurant. She also grew close to one of the teachers at her convent school, and questioned her closely about how she knew she wanted to be a nun. Angelina has a gift for tasting food and identifying the ingredients and knowing how to improve it. It is one her father takes pride in and he plans that she will become a partner to him in the restaurant one day. Her growing attraction to taking clerical orders is one he doesn't understand, and doesn't want for her, and their love for each other as the only family they have, but the different futures they want comes between them.
Kathleen O'Shaughnessy is the fifth of eight children, and has been aware that she is destined to be a nun for as long as she can remember. Her mother believed it when she was a very young child and Kathleen had no doubts that her mother was right. As the time to join the convent grows nearer, the family shows that they are proud that she is making this choice. It is only her oldest brother Sean who questions whether she really wants this and hasn't just gone along with what's been expected of her. 
Joanna Baird began nursing school soon after her boyfriend went to Vietnam, and promised to wait for him. She did, but found that he hadn't waiting for her, and her decision to renew her childhood dream of being a nun comes partly as a consolation for her loss. 
We see the three women enter the convent, and follow them as postulants and then as they take their final vows. The author gives a lot of insight into what life was like for these women at the time, and what they did at the convent and in the professions they took on once their vows were final. 
We also see the social upheaval that occured during the sixties and seventies and how these outside events and the actions of the church also had an effect on their eventual decisions to leave and return to a life as ordinary women. I found this novel very interesting and each of the women was well developed as a character. A fascinating read. 

A New Beginning

Finished September 8
A New Beginning by Brenda Kennedy

Back home in California, Angel Perez had been in an abusive relationship with a man who threatened her with violence if she tried to leave. Some of her family suspected it and her Aunt Rosie left her a message at her death, telling her to take only the necessities and run to Rosie's cottage in Florida for a fresh start. Soon after the funeral, she takes the advice. She had spent time at the cottage when she was younger, but it has been years since she's been there. The personal touches her aunt made to the place comfort her as do her next door neighbours, who welcome her. 
She soon finds a job at a small insurance agency and makes friends with the two owners, who are near her in age, Sara Roberts and Brea Kinsley. The two women are both in happy relationships and are eager to fix her up with a friend, Dr. Mason Myles. 
Mason is very interested in Angel, but she keeps advancing and then retreating. She is attracted, but wary due to her past and the unfinished business from that that she fears will catch up with her.
I found her a little too focused on her appearance, with lots of references to her revealing outfits and high heels. I also found the dialogue in the book a little stilted, and not as flowing as conversations typically are. 
The plot was one that brought some surprises and moved very quickly. 

Friday 7 October 2022

A Kiss for Christmas

Finished September 6
A Kiss for Christmas by Melody Grace

This book is a collection of four novellas: Holiday Kisses, Unwrapped, Unexpectedly Yours, and Meant to Be. All take place during the Christmas season, in various parts of the U.S. They are all part of either the Beachwood Bay series or the Sweetbriar Cove series, but can be read as standalones. 
Holiday Kisses is #5 in the Sweetbriar Cove series. Taking place in Sweetbriar Cove, on Cape Cod this story has British director/screenwriter Dash Everett planning to hole up in one of the cabins at the local inn to try to break through a writing block as he writes a screenplay. The cabin is more rustic than he expected, with no electrical power, and only a fireplace for warmth. But he has access to the main building and Ellie Lucas is a big draw to spend time there. Ellie and her family have been running the inn for a long time, and this Christmas season Ellie is holding down the fort while other family members vacation. Sweetbriar Cove has a Christmas festival that attracts tourists at a traditionally quiet time of the year. The book opens with a meet-cute when Ellie is on a ladder doing some seasonal decorating and Dash opens the door into the ladder and then catches her when she falls. As he gradually gets into the holiday mood, Ellie also dares to look at a world beyond her hometown. She is one of those people who likes to help everyone around her and is often an early volunteer in any community project, so there is a pull for her to stay where she is comfortable and openly appreciated. 
Unwrapped is #2.5 in the Beachwood Bay series. Lacey James is on her way home to Beachwood Bay for her best friend Jules' wedding. But she is cutting it fine when her flight runs into a wicked storm and is diverted. During the flight she sat next to Jules' ex-boyfriend Daniel Sullivan and the two connected more than they had previously, with Daniel really seeing Lacey for herself. When the flight to Atlanta is diverted, she pours out her panic to him, and when they finally find a room available, there is only one and they find themselves sharing it, and so much more. Daniel is determined to get Lacey to the wedding in time, and, as a smart problem solver finds a way to make it happen. 
Unexpectedly Yours is #6 in the Beachwood Bay series. For this one, only a small part of the story is set in Beachwood Bay. Sophie Young has had a desire for a romantic weekend in New York City at Christmas for years, including a list of all the things she wants to do with her boyfriend. He's supposed to meet her there, but when she arrives, he isn't there. And then she gets the call telling her that he isn't coming. She's angry and disappointed, and alone on Christmas Eve. She decides she can't stay in her room, and goes down to the hotel bar for a drink. She overhears the man at the next table, Austin Kelly trying to find someone in his little black book to spend the holiday with after his flight home to Europe was cancelled. So when he tries his line on her, she calls him on it. Austin is in a well-known rock band and used to having women do anything to be with him, so he finds that her not realizing who he is and treating him like a regular guy is refreshing. He is surprised and intrigued by this woman, and offers to make her stay in NYC a fun one, taking her to his favourite places and many on her list. As they spend time together, they find themselves more and more attracted to each other, but an unexpected visitor throws everything off, and Sophie goes to her friend's place in Beachwood Bay for comfort. Maybe New Year's will bring magic to both of them after all.
Meant to Be is #1 in the Sweetbriar Cove series. Poppy Somerville has just cancelled her wedding plans as she realizes that she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life with this man. She runs to her aunt's house in Sweetbriar Cove, a house where she spent many a childhood summer and has fond memories of. Poppy has become a writer of romance novels, but lately she's had a bad case of writer's block and she hopes this time away by herself will provide inspiration. When she finds Cooper Nicholson working on the house next door, she is first bothered by the noise, and then by the realization that this man is the same person as the boy that constantly teased her in those long ago summers. Cooper has been burnt before in a relationship and has a lack of confidence in the idea that any woman would want him, especially one from a big urban city. But as the two spend more time near each other and begin talking, they find they have more in common than they thought, including a definite attraction. 
A great introduction for me to this author and some hot romance too. Very enjoyable. 

Tuesday 4 October 2022

October Reviews for the 16th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

 Wow, is it already October. It's starting to feel like fall here, and the leaves are beginning to come down. Here come those colder months where I like to cosy up and read. 

Add your links to books you've read in October and drop in a comment. 

Windy Days

Finished September 5
Windy Days by Deborah Kerbel and Miki Sato

This charming picture book conveys the feeling of a windy day in all its variations. From the gentle wind that ruffles your hair to the blustery wind that chills, the images and words bring them all to life. I always love the collage images that Sato uses in these picture books and how they reflect the words from Kerbel, but also add more, allowing readers to take their time and explore the pictures, finding new things to discuss. The children portrayed here enjoy the feel of the wind, and how it behaves on other things around them, from plants to pinwheels and kites. 
At the end of the book, they include more information giving suggestions for science experiments that are both fun to do and a great learning experience. The also give information on types of clouds that are shown in the book and encourage the reader to find examples of each one.
Like the rest of this series, the covers are padded with rounded corners and the pages thick and easy to grasp. 
A joy to read, and one that will be revisited often by young readers. 

Monday 3 October 2022

The Wildwater Walking Club

Finished September 4
The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook

This novel follows Noreen (Nora) Kelly from the morning after she takes a buyout from her job in Boston. She's worked for Balancing Act Shoes for the past eighteen years, most recently as Senior Manager of Brand Identity, and they'd recently been taken over by another company. The manager in the buyout company who convinced her to take the buyout was a man she'd recently been involved with, and she discovers quickly that he has now dumped her. In response, one of her final acts is to use her employee discount to buy up a bunch of shoes in her size.
And she begins to walk. 
First, one her own, walking the paths of her neighbourhood. Then with her next door neighbour Tess, the mother of a teen daughter and a primary school teacher. They soon add another woman, Rosie, the owner of a nearby lavender farm. As the women walk, and talk, and figure out their futures, they grow closer a real friendships are forged. 
Nora also goes to some meetings included in her buyout package, with a firm called Fresh Horizons. There, she meets others going through a significant life change, and makes a friend. 
When her mother comes for a visit from Florida, more connections are made, and Nora finds herself finding a new purpose.
This book is a reminder that there is a life beyond work, and a need within us all for true friendship. 
I liked Nora and her attitude, the rooster named Rod Stewart and his zeal for breakfast cereal, and the clothesline plotline.