Sunday 31 December 2023

The Forgotten Bookshop in Paris

Finished December 18
The Forgotten Bookshop in Paris by Daisy Wood

This is a novel about a woman rediscovering herself, a woman making choices about her life that suit herself, and a woman making a connection to her own family history. 
The book has dual timelines, one in the present day as Juliette discovers that her marriage is not a place she wants to be anymore, and one in the past as Jacques watches the German occupation of his city take things from him. 
Jacques isn't an obvious hero. He is bookish and shy, and wary of taking risks. But as the Paris that he loves comes under their control and the people and things he loves get taken away, he finds that he must take some actions, and he chooses to help those that need it, and keep a discreet record of his actions. 
Juliette has let life happen, and when a sudden discovery makes her really look at where she is, she decides to let herself explore the city of Paris, a place she wants to learn more about to connect to the grandmother who lived there. She has a painting of a square in Paris and wants to find it. When she does, she wants to learn more. 
This is a story of taking chances, or making conscious choices that have risks associated, and of listening to one's inner voice. 
I enjoyed both timelines, and seeing the primary character in each grow as their stories unfolded. 

Annie Bot

Finished December 18
Annie Bot by Sierra Greer

This novel totally captivated me. I read it slowly, wanting it to last as long as possible and thinking a lot about Annie. Annie is a robot that her owner bought to meet his personal needs. She comes from a line of AI robots called Stellas, where owners can choose a mode from three main types: Abigail (who cooks and performs housework), a Nanny one to look after children, and a Cuddle Bunny mode to provide sexual and emotional pleasure for the owner. 
Annie is designed to learn from her experiences, and as she tries to learn how to please Doug, she adjusts her libido to his, simulates orgasms in response to his, and tries to meet his needs, she grows more confused. Why? Because Doug is human, and not predictable. When he gets an unexpected visit from an old friend, Roland, Annie meets someone new for the first time, and is exposed to more information, including that she resembles Doug's ex-wife Gwen. Annie is learning for the first time about this woman's existence and she struggles to figure out how she compares to her, causing her some grief from Doug. 
As Annie gains secrets, and tries to figure out not only how to please Doug, but also how the world works, and how she herself works, she is becoming more human, and finds herself experiencing what seem like emotions to herself. 
It is telling to see that Doug has modelled her on a woman he was previously in a serious relationship, yet one he has more control over. Doug can tell her what she's allowed to say about him or their relationship. He can punish her. He can ignore her for days and then just expect to have her play her role again. But because she is autodidactic and learns from her experiences, she grows more confused, and feels hurt, jealous, and even angry. 
Seeing her develop was fascinating. Doug was a man who thinks he knows what he wants, but when he gets it, he still isn't happy. There is gaslighting, manipulation, and a lot of other relationship stuff going on here that made me root for and fear for Annie more and more. I hated him more and more as I got further into the book.
It also made me think about AI a lot and how it works, and where it will appear in our lives. It gave me a lot to think about. 
An amazing read. 

Tuesday 26 December 2023

Look Up High! Things That Fly

Finished December 18
Look Up High! Things That Fly by Victoria Allenby.

Like her past picture books in this series, this simple book is aimed at building vocabulary, enjoying rhyme and rhythm, and encouraging movement. The illustrations are real photographs, like the previous books: Listen Up! Train Song and Shape Up! Construction Trucks.
The cover is padded and the pages are thick to stand up to abuse from young readers, and the print is large and occupies a small amount of each page spread. For each, Allenby emphasizes some words that can start a discussion that will build vocabulary. Here, it is verbs that the various flying items can be described with. Some may be new to a young reader and can be used to get them thinking about the different ways that things can fly. The last page of the reading is a question getting the reader to think about how they would like to fly. 
As usual for these books, there is a short section at the back that gives several ideas for further work based on the book. Here, it also begins discussion of prepositions, one that works well for things that have space between them and the ground. 
This is a great addition to any young child's library. 

Monday 25 December 2023

A Desperate Fortune

Finished December 15
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

This is a novel that I'd been meaning to read for a while since I'd read a later book featuring some of the same characters and really enjoyed it. This is a dual timeline novel, with the outer story in the present day and the inner one in the 1730s, set around the Jacobite community in Europe, exiled from England. 
In the present day IT specialist Sara Thomas is between jobs, when her cousin Jacqui who is a literary agent, approaches her about a freelance job. The job is not in her usual area, but instead involves working to break the code on a diary written by a young woman who was the daughter of a wigmaker in King James the Eighth's household in France. The first few paragraphs of the diary are written in English, but the rest is written in code, and one of Jacqui's authors is interested in using the diary to base his new history book on. 
Sara is on the autism scale, and has been tested as Asperger's, and she doesn't like working on a team, but more independently, which is why she is between jobs. Her affinity with numbers and patterns means that while she hasn't worked to break a code before, it is a natural area for her skillset. Sara will be working in the home of the woman who owns the diary in France, not far from Paris. 
As Sara works to break the code and transcribe the diary, we see adjust to the people in her new environment and make new friends. 
In the second timeline, Mary Dundas is a young woman whose father left her as a child with her French maternal aunt when her mother died. Her diary starts as she is contacted by her older brother to join his household, but she soon finds out that he hasn't told her his real reason for reuniting with her, and she finds a chance encounter with another woman passing through the same household she visits gives her confidence and tools to make the best of her new situation. 
Both woman have facility in more than one language and both face issues outside their comfort zone, and in environments unfamiliar to them. 
I really enjoyed seeing both of them develop. Mary's story is a true coming-of-age tale even though she is in her early twenties, as she has lived in her aunt and uncle's household alongside their children for most of her life. Sara's story also has coming-of-age aspects, even though she is older, as she learns to use the skills her brain has dealt her, find ways to face those times she struggles without being embarrassed, and gains in her confidence on the romantic front. I hope to see more following both these women. 

Death in the Cotswolds

Finished December 8
Death in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope

This is part of the mystery series featuring Thea Osborne, although she's not the primary character in this novel. The narrator here is Ariadne, a woman who lives across the road from the home that DI Phil Hollis's aunt Helen lived in. Thea has come to the village of Cold Aston with her boyfriend Phil to go through his aunt's house, which has sat empty for some time, and clear it out. Ariadne has known Phil since she was a child and he was a teenager, and he has been paying her a small amount to do a regular cleaning of the empty house. The house has had the power cut off for some time as well, a decision Phil made after his aunt's death a year ago. 
Ariadne has changed her name from Mary to better suit how she feels about herself, but Phil keeps forgetting and using her childhood name. Back in the day, Ariadne had often babysat for Phil and his wife Caroline when their children were young. His aunt had wanted Ariadne to move in with her, but Ariadne bought the place across the road as a compromise. She lives an independent and unusual life, making her living by knitting, weaving, and spinning and sells her stuff mainly at markets and stalls. As Helen was in her final illness, Ariadne did most of the caregiving and thus a lot of her belongings are still in the house. Somehow she feels reluctant to take them away as they provide a feeling of coziness that feels right to her. 
Ariadne is also part of a local group that practices paganism, and they are planning their activities for the upcoming Samhain celebration. When she comes across a body near the site they are planning to use, everything in her world changes and she doesn't know whether any of the people she's considered friends really are. 
This is a mystery with many discoveries, and many secrets. I really enjoyed seeing it unfold. 

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Fair Warning

Finished December 7
Fair Warning by Michael Connelly

Jack McEvoy is a journalist who now writes for a consumer protection watchdog site called Fair Warning. When a woman that he had a brief liaison with a few months ago is found dead, he comes under suspicion. The police that come to see him are obviously aware of his past work, some of which put the police in a bad light and he finds later visits from them even more concerning. 
He, however, has had his curiosity piqued by what they tell him, and starts his own investigation into her death and others with similar body trauma. 
This is a story that proves dangerous, not only to Jack, but to his fellow reporters at Fair Warning, and to those with connections to the killer. 
One of the really interesting aspects to this novel is the involvement of DNA analysis organizations and the regulation, or lack thereof, around privacy, sharing of data (even when the organizations claim it is stripped of identifying data), and the reselling of such information on the dark web. This story definitely kept me interested. 

Tuesday 12 December 2023


Finished December 2
Maureen by Rachel Joyce

This is the third and last in the series that started with The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and continued with The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. This is the story of Maureen, Harold's wife, and takes place a few years after his story does. Maureen is still struggling with how to deal with her grief and the feelings she has around the loss of her son. Maureen and Harold have made their peace with each other and grown closer, but they are both aware of her struggle. Maureen has heard about the garden that Queenie created and is having trouble understanding it. She's seen pictures, but they haven't helped her understand. Harold and her have discussed her need to see for herself this place that holds a piece of her life, and one night when she can't sleep, she decides to go. 
This is story of her journey, one that is both physical and emotional. It is a shorter book than the others, but goes deep into Maureen's mind, showing us how she thinks, and how she has used her stern facade to protect herself. It also gives us insight into other things that happened along the way in her struggle and how they've brought her to a more isolated life. 
It took me some time to read this novel as I wanted to sit with it at times and reflect on what it was saying and where it was taking me. This is a beautiful book, and a fitting conclusion to this story. 

Sunday 10 December 2023

The Light of Paris

Finished December 2
The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

I love Brown's books, and this is no exception. Here Madeleine is a woman who has always felt herself to be a misfit, whether in the private school her parents sent her to or in the social world of her husband's business contacts. What Madeleine loved was art, and although she'd been allowed to do art in school, her work wasn't valued by her parents, and she ended up succumbing to the pressure from her mother to get married. Phillip is a successful businessman who met Madeleine through her father's business and while moving in the world her parents expected, proves to be a very controlling husband. Phillip has an interior designer do their home, not allowing Madeleine to have any input on the minimalist style, nor does he allow her to work, or do her art. The only outlet to pleasure she has is as a volunteer docent at the art gallery, where she leads tours. The book opens on one of these tours, and the comments from the teacher escorting the students Madeleine is guiding around the gallery speak to something in her. She is due to go home to her mother for a week the following day, and while there discovers the diaries of her grandmother Margie, and finds that Margie also had an artistic bent and was denied fulfillment in her passion. The diaries reveal Margie's one experience of true freedom, living in Paris for several months, earning her own living, and as Madeleine reads of Margie's life, she determines what she has to do in her own. 
This is a novel of what happens when family expectations don't lead down the same road as one's own bent, and how hard it is to overcome the path that is set for oneself. Brown makes her scenes vivid here, so that I could experience the situations the characters were in, and found myself urging them to speak up for themselves. It was lovely to see the women bloom when they were in their element. I should note that it wasn't only the women characters who were forced into a life they wouldn't choose by family expectations, as there were men in similar circumstances, although the focus was on the women. 
A great read.

Wednesday 6 December 2023

The Scar

Finished November 27
The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic, illustrated by Olivier Tallec

This emotional picture book is aimed at a specific audience, and one that would be useful in certain circumstances, read to a child by an adult close to them, helping them through a difficult time. The opening words are stark, touching, and give a truth that is also a revelation. They are:
Mom died this morning.
It wasn't really this morning.
Dad said she died during the night,
but I was sleeping during the night.
For me, she died this morning.
Those words, together with the simple yet perfect illustration of a young boy lying on his bed looking up, take us into the feelings of the narrator. 
As he tells us the story of his loss and grief and that of his father as well, we see how he works through it, the emotions that he has been going through and continues to feel. Moundlic's writing brings the scenes to life, like when he describes his crying father "he looked like a washcloth, all crumpled and wet," and he expresses his struggle to understand how to help his father. 
This book had me in tears, but also left me feeling comforted as I relate to his loss. 
A good addition to a public library parenting collection. 

The Armada Boy

Finished November 27
The Armada Boy by Kate Ellis

This novel is the second in the series featuring Devonshire police officer Wesley Peterson. In the small coastal town of Bereton, a group of American veterans has gathered, partly to visit where they were stationed for a while during World War II, just before D-Day, and partly as a memorial to those fellow soldiers who never returned. When one of the men, Norman Openheim is killed in the ruins of an old chantry chapel, the police find themselves both looking at current young criminals as well as delving into the activities that took place 50 years earlier. 
Before Wesley became a police officer he got a degree in archaeology, and it happens one of his friends archaeologist Neil Watson is doing work both in the chapel where the murder took place and in the coastal waters of the village. This work is around a ship and the Spanish men who were on it, as they were wrecked while trying to limp home after the defeat of the Armada. The bodies of the men are buried in the chapel, rather than in the churchyard with the locals. 
As the case moves on, Wesley and his fellow officers uncover information from both the more recent and the more distant historical events. Ties to the present and those connected wtih related local crimes also come to light. 
This read got me interested enough to order more books in the series. 

Two for the Road

Finished November 27
Two for the Road by Roddy Doyle

This short novel is a follow-up to his book Two Pints, which is a conversation between two unnamed men in a pub. The conversations here begin in mid-July 2014 and continue through mid-March 2019. The conversations are short, and touch on current events from politics and social media to life events and music. As in most of Doyle's books, music is a well-loved subject, and here we often see commentary on the deaths of musicians, bands reuniting, and other news from that world. Political topics range from those in Ireland to more international ones, and the events touched on have the men making confidences of things from their own lives that touch on the same subjects, bring on memories both happy and sad, and give us insight into the commonalities that we all share. 
As always, a great and thoughtful read. 

December Reviews for the 17th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

This is where you add links to the reviews for books you've read in December 2023.
Add a comment as well to let me know how the challenge is going for you.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

A Wish for Winter

Finished November 23
A Wish for Winter by Viola Shipman

Susan Norcross lives in a small Michigan town where she runs a bookstore that was started by her grandparents. Her grandparents still work there, and her parents worked there too, until they died in an accident when she was a teenager. Both Susan's grandmother and mother met their husbands when the men were dressed as Santa, and when Susan was a child, she predicted that a similar meeting would be hers. But now Susan is approaching forty and is still single, and she has almost lost hope for such a happy ending. 
She has a group of good friends, from college roommate Holly, to Noah and Leah, who work at her bookstore Sleigh by the Bay. They have some fun traditions, like a holiday movie marathon, and these friendships are an important part of all their lives. 
One thing that is also a part of Susan's life is running and Holly has talked her into doing Chicago's 10K Santa Run dressed as Mrs. Claus. Susan is approached by a man dressed as Santa, as many of them are, and something made a connection for both of them. Their planned meetup for later didn't happen, and when Holly comes up with a plan to find him, Susan finds herself getting a lot more attention than she expected, or is comfortable with. 
Susan also finds herself dealing with issues from the past that she has never really resolved, and those give the story more depth. 
A very enjoyable read. 

Monday 27 November 2023

Secretly Yours

Finished November 17
Secretly Yours by Tessa Bailey

This is the first of a series of romance books set in the Napa Valley. Here, Hallie Welch runs her own garden company: designing, planting, and looking after gardens for her clients. She has a real eye for it, and she is following in her grandmother's footsteps in this endeavour. She is still mourning her grandmother, and the stability that her grandmother brought to her life. Related to this, she's recently been extremely angry at a new wine store that has opened in town, called Uncorked. It is located right across from her grandmother's friend's store, Corked, and has had a major impact on business there. Corked hasn't kept up with the times and looks a little shabby, which hasn't helped. 
When Hallie hears that her schoolgirl crush, Julian Vos, the son of local vintners, has come back to town, she gets a little excited and curious. With memories of the one kiss she had with him, she can't help but wonder if she's still attracted to him. 
Julian has returned to town on a sabbatical from his university teaching job to write a novel. He's made the move after a colleague's health crisis, and he finds that his mother, who runs the vineyard now, has secrets and issues of her own. 
Both Julian and Hallie feel an attraction, despite their different lifestyles and personalities, and it was interesting to see their relationship develop. The secret letter plot wasn't as central as I'd expected and didn't always ring true for me. 
The side stories only added to the interest, and I could see who would be a likely candidate for the second novel, since Hallie's bestie is already married. I'd also like to see more around the wine store rivalry and where that goes. 
Overall as good as what I'd expect from Tessa Bailey. A very entertaining read. 

Bay Street

Finished November 15
Bay Street by Philip Slayton

The action in this novel takes place around a Bay Street law firm. Piper Fantouche is a junior partner in the law firm, but feels like she's not able to get enough billable hours to advance herself there. one of the senior partners asks her to join a team that is handling a takeover bid in the financial services industry, but he may have ulterior motives. Other women in the firm or previously in the firm have been the subject of his attention in the past. 
There are issues of competition within the law firm, issues with the takeover bid itself and the bank initiating it, and issues around women in the book. 
The narration shows us the thoughts and viewpoints of a number of characters throughout the course of the novel, but it still feels oddly formal, and I always felt like I was watching things from a distance rather than getting pulled into the book. 
The plot is interesting in some ways, especially since I once worked in downtown Toronto in the financial industry, but it wasn't compelling. 

Wednesday 22 November 2023

The Hidden Beach

Finished November 14
The Hidden Beach by Karen Swan

This novel has a lot going on. The main character, Bell Everhurst has been working as a nanny for three years for a professional couple in Stockholm. Bell is in her mid-twenties and, while English, had a Swedish grandmother and so speaks Swedish as well. The backstory for her presence in Stockholm comes out over the course of the book. 
The family she works for has a 9 year old son Linus, and twin girls, Elise and Tilde, who are four. Hanna is a physician and on the day the book begins, has had an emergency with a patient. When Bell takes a call from a clinic with an odd message, things as she know them, begin to unravel. 
With Linus's father emerging from a coma, things are now uncertain. He has significant influence, and Bell gradually senses that Hanna has less control of the situation than she would like. 
When summer arrives and the family goes off to their summer home, on a small island, things seem more normal, and Bell holds the fort there, entertaining and minding the kids during the day, with Hanna taking over after dark, and Max coming for the weekends. 
We also see Hanna's friends: her roommate Kris, a chef, and his doctor boyfriend Marc, and Tove, a server in the bar downstairs from their apartment. They also have a small cottage on the island archipelago, and often come down at weekends. 
When Midsommar arrives, Bell is given extra time off, and preps the friends place for their arrival, meeting a quiet man as she gathers supplies. While their first meeting doesn't go that well, there is a connection of sorts, and she sees him later during the festivities and still later, when taking a moment to herself. This night will set the scene for later developments, as Linus's father steps into the story in a bigger way. 
The story has an element of mystery, romance and lightheartedness, as well as a more serious plot underneath. Very enjoyable read. 

Tuesday 21 November 2023

New Beginnings at Rose Cottage

Finished November 10
New Beginnings at Rose Cottage by Erin Green

This novel has three women, from three different generations, who book into a shared vacation cottage on the coast of Devon. They all have something they are escaping or looking for. The advertisement for the cottage had promised friendships and home comforts, and although the women are wary at first at the possibility of making friends with women of a different age group, they find themselves growing close in surprising ways. 
Emma has recently lost her job after the restaurant she worked at for years closed and the building sold to a new restaurant owner. She has decided to use her redundancy funds to start her own food business. She isn't sure what that will look like yet, so she is taking the time to weigh her options as well as think about her personal life. When an unexpected opportunity arises, she finds herself moving faster than planned, and faster than her new friends think she should. 
Ruth is taking a much needed break from her life. She had dreams when she was young of a creative life, but an unplanned pregnancy and subsequent single motherhood made her rely on her mother, and thus abide by her mother's decisions around her life, and has had a long career as a bank clerk. More recently, she's also been the caregiver for her mother as the older woman has begun a cognitive decline. When she is drawn to a local art shop and begins painting, she finds herself experiencing new feelings. 
Benni works through a temp agency, and tries to maintain a positive attitude despite the addictive behaviour of her mother and brother, whom she lives with. As she learns to listen to her body rather be shamed by it, she tries new activities and begins to gain confidence in areas that she never believed she would. She also learns something unexpected about her own family.
All of these women have interesting stories, and the vacation doesn't provide instant solutions, but it does open their eyes to different opportunities and create new contacts that also open doors they hadn't known about. 
An enjoyable read. 

Monday 13 November 2023

Blood on a Saint

Finished November 5
Blood on a Saint by Anne Emery

This is the seventh book in the Collins-Burke series, featuring Halifax lawyer Monty Collins and local Catholic priest Brennan Burke. Here, a young woman, who was recently let go from her administrative position at the church is claiming that she sees the Virgin Mary about the statue of St. Bernadette in front of the church named for the saint. This claim draws believers, salesmen of artifacts, media attention, and some who would take advantage of those who come to the site. 
Father Brennan Burke is sure that the young woman, Befanee Tate, is making the story up, but he has to abide by the church line on the subject, which is to investigate. 
Monty represents the local church in many legal matters and the young woman has recently filed a case for damages regarding her dismissal by the church. 
One of the people who arrives in town after the sighting is television debate host Pike Podgis. Podgis is a man whose show looks for the sensational and insults the guests, making humour at their expense. He is hosting a local debate on religion and the bishop has instructed Burke to represent the church for this, while a local university professor represents science. Those who know the series, are aware that Burke is a colourful Irishman, who is well-educated, can't stand fools, and likes a drink on a regular basis. This makes his appearance on the show one that gives the host a surprise he doesn't expect. 
When later that same night a body is found at the foot of the statue, and Monty is hired to represent the accused, things get more interesting. 
Monty and Burke are good friends, who socialize regularly. Burke has played a large role in getting Monty and his wife on the road to reconciliation, and Burke also is a regular attendee of Monty's band's pub appearances. Both of these have a role here. Burke is a fan of a variety of music and this also shows up in the plot. 
I found this quite an interesting case, and I had read one other in this series and enjoyed it as well, so enjoyed seeing more of these characters. A good read. 

The Bookshop Murder

Finished November 3
The Bookshop Murder by Merryn Allingham

This is the first book in a series of historical mysteries and is set in the mid-1950s. Flora Steele owns a bookshop in the village of Abbeymead in Sussex. She inherited it from her aunt, who raised her after the death of her parents when she was young. Flora had plans for her first few months after getting her library degree, but her aunt's illness and death meant that she is now tied to the store and her life there. When a customer discovers a body in her store, she finds that gossip and rumour are hitting her financial, with a decrease in sales and traffic. With the police not interested in tracking down the reasons this stranger broke into her store, she decides to take matters into her own hands, with the assistance of the crime-writing customer who discovered the body. 
I got a real sense of village life here, and how people were reacting to events of the time, like the end of rationing, and the turnover of traditional manor properties. Flora is a determined young woman, and is unhappy about not being taken seriously. She is full of ideas, but also open to critiques of those ideas with solid facts. One gets a very concrete examples of how women's views and concerns were not treated with the same respect as men's. I definitely got a sense of how the series might continue and how some plotlines might develop further in future books. An enjoyable read. 

Monday 6 November 2023

Better Off Dead

Finished November 2
Better Off Dead by Lee Child and Andrew Child

The book opens with a man that seems to be Reacher waiting for a rendezvous near the Mexican border. When the car that approaches him has more people than he expects, and he finds himself up against four men, some of them with weapons, we know that things might go badly. As this prelude ends, the man is in a morgue and we are left hanging.
We go back to two days earlier, where Reacher is approaching a town near the Texas border when he comes across a Jeep that appears to have been in an accident. When he approaches the vehicle, he is surprised to have a weapon aimed at him. As he backs off when they hear another vehicle approach, and witnesses a deadly encounter, he finds himself wondering just what is going on. 
He finds himself drawn into a woman's search for her missing twin brother, both of them military veterans. She gets him up to speed quickly on the situation, but she might not be telling him everything, and he keeps pushing as things move along to ensure he's not missing anything important. 
He comes up with a plan to get the man behind it all, but unexpected people, events, and devices come along to alter what Reacher has to deal with.
As always, a fast-moving plot, with lots of action, suspense and interesting characters. 

Saturday 4 November 2023

A Grave Disturbance

Finished October 31
A Grave Disturbance by D.M. Greenwood

This is the 8th book in the series featuring Theodora Braithwaite, an Anglican deacon. A school friend, Susan Tye, who is the wife of the Provost of Giltchrist Cathedral, calls her for assistance. Susan has noticed her husband behaving suspiciously and want Theodora's assistance in the issue. The same day that she is due to arrive, a workman on the roof of the cathedral falls to his death. 
Lionel Comfret, the Assistant (Lay) Diocesan Secretary, who works for the Archbishop, is thinking about his upcoming retirement. He quite looks forward to it. He has been with the church for ten years, and had been both a soldier and a teacher before this position. Early in the book there is a meeting that includes Lionel, Archdeacon Marcus More, Provost Reggie Tye, and Canon Kate Wale and this gives a good sense of the abilities and limitations of these senior clergy who figure in the plot. We also see the secretary for the senior clergy Mrs. Lure and see her lack of effort in her job. Overall, these early scenes give us a very good idea of why Lionel is looking forward to his retirement. It is during the meeting that the accident occurs, and Lionel is a witness to it, as he watches from the window. 
On the drive back with Theodora, Lionel talks about the accident and about the town, which has three distinct areas. Cray Martyr is the poorer part of town, the part where the victim came from. The parish priest there, Tobias Angel is a strong advocate for his parishioners and a personality in his own right, as we see later. Giltchrist is where the cathedral close is, and between them is Gainshurst a more posh part of town, where both the Archdeacon and the Canon live. 
Kate Wale is married to a developer, Leslie Wale, who has done very well for himself and both of them left behind their Cray Martyr childhoods. The were both acquainted with the Lee family, of whom Mick Lee, the victim, was the middle child. As we discover, there is history between the families, but also a history of distrust between the family and the church to some extent. 
We soon hear about the reason for Susan's request for Theodora's visit and Susan's plans for her during that time. 
I enjoyed the depth of the characters here, especially Lionel, but also Kate to an extent. We see how Lionel finds a possible new future role in an environment that he has more respect for the leadership in, and we see how he spends his leisure time. Theodora is somewhat frustrated by Susan's demands, but falls in to assist Lionel in finding answers. 
A very interesting read, which I got caught up in quite quickly. 

Friday 3 November 2023

Two previous series reads that somehow got missed: Blue Moon by Lee Child and The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

While following up on some of the series I read, I noticed gaps for two them where I seemed to have missed a book. I've taken them out of the library, but as soon as I started reading them I remembered them. I've searched all my notes and don't seem to have written reviews, which is very odd for me. They both date from the same time period, published in late 2019 read either in late 2019 or early 2020 and I guess that I missed them in the busyness of other things at the time. So here they are, now.

Blue Moon by Lee Child, read by Scott Brick

This is the 24th book in the series and once it again it begins with Reacher on a Greyhound bus in the middle of America. He assists an older man after the man is attacked in the street after exiting the bus, and one thing leads to another as he first helps him to the place where the payment the older man needs to do is to take place, and later to his home. The man and his wife are worried about their daughter whose story unfolds for him. He soon finds himself impersonating the old man, and getting between the Ukrainian and Albanian gangs who run the town and are vying for expansion under the new police commissioner in the small city. 
As each gang makes moves and Reacher makes some to protect himself and the older couple, there is luck that happens, as they say, once in a blue moon. Reacher's investigations lead him into the world of paid healthcare in the U.S., IT startups successes and failures, money trails and extortion rings. 
This is classic Jack Reacher, satisfying for the little guy, with the bad guys in deep trouble. 

The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

This is the 10th book in the Flavia de Luce series. Her oldest sister Ophelia is getting married as the book opens, but there's a shocking item in the wedding cake when she slices it. Flavia is quick on her feet and manages to take the item while the focus is on Ophelia's hysterics. 
Flavia has also teamed up with her father's valet, Dogger, as a private investigation firm. The wedding discovery turns out to be the start of their first case, leading them to a special railway for the dead, a visit from missionaries, and a client who dies before the case is resolved. 
Dogger serves as a guide for Flavia's enthusiasm, putting her on the right track, and encouraging her good ideas. To their clients and the police they present a team that can put things together faster than the officials can. 
This isn't my favourite of the series, but it does offer some interesting scenes, and cousin Undine plays a larger role than in earlier books. 

The Nodding Canaries

Finished October 28
The Nodding Canaries by Gladys Mitchell

This book is part of a long series that I've not read before. The Nodding Canaries is the 34th book in the series, but it seems like you don't need to read them in order to enjoy them. This book was originally published in 1961, shortly after it was allowed that female teachers could be married. The banter and slang used is dated, and in one or two cases offensive as current terminology. The sleuth here is Dame Beatrice Lestrange Bradley, who is a psychiatrist who works for the Home Office in England. 
Here she is called to Nodding by Alice Boorman, a schoolteacher that is a longtime friend. Laura Gavin, Bradley's secretary, is a childhood friend of Alice's. Alice has recently applied to run for Organizer of the area, a much-sought after position by teachers. She has been shortlisted along with two other teachers, and she offered to host them around the interview time as they lived further away, one from Devonshire, and one from Scotland. 
Before the late afternoon interviews, the women toured the town, seeing the cathedral, the market, and some historical sites. One suggested the historical site of Pigmy's Ladder, a prehistoric flint mine. Alice did not accompany the other women into the mine as she had already been and felt claustrophobic, but when they didn't reemerge at the appointed time the site manager called for help and the women were found and taken to the hospital for their condition. Alice feels that a past past-time of hers makes her a possible suspect to them and has asked Dame Bradley to find out the truth behind the incident. 
This incident leads to a missing male teacher, his questionable past, historical artifacts, and the local archaeological society. 
This is a mystery with much twists and turns. Dame Bradley is a force to be reckoned with, and the men here defer to her with little hesitation. The mystery itself is complex and dates back some time, with a variety of suspects and motives to keep the reader guessing. 

November Reviews for the 17th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

 This is where you link the reviews for Canadian books that you've read in November. The books to fit this challenge should be either written by a Canadian author or have a Canadian setting. If there is some other reason that they fit the challenge, note it in the comments. Thanks, and enjoy your reading. 


Finished October 28
Soulless by Gail Carriger, illustrated by Jensine Eckwall

This lighthearted crime novel takes place in the early part of the Victorian era, in an alternate paranormal version of our world. It is the first in a series. England has recognized that vampires, ghosts, and werewolves exist, and thus they no longer have to hide anymore. Most of these paranormal beings live in hives (vampires) or dens (werewolves), but the occasional loner lives as a rove. There is a government organization, the Bureau of Unnatural Registry (BUR) that keeps watch on them and ensures that they abide by the laws and that they have registered with the government. In this world, these beings owe their supernatural abilities to an abundance of soul., an excess that refused to die. 
The main character of this series, Miss Alexia Tarabotti, is otherwise gifted. She has no soul at all, thus the title of this first book. When she comes into contact with a person with supernatural abilities, those abilities disappear, and the are entirely normal human beings. Some feel threatened by creatures such as her, some enjoy the occasional touch. Persons without a soul, called preternatural, are rare, and females even more so. 
Alexia is a member of the upper classes, and lives with her mother, her stepfather, and two stepsisters. Alexia's father was Italian, which is not that welcomed in society, and neither are the olive skin and dark hair she also inherited from him. Her family and most of society are not aware of her soullessness, but those with supernatural abilities are. So when, at a party at someone's home, Alexia is alone and is attacked by a vampire, she is surprised, but so is he. This is definitely not acceptable behaviour, as any such interaction must be consensual by law. He doesn't know what to make of her, when his supernatural features disappear when they come into contact. In the course of the struggle, Alexia inadvertently kills him, and finds herself under scrutiny by the head of BUR, Lord Conall Maccon, previously of Scotland, and a werewolf. 
As BUR begins to investigate the sudden appearance of new vampires and werewolves, and the sudden disappearance of roving ones, Alexia finds a suitor from America who shows some interest in her and is delighted with her intelligence and ability to speak comfortably on scientific topics. He has come to speak at a new scientific institute which has gone up in the heart of London. 
Alexia also finds herself in an uncertain courting dance with Lord Maccon, which is confusing to both of them. She confides in both her closest female friend, Miss Ivy Hisselpenny, and her closest male friend, the flamboyant rove vampire, Lord Akeldama. Both of them are helpful in their own ways. 
The drawings interspersed throughout the book are delightful and detailed. The story has humour, a deeper layer of social commentary, as well as good characters and dialogue. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. 

Monday 30 October 2023

The Dream Thief

Finished October 25
The Dream Thief by Shana Abe

This is the second book in the Drakon series. They are set in the late 18th century. I've read the third book in the series Queen of Dragons, so I had some sense of where this book would end up. The Drakon are people who can transform from human to smoke and to dragons. Most gain this ability during their late teens, but not all. 
Amalia (Lia) is the daughter of the leader of the clan and she doesn't have the ability to turn, but she does have other abilities that she keeps to herself. One is to recognize real gems, like diamonds, sapphires, etc. including being aware of them from a distance. One that she has sensed for a long time is Draumr, an infamous diamond buried in the mountains of Carpathia, that has the power to enslave the drakons. It was buried by a princess of the clan who died doing it after being enslaved for years to an ordinary man. Her other gift is that she dreams the future, and she knows that it is a man with special skills who will go after Draumr. 
Lia is sent to boarding school in Scotland, but her knowledge of the future enables her to prepare in some ways for that, things like learning the languages of Hungarian and Romanian. She is also aware that Zane, a man rescued as a child by her mother, and who thus knows about the drakon, is a skilled thief who will be the one to go after the diamond. She approaches him when she is very young, but he rebuffs her. 
So when he is hired to go after the diamond, she must use her skills to follow him, and then travel with him on this journey. Along the way, she learns more about her own skills and abilities and finds herself capable of even more than she realized. 
We also see how capable Zane is, with his weapons knowledge and preparedness, and his ability to move quickly and surreptitiously when needed. 
In Romania, we also see the current Prince Imre of the castle where the diamond is, a man of drakon heritage, who lacks the ability to turn, and his bride Maricara, a child taken against her will from her peasant family because of her turning ability.
This is a story with strong protagonists, Zane and Lia, as well as other strong female characters, which I liked to see. It is also a story of control and power, and how that can corrupt and taint relationships. This story has a journey that is difficult and fraught with setbacks and hurdles from arson to snowstorms. 
A very enjoyable read. 

Saturday 28 October 2023

The Probability of Murder

Finished October 24
The Probability of Murder by Ada Madison

This novel is the second in a series of cosy mysteries featuring mathematics professor Sophie Knowles. Sophie holds weekly parties on campus that have a scientific theme with a short presentation. One of these, on Mobius strips, is just winding up when news of a death on campus begins to filter in. Charlotte Crocker, the librarian, has been found dead in the stacks. Sophie was a friend of hers, and is shocked at the news. Sophie's boyfriend, medevac pilot Bruce Granville, is leaving for a climbing adventure up in Vermont the next morning, and so the two forego plans for the rest of the day in light of the incident. 
When Sophie makes an unexpected discovery around something Charlotte left with her, she seeks counsel first from a friend before going to the police, and then decides that she needs to follow up on the clues she has to figure out if her friend was really a friend, or a criminal. When Sophie becomes a target herself, she is even more determined to find the truth.
With interesting mathematical problems scattered throughout, this is a series with its own particular draw, and Sophie's use of deductive reasoning drawing from her mathematical background gives great reasons for her own investigation. 
I liked the main characters and found the mystery very engaging. 

Friday 27 October 2023

The Haunted Season

Finished October 18
The Haunted Season by G.M. Malliet

This cosy murder is set in the English village of Nether Monkslip, where Father Max Tudor is still adjusting to his role in the community and his new role as the father of a young child. Max has a previous life as a spy, and he worries that that life may have followed him to his new one. 
The village is looking forward to the annual duck races, which raises money for worthy causes, including the church, and has asked the local gentry, Lord Baaden-Boomethistle for the use of their grounds for the event, which is reluctantly given.
When the Lord is found dead in a grisly and obviously planned murder, the search begins for the killer, with Max both the man who makes the discovery of the body, and a consultant to the police. 
Max's new curate, Destiny Chatsworth, plays an important role as well, overhearing a conversation in London that references the village, and remembering a personality from her university days. 
The characters and setting are very twee here, with the character names almost overdone. There are also several characters that are stereotypical on the surface, but surprising as one gets to know more about them, such as the avid volunteer Eugenia Smith-Ganderfort, the housekeeper Mrs. Hooser, the retired schoolteacher Miss Agnes Pitchford, and the Lord and Lady of the Manor, along with their adult children. 
This is the fifth book in the series, but the first that I've read and I found the character list at the beginning helpful to place the numerous people. 
There is definitely a touch of wit in this mystery, along with the cosy atmosphere of village life. 

Saturday 21 October 2023

Cape Diamond

Finished October 13
Cape Diamond by Ron Corbett

This is another mystery centering on police officer Frank Yakabuski, taking place in a small city in northern Canada. As the book opens, the body of a retired leader of one of the main criminal organizations operating in the town is found hung on a fence on the side of town he wouldn't normally be in. The body has been beaten and stabbed and mutilated and a strange object is found in the victim's mouth. This act gives rise to acts of violence between the Shiners and the Travellers, two criminal gangs with a long history in the area and beyond. The escalation of this rivalry with the death of a man in the rival organization and the kidnapping of a young girl has Frank looking back into the history of the groups, and people who have disappeared or kept themselves out of the limelight. 
Frank's father, a retired disabled police officer, has some knowledge of both groups, and he is convinced to share this with Frank given the serious nature of the acts taking place. A young man connected to one gang also offers a bit of useful information. 
There is also another voice in this story, a man travelling from the southern United States toward this northern town, leaving death in his wake. We see him thinking about what he will do when he gets to his destination and killing when the opportunity or a perceived threat comes into play. 
There are themes of disappearing, land claims, family dynamics, and the realities of life in a remote area. A very engrossing read. 

Thursday 12 October 2023

That Darkness

Finished October 8
That Darkness by Lisa Black

This psychological suspense novel is set in Cleveland, and we get two perspectives. One is Maggie Gardiner, who works as a civilian for the police department and does trace evidence, fingerprints, and other crime scene evidentiary work. She's worked there a long time, and seen many Jane Does, some of which her work was able to identify. In the latest case, a teen girl is found dead in a graveyard with injuries showing that she was severely beaten. A few comments from the pathologist, and the fact that no one has reported her missing have Maggie exploring some ideas about the girl. Maggie is happily divorced from a police detective in the homicide unit, and likes her small place downtown near her work. She also likes solving the puzzles that her work brings her.
The other character we follow is Jack Renner, a homicide detective who has a hidden agenda to make the world safer for everyone. Privately, he's on the trail of a woman who was arrested for a case he investigated in another city, one that became personal. She's eluded him before, and he hopes that in Cleveland, he'll catch up with her. Meanwhile he works hard in his spare time to identify other people that, like her, make the world less safe, and deal with him. The opening scene is one example of this work. When his private work crosses paths with the unidentified girl in Maggie's case, then things get very interesting and Jack finds himself in danger of being discovered. 
This is a fast-moving story with questions of morality at the core. A story that will definitely have you thinking. 

Catch Me If You Cannes

Finished October 6
Catch Me If You Cannes by Lisa Dickenson

This light vacation romance starts with Jess hitching on to a business trip her best friend Bryony was taking to the Cannes Film Festival. Bryony works for a British tabloid called Sleb, and her boss Mitch wants her to get some tantalizing gossipy stories for the publication. 
Jess and Bryony have been unlikely friends since high school when Bryony moved with her family to Cornwall and Jess befriended the tall black girl. 
Jess is determined to thoroughly enjoy her trip and starts out by going down to the shore and having a delicious crepe. She is accosted by a young man, Leo, who was jogging and stopped to flirt with her. So she starts off well with a good story to tell. 
When they try to get into one of the hot spots for dinner and are put off by the hostess, another group in the restaurant invite them to join their table. And this is where the two women start embellishing or lying about themselves. While Jess is truthful about being on holiday, she says that she owns a string of cafes, not just the one she actually owns, and Bryony says she works for The Times. They get invited to a party on one of the large yachts anchored there and Jess is surprised when Leo is on the next yacht over. He also has a friend who is also on the yacht, Harvey who seems quite interested in Bryony.
As we spend time with Jess and the people she meets, we see a different world, a fun and frivolous world, even from the viewpoint of those who work, like makeup artists and dressers. The women eat, shop, party, and travel a little more, and thoroughly enjoy their time, even while Bryony tries to follow through on her assignment and strive for something to push her career forward. 
A fun and enjoying read, with friendship at its core. 

Take Me Home

Finished October 4
Take Me Home by J.H. Croix

This is the first novel in a romance series set in a small town in Alaska, Diamond Creek. Marley Adams, a computer programmer, recently moved back home from Seattle after an unsettling robbery where she walked in on the crime, and was pistol-whipped and threatened. She is living in a small cabin on her parents' property and starting to look for work. 
Gage Hamilton is a retired Navy Seal, looking to rehabilitate the ski lodge that he and his siblings recently inherited from their grandmother. The lodge has been closed for many years, and is he begins by working on the exterior, repairing and repainting. When he sees Marley, who is his closest neighbour walking on the property they meet and begin to learn each other's stories. They are also drawn to each other by a powerful attraction that they both feel.
The people of Diamond Creek are excited about the lodge reopening and some of those who used to work there appear to see what is happening and find themselves staying to work, or suggesting others who might be able to take on different aspects of the work that needs doing.
This is a story of the romance between the two main characters, the ongoing story behind the robbery at Marley's Seattle apartment, and the revitalization of a town amenity and tourist attraction. 
I enjoyed it. 

Tuesday 10 October 2023

All Things Consoled

Finished October 2
All Things Consoled: a Daughter's Memoir by Elizabeth Hay

This memoir covers the last few years of Hay's parents lives, her relationship with them then and earlier, and the life that went on around them. She really brings her parents to life in terms of personality, both good and bad aspects, and tries to discover what made them act the way they did. 
Her father could be charming or cruel, kind or curt, jealous or complimentary. Her mother observant or forgetful, docile or independent, a peacemaker or troublesome. We see these different pieces of them and how they influenced her and her relationship with them as well as her siblings. We can also see how her parents' actions affected the relationships between siblings. 
Because she was the closest to where they lived, it made sense to move them from London, Ontario to Ottawa as they became unable to live on their own. While she touches on bits of emptying the house they lived in for years, it is only a note compared to the relationships that she looks at more closely. Both her parents had failing health and her mother had dementia. The title of the book is from a comment her mother made to her. 
A fascinating look into someone else's life, I found it sad at times, and funny at others. We see the roles that education, art, pride, and nature had in their lives and how they both loved each other and were annoyed by each other. 
Hay's wonderful writing shows here. 

The Last Runaway

Finished October 2
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

In 1850, Grace Bright was set to travel to the United States to marry a man from her community who had previously emigrated there, her sister Honor decided to go with her. Honor had recently been left by the man she had been supposed to marry and was feeling too many eyes on her in the Quaker community that she lived in. On the voyage, Honor was much more seasick than her sister, but as they traveled to the community in Ohio that they were going to, it was Grace who fell ill and died. 
On the way, the wagon that Honor was getting a ride on was accosted by a rough man, Donovan, looking for escaped slaves. They had an interaction that Honor found disconcerting. Arriving in the town of Wellington, Honor sent word ahead of her sister's death, but took time to recover by staying with a kind woman, Belle Mills, who is a milliner. 
When her sister's fiance, Adam Cox, arrives and takes her back to the village of Oberlin, where he lives, she finds that Adam's brother has recently died as well, leaving her living with Adam, and his brother's widow Abigail. It is an uncomfortable situation as Honor feels resented and when soon the elders determine that it isn't right for an unmarried man to be living with two unmarried women who aren't his blood relations, she realizes that things must change. 
Honor is a skilled quilter and seamstress and did some work for Belle when she stayed with her. She also quilts at home in Oberlin and at a community quilting session, where her skills are noted. Adam asked her to come work at the dry goods store he owned in a larger town nearby and she met another interesting woman there, a black woman who also took note of her. 
As Honor adjusts to life in this new land, she must also find the quiet inside that she always felt at home with her religion, but struggles to here. And she must balance the legal issues with her sense of morality in dealing with escaped slaves. 
This was a very interesting read, that gave a sense of the real struggles that people dealt with during these times. It also gave a sense of the Quaker religion of the time and how communities both set themselves apart and mingled. 

Tuesday 3 October 2023

One Tequila

Finished September 30
One Tequila by Tricia O'Malley

This is the first book in a series centering on the psychic Althea Rose. Althea lives in on Tequila Key in the Florida Keys, and shares a shop, Luna Rose Potions and Tarot Shop, with her friend Luna who mixes elixirs and who is also (secretly) a white witch. Althea has inherited her psychic skills from her mother who is a famous psychic with celebrity clients. The is also an older woman who lives down the street and who appears to be a voodoo priestess. 
Althea and Luna often hang out at the seaside bar of their friend Beau, and one night they meet some new real estate investors in town. Both of them are drawn to one of the men and soon agree to dates. Althea enjoys her date with Cash, but doesn't give in to his hints to take it further that evening. Luna's date doesn't call her back and she feels hurt by it, and wonders why (but, um, can't she use her magic to figure that out??) Also her diving buddy Trace suddenly shows signs of jealousy. 
There is a lot going on here, but it seems badly put together and ill-defined. The various paranormal elements are all combined together in odd ways, and the characters lacked depth. 
Althea was all over the place and couldn't seem to remember basic instructions, especially when things became tense. It seldom seemed to occur to her to use her skills to gauge situations before jumping in. 
The dialogue also needed work, and was often awkward and choppy. 
This is the first book in the series, and since there are several more, I'm hoping that means that the writing improved. 

Ready or Not

Finished September 28
Ready or Not by Cara Bastone

This is a romance novel with an unusual twist. As the book opens, Eve Hatch is at an ob/gyn appointment on her lunch hour, looking for confirmation of her suspected pregnancy. She's done some at-home tests, and is already pretty sure of the truth. Eve is not in a romantic relationship. A few weeks ago, when her best friend Willa's brother Shep left his long term relationship and moved in with his sister and her partner in Brooklyn, the three had a fun night out. When Willa and Shep called it a night and caught a cab home, Eva found herself still energized and went into a nearby bar, where she ended up going home with the bartender, Ethan Rise. 
So after she gears herself up to tell first Willa the news, and then Ethan, she must figure out how to tell her siblings, and the wider community.
Eve has a job in an organization that she's always dreamed of working for, a wildlife conservation organization, but she is in administration and dreams of running her own project. When an opportunity in a different direction opens up due to her hard work, she must make a choice and figure out what she really wants there as well. 
She loves her small apartment that she's made exactly as she wants, but worries about whether she can fit her baby into it, especially as it grows. 
With all these changes opening up in her life, Eva finds Shep, her childhood friend to be there when she needs someone. He accompanies her on errands, shows up at her home with exactly the perfect things for the moment, and helps her to focus her mind on the good in what's happening. 
This novel is a journey of self-knowledge and self-life as well as a romance. A real page-turner. 

Monday 2 October 2023

The Ballad of Black Tom

Finished September 26
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

This short novel has a lot of atmosphere. It is apparently inspired by a Lovecraft story. The story begins with a young black man, Charles Thomas Tester, known as Tom, taking on a task of delivering a book to a house in a white neighbourhood in Queens. It is set in the 1920s, a time of open racism and police brutality, and Tom does what he can to put food on the table and pay the rent for his father Otis and himself. Otis is not well, and unable to work himself, but he is a musician, and he's tried to teach Tommy what he can. Thus Tom often takes his guitar and busks for money. 
Taking on a task asked of him by someone who stopped and listened to him, is not uncommon, but Tom can feel the evil of the book he carries and he feels compelled to take a risk and remove a page from the book so that its full evil cannot be used by the strange woman, Ma Att, that he delivers it to. But this act sets off ramifications for Tom that he has to deal with. 
He is approached by a man, Robert Suydam, who pays him a lot of money to come to his house and perform, and Tom is aware there is something strange about the request. Suydam tells him a story about a Sleeping King and refers to the Supreme Alphabet. There is a police officer, Malone, and another man working with him, Howard, who menace Tom, and try to intimidate him. 
His father fears for him, and he goes with him to a club, the Victoria Society, where he meets an old friend Buckeye and asks for advice. 
Tom takes his own actions in response to the men trying to control him, and becomes something more than he expected after he learns he has nothing to lose. 
This is a story that is unsettling and dark, and so well told. Gripping.

Lone Wolf

Finished September 25
Lone Wolf by Linwood Barclay

This is the third book in the series featuring Zack Walker, a Toronto journalist. This book was also published under the title Bad Luck. I like this series for the humour and the Canadian setting, as well as the well-written family dynamics. 
Here, he is out at lunch with a former neighbour when he receives a disturbing phone call from his wife. One of the contributing reporters in cottage country has let her know that a body has been found, apparently killed by a bear, near the camp run by Zack's father, and his father is nowhere to be found. 
Zack immediately heads north, and finds the local police chief Orville Thorne, the local coroner, the reporter who called it in, and the people who are renting his dad's cabins at the present time. Most of these are returning guests, who've been coming up for years. While it is quickly established that his father isn't the victim, the victim's identity takes a little while to uncover, and several other issues show themselves.
One is the renters of the farmhouse on his dad's property. They have all kinds of warning signs mounted around the place dissuading casual visitors, a pair of aggressive dogs, and a radical mindset.
Another is one of his father's guests, a wealthy entrepreneur who wants to create a large luxury resort on a neighbouring property which goes against the local culture and may endanger the lake's health. 
The reader also soon learns that the local fair, which begins with a parade and is coming up on the next weekend, has been issued a threat of violence if a local LGBTQ community is allowed to participate. There is a petition, driven by one small-minded local businessman, and some threatening phone calls to the mayor, which also seem to be directed at her being married to a man who isn't white. 
Both Zack and his father are a bit overwhelmed by what they are facing and he calls on an old friend Lawrence Jones for his assistance. This assistance helps with some of the issues, others are resolved in unexpected ways, but the largest issue of the renters only gets worse until the final climax. 
A total engaging read, with lots of edge of the seat scenes.