Wednesday 29 March 2023

Easter Morning, Easter Sun

Finished March 25
Easter Morning, Easter Sun by Rosanna Battigelli and Tara Anderson

This picture book has a cat family celebrating Easter from first thing in the morning until last thing in the evening. The figures are drawn engaging in human activity from wearing special clothes to Easter egg hunting. Besides the cats, we also see mice and birds, bees and the Easter Bunny.
They are finely drawn with lots of detail and come alive on the page. There are many details in the backgrounds as well from the stone path seen on the cover to trees and flowers.
The words are simple with four words to a page and each 2-page spread offering rhyming words. 
The morning starts with Easter buns, hot crosses on top and straight from the oven. It continues with Easter bonnets and an egg hunt, and a picnic with activities. It ends with an Easter dinner with the Easter bunny. 
A perfect book for the coming holiday.

Monday 27 March 2023

Nothing But the Truth

Finished March 24
Nothing But the Truth by Holly James

Most of the action in this book takes place over a single day, and there is a lot going on. The main character is Lucy Green, a publicist for a PR firm based in Hollywood. She's hoping for a promotion, a proposal, a high-profile new client, and a very satisfying 30th birthday. 
The book begins the evening before where Lucy is waiting in a bar near work for her boyfriend Caleb to arrive. They've been together for two years and will be moving in together into a condo they've leased very soon. But Lucy admits to herself that she isn't excited about their relationship, and the bartender notices that she's not that excited about her drink either. When Lucy realizes that he's right and lets him bring her something else, she uses the new drink to make a silent wish for her birthday, that it be perfect.
From the moment she awakens the following morning, she starts noticing differences. She doesn't hold back from responding to her mother's criticism, she doesn't want to wear the Spanx her new dress requires, she doesn't want to smooth her hair into submission or cake her face with make-up. After a few interactions on her way into work, she realizes that what has really happened is that she cannot lie. Not verbally, not physically. A very interesting situation. 
As Lucy maneuvers her way through her day, dealing with wooing her new client, facing up to her boyfriend, and dealing with unacceptable actions at work, she finds herself realizing how unhappy she's been for a while, and how much she wants things to change. 
I loved the character of Lucy, and her friendships with Oliver and Nina, the way she treats Annie at the office, and Lily and Leo as clients. Lucy is stronger than she realized and very capable at her job and she has many people in her life who care about her.
There is, of course, great conversation, and a lot going on, but the way it all seems to flow well makes it a read that will keep you engaged and focused on Lucy and hoping that her day will be as perfect as she wished. 
Fantastic read. 

Raven Reads Winter 2023

 This is another book box I missed posting about. It has some great stuff. Besides the book Bad Cree by Jessica Johns, it has some herbal tea, Ginger Moon from rhtea, with flavours of raspberry leaf, mint, and ginger, a Just Breathe lip balm with hints of bergamot and musk, and some lavender lotion from Bison Star Naturals. 

Cosy Nook Box for February 2023

 I just realized I never posted this Book Box, so here it is. 

First look at opening is nice.

Peeling back the tissue paper reveals a lot of the contents. I could see a treat, a few personal items, a nicely wrapped item in a patterned envelope with a ribbon, and a hint of the book cover. 

These are the personal grooming items. First, a nice looking body sponge, which I have already put to use. Then some bath salts with a wood scoop to get them into your bath. And lastly a soap bar shaped like a heart with a very pleasant floral smell. 

Then there are several items that are for me and my home. The patterned envelope wrapped with ribbon contained the necklace pictured beside it, a tree of life.  Then a candle with a subtle fragrance. The scraper below that should be with the personal grooming, but I didn't feel like redoing the picture. It's (I think) for your feet. And last a card for a game that sounds interesting. 

The food items were pretty good too. The popcorn was lightly salted and tasty. The tea was one I'd had in a previous box and not one I enjoy, but I shall find someone who does enjoy it. And the candy took my back to my childhood when I used to buy these. A great choice for February

The book itself came with a fun oversized bookmark. The novel was unfamiliar to me, but looks promising. It is a Christina fiction book with both romance and mystery. 

The Love Hypothesis

Finished March 22
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

This is a book I've been meaning to read for a while and now finally have. It was a quick read as it was hard to put down. I read it in one day, around work demands. 
Olive Smith is a Canadian Ph.D. candidate in biology at Stanford, working on a subject dear to her heart, a way to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier, and thus provide better chances for survival. She is very focused on her work, but still finds time for her personal life, her best friend Anh and her roommate Matthew. 
The book starts with a short interlude from two years earlier when Olive had been at the university applying to do her Ph.D. there. It sets the tone for banter with a serious undertone.
I like that each chapter is headed with a hypothesis that gives a hint to the contents of that chapter. It is a fun way to continue the theme of the title and lead the reader into continuing. 
Olive dated Jeremy a couple of times and then discovered that Anh was interested in him, but wouldn't pursue it because she didn't want to intrude on Olive's relationship. Since Olive had no chemistry with Jeremy and isn't interested in continuing the relationship, she's told Anh to move forward, but Anh is still reluctant. So Olive told her that she had a date with someone else. But she doesn't. She's at the lab working and then she spotted Anh, so she grabs a guy walking in the hall and kisses him. And then she discovers that she has just kissed Dr. Adam Carlsen, a real hotshot in the department who is known for being aloof and not very nice. 
As Adam learns of her reasons for her sudden impulse, he agrees to get on board. The situation may have an upside for him as well. After setting some ground rules and coming up with a plan that works for both, they continue the charade.
Of course, they are thrown together unexpectedly by circumstances, and they talk a lot more, sharing more of themselves with each other than they've done with most other people. 
This situation is one that sets some interesting questions around power dynamics and we see that come up again with other characters. There are also themes of friendship with both main characters and the people who are important in their lives. The science theme is also very interesting, particularly Olive's research which focuses on a disease that touches so many people, myself included. There isn't just a nod to science here, but instead science is central to the plot, as it is central to the lives of the characters. 
The characters themselves also have depth and we discover them as they reveal themselves to each other, seeing beyond the looks and reputation to the real person. 
There is lots of intelligent banter, because they are after all academics and quite smart. So I loved that too. There is also some geekiness, which goes with the territory. And there are real issues, issues of research and how to fund it, issues of women's barriers in science, and issues of competition. 
All in all, a lot to love, and a story that kept me returning to it every chance I got. 

The Readers' Room

Finished March 21
The Readers' Room by Antoine Laurain, translated by Jane Aitken, Emily Boyce and Polly Mackintosh

This short novel was one I picked up because I enjoyed his Vintage 1954 book. This one is also set mostly in Paris and revolves around a small unnamed publishing house, and its Head of Manuscript Services, Violaine Lepage. Violaine is in charge of the readers' room, a group of people who read the manuscripts sent in and determine if they are worth moving forward with. They classify the books using three symbols. A square indicates rejection. A crescent moon means it is promising. A sun means that they should publish.
The book opens with Violaine waking in a dark room, and seeing various figures around here. We soon discover that she is in a hospital room and later learn why. 
The firm has recently taken on a new book by a new author. The book is called Sugar Flowers and the author's name is Camille Deséncres. It is a book that caught their attention at first reading, and was given a sun symbol. The negotiation for the contract with the author was all done via email, and now the book is on the shortlist for the Prix Goncourt, one of France's biggest literary awards. But the publishing house has a potential problem regarding the author.
Alongside this part of the story is another one, this one involving Sophie Tanche a police detective in Rouen. Some crimes have been committed there that bear a strong resemblance to ones in Sugar Flowers and Tanche wants to know more about the author as part of her investigation. 
Through the course of the novel we learn Violaine's backstory, how she came to be in her position, how she met her husband, her shrink Pierre Stein, and the recent developments as a result of her accident. 
We also learn about some of the members of the Readers' Room, like Beatrice who is blind, and Marie, the newest member. 
This is a novel with a unique plot and some interesting quirks. Set in a world of books and authors, it also has strong influences from the world around it. There is a lot packed into these few pages. A book that is hard to put down. 

Thursday 23 March 2023

Red, White & Royal Blue

Finished March 21
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

This romance is focused on two young men, and is told from the point of view of one of them. Alex Claremont-Diaz is the son of the US president, Ellen Claremont, a woman who was married to Alex's dad (he's also a politician) and is a Democrat. Ellen is coming up on the end of her first term and will be running for reelection. This is one line of the plot. Alex has an older sister June who also lives at the White House and is trying to get into journalism, with her background becoming a barrier for her. Another young woman who is close to the two siblings is Nora. Nora is the granddaughter of the vice-president and a statistics whiz. 
The family attends the wedding of the eldest grandson of the British Queen (here the Queen is named Mary and has a daughter Catherine, who is the mother of the prince getting married, Philip, as well as two other children, Beatrice, and Henry). Here, an interaction between Alex and Henry causes a small disaster, and plans are put in place by both sides to do PR management to make things better. This involves getting Alex and Henry to spend time together showing that they are good friends. 
As the two young men get to know each other, they discover that they are both intelligent young men who want to make a difference in the world, and their positions lead them to some specific ways of doing that. 
They also find that they are drawn to each other in ways beyond friendship. Given that it is an election year, and their positions mean that any relationship will have international repercussions, there are many difficulties, decisions about what secrets to keep and from who, and things that most people in relationships don't have to consider.
This was a very enjoyable read. I liked all the young people at the centre of the story, including the ones we see a bit less of than the three Americans and the prince, such as Beatrice and Henry's best friend Pez. The older generation is less well-developed here, but seem like they have some depth to them as well. I liked the positivity of the larger story as well as the more personal ones, and the way that the intelligence of the characters comes out through both banter and the plot lines. 

Tuesday 21 March 2023

A Silent Death

Finished March 20
A Silent Death by Peter May

This standalone thriller is set around a Scottish police officer, John Mackenzie. Mackenzie has always wanted to be a police officer because his father was one. Not that he really knew his father, who died when he was a child. Mackenzie is a man who is highly intelligent, always curious, and is unflinchingly direct. It is this last characteristic that has caused him the most trouble. It has caused him to be separated from his wife, with her having custody of their two young children, and has caused him to leave his job at the Met. 
As the book opens, he is just starting a new job at the National Crime Agency and is given the task of going to Spain to pick up a prisoner, Jack Cleland. Cleland has been a wanted man for some time, intelligent and wealthy before venturing into the world of international drug crime. His arrest in Spain was a bit of a fluke and opens the book. Cleland has declared vengeance against Christina Sanchez, one of the police officers who arrested him, and is a very dangerous man.
Christina has been fighting her superiors for some time, trying to get the respect and cases that her skills and abilities would normally get her, if she wasn't a woman. She took the assignment that netted Cleland as a favour to a fellow officer, and she soon finds that it was one of the biggest mistakes of her life.
Christina has a beloved aunt, Ana, that she and her sister visit regularly. Ana is deaf and blind, both disabilities affecting her as a young woman. Technology has opened her world to some extent, but she is still often trapped by her limited senses. 
As Cleland escapes custody and looks for ways to exact his revenge on Christina, her family, including Ana, come into his plan. Mackenzie's skills make him a good investigator to assist in the hunt for Cleland, but his personality also means that his choices don't always lead him to make good decisions. 
The setting is a big part of the story, The town of Marvina, on the Costa del Sol, is a small enough place to navigate, with lots to interest tourists. As Mackenzie walks through the town and drives to locations in the nearby hills, we get a real sense of the landscape and the economic reality of the people who live there. 
A fascinating read, with an interesting and complex character at the centre of action. There is lots going on here and the story held my interest until the end. 

Measuring the World

Finished March 20
Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Carol Brown Janeway

This novel focuses on real historical figures from the late eighteenth /early nineteenth centuries, naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, and mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. Humboldt collaborated with another scientist, Bonpland, and spent more than five years in Central and South America, gathering plant samples, examining the fauna, following rivers to find where they met, and climbing mountains including several volcanoes. Humboldt's interest in science expanded to include meteorology, magnetism, ocean currents and astronomy. 
Gauss was a mathematician and physicist, a child prodigy who preferred a quiet life delving deeper into the science that he loved, was deeply affected by the loss of his first wife. His discoveries formed the basis for the work of other scientists as well. 
The two men, Humboldt and Gauss, did meet, but this book is a fictionalized account of both their lives, their interactions and correspondence and their scientific interests and achievements. 
Kehlmann brings the men to life, with complex personalities, individual quirks, and sometimes strange behaviour. This book has touches of humour, fantasy, and emotion. Enlightening and revealing. 

A Trace of Death

Finished March 18
A Trace of Death by Blake Pierce

This is the first novel in a series featuring Los Angeles police officer Keri Locke. Her backstory is an interesting one. She was a criminology professor when her 9-year-old daughter Evie was kidnapped in a violent daylight abduction in a park. This eventually resulted in the breakup of her marriage and the loss of her job due to self-destructive behaviour. 
The abduction was five years ago, but Keri still hopes to find her daughter. She now works in the Missing Persons unit as a detective and as the book opens, a teenage girl, Ashley, is abducted while walking home from school. Keri takes the call and goes to meet the mother even though her partner Ray thinks it might just be a case of a runaway. 
Keri's story is interspersed with Ashley's viewpoint from the situation she is in, so the reader knows some information beyond the investigators.
Keri's background story means that she is both dedicated to her work, as it is so closely related to her personal issues, but it also means that she has trouble separating her story from her cases. This means that she becomes emotionally entangled with the people she encounters, ignores orders from superior officers, and is often unprofessional in her handling of suspects and witnesses. 
I felt for Keri, but also found her behaviour to be a big red flag in terms of her job and responsibilities. 
This is a fast-moving novel with new information being introduced throughout. 

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Do You Take This Man

Finished March 14
Do You Take This Man by Denise Williams

This romance starts off with one of the main characters literally running into the other one. RJ is a divorce attorney with a sideline officiating weddings. She got into the wedding thing after going viral doing an impromptu ceremony, and kind of enjoys it. Her mentor wants her to give it up and she has agreed to see through the summer bookings that are already made and then stop. 
Lear has recently moved back to Asheville after a bad breakup and a job loss. He was an event planner for a football team in California and has now taken on the role of assistant to his cousin Penny at her wedding planner business. 
He was just standing outside a venue waiting for a client when RJ runs into him. They both take offense to the other's attitude and when they find they must work together on some weddings, things get a bit hostile. Besides that feeling though, another one pops up between them and that is definite attraction. RJ is a straightforward woman and it's been a while since she's had a boyfriend so it doesn't take her long to suggest an 'enemies with benefits' arrangement.
That's when things get a bit crazy. As things get hot between them, and yes, the sex is graphically written here, they both have to fight the urge for more. 
This is a case of two strong characters, each with their past hurt affecting their expectations for relationships, afraid to be too honest with each other. But honesty is the only way forward.
I liked both characters, although I leaned towards Lear a tad as I like a truly nice guy. Williams has them both grow here, with a little help from those close to them. 
It's not a criticism, but one thing that I found interesting that although he's white and she's black, there was no real discussion of race in the novel, either as as aspect to their relationship, or in the social world they moved in. 

Tuesday 14 March 2023


Finished March 13
Adam by Jennifer Ashley

This novella is the first in a series set around a small Texas community and a family who trains horses and does stunt riding. Adam left town a few years ago to work in Hollywood, but he's recently had a bad accident and has come back home to recuperate and recover. 
He is surprised to find that his high school girlfriend Bailey is also back in town and working at his family's ranch. She trains horses and is starting to do stunts herself. Adam is conflicted about the situation. He still has feelings for Bailey, but his recent accident has left him wary of the possibilities of harm that come with the job. 
As the two get reacquainted and Adam catches up on what Bailey has been doing these past few years, they grow closer and Adam finds that he might once again need her help to move forward, whether with her or not. He also has the time to get to know his brothers as adults.
This is a light and easy romance with problems resolved easier than one might expect in real life. 

Six Weeks with You

Finished March 11
Six Weeks with You by Janet Koops

This novella is the first in a series called Lost and Found Family, set in Montreal. Vicki Meyers has recently moved to Montreal from Ottawa. She's ready for a fresh start, leaving behind an emotionally abusive boyfriend and a life that didn't fit her. 
She's got a small studio apartment in an old house, a part-time job waitressing, and is just starting to volunteer at the local animals shelter. And she's finding her way back to herself, partly through her art. She's always had a skill for drawing and she spends a lot of time using her art to let her feelings out.
At the shelter, she finds herself tasked with spending time with Gunner, a dog who's been there a while, trying to socialize him to make him more adoptable, and she finds herself connecting with him. She also gets taken under the wing of an older volunteer and invited out. 
Unexpectedly finding herself interested in a young man, Vicki decides to let herself try new things, and gives Daniel a chance even though she knows it won't be long-term.
An interesting book, with a character looking for a fresh start on her life, hopeful and upbeat. 

The Swift and the Harrier

Finished March 10
The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters

I've always enjoyed Walters psychological thrillers, and I'm glad to say I enjoy her historical fiction as well. This novel is set in the 1640s in Dorsetshire and covers the period of 1642-1649 from just before the English Civil War until the beheading of King Charles I. 
The main character is the Jayne Swift, the daughter of a upper class titled family who has taken the unusual choice of training privately as a physician. While Jayne's father Sir Henry Swift is a Royalist, she has taken a neutral position where she is against the war in general and offers her services to whomever needs them. 
As the book begins, Jayne is making her way to the home of her cousin Ruth Morecott in Dorchester on a day where there is a public hanging of two Catholic priests who didn't leave England before the edict requiring them to. Buffeted by the crowds, Jayne is taken in by an older widow, Lady Alice Stickland and then escorted by Lady Alice's footman, William Harrier, to Ruth's home where she has been called to minister to the toddler son of Ruth. 
Jayne is a taller than average woman in her late twenties who has not yet married, and who is forthright in her aim to provide care to all who need it, regardless of their ability to pay her. She is particularly protective of women and children, and she is soon called on to do that in her visit to Ruth.
Walters really sets the scenes here, including two maps near the front of the book that help to visualize the setting. The scenes of the homes, the streets, and the hanging are all brought to life by the detail that Walters is so good at. 
As Jayne moves from Dorchester to her family's home at Swyre, back to Dorchester, and later on to Lyme Regis, we get a sense of the landscape both geographically and politically. She gets caught up in the war through her treatment of those injured on both sides, and finds herself having to be cautious about her own movements in order to stay safe. Through her services, she witnesses the fighting firsthand and is both horrified by the violence, and inspired by the dedication of those involved in the fighting, particularly the citizens of Lyme Regis, and the servant class who have little say in the decisions that so profoundly affect them.
When she encounters William again in the guise of a soldier, she finds that he is not all that he seems and has his own burdens that he is contending with as he fights to restore his family honour and the country that he loves. 
This is a war tale and a love story, a character novel of two very unusual people, and a snapshot of history at a particular time and place. 
At the beginning of the novel Walter defines the surnames of the title characters, as the two birds they are named for: the swift, a fast medium sized bird that can outdistance most winged predators; and the harrier, a large keen-eyed hawk which hunts by gliding low and silently over open ground. These definitions lend themselves to their namesakes well.
I really enjoyed learning more of this time period, a bit of English history less well-known to me, and seeing the characters develop over these years through their experiences. Secondary characters such as Jayne's family and the doctor who trained her are also brought to life, and we get a good picture of life for these people. 
Very enjoyable read. 

Monday 13 March 2023

The Winter Garden

Finished March 1
The Winter Garden by Nicola Cornick

This novel has an element of the paranormal and a lot of historical content. Lucy Brown is a violinist who has suddenly reached a point where she can't play. A virus has left her with long-term muscle issues that have taken away her livelihood and her joy. After treatments, she has retreated to her aunt's property in Oxfordshire. Her aunt is away on business, but Lucy's sister Cleo, who lives nearby has made the arrangements for Lucy to stay indefinitely. 
Lucy is lost, grieving for her career and the joy it brought her, but also looking ahead to figure out how she will support herself going forward. She's put her whole life into her music and doesn't know what her skills might transfer to. 
When she arrives at Gunpowder Cottage, she is tired after a long journey and looking forward to an early night, so finding someone else at the cottage is a surprise. Finn MacIntyre is a landscape gardener and archivist and has been hired by Lucy's Verity to restore the garden to its origins, some of which might reach back to the 1600s. He is living in the cottage with his dog Geoffrey, for reasons that come to light the following day. Meanwhile Lucy moves into the newly renovated barn, where Finn was supposed to staying. 
Lucy soon finds herself having visions and sensations like she is transported to a different time and seeing the property through someone else's eyes. She even has an identity for that person. As she tries to make sense of this and think about why this is happening to her, she also begins to learn more about the property's history, specifically its connection to Robert Catesby, one of the leaders of the Gunpowder Plot. 
Finn is also going through a bad time with the recent loss of his brother Charlie, a historian who was also working on the property, and he has been immersing himself in his work both as a way to honour his brother and lose himself in the work itself. 
As the two cross paths more often and begin to discover things that enlighten the work Finn is doing, they also find answers to their own troubles. 
This is a story that draws on real history, while also creating a great contemporary plot. The interspersing of diary entries from an early time bring the elements together in an interesting way. I had a hard time putting this one down. 

Sunday 12 March 2023

Ties That Tether

Finished February 25
Ties that Tether by Jane Igharo

Azere Izoduwa is a creative director at an advertising agency in Toronto. She, her mother, and her younger sister Efe immigrated to Canada from Nigeria when she was twelve, after her father's death. They were sponsored by her father's brother, a widower with a son slightly older than her, Jacob. Before her father died, he insisted that she promise him that she would marry a man from the same tribe, Ebo, to stay true to her culture. Azere's mother keeps setting her up with eligible Ebo men, but nothing has clicked for Azere. As the book starts, she has been on yet another dinner date, and this one has definitely not gone well. When she walks out of the restaurant, a high end on in a luxury hotel, she decides that she could use a drink, and she stops at the bar. She starts a conversation with a man there, and finds herself drawn to him in a very strong way. 
Rafael Castellano is a Toronto native who has been living in New York City and is back in town for an interview. When he sees Azere and begins to talk to her, he too finds himself inexplicably drawn to her. In the heated moment, they both give in to their impulses and the two end up in Rafael's hotel room. 
A month later Azere finds herself meeting her one-night stand again, only this time as her co-worker. As the two maneuver this unexpected situation, Azere finds herself pulled between her promise to her father and her strong feelings for this man. 
I liked the way the book moved back and forth between the two main characters in voice. We could see the secrets that each was keeping from each other, secrets that drew them together, and secrets that pushed them apart. They both come from cultures that I am not that familiar with. Azere is very active in the Nigerian Canadian community, and her culture is a strong part of her identity. She eats Nigerian food, watches Nigerian movies, and listens to Nigerian music. She has been a compliant daughter, and still performs regular tasks for her mother, like mowing the lawn. 
Rafael spent his childhood summers with his grandmother in Spain, and his family still spends regular time there. As the story begins, the rest of the family is in Spain for an extended holiday. 
As the two spend time together both at work and in their personal lives, they both must make difficult decisions, and deal with a situation that brings them even closer. 
This was a different romance for me, with the additional of the cultural elements and the larger than life character of Azere's mother playing a big part in the story. Enlightening and entertaining. 

Saturday 4 March 2023

Love Lettering

Finished February 23
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn

This novel is an unusual romance. The main character Meg Mackworth has built a career doing hand-lettering. She's gained a following designing custom journals for her clients. She is associated with a small independent stationery shop in Brooklyn, near where she shares an apartment with an old high school friend. Before she did planners, Meg did a lot of work around weddings and other events. 
But things are changing. Meg's roommate Sibby is planning to move out, but in truth Sibby has been pulling away from her for quite a while and Meg hasn't asked why. Meg has been invited to apply to a major stationery company to have a line of her own, but she finds herself blocked creatively. And now, as the book opens a former client has reappeared in her life to ask her a very difficult question about a very unprofessional piece of work she did more than a year before. 
Meg is embarrassed to be caught out, and yet this man Reid Sutherland is a compelling figure. He is buttoned down and formal, and yet something about him interests Meg. After he admits he hates New York City and he's a numbers guy, she gives in to an impulse and invites him to be part of a plan she has, an idea to move herself forward on the project for the opportunity that has been presented to her. 
As they spend time together, the two try to understand each other, letters and numbers, with patterns a common element. Meg tries to use the city itself to show him that New York has much to offer, not just the signs she looks for. And he tries to understand and see things through her eyes. 
This is a story that builds slowly over time and has surprises for both Meg and Reid. Meg must redefine herself and think about what she really wants to do. Reid has his own secrets, and things he is dealing with, and they have an unexpected impact on Meg's life. 
I really enjoyed this book. I've always found calligraphy interesting and enjoyed the art of lettering, so having that a focus for this book, seeing it included in the story in interesting visual ways was fun and brought another element to this book about a developing relationship. 

Such a Quiet Place

Finished February 21
Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda

This suspense novel takes place in Hollow's Edge, a college town somewhere in the northeastern United States. Harper Nash has lived in the community for several years, first with her fiance Aidan, and then after he left her, with a younger woman, Ruby Fletcher. Ruby's dad had retired and moved away and she needed a place to stay. A year and a half before this story starts, Harper's next door neighbours, Brandon and Fiona Truett were found dead in their home, victims of carbon monoxide poisoning. Since their detector was missing, foul play was suspected, and things got very tense. After a short trial, Ruby was found guilty of their murder. But her conviction has now been overturned and Ruby is back. Back in the neighbourhood and back in Harper's house. Harper isn't sure why, it isn't like her job is still there, and Harper disposed of most of her stuff after the conviction, but she isn't the type of woman to ask Ruby to leave, and so she does nothing about it.
As Ruby makes herself at home, talking to people, borrowing Harper's clothes and car, and beginning to ask questions. Questions about what other people were doing that night. When it becomes clear that others have secrets that they aren't telling about that time, things get very tense. Harper is in the middle of things and she too begins asking question. Questions about what people saw, about who they told, about what security cameras picked up and didn't pick up. And then she starts getting threatening notes, and she realizes that she must step outside her comfort zone and face the issues that underlie the tension.
This is a story of a community where everyone seems to know everyone, but they don't know anything beyond the surface. A story where Harper has already faced betrayal and lost friends. Harper is a woman who tries to not make waves, who avoids conflict, and she must act in ways she isn't entirely comfortable with to find the truth. A very interesting story of community and secrets. 

Friday 3 March 2023

To Swoon and to Spar

Finished February 20
To Swoon and to Spar by Martha Waters

This historical romance novel is the fourth in the Regency Vows series, set around the same group of young aristocrats and upper class people living in the early 19th century. This book is the first that I've read in the series, and I was struck by the witty tone of the novel. It had me smiling often, and occasionally laughing aloud. 
The book opens with a tense scene with the two main characters looking for the source of a suspiciously ghost-like series of noises and then jumps back to a few months earlier. 
This book's male lead is Penvale, a viscount who has dreamed of regaining his family's ancestral home in Cornwall, Trethwick Abbey, ever since it was sold at his father's death. Penvale's paternal uncle bought it at the time, but the brothers were estranged and Penvale and his younger sister Diana were farmed out to family on their mother's side until they came of age. 
Penvale became a viscount as a child at the age of ten, and had grown up at Trethwick Abbey, and thus the dream of regaining the home had become a driving force for him. Since he'd moved to London to take his seat as a Lord after finishing at Oxford, Penvale has been investing the money he has won at the gaming table to rebuild his finances, hoping to convince his uncle to sell Trethwick Abbey back to him. As we discover, his uncle has approached him unexpectedly to sell the home to him, on one condition. That condition is that he marry his uncle's ward, Jane Spencer, a refined but untitled young woman of twenty-one. Penvale insists on meeting her first to ascertain that she isn't being coerced into this arrangement, but as we see from the prologue, wastes no time in going through with the marriage. 
Part of this story is told from Jane's point of view as we see how she has had a hand in bringing the opening circumstances about. Jane is not interested in a husband, but she loves the home, and enjoys the extensive library there. She sets in motion a plan to drive Penvale away through various happenings that indicate the house is haunted. But Penvale isn't that easy to scare away, and he instead tries to determine the cause of these odd events. 
As the two main characters spend time together at Trethwick Abbey as newlyweds, they begin to get to know each other slowly. Penvale spends a great deal of time getting to know the details of the estate, its finances, and his tenants and servants. Jane gradually ventures beyond the grounds of the Abbey and gets to know the wider community. I enjoyed watching them getting to know each other's secrets and quirks, and find themselves increasingly drawn to each other's company. I also appreciated Jane's enjoyment and curiosity when it came to reading. 
This is not your typical Regency romance, and I liked seeing how they defied the stereotypes and revealed some surprising pastimes. The writing is unexpected yet somehow perfect. The romance has underlying sexual tension and several surprising moments. If you like historical romance with believable characters and a bit of spice this series is for you. 

March Reviews for the 16th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

 I can't believe it is March already! This weekend is supposed to be a snowy one where I am. A good time to snuggle up with a good book. Post your links to reviews read this month below.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

A World of Curiosities

Finished February 14
A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny

I read this just after her previous one, and while good it wasn't as good in my view. This book is more violent and more personal in a different sense. It opens with a graduation, one that is a happy occasion for most, but also has elements of past violence. The graduation is at the cole Polytechnic in Montreal, at which there is a tribute to the women killed in 1989. One of the students graduating did not actually attend the school, but took the courses from her prison cell. Her story takes readers back to the first meeting between Gamache and Jean-Guy Bouvier, a meeting that took place during a murder investigation in a small northern Quebec town. Another student receiving special honours has a connection with Three Pines, as she is Myrna's niece. 
It also takes Gamache back into another criminal connection from his past, a serial killer that he encountered with a remarkable ability to get into people's heads and manipulate them. 
In Three Pines, there are also changes. After many years without a leader for their small church they have one, one who came to religion later in life after a Wall Street career, and who seems to know loss. Myrna is thinking of moving, needing a home with more space to accommodate her niece. So when the rumour of a secret room in Myrna's loft begins, it seems like it may offer an answer.
Instead, the room offers more questions. Questions about what is hidden there and about who hid it and why. These questions also reach back into the past and into Quebec's early history, but also into the art world and a painting known as The Paston Treasure, a painting that was done by an unknown painter, seemingly to show off a collection of odd items connected in the family's travels. 
As always, Penny draws on real stories and adds in her own fictional elements to create a story that captures the imagination. She encompasses bigger issues such as the damage done to child victims of crimes, and how people react when faced with their biggest fears. 
The stakes are high in this tale, and so is the tension, and we see more of what have been minor characters until now, like Billy Williams, as well as a reappearance by Amelia Choquet.