Sunday 2 June 2024

Quick post on a rainy Sunday night...

It's raining and it's late so I've given myself five minutes to tell you about the books I've read over the past few weeks, both for book club meetings.

The Librarianist by Patrick De Witt was a mostly interesting book - I enjoyed the 75% that was more realistic fiction, but the 25% that veered off into the realm of the absurd was tedious enough that I won't recommend it to anyone.  This author is known for his absurd plots, but this one had me mostly fooled, which was a good thing, as it kept me reading and I experienced what a brilliant and talented wordsmith he is.  Too bad his stories are not for me.

And Spare by Prince Harry was the other book I read for my Volunteer group.  It was so long but soooo good!  Of course it was biased, but I have to believe that, since he's putting it out there, most of it must be true, at least as Harry experienced it.  It was so revealing, so detailed, so informative, and so well written!  We all agreed that we didn't think we'd like it but that it surprised us and far exceeded our expectations.  I hate memoirs, so this is high praise from me indeed!

That's all for now.  Happy June!!

Bye for now...

Sunday 12 May 2024

Post on a sunny Sunday morning...

It’s a perfect spring morning, a welcome change after yesterday’s rain.  Everything is green and blooming, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing… it doesn’t get much better than this. 

I promised that I’d let you know what my book club ladies thought of our last selection, Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Canadian author Karma Brown.  This novel, told in alternating chapters, tells the stories of two women who are both trying to make the best of their situations.  Alice is a 30-something woman who has recently moved with her husband Nate from an apartment in New York to an old, run-down house in a quiet town outside of NYC.  She is trying to determine who she is and struggles to figure out what she should do with her life now that she is no longer an up-and-coming editor.  She claims to want to write a book, and Nate initially seems supportive of this, but he also wants them to start a family and Alice is not sure she’s ready for that.  One day, while searching through some of the boxes in the basement left behind by the woman who lived there before and who died a year earlier, she discovers a box of old magazines and cookbooks from the 1950s and begins reading them.  This is the beginning of Alice’s immersion into the life and experiences of Nellie, the former owner of the house.  Nellie and Richard lived in this house in the 1950s, when societal expectations of what makes a perfect wife were very different from what they are today… or are they?  Nellie is expected to look good, cook well, entertain her husband’s friends, and basically be subservient to her husband, all with a welcoming smile and the right words, even if they are delivered through gritted teeth.  As her story progresses, Nellie’s situation is revealed to be more and more unbearable, until she is finally forced to act.  Alice tries on many of Nellie’s characteristics and immerses herself in 1950s’ culture, claiming that it’s research for her book, but her husband and best friend don’t necessarily buy this explanation.  While Nellie’s struggles are clear, Alice’s issues are less obvious, which may seem frustrating to some, but this also serves to remind us not only of how far we’ve come in the past 70 years, but how far we still need to go.  My ladies mostly enjoyed this book, saying that Nellie’s situation reminded them of their own mothers (the cooking, not the abuse!).  Two members did not really take to Alice, and I’d have to agree that she’s the more complicated of the two main characters, as her situation is more ambiguous.  We discussed the parallels of the two women’s lives, and everyone really liked the older women who ended up befriending them.  We thought the inclusion of recipes and quotes on how to be a good wife, all from the 1950s, were particularly effective in highlighting the changes over the past seven decades. Over all, it was a good book club selection, and led to a lively discussion about cooking, gardening, and women’s rights. 

And I read another book by a Canadian author, Glass Boys by Nicole Lundrigan, one of the books I bought at the big CFUW book sale.  This novel tells the story of two dysfunctional families living in a small village in Newfoundland.  Eli Fagan is an unsavoury man who despises his step-son Garrett.  One day he follows Garrett and discovers a secret so abhorrent he must destroy all evidence, including Garrett himself.  Lewis Trench is back in the village as the new police constable, and on this day, he is drinking and fooling around with his brother Roy.  When they stumble onto the Fagan farm and the scene with Eli and Garrett, Roy confronts Eli and is killed during a struggle.  Deemed an accident, Eli walks free and Lewis holds onto his anger for years.  The incidents that take place on this single day serve to alter the lives of both men and their families.  Can they eventually find a way to get past this, or will it end up destroying everything for both of them?  This book was a mostly-riveting family saga that delved into family secrets and explored various relationships through the lens of a small village.  I found it a bit long, with the story dragging a bit in the middle, but overall, it was interesting and kept me turning pages to reach a satisfying conclusion.  

That's all for today. Happy Mother's Day and Happy Spring!!

Bye for now... Julie

Sunday 28 April 2024

Not a "real" post for the last Sunday in April...

Between the big CFUW book sale last weekend, the Spring Pottery Sale this weekend, and weeding so many dandelions, there’s no time to write a post.  That’s ok, since I’ve mostly been reading Silver Birch books anyway.  I’m about halfway through rereading my book club book for next Saturday, Karma Brown’s Recipe for a Perfect Wife, which I listened to a while ago and loved, loved, loved.  I’m loving it in print, too, and will make time next weekend to tell you all about our discussion.  From the book sale, I restrained myself from attending on both Friday and Saturday, and was able to whittle down a full box full of books to just eleven:  

*All the Beautiful Lies Peter Swanson
*The Safe House  Nicci French
Borkmann’s Point  Håkan Nesser
An Unthinkable Thing and Glass Boys  Nicole Lundrigan
Autopsy of a Boring Wife  Marie-Renée Lavoie
Frida Barbara Mujica
*The Brooklyn Follies Paul Auster (one I haven’t read yet!)
The Ghost Bride  Yangsze Choo
Lying in Wait  Liz Nugent
*Coronation Year Jennifer Robson

* authors I’ve read before, but all of the above titles are new to me

That’s all for this afternoon.  Gotta get back to learning how to be a "perfect wife”!!

Bye for now…

Monday 15 April 2024

Short post on a Spring-y Monday evening...

It’s late-ish on a Monday evening, but I wanted to get a quick post written before another week goes by.  I was reading Silver Birch contenders last week, which I can’t mention, but the week before, my book group discussed Katherina Vermette’s The Break, which I can talk about.

So The Break is the story of a young Indigenous teen who was raped after going to a party.  This incident was witnessed by another Indigenous woman who called the police but didn’t go out into the winter storm to check on the girl, choosing to stay inside to care for her two young children instead.  The two police officers who took her statement were not completely convinced that she really saw what she thought she saw, but the young Indigenous officer was more inclined to believe her and pursue the investigation, while the older white officer just wanted to close the case.  What follows is details of the official investigation and the response, processing and acceptance of this horrific event by the Indigenous community (mainly women).  Told from many varying points of view and including stories and memories spanning generations, this novel was heartbreaking and hopeful, horrific yet necessary.  My book club ladies found it so sad and difficult to read, but we all agreed that, while we knew about the stats regarding the increased likelihood of Indigenous women being sexually assaulted, we admitted that we didn’t really know much about it at all.  It’s the kind of book that needs to be written and read, but it was certainly not uplifting.  We found it confusing because there were so many characters who were all related, mothers and grandmothers, daughters and grand-daughters, and they were not always referred to by their proper names, so that, along with the fact that there were multiple points of view, made for a challenging story to follow.  I think that we had it all figured out by the end of our discussion, but we each had points that needed clarifying as well as each adding information that led to clarification for someone else.  It was a great book club selection, but I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel, The Strangers, at least not any time soon.

And this weekend is the big CFUW’s book sale, Friday from 9am-9pm and Saturday from 9am-1pm:  I’ve got the afternoon off work and am looking forward to leisurely browsing the aisles and checking out the thousands of books on offer.  

That’s all for tonight.  Have a great week!

Bye for now... Julie

Tuesday 2 April 2024

First post for April...

It’s Tuesday evening and I’ve had a busy day at work so I’m not really in the mood to write a post, but it’s been more than two weeks since my last post and I don’t  like to leave it too long.  So, since I spent last week reading Silver Birch contenders which I can’t tell you about, here is a very brief post about one book I finished two weekends ago. 

I finished reading Ruth Ozeki’s All Over Creation, and I have to say… WOW, it was all I was hoping for and so much more!  Unfortunately, I can’t even begin to describe the plot, so here’s a quick summary:  a young girl living on a potato farm in small town Idaho gets involved in a difficult relationship and runs away from home.  Twenty-five years later, she is called upon to return home because her father is dying, which she agrees to do, although she is filled with unresolved angst and does so reluctantly.  When she returns with her three children in tow, she is surprised to see that everything and nothing has changed.  Throw into this mix of nostalgia and recollected nightmares a trailer full of tree-hugging activists who are fighting the evils of big agribusiness and monoculture and you’ve got one heck of a story.  It is a story about biodiversity and the importance of saving seeds, about what it means to be family, about love and friendship, connection to the earth and each other, oh, and a lot about potato farming… I’m not kidding!  Despite that, this book was riveting from beginning to end, at times very funny and at others heart-wrenching and deeply moving.  I would highly recommend this book to just about anyone, and I think it’s going to be my Friends’ Book Club recommendation for our July meeting. 

That’s all for tonight.  Stay warm and pick up a good book!  

Bye for now... Julie

Sunday 17 March 2024

Notes on a bright chilly Sunday morning...

It’s sunny and chilly outside this morning, reminding us that it’s still winter, even though this past week has felt more like late-spring.  It’s perfect weather for drinking a hot cup of chai, then heading out for a brisk walk, which is exactly my plan for the day.  I don’t have a book to tell you about today, as I’ve been reading contenders for Silver Birch nomination, so this is not really a "post", more like notes on my reading plan for the next few days, as I'm trying to get back in the habit of posting on Sunday mornings. 

After a week of power-reading juvenile fiction, I decided to read something just for me, an adult book that will (hopefully!!) immediately suck me in.  I opened a few books from the library but they didn’t work out, then I pulled a few books off my shelf to try and found one that seems to be perfect.  I have very high hopes for All Over Creation by Canadian author Ruth Ozeki.  I’ve read and really, really enjoyed A Tale for the Time Being, but not really enjoyed The Book of Form and Emptiness, both later books by this author, but I think this earlier one will be engaging enough to bridge the gap between now and the next time I start on other juvenile novels.  I’ll tell you more about this next week. 

That’s all for today.  Enjoy the sunny day, but stay warm!  

Bye for now... Julie

Tuesday 12 March 2024

Post on a Tuesday evening...

It’s been a really busy couple of weeks, and the one thing that I’ve let slide to make room for other things is this blog.  So while I’m quite tired right now, I’ll take this cat-free opportunity to write about the books I’ve read over the past two weeks.  WOW, I just checked the list of books that I’ve read (yes, I still keep a paper copy of this list!) and see that I’ve got three books to tell you about.  These will be brief summaries and opinions, as I thought there were only two books. 

The first book was for my March Volunteer Book Club, and it was Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a book about censorship to (hopefully) be read during Freedom to Read Week.  I’m sure most people know what this book is about, so I won’t summarize it at all.  What I will say is that I enjoyed most of it far more than I expected, and found it a quick yet thought-provoking read.  My book club members didn’t necessarily “enjoy” it, but they appreciated the writing and the message.  We agreed that we didn’t understand the role of “the war” in the book, and wondered why it was even included.  We felt that it was not hopeful at all, and marveled at how many things mentioned in the book were actually part of our reality today.  How did Bradbury know what was going to happen 60+ years ago?  I think it’s an important book, one that needs to be read to remind us of the perils of censorship and the need to protect our intellectual freedom, a right that is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but which faces challenges all the time.  I just wish now that I’d chosen a more uplifting book for April, but alas, we’re reading Katherena Vermette’s The Break, which I doubt very much is light or uplifting!! 

The next book I read was What We Buried, the latest book by Robert Rotenberg.  It arrived as a hold from the library and I dove right in and devoured it in a few days.  It features some of the same characters as his other books, but mainly focuses on Daniel Kennicott and his determination to finally investigate the murder of his brother Michael ten years earlier, which he believes is linked to the car accident that left his parents dead two years before that.  Daniel has put off going to Italy to the small town of Gubbio until now.  Michael was murdered the night before his own trip to Italy, and Daniel feels that the clues he needs to solve his murder lie in Gubbio, a town that saw Nazi occupation near the end of WWII.  Back in Toronto, Daniel’s mentor and boss, Ari Green, is conducting his own investigation into the accident that killed Daniel’s parents.  Were the two incidents connected?  And if so, how?  Delving into WWII history and blending fact and fiction, Rotenberg has broadened his scope and proven that he is more than just a crime writer of legal thrillers.  It was an excellent novel that provided details of the ruthlessness of the Nazi regime in even the smallest town in Italy, even as the Nazi defeat was imminent.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys legal thrillers or historical mysteries.  And even though it’s part of the “Old City Hall” series, this one can truly be read as a stand-alone with no background knowledge of any of the previous books.  As an aside, I happened to visit Rotenberg’s website and saw that he was coming to my local library for an author event two days after I finished the book, so of course I went.  And I have to say, he’s such a nice guy!!  He even offered to do a Zoom visit with my book club if we ever read another of his novels.  How awesome is that?! 

Then I read Verity by Colleen Hoover for my upcoming Friends Book Club meeting.  I’m not a Colleen Hoover fan, and had to struggle to get to the end of this book, an “unreliable narrator” sort of novel that has little-known writer Lowen Ashleigh being offered a job ghost-writing for best-selling author Verity Crawford who is unable to finish her series due to “medical issues”.  The offer is tempting, since Lowen’s mother just passed away, leaving her daughter in financial straits, and it doesn’t hurt that Verity's husband Jeremy is hot, hot, hot!  She ends up at the author’s house and tries her best not to get caught up in fantasizing about Jeremy while sifting through Verity’s chaotic office as Verity herself lies upstairs in a state of near-total immobility and speechlessness after a car accident that left her, well,  immobile and speechless.  Lowen stumbles upon a manuscript for an autobiography that she can’t resist reading, one that paints a very negative, very disturbing picture of Verity, and as unexpected events begin to occur, she faces the question of whether she should share this information with Jeremy or keep it to herself.  As things get stranger and stranger still, Lowen must act in order to save herself, Jeremy and Jeremy’s son before it’s too late.  I felt that this book was a bit of soft porn, right up there with 9 ½ Weeks and Fifty Shades of Grey (which I haven’t read).  There were entirely too many “intimate details” shared in this book, which was a surprise to me.  I also was not able to identify or connect with any of the characters, so it was challenging for me to stay engaged to the end.  But finish it I did, and am interested in hearing what the others have to say about it.   

That’s it for tonight.  Enjoy the unusually mild weather and enjoy the rest of the March Break!

Bye for now... Julie