Get the feed in a reader!Get updates by email!Get updates by email!

ExUrbanis

Urban Leaving to Country Living

Books Read in July 2015

February18

books readWell, this is the month that I was supposed to go to Read-by-the-Sea in River John, Nova Scotia and hear readings by Maureen Jennings, Isabel Huggan and Linden MacIntyre, among other authors. As I’ve mentioned, I missed it.

All but one of the eight books I read this month were by Canadian authors; I’ve included the two mysteries at the end of this post.


1. ALL MY PUNY SORROWS by Miriam Toews (Fiction, Literary, Canadian) 5 star rating

 photo all my puny sorrows - Copy_zpsisfieg62.jpgElfrieda (Elf) is a world-renowned pianist, beautiful, wealthy, in a happy marriage – and she wants to die. Her younger sister Yolandi (Yoli) who tells this story is broke, divorced and struggling as a single mother, and she desperately wants to save her sister from committing suicide, while she tries to keep her own life together.

This book, shortlisted for Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize in 2014, looks at a serious subject in a compassionate & profound way – and along the way provides some humour from Yoli.

An outstanding effort. One of those books that sneaks up on you.

5 stars

 

2. STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel (Fiction, Dystopian, Canadian) 4.5 star rating
 photo statiocivilizationszfgc28pa.jpg
After a flu pandemic wipes out 99% of the world’s population, and civilization as we know it, Kirsten Raymonde leaves Toronto and heads south. The story picks up twenty years later. Kirsten has joined a troupe of travelling actors and musicians, who have dedicated themselves to keeping classical music and theatre alive.

The story jumps back and forth between the time before and after “the collapse,” and the narration rotates through various characters’ points of view.

The tags ‘post-apocalyptic’ and ‘dystopian’ are usually enough to make me drop a book like a hot potato but this one got SO much buzz, I just had to try it. And I’m so glad I did. It’s a reflection on what makes us human.

4½ stars

 

3. THE PUP FROM AWAY by Shaun Patterson, art by Christina Patterson (Picture Book, Canadian) 4.5 star rating

 photo pup from away_zpszu57n7bg.jpgLook closely at the picture on the cover of the book – and then imagine the entire book illustrated by these charming clay sculptures augmented by other materials. They fairly leap off the page.

The owner of the pup Dukes has to go away for a year and takes Dukes to a friend in rural Prince Edward Island. It’s a big change from his big, busy Ontario city and Dukes doesn’t like it at first. Christina has asked him to stay though so he decides to obey her – and slowly becomes familiar with the delights of country life. When Christina returns, he wants to convince her to stay.

The title is apropos because on PEI, you are either an “Islander” or you are “From Away”. Even if both your parents were Islanders and brought you “home” when you were two, if you were born “away”, you’ll always be ‘from away’. It’s a point of pride and principle for Islanders.

This book was created by husband and wife team Shaun & Christina Patterson, although from Shaun’s bio one might assume that he did the lion’s share. The Patterson themselves are ‘from away’ having moved from Barrie, Ontario to PEI over five years ago.

This book is a delight – to read, look at, and discuss with your child.

4½ stars

 

4. COOP – A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting by Michael Perry (Nonfiction, Country Living) 4 star rating

 photo coop_zpsddjsoxh1.jpgCoop was the only non-Canadian book I read this month, but it arrived at the library for me so it went on the reading pile. I had ordered it because I’m always on the lookout for books about country living by people who have an empathy for city sensibilities, and I have a couple of other books by Michael Perry that have intrigued me in the past on my own bookshelves (unread yet).

One of my favourite excerpts (describing the house he grew up in New Auburn Wisconsin):

“Moving from the kitchen to the living room, you step up a four-inch riser; keep moving on the same plane around a central wall, and you will circle right back to the riser, having never stepped down.”

This tickles me because we have the same sort of situation in the oldest part of our (“renovated”) farmhouse – around that “central wall”.

Perry infuses much humour while imparting great country living (and parenting) experiences in an easy-to-read narrative. Recommended.

4 stars

5. THE BISHOP’S MAN by Linden MacIntyre (Fiction, Literary, Canadian) 4 star rating

 photo bishops man_zpsdlyjmeud.jpgThe Bishop’s Man won the prestigious Giller Prize in 2009. In the story, Duncan MacAskill, a Catholic priest who has a genius touch for ‘resolving’ church scandals quickly and quietly is now assigned to an insignificant parish in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The effects of the cover-ups which MacAskill orchestrated are starting to haunt him, causing overdrinking and the decision to give his past journals to a reporter.

The book was published in the midst of the ongoing sexual abuse scandal case in the Antigonish Nova Scotia diocese, which eventually resulted in a $15 million settlement by the Catholic Church.

I found the back-and-forth-in-time format a little distracting but this is a sickening and powerful story.

4 stars

 

6. JACOB’S LANDING by Daphne Greer (Fiction, Middle-grade, Atlantic Canadian) 4 star rating

 photo jacobs landing - Copy_zpsywnl0jlw.jpgTwelve-year-old Jacob Mosher, son of an alcoholic mother and a recently deceased father, is sent from big city Ontario to rural Nova Scotia to spend the summer with aging grand-parents he just learned he had.

His grandparents are odd (to say the least), there are family secrets, and Jacob is suffering culture shock, in addition to navigating this last pre-teen year.

It’s an eventful summer and a touching story of family affection.

4 stars

 

* * * * *

 

 

MYSTERIES
It seems the only reading disappointments I had this month were my mystery reads.

 

1. DOES YOUR MOTHER KNOW? By Maureen Jennings (Fiction, Mystery, Series, Canadian) 3.5 star rating

#1 Christine Morris

As I’ve mentioned before, Jennings, now a Canadian citizen, is the author of the Detective Murdoch mystery series on which the popular CBC television series is based.

 photo does your mother know_zpsyripuorp.jpgDoes Your Mother Know is the first in a series featuring Christine Morris, a forensic profiler with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in Toronto, Canada. In this debut, Christine is on leave in Scotland, investigating the disappearance of her estranged mother, who has been involved in a “vehicular homicide”.

Decent, but not outstanding or particularly memorable.

3½ stars

 

2. AS CHIMNEY SWEEPERS COME TO DUST by Alan Bradley (Fiction, Mystery, Series, Canadian) 3 star rating

I do so love thirteen-year-old Flavia deLuce, chemistry genius and amateur detective. But the quality of the mysteries in this series is unpredictable.
 photo as chimney sweepers - Copy_zpsog1gllqw.jpgIt’s always been more about Flavia and her quirky family than the mysteries, but this instalment disturbingly convolutes that family story. It seemed to be as if the plot was being made up as the author went along, rather than being planned and knowing where it’s going in the future.

I had great hopes for this book since Flavia was temporarily sent from her home in England to boarding school in Toronto, Canada, the author’s (and my) home country. (Note: Bradley lives now in Malta.)

Sadly, I think this is the weakest of the series. It doesn’t put me off Flavia, but if the next book is as weak I think we’ll part ways. There’s time in life for only so many mystery series – and so many, many out there to choose from.

3 stars

 

* * * * *

Did you know that the name Toews is generally pronounced taves? (Although I worked once with a young man whose family pronounced their name as toes. His name was Harry. True story.) Have you come across author names you were surprised to hear pronounced differently than you had thought they were?

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Mystery Books Read in June 2015

February14

 

This month’s reading featured debuts to two excellent series, and a continuation of an old favourite.

 
 

1. BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE by Martin Walker (Fiction, Mystery, Series, France) 5 star rating

#1 Bruno series

This might be my favourite mystery series of all time. This, and subsequent books in the series, are set Dordogne, in southern France about 100 km (60 miles) from where my husband & I stayed on vacation in 2014. We did, indeed, take a couple of day trips into Bruno’s territory, before I ever met Bruno.

 photo bruno_zpsvdxwg5jz.jpgPart of what I love about this series is the atmosphere – the life and ways of modern French villages, being bought out by wealthy foreigners (chiefly British), but valuing their heritage, including their cooking.

But Walker does more than describe the mouth-watering foods. He builds a likeable but all-too-human character in Bruno, and lays out a mystery that is intelligent and insightful and demonstrates the direct effect of history on the present.

Thank you to Cathy at Kittling:Books for the recommendation. The Kindle version is less than $1 on both Amazon.com & Amazon.ca. Sorry – it doesn’t seem to be available on .uk or .au

If you have the least interest in France or in good mystery, you owe it to yourself to try at least this first book in the series.

5 stars

 
2. STILL LIFE by Louise Penny (Fiction, Mystery, Series, Canadian, Quebec) 4 star rating

#1 Three Pines series

 photo still life_zps1iewjelz.jpgThis is the debut novel of the ultra-popular series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec, assigned to a murder in the rural village of Three Pines, south of Montreal. In it, we are introduced to those who, I’ve gathered, are continuing characters in the series.

Penny is skilful in bringing to life characters and defining their relationships. Consider what you learn about this couple, both individually and together, from this single paragraph.
“The outside world saw a tall, distinguished man with his disheveled wife, and wondered why. . . . Clara was his centre and all that was good and healthy and happy about him. When he looked at her he didn’t see the wild, untameable hair, the billowing frocks, the Dollar-rama store horn-rimmed spectacles. No. He saw his safe harbor.”

In addition, the mystery was clever. This is a well-done entry that spurred me on quickly to the second and third in the series.

4 stars

 

3. A DANGEROUS PLACE by Jacqueline Winspear (Fiction, Mystery, Series) 4 star rating

 photo dangerous place_zpsz0icyiey.jpg

This, number eleven in the Maisie Dobbs series, has Maisie working undercover for British Intelligence in Gibraltar, on the eve of the Second World War

It’s pretty obvious—since I’m on #11—that I really like this series, but it long ago became less about the mystery and more about Maisie and the people in her life. Sometimes she’s maddening, but I am still entranced.

4 stars

 
4. BAD KARMA by Dwight Holing (Fiction, Mystery, PI, Series) 3.5 star rating

 photo bad karma_zpsj6rp91k5.jpgI think I found this free on Kindle and downloaded it, thinking it was the first in the series. It’s actually second, and I think I would have gotten just that much more out of it if I’d read the first.

Amazon says: “San Francisco’s favorite con artist turned private investigator Jack McCoul is trying to go legit by launching a high tech startup business. But then his past comes roaring back.”

I don’t know why I was surprised that this was well-edited and had a decent mystery, without a too-hard edge. The humour, I think, helped to soften it.

3½ stars

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Books Read in June 2015

February12

books read

In June 2015, I hit the ground at home running after my luxurious vacation the month before. That left not too much reading time. Here’s what I managed.

A post detailing the four mystery books in my list will follow.

 

1. THE JAGUAR’S CHILDREN by John Vaillant (Fiction, Contemporary, Immigrants)5 star rating

Desperate to escape their dire circumstances in Mexico, Hector & Cesar pay for passage to America and allow themselves (with great trepidation) to be sealed inside an old water–tank truck.

 photo jaguar_zpsuu5tjymf.jpgAs drinking water runs out and people start to die, Hector finds a number on Cesar’s phone for Annie Mac and leaves messages for her on her voice mail, hoping that they will transmit when there “are bars”.

Before the truck can reach its destination, it breaks down and the driver and his assistant abandon the truck in a desert wilderness area.

The tension in this story is exquisite. Will the driver return? Will anyone survive? What will Annie Mac do when she receives these increasingly despairing messages?

This story is especially relevant today with the issue of non-legal immigration across the USA’s southern border being such a hot button topic. Warning: there are many words and phrases, even entire sentences in Spanish. If, like me, you know no Spanish, this can impinge a little on reading enjoyment, although even I got the gist of such remarks as “And a dead indio will be something to discuss at la comida.”

I highly recommend The Jaguar’s Children.

5 stars

 

2. COOL WATER (released in USA as JULIET IN AUGUST) by Dianne Warren (Fiction, Literary, Canadian) 4.5 star rating

 photo juliet_zps0sl9r5bp.jpgThis cool and still story of the fictional prairie hamlet of Juliet, Saskatchewan for a 24-hour period one August won the Canadian Governor-General’s Award for Fiction in 2010. The ‘Welcome’ sign to Juliet announces a population of 1,011 people but more than you can imagine happens here.
Warren draws a selection of the townspeople in a clear and sure voice.

Her prose has been described as “leisurely and unpretentious” and like a “drink . . . from a deep well after crossing the parched sand hills of the west”. This is one of the books that you will finish and then sit back and realize that much more happened than you thought was happening.

It’s a richly rewarding read.

4½ stars

 
3. ALL CLEAR by Connie Willis (Fiction, Historical, Time-travel) 4.5 star rating

 photo all clear_zpsfciaxs3l.jpg

 
This is the second half and wrap-up of Blackout, which I read in May.

Oxford historians from 2060 are stuck in WWII because of incorrect facts and unforeseen circumstances.

This is a favourite excerpt:

Pg431 (American tourists Connie & Bob at the Imperial War Museum, London)

“Is that the museum schedule?” Bob asked, pointing at the brochure [Colin] was holding.
“Yes.” He handed it to him, and he and Brenda pored over it. . . .
‘The Secret That Won the War,’” she read aloud. “What’s that one about?”
“I don’t know,” Bob said impatiently.
“I believe it’s about Ultra and Bletchley Park,” Calvin said.
“Ultra?”
“The secret project to decode the Nazis’ coded messages,” he said.
“Oh.” Brenda turned to her husband. “I thought you said the American forces were what won the war.”
Bob had the good grace to look embarrassed.
“There were all kinds of things that won the war,” Bob said. “Radar and the atom bomb and Hitler’s deciding to invade Russia—“
“And the evacuation from Dunkirk,” Colin said, “and the Battle of Britain, and the way Londoners stood up to the Blitz—“

This passage tickled me because when I visited the American Pavilion at Epcot in 1989, the film presentation there told me the same thing: “The American forces won WWII.” I remember nothing else from that film, but 30 years later, that glaring bit of self-aggrandizement remains clear in my mind.

I enjoyed this second half of the All Clear story even more than the first – perhaps because things were wrapped up and I understood more of what was happening.

4½ stars

 
4. THE PENDERWICKS A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall (Fiction, Children’s Chapter) 4 star rating
 photo penderwicks_zpsboo5gvih.jpg
A widowed botany professor and his four daughters (Rosalind 12, Skye 11, Jane 10, and Batty 4) rent Arundel Cottage, part of the Arundel estate owned & occupied by the snobby Mrs. Tifton and her (very interesting) son Jeffrey, 11.

The Penderwicks won the annual U.S. National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2005.

I think I thought this was delightful when I read it but I’ve forgotten just about everything about it. Get it into the hands of your tweens and read it aloud to your younger children. I suspect that’s when the magic happens.

4 stars

 
5. WHEN ELEPHANTS FIGHT: The Lives of Children in Conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda by Eric Walters and Adrian Bradbury (Nonfiction) 3 star rating

 photo when elephants_zpsccekeknq.jpgIt seems that armed conflicts are happening in every corner of the globe and, sadly, they affect civilians by the millions. This book focuses on a specific segment of that civilian population: the children, who may have been injured or maimed, left without parents, whose homes have been destroyed, whose schooling has been interrupted, and who go to sleep scared and hungry.

It’s a tragic story and one we should all be aware of so that we can available to help – perhaps be the agents to bring that help about.

My sister recommended When Elephants Fight, but I must say that I found this volume very dry, and have learned more about the effect of war on children by reading novels (for example, Half of a Yellow Sun) or memoirs (one was A Long Way Gone).

3 stars

 

I didn’t read a lot this month, but I seem to have enjoyed most of it. What’s your take on the All Clear excerpt?

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Mystery Books Read in May 2015

February9

 

I tried a couple of new series this month – with mixed results.

And since I was away from home, I read all three books on my Kindle app.

 

1. THE GOOD THIEF’S GUIDE TO AMSTERDAM by Chris Ewan (Fiction, Mystery, Series) 4 star rating

 photo good thief_zpswcokuinb.jpgThe Good Thief series features Charlie Howard, master criminal, who accepts ‘challenges’ around the globe. This first in the series, my introduction to him, was excellent: the mystery well-paced and evenly-developed.

I was exposed to enough tidbits about Amsterdam to get a flavour of that city and look forward to globe-trotting in the future with Charlie.

4 stars

 

2. THE KILLING FLOOR by Lee Child (Fiction, Crime, Series) 4 star rating

 photo killing floor_zpsqnbrgbrc.jpg
This, the first in the very popular Jack Reacher series, introduced Reacher, an ex-military police officer and now-drifter, who happens upon a town in Georgia where he’s arrested for a murder that he didn’t commit.

Reacher’s voice in this story was in the first person; it’s warm and intelligent. The story was very good as well.
I was sure I’d found a series that I’d really enjoy.

4 stars

 

3. DIE TRYING by Lee Child (Fiction, Crime, Series) 3.5 star rating

 photo die trying_zpsbf6vbjza.jpgThis second installment in the Jack Reacher series was a great disappointment.

Child changed the story to a third person point of view, and this seemed run-of-the-mill after the almost-endearing voice of the first book. Plus, the body count in this instalment just got away from us; it seemed to me to be a lot of gratuitous killing.

I don’t know if the third person voice continues in the rest of series since this outing was enough to make me move the next book so far down my TBR list that I haven’t yet returned to it.

3½ stars

 

I know that the Jack Reacher series is immensely popular, and my sister likes it very much. But I’m hesitant to go on to the third book.

Have you read this series? What do you recommend?

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blo

Books Read in May 2015

February7

books read

In May 2015, I was on vacation in Ontario, visiting family. During the Monday to Friday work days, I stayed home and read. And read. And read. (It was wonderful, really.)

A short post detailing the mysteries in my list will follow.

 

1. A TIDEWATER MORNING by William Styron (Fiction, Literary, Classic) 4.5 star rating

 photo tidewater_zpsp2tytjyh.jpgWilliam Styron is one of those mid-twentieth century authors of literary fiction whom I’ve always meant to read. Tidewater Morning is a novella that I happened to have on Kindle which I had taken with on vacation.

Amazon says: “In this brilliant collection of ‘long short stories’, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Sophie’s Choice returns to the coastal Virginia setting of his first novels. Through the eyes of a man recollecting three episodes from his youth, William Styron explores with new eloquence death, loss, war, and racism.”

Styron’s prose is magical: calming, glowing. I loved this book!

4½ stars

 

2. OUR ENDLESS NUMBERED DAYS by Claire Fuller (Fiction, Literary) 4.5 star rating
 
 photo endless numbered days_zps7ll6gmnd.jpg

In 1976, eight-year-old Peggy’s survivalist father takes her from London, on a summer hike in a remote European forest. There he tells her that they are the only survivors of a global disaster. They live in the woods for nine years – critical years in Peggy’s growing-up.

In time, Peggy meets Rudy who helps her escape. When she finds she is not alone in the world after all, everything she thought she knew is thrown into doubt.

If you haven’t read any spoilers, you’ll no doubt be taken aback by the surprise twist ending.
 photo Our Endless Numbered Days box_zps24zdippp.jpg
Fuller’s debut novel was highly touted in 2015. I won it from Claire at Word by Word who sent it all the way from France in its own survival kit containing items mentioned in the story. It was a delight to receive this in the mail!

4½ stars

 

3. BLACK OUT by Connie Willis (Fiction, Science Fiction, Time-travel) 4 star rating

Ah, time-travel!

 photo blackout_zpsvwkzxipx.jpgA project in 2060 Oxford sends several students to various places in the Second World War. They do know a lot of history, but who can know every detail? In London during the Blitz, they face air raids, blackouts, and missed assignations with their controls.

Willis’ time travel is complex but, in the end, it all makes sense. But beware – this is a door stopper, but does not contain ‘the end’ in which sense is made. It’s only the first half of the story, which is completed in All Clear which I read the following month.

Embark on Blackout only if you’re ready for a 1,147 page odyssey to WWII. I loved it!

4 stars
 

4. SPARE CHANGE by Bette Lee Crosby (Fiction, Women’s, Southern)

Wyattsville Novel Book 1

 photo spare change_zps39oa1m9i.jpgFrom Amazon: “Small-town gossip never much bothered Olivia Westerly. As a single career woman, she’s weathered her share. It’s easy to ignore the raised eyebrows over her late-in-life marriage to Charlie Doyle. But after he drops dead on their honeymoon, the whispers are salt on her raw grief. Especially when an orphaned, eleven-year-old-boy shows up on her doorstep, looking for the grandfather he never met.”

This is a charming story with enough suspense to form a firm plot. Despite it not being a genre of my first preference, I thoroughly enjoyed this.

I received a complimentary ecopy from the author. This did not affect my review.

4 stars
 

5. LESTER B. PEARSON, 14th PRIME MINISTER by Gordon Gibb (Nonfiction, History, Politics) from the Prime Ministers of Canada series 4 star rating

 photo lester pearson_zpsynkrux70.jpgWhen I was first becoming aware of government in the 1960s, Lester Pearson (after whom Toronto’s international airport is named) was Prime Minister of Canada.

He was responsible for the debate that gave Canada a new flag to replace the Red Ensign that identified the country as part of the British Commonwealth. That ‘new’ flag with its distinctive maple leaf is one of the most recognizable in the world. I remember the flag as an early development in the making of the modern “Canadian identity”.
 photo Canadian-Flags_zps9nlo5anl.jpg
I was very interested to read this middle-grade level story of Pearson’s government. I found it well-written and clearly set out and I highly recommend this book as an introduction to this exciting time in Canadian history.

I received my ecopy of this book from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program. This did not affect my review.

4 stars
 

6. JUBILEE’S JOURNEY by Bette Lee Crosby (Fiction, Women’s, Southern) 3.5 star rating

Wyattsville Novel Book 2
 photo jubilee_zpsns1rh73q.jpg
This is a continuation of the story in Spare Change (above). It has the same characters and the same charming southern writing—but without the plot twist at the end that would have been cliché a second time around.

However, I didn’t find enough unresolved tension in this story to make it quite as interesting the debut.

I received a complimentary ecopy from the author. This did not affect my review.

3½ stars
 

7. THE THING ABOUT GREAT WHITE SHARKS & Other Stories by Rebecca Adams Wright (Fiction, Short Stories)3.5 star rating

 photo great white sharks_zpssjkupgfn.jpgMany of these are set in the near-future or in dystopian worlds. In the title story, after “the fever” has turned all flora & fauna into human-attackers, Jennifer is conscripted by the government for ‘fear’ testing. Put into a room or a pool with such animals as pythons and sharks, her reactions are monitored for use in the military.

In Sheila, the story I remember most clearly, an elderly man faces the destruction of his beloved robotic dog. It’s heart-breaking.
Other stories include aliens or Orwellian futures.

If you’re a reader of science-fiction, or a fan of dystopia, do pick this book. For me, it was a little too weird.

3½ stars
 

8. PASSION FOR PARIS: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light by David Downie (Nonfiction, History, Travel, Bibliophilic)3.5 star rating

 photo passion_zpsenjsdscx.jpg
What a lovely book to take if we ever moved to Paris and had time to explore in depth! The geography and history of ‘literary celebrities’, especially of the Grand Epoch, are covered in rich detail.

As a book for a casual reader, it was not so interesting.

I received my ecopy from NetGalley. This did not affect my review.

3½ stars

 

9. THE PAINTED KISS by Elizabeth Hickey (Fiction, Historical, Art)3.5 star rating

 photo painted kiss_zpsvwuouznw.jpg
From Amazon: “Gustav Klimt, one of the great painters of fin de siècle Austria—and the subject of Helen Mirren’s latest film, Woman in Gold—takes center stage in this passionate and atmospheric debut novel, which reimagines the tumultuous relationship between the Viennese painter and Emilie Flöge, the woman who posed for his masterpiece The Kiss, and whose name he uttered with his dying breath.”

This should have been a knock-out but I found it rather bland.

3½ stars
 

10. WONDERFUL TONIGHT by Pattie Boyd (Nonfiction, Memoir)3.5 star rating
 

 photo wonderful_zpskgsgxkm0.jpgWhat to make of the woman who inspired Something, Wonderful Tonight, and Layla by rock greats George Harrison and Eric Clapton?
Pattie Boyd was that woman and in this memoir she tells us about herself and what it was like living with these famous musicians in their heyday. Since that music formed the soundtrack of my youth, and that time is still vivid in my memory, I really enjoyed this memoir.

Until, that is, a few weeks after I finished the book I saw a news item that Boyd had married her ‘long-time boyfriend’, who, she many, many, many times told us in the book was nothing more than a friend. In my mind, this called into question the veracity of her entire account.

Make of this what you will; I still enjoyed reading it.

3½ stars
 

11. THE KEPT by James Scott (Fiction, Historical, Suspense)3 star rating

 photo kept_zpsaydcfhbr.jpg

Amazon says: “In the winter of 1897, a trio of killers descends upon an isolated farm in upstate New York. Midwife Elspeth Howell returns home to the carnage: her husband, and four of her children, murdered. Before she can discover her remaining son Caleb, alive and hiding in the kitchen pantry, another shot rings out over the snow-covered valley. Twelve-year-old Caleb must tend to his mother until she recovers enough for them to take to the frozen wilderness in search of the men responsible.”

I borrowed this from my daughter’s bookshelf during my visit, although I had previously never heard of it. It’s an odd premise, and a rather odd book although it did keep me interested enough to finish it.

3 stars
 

12. THE ROCHEFORTS by Christian Laborie (Fiction, Historical, Melodrama) 2 star rating

 photo rocheforts_zpss2l1x2fw.jpg
After visiting France in late 2014, I could not get enough of that country so I was happy to receive an ecopy of this book from NetGalley. I tried several times to ‘get into’ this, even skimming and re-entering, with no success.

Amazon calls this a “sweeping story of love, greed, and betrayal” but I found it trite, predictable, and overly-long.

2 stars

 

Because I was away from home (and wanting to travel light), nine of the twelve books I read this month were on my Kindle app. When you travel, do you read paper books or electronic copies?

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Mystery Books Read in April 2015

February4

 

A monthly mailing that I receive from Oxford County Library in Ontario put me onto a new-to-me, and excellent, series. Cathy at Kittling: Books has also recommended it.

 

1. OPEN SEASON by C.J. Box (Fiction, Mystery, Series) 4.5 star rating

 photo open season box_zpsfpr86sin.jpg

#1 in the Game Warden Joe Pickett series, set in Wyoming.

This was a wonderful introduction to a great new-to-me series, now at #18. It featured a likeable and believable protagonist and a solid mystery. There is ‘good suspense’, but it is not overwhelming as it seems to be in so many ‘crime’ novels these days.

Clearly, I have some catch-up reading to do.

4½ stars

 
2. THE LADY OF SORROWS (A Seven Deadly Sins Mystery) by Anne Zouroudi (Fiction, Mystery, Series) 3.5 star rating

 photo lady of sorrows_zpsyalxgowo.jpgThis is the fourth in the Hermes Diaktoros series which opened with such a bang for me in January 2015.

Amazon says: “A painter is found dead at sea off the coast of a remote Greek island. The painter’s work, an icon of the Virgin long famed for its miraculous powers, has just been uncovered as a fake. But has the painter died of natural causes or by a wrathful hand?”

The mystery in this episode just didn’t come together for me, but I did still enjoy the outing with Hermes, and will continue with the series.

3½ stars

 

3. EXCEPT THE DYING by Maureen Jennings (Fiction, Mystery, Historical, Canadian, Series) 3.5 star rating

 photo excpet the dying_zpswd6juolc.jpgAlthough she is the author of two other mystery series, Jennings is probably best known as the author of this series featuring Detective Murdoch, set in nineteenth-century Toronto, Ontario. The books are the basis for the popular television series Murdoch Mysteries

Except the Dying is the first in that series and I read it to prepare for the summer’s Read By the Sea event.

Years ago, I read the fourth installment, Let Loose the Dogs, and always meant to get back to it.

This debut wasn’t as good as I remember #4 being, but it held its own. For certain, I’ll try another.

3½ stars

 

4. COGNAC CONSPIRACIES by Jean-Pierre Alaux with Noël Balen (Fiction, Mystery, French, Translated [by Sally Pane], Series) 3 star rating

 photo cognac_zpsybmrk4wu.jpg
This is the fifth installment in the Winemaker Detective series featuring (fictional) renowned wine expert Benjamin Cooker, set in France. The heirs to one of the oldest Cognac estates in France call in Cooker when they face a hostile takeover by foreign investors.

There is a passable mystery, but the appeal of the series is the wine and the setting, and would be particularly interesting to oenophiles, or Francophiles with an interest in wine-making.

I suspect that each entry in this series stands well alone.

I received a complimentary ecopy of Cognac Conspiracies from the publisher. This did not affect my review.

3 stars

 

5. A FINE SUMMER’S DAY by Charles Todd (Fiction, Mystery, Historical, Series) 3 star rating

 photo fine summer day_zpshl7rz7ho.jpg

FantasticFiction.com lists this as #17 in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series; I have notated it as #.5 – that is, a chronological prequel to the series stellar debut A Test of Wills.

This entry takes the reader to Rutledge’s last civilian case before WWI, and gives us a glimpse of the Inspector’s personal life as well.

But I continue to be disappointed with subsequent entries in this series.

3 stars

 

It was a so-so month for mysteries, but made worthwhile for me with the discovery of the Joe Pickett series. Does anything appeal to you?

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Books Read in April 2015

February2

books read In April 2015, I continued with the trend I began the previous month, and Canadian literature formed just about half of my reading. I was reading, in part, in order to be familiar with the visiting authors at the annual Read by the Sea in River John Nova Scotia in July. In the end, I missed that event, but my reading was enriched anyway.

Mysteries are detailed in a separate post.

 

1. BELONGING: Home Away from Home by Isabel Huggan (Nonfiction, Travel, Canadian) 4 star rating

Canadian author Isabel Huggan & her husband fell in love with southern France on a holiday trip there and decided to relocate their home to where they had left their hearts. They intended it to be ‘home’, not a holiday house nor a second home but their permanent residence.

I choose to think that those of us who settle here permanently—définitivement—are more kindly looked upon than those who just drop in for a few weeks of sunny weather. But I may be fooling myself.

 photo belonging_zpslvufitpe.jpgHuggan explores the concept of ‘belonging” not only in relation to fitting in and becoming a part of the French community, but also in relation to no longer ‘belonging’ in Canada when they visit.

Although I had initially thought that the part about acclimatizing to France would be the bit that ‘spoke’ to me, her thoughts on no longer belonging to her native land resonated more with me. I was born and raised and lived the first 48 years of my life in Ontario, but now that we have been in Nova Scotia for nearly 15 years, we find Ontario to be a foreign country when we visit.

It’s well worth reading this lovely narrative.

4 stars

 

2. ROOST by Ali Bryan (Fiction, Contemporary, Atlantic Canadian) 4 star rating

 photo roost_zpsqqnj4mda.jpgRoost was chosen as the One Book Nova Scotia selection for 2015.

Set in Halifax, Nova Scotia, it relates a slice of life for Claudia, a recently-single mom of two pre-schoolers, whose mother dies suddenly at the age of 60. Claudia must cope not only with her own grief, but also that of her brother, and of her father – who starts to hoard. Plus, her ex is moving to another relationship.

I found this to be laugh-out-loud funny, but it does contain a lot of crude language.

4 stars

 

3. A HUNDRED FLOWERS by Gail Tsukiyama (Fiction, Historical) 4 star rating

 photo hundred flowers_zpssvefyyeh.jpgSet in Mao’s China in 1957, the title of this book refers to the program—“Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend”—that saw intellectuals and artists feel free to express dissident ideas, only to find that it led to arrest and ‘re-education’ in labour camps, or even death.

Kai Ying’s husband, Sheng, is dragged away the morning of his son’s sixth birthday and sent to a labour camp.
Amazon describes it as “a powerfully moving story of ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances with grace and courage.”

It was an interesting lesson in China’s history but it wasn’t powerful enough to sweep me off my feet.

4 stars

 

4. A BRIEF MOMENT OF WEIGHTLESSNESS by Victoria Fish (Fiction, Short Stories) 4 star rating

 photo brief moment_zpsmml5cycx.jpgEach story in this collection is rich – in language, and in relationships. For the most part, these are everyday situations: a family returning to the family cottage for their annual vacation, an elderly woman faced with having to enter a nursing home, a young girl grieving her mother who has died of breast cancer, but in each Fish plumbs the depth of the complex human heart.

The nature of short stories is that they are often unresolved, but I found these even more so, else I might have rated this a half star higher.

4 stars

 

5. A BUNCH OF PRETTY THINGS I DID NOT BUY by Sarah Lazarovic (Nonfiction, Illustrated) 3.5 star rating
 photo bunch of pretty things_zpsrptkq3qb.jpg
Oh, the irony! One of the books I indulged in buying new this year, rather than obtaining it second hand, or from the library was this one – about material things. It received such glowing comments in the Globe & Mail!

The author illustrated this herself, and I expected (and wanted) a sort of journal of lovely items that she had considered, the circumstances under which she considered them, and the reason she decided not to buy. Since reading this, I have thought that I might just make my own journal of such items (only, with cut and pasted pictures.)

Because this book wasn’t that.

 photo bunch of pretty things_zps8s0cjdxm.jpg

A small (5”x7”, 13cmx19cm) hardback (looking as though it’s missing its [non-existent] dustjacket), A Bunch of Pretty Things is more a treatise on (over)consumerism, and the learning process to minimalism. As Amazon says: “A witty, gracious, and charmingly illustrated anti-consumer manifesto”. I see now that it’s interesting, but not what I wanted at the time.

This is an excellent book for twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings to read through. The teenage angst and lack of thoughtfulness about consumerism throughout the first part of the book may irritate anyone older. The last chapter – Conclusions – includes a guide to recognizing quality and “simple rules for better shopping”, the things the over 60 crowd was taught in school (at least, I was).

3½ stars

 

6. THE WIND SELLER by Rachael Preston (Fiction, Middle-grade, Atlantic Canadian) 3.5 star rating
The Wind Seller by Rachael Preston photo wind seller_zpsbwcyz6nw.jpg

Set in 1924 in a Bay of Fundy coastal village near Economy, Nova Scotia, this middle-grade fiction explores the after-effects of the Halifax Explosion seven years earlier.

Honestly, I remember very little else about this but I did rate it at the time of reading – and I noted that the author has never lived in Nova Scotia. Was that important, I wonder?


3½ stars

 

7. A TOUCH OF STARDUST by Kate Alcott (Fiction, Historical, Women’s, Hollywood) 3 star rating

I love old black and white movies of the 1930s and ‘40s and am interested in the film stars of old. I’ve always been intrigued that Carole Lombard was purported to be, before her tragic death at age 36 in an airplane crash, the love of Clark Gable’s life.
 photo touch of stardust_zpsqfzb3iiy.jpg

Unfortunately, in an attempt to bring Lombard to life, Alcott infused her vocabulary with profanities that were rare by most standards until only a couple of decades ago. It seemed affected to me, and limited my enjoyment of this fictionalized account of the making of Gone with the Wind. Even if Lombard really did talk like that, was it necessary to use to make the point of her “strength”?

3 stars

 

What do you think? Was I too hard on any of these?

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Books Read in March 2015

January30

books read

March 2015 was a great reading month with lots of Can Lit, Atlantic Canadian and otherwise.

I read only one mystery book, that by Agatha Christie and have just included it in this list.


 

1. UNDER THE KEEL by Michael Crummey (Poetry, Atlantic Canadian) 5 star rating

I have read all of Michael Crummey’s prose, including River Thieves and Sweetland to which I gave 5 stars in September 2014.

Under the Keel by Michael Crummey photo a526c46c-ad3e-4cd7-a903-980a15353805_zpsu5bgs6qw.jpg

But I had never read of his poetry, which is his first vocation.

The title of this book refers to the poem Fathom, and the lines that describe the wound on his dog’s shaved shoulder:

like a line across a gunwale
as it rises on an easy swell,
new stitches like a row of knots tied
to sound fathoms under the keel.

I don’t know how to comment on poetry but I do know that I loved these poems. I borrowed this from the library – and then bought myself a copy for my own shelf.

5 stars

 

2. KICKING THE SKY by Anthony De Sa (Fiction, Literary, Canadian) 4 star rating

Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa photo 487c9ae6-84a8-4f11-afd0-951110243ff0_zpsxxd11lsu.jpg

In Toronto Ontario, in 1977, 11-year-old shoeshine boy Manuel Jacques was abducted, sexually abused and murdered.

Through the eyes of fictional 11-year-old Antonio Rebelo, in a time when children took their bikes and played for hours in the alleys behind their homes—a freedom we have difficulty imagining now—this novel examines that horrible real-life news event.

It’s heart-breaking and very human.

4 stars

 

3. GRIST by Linda Little (Fiction, Historical, Atlantic Canadian) 4 star rating

Grist by Linda Little photo ac6241ea-9b15-4565-8f67-43507311f3f8_zpswlgq6p0s.jpgI always enjoy reading Nova Scotia author Linda Little’s books, not least because the settings are very local to me and familiar.

This, her third novel, is Little’s first foray into historical fiction, but it is a setting with which she is very familiar, having served as a guide at the historical Balmoral Grist Mill on Nova Scotia’s beautiful north shore for several years.

From Amazon:
“Penelope MacLaughlin marries a miller and gradually discovers he is not as she imagined. Nonetheless she remains determined to make the best of life at the lonely mill up the Gunn Brook as she struggles to build a home around her husband’s eccentricities.”

There’s a strong female protagonist, and the setting and time details ring true.

4 stars

 

4. AT THE WATER’S EDGE by Sara Gruen (Fiction, Historical)4 star rating

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen photo f1c42db4-a14e-4077-b40d-fce4d809da61_zpsvkk4ngx5.jpgI haven’t seen much about this fifth (?) novel by Canadian author Gruen, perhaps because it’s so different from her big hit Water for Elephants.

Although there have rumours of a ‘monster’ in Scotland’s Loch Ness for centuries, in 1933-34 a couple of “out-of-the-pond” sightings and two photos purported to be of the monster stirred world-wide attention. At the Water’s Edge is set on locale just after this ‘discovery’.

Gruen evokes not only the Scotland of the time, but also high society in Manhattan. Very droll.

4 stars

 

5. CATARACT CITY by Craig Davidson (Fiction, Contemporary, Suspense, Canadian) 4 star rating

A short-list nominee for Canada’s 2013 Giller Prize, Cataract City is set in Niagara Falls Ontario, where the gorge into the Falls gives the city its nickname.

Cataract City by Craig Davidson photo 49764acc-dcaf-4c95-8e64-b6710fa374e1_zpsxgkuzj2d.jpg Owen and Duncan are childhood friends who’ve grown up in Niagara Falls. As adults, the two men end up at opposite ends of the law: Dunc gets in involved in cross-border cigarette smuggling and Owen is a police officer.

Although I’m not really a fan of suspense, this kept my interest throughout, perhaps because I’m personally familiar with the “Cataract City”.

Notable quote: It boiled down to this: it’s a lot harder to love than to hate. Harder to be there for those you love—to see them get older, get sick, be taken from you in sudden awful ways. Hate’s dead simple. You can hate an utter stranger from a thousand miles away. It asks nothing of you. It eats you from the inside but it takes no effort or thought at all. (page 327)

4 stars

 

6. THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD by Agatha Christie (Fiction, Mystery, Vintage) 4 star rating

This is a classic whodunit of the ‘Golden Age’ of mysteries, and often held out as Christie’s best work. Originally published in 1926, it is Hercule Poirot’s fourth outing.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie photo 94fe5c28-9ba5-46d2-8b4e-d8f4f6bd5d3e_zpsgreyh5xa.jpgBlurb from Amazon: “Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected also that someone had been blackmailing her. Then, tragically, came the news that she had taken her own life with a drug overdose.
But the evening post brought Roger one last fatal scrap of information. Unfortunately, before he could finish reading the letter, he was stabbed to death.”

Even though I thought it worth the read, it wasn’t my favourite, nor was it particularly memorable.

4 stars

 

7. THE BOOK WITH NO PICTURES by B.J. Novak (Fiction, Children’s ‘Picture’) 4 star rating

The Book  With No Pictures photo 1b04f384-01aa-4e59-8c94-1631f8943d36_zpsjxmyha6z.jpgI’m always overly dramatic in my readings of picture books to kids. So the idea of a ‘picture’ book with no pictures, that allowed kids to imagine, and adults to dramatize, appealed to me.

Maybe I was in the wrong mood when I read it, but the narrative seemed overly wordy and over the top.

Points for the concept and the basic plot.

4 stars

 
8. IMAGINARY LINE: Life on an Unfinished Border by Jacques Poitras (Nonfiction, Canadian) 3.5 star rating

The author recounts life in New Brunswick Canada living near the somewhat porous border with Maine USA.

Imaginary Line: Life on an unfinished border by Jaques Poitras photo b3c6fc99-be17-4c04-9a34-615fc4abf647_zps9exrknga.jpg

Estcourt is unique: part of the community is in Québec, but the other part is at the northernmost tip of Maine, though cut off from the rest of the state by vast forests. There are no public American roads leading to Estcourt, which means that U.S. residents rely on Québec for access to electricity, telephone service, and road links to the outside world.

I’ve always thought, looking at a map of North America, that Maine should be part of Canada, sticking up the way it does well past the 49th parallel that forms most of the border across the continent. In Imaginary Line, Poitras recounts the history of land division that gave Maine to the USA and New Brunswick to Canada, and reveals the error of my thinking.

Why is this border “unfinished”? Because of a small island in the mouth of the Penobscot River that both countries claim, but neither will relinquish.

Very interesting – to both Canadians and Americans, I would think.

3½ stars

 

9. THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Fiction, Women’s) 3.5 star rating

The Language of lowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh photo 17898574-fd99-4e40-ab48-0cf6d99b04c6_zpsqnlndnhk.jpgFrom Amazon:”The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions . . . But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody . . . Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.”

Bottom line: I shouldn’t read women’s fiction with happy endings, no matter how well-written.

3½ stars

 

10. THE MUSSEL FEAST by Birgit Vanderbeke and Jamie Bulloch (translator) (Fiction, Literary, Translated) 3.5 star rating

The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke photo d29745f4-967a-4500-9883-647284cd82aa_zpsvdvq9vlq.jpg

A mother and her two teen-aged children have fixed a ‘mess of mussels’ for dinner because it is their husband/father’s favourite meal. They sit at the table, waiting. But he is late.

Written in 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the father is meant to be an analogy of communism, the ultimate ‘tyrannical father’. Although this has been highly touted, I found it rather ponderous.

3½ stars

 

11. SALTWATER COWBOYS by Dayle Furlong (Fiction, Atlantic Canadian)3 star rating

I so wanted to love this novel and it was so promising at its beginning:
Saltwater Cowboys by Dayle Furlong photo 514c84a1-f099-416f-ac42-f045d8a42f93_zpsjypmdocd.jpg

The inhabitants of a Newfoundland fishing village shut down by the collapse of the Atlantic fishing industry, move nearly en masse to Alberta to work in the oil field. Their families go with them, which is often not the case.

The part of the book set in Newfoundland rang true, as did the beginning of the time in Alberta but once the author had solidified the setting and, to some extent, the personalities, the plot sadly fell apart.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley. This did not affect my review.

3 stars

 

So there you have it: Can Lit in fiction both contemporary and historical, in nonfiction, and in poetry. Does anything appeal to you?

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Books Read in February 2015

January27

books read

In February 2015, my reading slowed down a bit after that heavy January but I read a book that has earned a place in my top 100 lifetime books, perhaps even the top 25. Everything else I read was excellent, too.

P.S. I didn’t read any mystery books this month, so this is the only post for February 2015.

 

1. A BEAUTIFUL TRUTH by Colin McAdam (Fiction, Literary)5 star rating

 photo beautiful truth_zpssvu7o5le.jpgSet in Vermont and in a Florida primate research facility, this story is told alternately from the point of view of humans, and chimpanzees.

A wealthy young couple Walt and Judy, unable to conceive children, adopt a young chimpanzee who enjoys a pampered life with them. Meanwhile, in Florida, chimps have been studied (and more) for decades. These two stories tragically intersect.

This is an extremely powerful book that continues to haunt me, though I read it nearly three years ago.

I can’t recommend this highly enough.

5 stars

 

2. THE CHICKEN THIEF by Fiona Leonard (Fiction, African, Literary) 4 star rating

 photo chicken thief_zpsthddmrjd.jpg
 
Set in an unidentified West African country, this follows Alois, a consummate chicken thief who is recruited to protect a war hero.

It’s a gentle satire, amusing at times, but overall a bold statement on African politics.

4 stars


 

3. THE LOWLAND by Jhumpa Lahiri (Fiction, Indian, Literary)4 star rating

 photo lowland_zpsmuweqbbi.jpg

 

The Lowland is the story of two brothers who grow up in a village in India. Ones moves to America, the other stays in his home village.

I found that, although this told a story with a powerful ending and was well-written, it dragged for me in spots.

4 stars


 

4. PRAIRIE OSTRICH by Tamai Kobayashi (Fiction, Canadian, Literary)4 star rating

From an Amazon reviewer:

 photo prairie ostrich_zpsbsyxfwvo.jpg“Bookish, [Japanese-Canadian] eight-year-old Egg Murakami lives on her family’s ostrich farm in rural, southern Alberta. It is the end of the summer, 1974. Since her brother’s death, her Mama curls inside a whiskey bottle and her Papa shuts himself in the barn. Big sister Kathy — in love with her best friend, Stacey — reinvents the bedtime stories she reads to Egg so that they end in a happily ever after.

Confronted by bullies and the perplexing quirks of the adults around her, Egg watches, a quiet witness to her unraveling family as she tries to find her place in a bewildering world.”

Don’t read this if you require happy endings.

4 stars

 

5. THE COLOUR OF MILK by Nell Leyshon (Fiction, South African, Historical) 4 star rating

 photo colour of milk_zpsouuu4s6k.jpg
The Colour of Milk is told from the point of view of fifteen-year-old Mary who is asked to work in the home of the village minister. She’s a pretty girl with hair the colour of milk, and it is this that has attracted the man to her.

It’s a short book over which suspense steadily builds while the reader discerns what is coming.

4 stars

 
6. THE HOUR OF PERIL: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower (Narrative Nonfiction, Historical, American) 4 star rating

 photo hour of peril_zpsh9tqvlt6.jpg

When we think of Lincoln and an assassination attempt, we no doubt think of Ford’s Theatre on April 15, 1865.

This book tells of police work that purportedly uncovered a plot to kill Lincoln in Baltimore in February 1861. Based on evidence, the law agencies were able to convince the President to change his train route and, as we know, he was not murdered then.

I’m not American so it takes a really good book to draw me into an isolated incident in US history. This well-written account kept my interest throughout.

4 stars


 

7. MOVING TO THE COUNTRY ONCE AND FOR ALL by Lisa Rogak (Nonfiction, Narrative Essay)3.5 star rating

 photo moving to the country_zps5zt1sv9d.jpg

This was really an excellent guide for leaving an urban setting and settling into a rural life. There are chapters on how to choose a town, employment opportunities, and the nitty-gritty of country living, among others, and Lisa tells us about these in an engaging way.

The one problem with this book is that some of the material has seriously dated.

3½ stars

 
Have you read any of the excellent books in this month’s reading?

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Mystery Books Read in January 2015

January19

 

This was the month I finally started several series that had been highly recommended and picked up some titles that fit various reading challenges I was unofficially participating in.

 

1. THE MESSENGER OF ATHENS by Anne Zouroudi (Fiction, Mystery, Series #1)4.5 star rating

2. THE TAINT OF MIDAS by Anne Zouroudi (Fiction, Mystery, Series #2 4.5 star rating

3. THE DOCTOR OF THESSALY by Anne Zouroudi (Fiction, Mystery, Series #3) 4.5 star rating
The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi photo 0f63a251-7941-4b28-b47a-cc548ba9a93f_zpsqof3dc2i.jpg
I wasn’t sure what to expect of my first meeting with Hermes Diaktoros, but I was eager to make his acquaintance so when Netgalley offered these first three in the series, I jumped.

The series is set in Greece at an undetermined time – but in very real settings that make little or no use of modern technology. That could be mid-20th century, or it could be present day in an isolated rural area that is not up to date. The Taint of Midas by Anne Zouroudi photo 1f65bf8a-ff3a-4183-aaf7-3e453aec46ab_zpsabt26vbr.jpgTo further confuse things, Hermes’ methods are very old-fashioned and a little bit unorthodox, and there is the tiniest bit of magical realism.

This series has everything: a setting that the reader longs to be part of, a likeable inscrutable protagonist, and good mysteries. There are seven books in this series, each dealing with one of the traditional seven deadly sins.The Doctor Of Thessaly by Anne Zouroudi photo 28891770-577d-463a-9891-9c9c6bbd5452_zpswfikmirc.jpg

All of these books were excellent, although it is the story in the third one that has stayed with me three years later. There’s always justice in Zouroudi’s books although not always in the form you might expect.

I’m glad to be reminded to return to this series.

4½ stars each and every one

 

4. GREEN FOR DANGER by Christianna Brand (Fiction, Mystery, Vintage, WWII) 4.5 star rating

This was my second outing with Brand (the first in October 2014) and I found that Green for Danger certainly justified Brand’s place in the pantheon of great Golden Age mystery authors.

Green for Danger by Chrsitianna Brand photo b19e48ab-304e-422f-80b8-564e4e412845_zpsl2s1f44a.jpgThis second outing of Inspector Cockrill is set in a rural English hospital during WWII. The mystery is extremely well and fairly clued and although I caught on before the reveal, it was just enough before that I wasn’t frustrated by obviousness.

Tipped off by Nan from Letters from a Hill Farm, I found the movie version of Green for Danger on YouTube, and greatly enjoyed it. It was true to the book although, perhaps due to film quality, I think you’d get more out of it if you’ve read the book first.

Excellent – if you haven’t read Brand, do start here.

4½ stars

 

5. TURNSTONE by Graham Hurley (Fiction, Police Procedural, Series) 4 star rating

This turned up in my library queue because it fulfilled a reading challenge that unfortunately, ran out the previous month. Still, it looked interesting enough to try.

“Turnstone is the 1st of Graham Hurley’s Portsmouth based Faraday and Winter novels. Portsmouth is a city on the ropes, a poor, dirty but spirited city, with a soaring crime rate. And it is home for DI Joe Faraday.” (Amazon)
Turnstone by Graham Hurley photo bf1cb8c3-f7e9-4ec9-9672-523177e118b6_zpsam9zomy3.jpg

Faraday is a crusty old coot but when eight-year-old Emma Maloney gathers the coins out of her bank, gets on a bus by herself, and walks into the Kingston Crescent Police Station hoping just maybe the police could find her dad, just like they’d found her bike that time, he sees a case worth taking.

Despite the ever-growing caseload of a city torn by violence, poverty, drug-dealing and petty crime, Faraday spares time and resources for an investigation unsupported by hard evidence and works loosely with Paul Winter, another member of the CID force, whose ambition and methods Faraday dislikes and distrusts, but who gets results.

The characters are well-drawn and not at all one-dimensional, and the plot stands up.

4 stars

 

6. THE TOMB OF ZEUS by Barbara Cleverly (Fiction, Mystery, Historical, Series) 4 star rating

The Tomb of Zeus by Barbara Cleverly photo c9c4e074-c126-4b94-984f-05506b121371_zpszhtxipit.jpgIn February 2014, I greatly enjoyed one of Cleverly’s books from her Joe Sandilands series. Since then, I had heard positive things about her Laetitia “Letty” Talbot series, so I decided to give it a whirl, starting with the first in the series.

Set in 1928 Crete, it features aspiring archaeologist Letty, determined to succeed in a male-dominated field.

The mystery was solid, and kept me guessing, but I am so weary of Golden Age heroines with modern-day sensibilities. I may stick to Cleverley’s other series.

4 stars

 

7. WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD by Stuart Palmer (Fiction, Mystery, Short Story) 3.5 star rating

I could call this the ‘Case of the Disappearing Book”. When I went looking for a cover image for this, I was unable to locate one by Stuart Palmer, despite there being nearly a dozen others by this title on Amazon. But this wasn’t on Amazon, nor on my Kindle library, nor even in my iBooks app.
 photo old time detection_zpslt7xjevm.jpg

The mystery was solved when I looked at my original reading record and discovered that I had read this in a printed publication I receive. Give Me That Old-time Detection had reprinted it from a 1951 Ellery Queen Magazine. Old-Time Detection is a treasure trove of vintage stories and book reviews as well as current news from the field.

I’m assuming Where Angels Fear to Tread was classic and I liked it well enough, although I admit I don’t remember anything about it.

3½ stars

 

8. A KILLER PLOT by Ellery Adams (Fiction, Mystery, Cozy, Series) 3.5 star rating

A Killer Plot by Ellery Adams photo 730df75b-aa25-4544-aa19-68f294c8ee9f_zpsoeq4l3on.jpgIn the small coastal town of Oyster Bay, North Carolina, “Olivia Limoges is the subject of constant gossip. Ever since she came back to town-a return as mysterious as her departure-Olivia has kept to herself, her dog, and her unfinished novel.”

But when townspeople start turning up dead with haiku poems on their bodies she, as a writer, becomes suspect and is drawn into solving the crimes. This is the first of the Books by the Bay series and is a solid, although not overly exciting, debut.

3½ stars

 

9. COVER OF SNOW by Jennie Milchman (Fiction, Suspense) 3.5 star rating

Cover of Snow by Jennie Milchman photo 8ad53c97-bd0b-4f70-a513-637fc99126fb_zpsv75ix1t2.jpgNora Hamilton wakes one winter morning to find that her husband has hanged himself, leaving no note or explanation. When Nora starts asking questions, she is stonewalled at every turn.

I could recognize that this was a well-done suspense tale, although suspense isn’t my favourite genre. I did guess the “villain” of the conspiracy early on and was quite frustrated at how Nora kept missing it.

3½ stars

 

10. CROSSING THE LINE by Frédérique Molay (Fiction, Crime, Translated, Series) 3.5 star rating

Crossing the Line by Frederique Molay photo c41948dc-3303-434c-80ee-e1bc52df4b62_zpsubiiay8v.jpg In this, the second in the Paris Homicide series, Paris Chief of Police Nico Sirsky is on a bizarre case. Dental students have discovered a message in the tooth of a severed head, warning of murder.

The Paris setting was excellent, the suspenseful build-up was good, but the plot seemed to me to “cross the line” into the completely unbelievable. (Not the bit about the tooth; I bought that. The plot just went over the top at its climax.)

3½ stars

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Books Read in January 2015

January16

books read
Yup – you read that right: 2015. I’m three years behind in recording the books I’ve read. But one must start somewhere, so away we go.

January! A new year – and I celebrated by indulging in mysteries. They’re in a separate post, as usual. Herewith are the four non-mystery books that I read.

 

1. SILENCE OF THE SONGBIRDS: How We Are Losing the World’s Songbirds and What We Can Do to Save Them by Bridget Stutchbury (Non-fiction, Nature) 4 star rating

The Silence of the Songbirds by Bridget Stutchbury photo ffe34720-fb37-40c8-b040-dc64458be6cc_zpsbio4ibpq.jpg I’ve noticed in the last few years and especially in the spring and summer of last year that there are fewer songbirds trilling their calls around our country property.
Since reading Silence of the Songbirds, I have a good idea why this is – not that it makes me feel any better.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is still a classic on this subject, but Stutchbury’s book is an up-to-date consideration of the whole of North America.

These are disturbing facts; I often see in my mind’s eye, even now three years after first reading of them, all those dead hawks falling from the sky over southern fields.

4 stars

 

2. THE LAST DAYS OF PTOLEMY GREY by Walter Mosley (Fiction) 4 star rating

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley photo 41b7921e-1fc5-4f47-bec9-d1f5f8ae23a4_zps6o5yxxjn.jpg
91-year-old recluse Ptolemy Grey lives forgotten by the world and suffering from increasing dementia. He’s offered a chance to engage in an experimental drug test that will clear his mind, but cause his death within one year.

Publishers Weekly says: “Though the details of the experimental procedure are less than convincing, Mosley’s depiction of the indignities of old age is heartbreaking, and Ptolemy’s grace and decency make for a wonderful character and a moving novel.” I agree.

4 stars

 

3. ALAN TURING: ENIGMA MAN by Nigel Cawthorne (Nonfiction, Biography, History) 3.5 star rating
Alan Turing - The Enigma Man by Nigel Cawthorne photo 070f5b64-c308-48a6-93d4-4c9e7ea10607_zpss2djnqme.jpg

I was inspired to read Enigma Man after seeing the film The Imitation Game. This short biography of Alan Turing, genius of Bletchley Park and Britain’s chief codebreaker during WWII is the book on which the movie was based.

The book is a little dry, but short and worthwhile to have some background knowledge on this mastermind.

3½ stars

 

4. DILIGENT RIVER DAUGHTER by Bruce Graham 3 star rating

Diligent River Daughter by Bruce Graham photo be834223-b311-480a-a912-78b0dd1d6e2c_zpsdez3akg8.jpgI buy a lot of books but most are clearance items or used. But remembering how much I had enjoyed The Parrsboro Boxing Club by Bruce Graham, I impulsively picked this book up at a bookstore and paid full price, expecting another gem, set in my adopted home province.

I was disappointed, however, since the WWI setting took the protagonist away from her home in Diligent River, Nova Scotia. The plot wasn’t strong enough to overcome that. This is not Graham’s best.

3 stars

 
I find that Silence of the Songbirds has really stuck with me. Have you read any good nonfiction books in the last few years that have the same effect on you?

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Six Degrees of Separation from The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

January10

This link-up is hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best, and you can find complete details by clicking on the link.

 photo 2018-01 January 2018_zpsnfv2ddfr.jpg

This month, the starting point for everyone’s chains is The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. If you haven’t read it, you’ve probably heard of it. In it, Mma Precious Ramotswe begins her own business–the aforesaid agency–and solves a number of small cases. It’s set in Botswana in what, I suspect, is a lost time in African society (much like 1950s small-town America) but I love the gentle rhythm of Mma Ramotswe’s life.

1. Also set in Botswana, although one not quite so charming, is Eleanor Lincoln Morse’s White Dog Fell from the Sky.
In mid-1970s apartheid South Africa, medical student Isaac Muthethe has himself smuggled out of the country into Botswana. He is in danger in his home country because he witnessed the murder of a friend by white members of the South African Defense Force. He is hired as a gardener by a young American woman, Alice Mendelssohn, who has followed her husband to Africa. The white dog of the title is a stray that shows up just when Isaac is dropped off in Botswana, and that attaches itself to the young man.

This book made me aware of the issue of cattle-farm fences across Africa, which cut off wildlife from their families and from water supplies. It also sharpened my understanding of the apartheid situation in South Africa, especially after Isaac is extradited and tortured. This is not Precious Ramotswe’s Botswana. This is a powerful and moving book that should have received more attention than it did. A different tone is set in

2. To Dance with the White Dog by Terry Kay.
Sam Peek’s children are worried about him since his beloved wife of fifty-seven years died. They’re not sure he can live alone on his farm and survive. Sam is determined to stay, though, and continue to care for his pecan trees.

When Sam begins telling his children about a white dog who visits him — but seems invisible to everyone but him — his children think that grief and old age have finally taken their toll.

There’s nothing supernatural and no mental illness here–just a bittersweet story of grieving. Desmond Tutu called To Dance with the White Dog “a hauntingly beautiful story about love, family, and relationships”. I concur – this one of those free Kindle books that turned out to be a real winner.

3. Another book that I thought was well-done and that I read on my Kindle app was Will Ferguson’s The Shoe on the Roof.

The tone of this novel is almost whimsical and it took me a while to figure out the seriousness of the story. I suspect that it was the author’s intent to keep the reader slightly off-balance while he established the underpinnings of the plot.

Amazon calls this “the startling, funny, and heartbreaking story of a psychological experiment gone wrong” and says that “The Shoe on the Roof is an explosively imaginative tour de force, a novel that questions our definitions of sanity and madness, while exploring the magical reality that lies just beyond the world of scientific fact.”

4. Using the word ‘shoe’ in the title, I linked to G is for Gumshoe, a Kinsey Millhone mystery by Sue Grafton who died just a few weeks ago, in December 2017.

I know I read this several years ago, and the plot synopsis does ring a bell, but I can’t tell you much about it now.

I do remember that I read to ‘M’ in this series, and took a break because the tone was getting darker and I wasn’t enjoying them as much as the earlier adventures. I’ve never gotten back to Grafton’s books, but I do have ‘N’ through ‘Q’ on my bookshelves so one never knows.

5. Richard Adams, author of one of my favourite modern classics, Watership Down also died in 2017.

Amazon’s synopsis focuses on the band of rebel rabbits that left the warren and had adventures.

I read this in the 1970s and what I remember is the movement within the warren to trust the humans who, in the end, flooded the rabbits’ home, killing many. Do I remember correctly? I hope so because

6. Another book with a seemingly benevolent party with evil intent is The Gold Eaters by Ronald Wright.

This epic novel tells the story of the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro’s entry into Peru and his subsequent conquering of the Incan Empire. What greed, what a loss of culture, what a waste of human life!

 

So there you have my links: location, two white dogs, ebooks, the death of authors, and evil intent. Have you read any of these books? What would you have linked differently?

 

Why not visit Kate’s blog and see how she made the final connection to The Heart’s Invisible Furies?

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Wednesday HodgePodge 03Jan18

January3

 photo hodgepodge-button_zps0qi9h9lg.png

Joyce over at From This Side of the Pond hosts a weekly hodepodge of questions.

I was sick yesterday so didn’t read my email with the HodgePodge questions until noon today. So I’m w-a-y- down the list of participants again, but here goes!

 

1. It’s that time of year again…time for Lake Superior University to present a list of words (or phrases) they’d like to see banished (for over-use, misuse, or general uselessness) in 2018. You can read more about the decision making process and word meaning here, but this year’s top vote getters are-

unpack, dish (as in dish out the latest rumor), pre-owned, onboarding/offboarding, nothingburger, let that sink in, let me ask you this, impactful, Cofefe, drill down, fake news, hot water heater (hot water doesn’t need to be heated), and gig economy

Which of these words/phrases would you most like to see banished from everyday speech and why? Is there a word not on the list you’d like to add?

I was puzzled to see unpack on this list but it’s referring to its misuse as a verb that should be analyze, consider, assess, and so on. That I can agree with.

The word I’d most like to see gone is impactful, as the panel says: “A frivolous word groping for something ‘effective’ or ‘influential.’” It seems to me to be just bad grammar.

And, yes, while we’re talking about this, I’ll tell you my pet peeve and hope that I don’t mortally offend anyone. In the last couple of years, I’ve seen (heard) that the word “died” has died an unnatural death in the English speaking world. A decade ago, someone would have died, or passed away, or even passed over, but now people only “pass”. I’m always tempted (very irreverently & probably offensively) to ask, “Pass wind?” Please, people, death is neither pleasant nor natural nor anything but grief-inducing, but it is what it is. Using that, may I say ‘trendy’, euphemism doesn’t alter the facts.

 

2. What’s something you need to get rid of in the new year?

I need to get rid of this house. I feel rather ill saying that. I love this property, I love this house, I love the village 6km down the road, but we need to be able to make decisions about retirement and we can’t be anchored here by a piece of real estate.

 

3. Where do you feel stuck?

I feel stuck in winter, as odd as that sounds. The cold makes it impossible to do work outside that needs to be done, both in the garden and on the buildings, and it makes it difficult to work in the unheated barn to sort and dispose there.

 

4. January is National Soup Month. When did you last have a bowl of soup? Was it made from scratch or from a can? Your favorite canned soup? Your favorite soup to make from scratch on a cold winter’s day?

I can’t remember the last time I had a bowl of soup and it was probably canned.

I guess one thing that winter is good for is soup-making and eating.

A friend gave me a big bag of freshly harvested carrots a couple of weeks ago and I have been roasting them for suppers. I think tomorrow would be a good day to make a pot of carrot soup. Usually, I make split pea.

5. Tell us one thing you’re looking forward to in 2018.

Finding out more about what the future holds for us! Where will we end up? By the end of this year, we should have the answers to a number of variables (when will the house sell? How much will it sell for? Where will our grandchildren be? Etc.) and should be narrowing in on our path for the next few years.

 

 photo brule 2nd storage_zps7zjiqvlq.jpg
6. Insert your own random thought here.

We laid the ceramic tile in the upstairs bathroom last week. Note the scraps of old dark wallpaper that the previous owners had covered with a high baseboard.

I’m so eager to get with on the rest of the reno in there!

 

Have you an opinion about any of these? Have I any readers left after question #1?

posted under Just Me | 14 Comments »

First Book of the Year 2018

January1

 photo First Book of the Year_zpshmd3biru.jpg

This is my first time participating in First Book of the Year, hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, and now in its fifth year.

 photo first book 2018_zpspduxhbpr.jpg I Am a Truck by Michelle Winters was short-listed for the 2017 Giller Prize and I’ve been burning with curiousity about it since then. It has been described as a “tender but lively debut novel about a man, a woman, and their Chevrolet dealer.” Doesn’t that sound intriguing?

(Our grandson wanted to be in the photo too, but I’m reading something else to him.)

Whatever your first book is, I hope you have tons of reading pleasure in the coming year!

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

posted under Book stuff | 15 Comments »

Wednesday Hodgepodge

December13

 photo hodgepodge-button_zps0qi9h9lg.png

Joyce over at From This Side of the Pond hosts a weekly hodepodge of questions. This week’s questions piqued my interest.

 

1. ‘Hurry less, worry less’…what’s your strategy for making that happen this holiday season? How’s it going so far?

This one is easy. Since we don’t celebrate any holidays, there’s no more or no less to do than at any other time of the year. It’s working well, and has for the last 30 years.

 

Honey-Do List photo honey do list 250_zpswg0v6qu1.jpg2. Do you have a list of to-dos that need accomplishing in order to prepare your home and/or property for the winter season? What are some of the jobs on your list? Are you a do-it-yourself or do you hire someone to accomplish these tasks?

Not to prepare for the winter season, but to prepare for selling our house next year. There’s a list a mile long: strip & paint two bathrooms; replace counter, sinks, toilet; take up the old carpet on the stairs; sand & paint the stairs & lay new runner; clean the barn; and so on and so on. Lots of these I’m doing myself but we’re hiring some help: to trim the trees and carry the brush away; to put a door on the basement stairs; to clean up Bill’s to-do list that just seems to keep growing since he works full-time – including four hours commuting 4 days each week. By weekend, when he also has other responsibilities, he’s toast. I’m so happy to have found someone to clean this up for him.

 

3. According to dietitians surveyed, the most popular health foods for 2018 will be -turmeric, sprouted foods (bean sprouts, breads with sprouted grains, etc), veggies in place of grains, dairy free milk, and pulses (lentils, chickpeas, etc). What’s the first thought that ran through your head when you read this list? Of the foods listed which one might you add to your regular diet? Also, can milk really be dairy free? Is it still milk?

Thoughts: I’ll have to be sure to use up that turmeric tea in the cupboard; I’ve just collected the equipment for sprouting beans and alfalfa – darn! Does this make ‘trendy’? Yuck!; we already stock almond ‘milk’ for our grandson and I much prefer it for my smoothies; and now I can serve lentil soup and hummus with a ‘clean conscience’.

‘Milk’ is just semantics.

 

Welch's Can photo welchs can_zpsmabku8tl.jpg4. The Pantone Color of the Year for 2018 is Ultra Violet. According to the Pantone site ‘Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking pointing us to the future.’ What say you? Do you like the color purple? Did you see the movie or read the book-ha!? Is purple a color you wear often? Describe for us one purple item in your home without using the word purple. If you were in charge of such things what color would you select for 2018?

I like purple, but this ‘Ultra Violet’ is a little too purple for me. I mean, what are we supposed to do with that?

When I was a teen, I decorated my entire bedroom in shades of purple. That’s where the only purple item that I can think of in the house now is from: an old metal Welch’s grape juice can (it’s sold in cardboard now) that I use on my desk. How to describe it? Easy: grapey.

If I was in charge? I really don’t know – maybe a sage green. I think the world needs soothing right now.

 

The One and Only Ivan photo one and only ivan_zpsjzceje9s.jpg5. Favorite book you read this year?

I had a few 5 star books this year, but the one that is most memorable for me is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. It’s a middle grade book, based on a true story about a gorilla that spent decades alone in a cage in a mall in the southern USA. It’s haunting.

 

6. Insert your own random thought here.

This is the first time I’ve participated in Wednesday Hodgepodge. I can’t promise I’ll be in every week, but maybe now and then.

 

posted under Just Me | 10 Comments »

Where Do My Books Come From?

November6

I’ve been wanting to break ‘radio silence’ for some time and get back into posting to my blog at least semi-regularly, hoping that there are still some of you out there reading!

So, inspired by Laura at Reading in Bed and Rebecca at Bookish Beck who participated in a meme started by Carrie at Pickle Me This (whew!), I was curious to know just where the books I read come from.

Library shelves photo library shels_zpsinalpzlr.jpg

Here are the statistics for my last 30 reads:

Public Library: 18 books 60%

Fire Burn by John Dickson Carr
A Different Pond by Thi Bui
Replay by Ken Grimwood
Detective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson
Deadly Appearances by Gail Bowen
Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage
Kindred by Octavia Butler
If This is Freedom by Gloria Ann Wesley
Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo
The Longest Night by Andria Williams
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
The Homesman by Glendon Swarthout
Death of an Englishman by Magdalen Nabb
Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman
The Gold Eaters by Ronald Wright
Mud Season by Ellen Stinson
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer

Purchased eBooks: 4 books 13%

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander
Send in the Clowns by Julie Mulhern
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

NetGalley or LibraryThing Early Reviewer: 3 books 10%

The Fight That Started the Movies by Samuel Hawley
The Shoe on the Roof by Will Ferguson
Remember My Beauties by Lynne Hugo

eBook Freebies through BookBub or Riffle: 3 books 10%

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart
Circle of Influence by Annette Dashofy
Live Free or Die by Jessie Crockett

On my shelf – Purchased new, but at a discount store: 1 book 3%

The 12 Bottle Bar by David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson

Scribd.com: 1 book 3%

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

 

There are no surprises there for me except for the number of eBooks that I actually paid for. I blame a reading challenge that required books that my public library didn’t have.

I really have to stop reserving library books and work at reading from my own shelves.

How about you? Do you rely heavily on your public library?

 

posted under Book stuff | 14 Comments »

THE HOCKEY SWEATER by Roch Carrier, translated by Sheila Fischman

March8

The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories by Roch Carrier photo hockey sweater  others_zps8kwu2pne.jpgThe warm and wonderful book The Hockey Sweater all started with a short story called “Une abominable feuille d’érable sur la glace” (An abominable maple leaf on the ice) that was included in a collection published by House of Anansi Press in the late 1970s. The author, Roch Carrier was inspired to write the story when he was asked by the CBC to talk about Quebec and the difference at the time between French-speaking and English-speaking Canada. He drew on an actual childhood experience of his.

When Roch read the story on the air, a producer from the National Film Board of Canada heard it and had the idea of making a short film of the story. The 10-minute film, brilliantly animated by Sheldon Cohen and lovingly narrated by Carrier, was a success, has won many awards and is much loved by fans (including me).

After the film was released, Sheldon contacted a publisher who, unknown to Sheldon, had wanted to make a book of the story since she had heard it on the radio. The same story that was used in the film is used in the book, but animation and illustration work differently, so Sheldon had to think differently about the art for the book. I think you will agree that his work is brilliant.

The boys in Roch’s village wanted to play hockey like their hero Maurice Richard and, of course, wear the jersey of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team, for which Richard played. When a mistake was made and Roch ends up with a new hockey sweater with the emblem of the rival team, the Toronto Maple Leafs—well . . . that’s a story.

In ten minutes, Roch and Sheldon create the village of Ste. Justine, Quebec in a mid-twentieth century winter. For years, the opening lines “The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons. We lived in three places—the school, the church and the skating rink—but our real life was on the skating rink” were printed (in both French and English, of course) on the back of the Canadian five dollar bill, along with an image of children playing hockey.

200 The hockey Sweater 30th anniversary edition by Roch Carrier & Shelden Cohen  photo hockey sweater 200_zpsh9yke2ou.jpgThis 30th anniversary edition of The Sweater contains the story and illustrations, and much more. There is a history of the story, bonus illustrations by Sheldon, photos, comments from book tours and from the who’s who of Canadian culture, a short essay by Ken Dryden about the NHL in the 1940s, and many other treats including a DVD of the film.

If you’ve never seen the film, I suggest you watch it if you can find it. If you’re Canadian and you haven’t read the story, you owe it to yourself to get this book—beg, buy, borrow—whatever it takes to get a copy.

This is truly a Canadian classic and one of my favourite books of all time. 5 plus stars

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Books Read in December 2014

March6

books read 
Since we don’t celebrate any of the holidays in December, the month usually means a bonanza of reading time for me when the stores are closed and my husband is off work. 2014 was no exception.

Mystery books are in a separate post.

 
The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier, illustrated by Shelden Cohen, translated by Sheila Fischman (Nonfiction, Picture book, Canadian) 5 star rating  

The Hockey Sweater (30th anniversary edition) by Roch Carrier, illustrated by Sheldon Cohen photo 9ed6663e-89c0-4930-9f51-dd6824526a42_zps53qq8lmc.jpgIt’s impossible to say anything about this book and keep it to a paragraph or two. So I am going to have to write a separate post so that, if you are Canadian, you will know that you must be familiar with this story and treasure this part of your heritage (despite our Prime Minister’s opinion that there is no Canadian identity) and if you are not Canadian, you will understand a little about what makes this country tick.

I LOVE this book. 5 plus, plus, plus stars

 

Adé: a Love Story by Rebecca Walker (Fiction, Contemporary, Literary) 4.5 star rating

Ade: a Love Story by Rebecca Walker photo 03448ab5-b9fb-4dd2-964e-27087fe51cac_zpsicwl0c4a.jpgThis is subtitled a “love story” but this is no romance novel. An American (or was she a Brit? It doesn’t matter really) falls in love with a native Swahili man while in Kenya. When an epidemic breaks out, they attempt to flee to the first world.

Adé is a love story in the tradition of Romeo and Juliet. Haunting and heart-breaking, it deserves to be a classic of 21st century literature. I have not been as touched by a book in a long time as I was by Adé.

I’m not saying more—you’ll just have to read the book. It’s short, it’s lovely, and it will stay with you a long time.

4½ stars


 

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Fiction, WWII Pacific front) 4.5 star rating

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan photo 91d4f2bc-1886-4c85-906b-06e26f888104_zpssaylhk85.jpgThis 2014 winner of the Man Booker Prize is a look into the construction of the Thai-Burma Railway (“The Death Railway”) during World War II by Australians in Japanese POW camps. They worked in horrendous conditions in the Burmese jungle.

The modern-day part of this novel was annoying and superfluous but the WWII events will stay with you. Harrowing and powerful.

4½ stars


 

Sheep by Valerie Hobbs (Fiction, Children’s Chapter Book) 4 star rating

Sheep by Valerie Hobbs photo 6275f7fb-5958-42a5-8c1d-88145c0840f3_zpsz05ysqjy.jpgThis chapter book for older children and adults, that tells the tale of a homeless border collie (his sheep farm burned) looking for a home, and an orphan, will pull your heart-strings.

It’s told from the point of view (mostly, as I remember) of the dog.

A great story that I’d like to read to my grandchildren.

There is a sequel called Wolf, which I’ve added to my reading list.

4 stars


 

The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (Fiction, Children’s Chapter) 3.5 star rating
The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder photo a2228701-ac17-4881-8501-83cc07318900_zpsvnxvvdcs.jpg

In the woods next to her family’s new home, young Robin finds an abandoned house. Inside she finds beautifully decorated rooms, including her favourite: a room done entirely in plush – the velvet room of the title.

If I had read this as a child, I would have loved it. And I think it would stand up to a rereading as an adult. But finding it for the first time in my seventh decade was not a perfectly satisfying experience.

3½ stars


 
Other People’s Lives by Johanna Kaplan (Fiction, 1970s) 3 star rating

Other People's Lives by Johanna Kaplan photo 0a9ef591-0a3c-4494-9f29-2b85b5bb3353_zps0apuj3ns.jpgThis is a book that I requested from NetGalley because I was intrigued by the cover and title. I had hoped, I think, to peek in many apartments and many lives.

Instead, the book focused on one woman and her rather odd story.

Of course, that’s only my opinion. Other People’s Lives was the winner of a Jewish Book Award and was a finalist for the 1976 National Book Award.

3 stars

 
The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell (Fiction, Contemporary) 3 star rating

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell photo 8023e038-8dc4-453e-9804-c052452feadc_zps4j122zc9.jpg
This is another book that I chose to work through the trauma I had felt going through my deceased’s mother home and belongings.

This fiction offering deals with adult children disposing of their hoarder mother’s ‘stuff’. It should have had a big impact on me but I don’t remember the plot at all.

3½ stars


 
The Children Act by Ian McEwan (Fiction, Contemporary) 0 star rating

I loved McEwan’s Atonement and was prepared to enjoy this book very much.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan photo 727ed2c9-544b-4286-a3f2-cfa7d59b4699_zpsfxbx27l0.jpgJudge Fiona Maye is dealing with an impending split in her marriage while she is reviewing a difficult case in her court. The case involves a blood transfusion for a seventeen-year-old minor who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It perhaps goes without saying that I was disappointed in her court decision, but I knew it could go either way – that’s real life.

However, McEwan’s portrayal of Witnesses is so off that it was completely wrong. Their vocabulary, their explanation (or not) for their stand, and their reaction to the ruling were all very wide of the mark.

It appears to me that he studied only one court document of an actual case like this one, and it makes me question the authenticity of any characters he represents in his other novels. It completely put me off McEwan and I couldn’t assign this even one star.

 

Holy Bible by Vanessa Russell (Fiction) 0 star rating

Holy Bible by Vanessa Russell photo 8eb77b60-f81b-4952-aa11-3f87bbca9e90_zpsd1lrajle.jpgAnother portrayal by an outsider to a faith – in this case, I believe it was based on the author’s youth in the Christadelphian ecclesia.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a Christadelphian, but I did have a well-adjusted, kind, and intelligent aunt who was.

I categorically cannot believe what is portrayed in this book. Perhaps some of the practices Russell describes in Holy Bible are based on fact, but they surely have been satirized to an extreme for effect, without explicit indication of this to the non-Christadelphian reader.

I did not find it at all conducive to opening up understanding and tolerance of other faiths.

*   *   *   *   *

 

So a month of reading HIGHS and LOWS.

Have you a favourite book that defines your country’s identity as I feel The Hockey Sweater does Canada’s?

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Mystery Books Read in December 2014

March6

 

I read a small but enjoyable selection of mystery books this month.

Any of these tickle your fancy?

 

The Impersonator by Mary Miley photo c7a9de6c-ff90-464e-925d-c84c46d1696e_zpslvczc3ds.jpg1. The Impersonator by Mary Miley (Fiction, Roaring Twenties Mystery #1) 4 star rating

Shades of Brat Farrar! In the 1920s Oliver Carr, an uncle to missing heiress Jessie, approaches vaudeville actress Leah Randall with a proposition: impersonate the missing woman, for whom she is a dead ringer, with the aid of his coaching, and split the fortune.

Well thought out and suspenseful.

4 stars

 
An Early Retirement by Sue Ann Jaffarian photo a43d2d0d-0caf-4b87-a045-e95dc54cf891_zpshzaf7d3b.jpg
2. An Early Retirement by Sue Ann Jaffarian (Fiction, Mystery, eShort story) 4 star rating

A standalone eshort story by the author of the plus-size Odelia Grey mysteries.

This would have been a ringer to be included in Alfred Hitchcock or Ellery Queen magazines.

4 stars

 
The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah photo a87e562c-487f-44e4-9505-64f5da35a954_zpsr2ujxvgo.jpg

3. The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah 3.5 star rating

Is there a mystery reader out there who didn’t know about the waves this book made: the first Hercule Poirot novel written by a ‘ghost-writer’ for the late Agatha Christie? Feelings ran high in anticipation, and reactions were mixed.

I thought Hannah’s Poirot was right on the money, but the mystery itself was a little convoluted.

3½ stars

 

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Books Read in November 2014

January9

books read
While I was coming to terms with the long-term tenancy of my step-daughter and two grandsons, I got back to some really good reading this month, discovering a book that has become one of my all-time favourites.


 
1. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (Fiction, Modern classic, Pulitzer Prize winner) 5 star rating
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck photo f6d36950-3c1a-41fd-a42c-0455e93f70d5_zpswqlcl668.jpg

Although Pearl Buck was born in the United States in 1892, her parents moved to China as missionaries when she was just a few months old. She continued to live in China for most of her life before 1934. According to Wikipedia, her novel The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in the United States in 1931 and 1932 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.

Amazon says: “This moving, classic story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-Lan is must reading for those who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during the last century.”

In 1938, Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature “for the notable works which pave the way to a human sympathy passing over widely separated racial boundaries and for the studies of human ideals which are a great and living art of portraiture”.

Indeed the themes of work, land and riches explored in The Good Earth are universal and timeless.
5 stars
 

2. The 100—Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (Fiction, Contemporary, Satire) 4.5 star rating
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson photo 27e9e3bc-a29a-4abd-9a85-a779f791b740_zps3knt912i.jpg
As you might be able to tell from the title, this book, translated from Swedish, is told in a breezy, almost tongue-in-cheek style.

After ‘escaping’ from a nursing home, Allan Karlsson, much like Forrest Gump, encounters a series of adventures that become more outlandish as the book progresses.

Lots of fun.
4½ stars
 

3. Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman (Fiction, Contemporary, Afghanistan War) 4.5 star rating
Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman photo 2b509e95-2b41-46b2-a293-0eefca3978f6_zpsj0xzxb8m.jpg
Due to circumstances, young Afghani teen Aziz must join the Special Lashkar, a US-funded militia. As he rises through the ranks, Aziz becomes mired in the dark underpinnings of his country’s war, witnessing clashes between rival Afghan groups—what US soldiers call “green on green” attacks—and those on US forces by Afghan soldiers, violence known as “green on blue.”

Ackerman brilliantly sets up the hopelessness of living in war, and he has us cheering on the protagonist in his concluding decision.

Well-written, riveting, and hard-hitting.
4½ stars
 

4. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (Fiction, Contemporary, Suspense) 3.5 star rating
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty photo 7ecda2ab-08ef-4839-a772-d87b0d2f39b8_zpsoxt5rxjv.jpg
Amazon says: “Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! She HATES the gym) and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over—she’s getting divorced, she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade.”

So here’s the thing: I must have enjoyed this at the time since I rated it 4 stars then, but I’ve forgotten it so thoroughly that I didn’t even remember reading it at all.

Hmmm . . . Guess I forgot what Alice forgot. I wish it had been more memorable.
3½ stars
 

5. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (Non-fiction, Social Issues) 3.5 star rating
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich photo cbc6de61-5946-4adb-ac39-f24e34463e58_zps8pao4nbn.jpg

Ehrenreich posed as a waitress in order to discover how the working poor in America cope financially. I expected to find an examination of the cost of living, but instead found the flip-side: the difficulty of making a living, earning an income.

As with any such journalism of this type, it’s hard to truly capture the desperation of not having the luxury of back-up, knowing that, at any time, you can return to another life, job, and bank account. Ehrenreich does acknowledge these limitations.

A fine effort.
3½ stars
 

6. The Brandons by Angela Thirkell (Fiction, Vintage, Comedy) 3.5 star rating
The Brandons by Angela Thirkell photo be394189-823d-4857-9609-abfaa868a4b3_zpsxkbewont.jpg
Originally published in 1939, The Brandons gives us a glimpse into the life of “Lavinia Brandon, quite the loveliest widow in Barsetshire, blessed with beauty and grace, as well as two handsome grown-up children, Delia and Francis.”

Somewhat typical Thirkell although perhaps even slower moving than most. About two-thirds of the way through my copy, I found a duplicate of the previous 40 pages (and 40 pages missing). I picked up the story easily even without knowing what happened in the missing section.
3½ stars
 
 

*   *   *   *   *

 
Once again, I’m including the two mysteries I read this month in this post.
 

1. Miss Dimple Disappears by Mignon Ballard (Fiction, Mystery, Cozy) 3.5 star rating
Miss Dimple Disappears by Mignon Ballard photo bf87226d-14e8-46ea-90d5-4e728e4dd088_zpsnku6cvml.jpg

Set in small-town Georgia USA in 1942, this first in the Miss Dimple Kirkpatrick series sees the steady-as-a-rock first grade teacher kidnapped.

I remember being a little disappointed in this, but I can’t recall anything else about it. Many readers, though, highly praise the details of the setting.
3½ stars
 

2. Everybody Goes to Jimmy’s by Michael Mayo (Fiction) 3.5 star rating
Everybody Goes to Jimmy's by Michael Mayo photo f3e670c6-395a-4511-b8d8-9c95b0bd391a_zpsfk4ecfc7.jpg

This second in the Jimmy Quinn series (I mistakenly thought it was the first) is billed as a suspense novel but, with its circa 1930 Manhattan speakeasy setting, it seemed more a mild sort of hard-boiled mystery to me.

I did enjoy it though and do plan to read more of the series at some time.
3½ stars

 

This was the start of a run of several months of good reading. Do any of these appeal to you?

 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

« Older Entries
Every little bit of kindness is appreciated
Other Amount:
Your Email Address: