Sunday, 20 November 2022

Post on a snowy morning...

It’s windy and snowy and quite chilly this morning as I write this post.  Good thing I have a steaming cup of chai and a slice of freshly baked Date Bread to keep me warm.  Oh, and also a purring kitty on my lap… Does it get any better than this?!

Nothing that I had from the library was grabbing me last week, so I did a “shopping in my own closet” thing and found a few books on my own bookshelves that I thought I would try.  What I ended up reading was The Drowning by Sweden’s “Queen of Crime Fiction” Camilla Lackberg.  This is a later book in the "Fjällbacka" series, and it is the first book I’ve read by this author, so I came into it not knowing any of the backstories of the characters or their relationships inside or outside the station, but I think I still got most of it.  When the debut novel by Fjällbacka resident Christian Thyndall becomes an instant hit, mesmerizing readers with its dark magic, crime writer Erica Falck, is thrilled, as she is the one who recommended Christian to her editor.  But when she discovers that he’s been receiving threatening letters, she begs her husband, Detective Patrik Hedström, to investigate. Patrik and the other detectives at the station are at loose ends when trying to console the wife of a man who’s been missing for several months, a man who seems to have disappeared into thin air.  When he discovers that the disappearance of the missing man and the threatening letters may be tied together, he enlists the help of the whole team to dig deeper into their pasts.  But what he uncovers is more strange and deadly than anyone could have anticipated.  This was a good book, with characters that were interesting and a plot that was definitely complex and psychological, and I would certainly read other books in this series.  My only complaint is that this book took some time to really get going plot-wise, and her books are all quite long.  I’m not sure all of them are like this, but it’s a bit of a deterrent if I can’t really get into the story until nearly halfway through a 500-page mystery.  I think I would have to spread the novels out and not read them back-to-back.  

The other book I pulled off my shelf was The Lola Quartet by Canadian author Emily St John Mandel, which is really interesting (and quite short!!), but I’m not quite finished and will have to wait until next week to tell you about it.

That’s all for today.  Stay warm and keep reading!

Bye for now... Julie

Sunday, 6 November 2022

Late evening post on a long-ish weekend...

It’s late on the first Sunday in November, my favourite weekend of the year because we get that extra hour due to the clocks being turned back.  Obviously I didn’t use the extra hour to write my post this morning, but I figure it’s better late than never.

My Volunteer Book Club met yesterday to discuss Alex Michaelides’ psychological thriller, The Silent Patient, and everyone LOVED this book!!  Here’s what I wrote about it when I read it the first time in February of 2019:

“I read two books last week and finished listening to an audiobook, so this might be a long post.  The first book I read, or should I say devoured, was The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.  Artist Alicia Berenson is in an institute for the criminally insane after stabbing her husband to death.  For seven years, she has not spoken a word, not even to defend herself or explain her actions.  Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber, convinced that he can break through her wall of silence and get her talking, gets hired on at the institute and takes on her case as his personal challenge.  But as he digs deeper, he discovers that her silence is covering up secrets far more complex than he ever imagined.  And he must consider whether, ultimately, he really wants the truth revealed.  This debut thriller sucked me in right away, and kept me flying through the pages until the very last paragraph.  It was one of the best “unreliable narrator” novels I’ve read in a long time, and the plot twists were so sudden and shocking that I had to stop and think about it all until everything fell into place and I was amazed at the final picture these puzzle pieces created.  This would be a great novel for anyone who enjoyed The Silent Wife (ASA Harrison), The Widow (Fiona Barton) or Before I Go To Sleep (S J Watson).”

I really can’t add any more details than what is written above, as I wouldn’t want to give anything away.  This also means that I can’t really talk about our discussion, as we mostly discussed aspects of the novel (such as characters, narratives, timelines, etc) in relation to the ending, but I obviously don’t want to reveal the ending.  It was a really, really good book that I found unputdownable, even the second time.  I kind of remembered the ending, but not all of it, so it was still somewhat of a surprise for me, and I can understand why I had to think about it the first time before figuring out just what had happened.  If you like psychological thrillers, I would highly recommend this novel.

And I finished another book today, The Burning Girls by C J Tudor, which was pretty good as well.  This novel tells the story of Jack Brooks, a vicar and single mother of fifteen year old Flo, who moves from her home parish in Nottingham to the small village of Chapel Croft in pursuit of a fresh start.  Well, Chapel Croft wouldn’t have been her first choice, but she does her best to settle into a community that is steeped in tradition and history, particularly around the martyred parishioners who were burned at the stake in the 1500s.  Jack is taking over from the former vicar who hanged himself in the chapel, but she is determined to make a go of this, despite the hardships she and her daughter face when trying to get used to village life.  When creepy things start to happen, Jack is suitably frightened, both for herself and for her daughter, but rather than abandoning their new home, they stay and try to figure out what’s going on.  Oh, along with the martyrs, two teens, Merry and Joy, disappeared from the village 30 years before and have never been heard from again.  This would definitely be enough to send me running to the nearest bus station and heading back to Nottingham, but clearly Jack has a stronger constitution (and calling) than I.  She is also running from an unfortunate incident in her recent pass that makes her reluctant to return to her former stomping grounds. Despite the warnings and visions experienced by both Jack and Flo, they continue to search for clues to help solve the mystery, but can they do so before someone else gets hurt?  Reading this book was a bit like watching a classic horror movie, where you yell at the main characters to “go back, don’t open that door”, and yet they not only open the door, they step out into the night (alone!!) searching for whatever made the noise.  It was not literary, but it was good creepy fun, perfect for reading around Halloween, when our thoughts turn to ghostly apparitions and things that go bump in the night.  If you are looking for a good, creepy story set in a small British village, you could definitely do worse than this one.

That’s all for tonight.  Have a good evening!

Bye for now... Julie

Sunday, 30 October 2022

Final post for October... finally!!

I know I’ve been lax with my posts lately, but many things have been happening in the past few weeks that have taken up my evenings and weekends and so have impacted my reading and blogging time (I hate when “life” gets in the way of books and reading!!).  But I have a hot cup of tea and a slice of homemade Date Bread to keep me company as I write this long (and long overdue!) post.

This will be a “two-fer”, as I’ve had a chance to finish reading two books and am halfway through a third, which I will have to set aside in order to read the book for my next book club meeting on Saturday.  The first book I read was by Canadian author Catherine McKenzie, and it was un-put-downable!  Please Join Us tells the story of a couple of lawyers living in New York who are experiencing a crisis when one of them faces criticism and remonstrations at her law firm when her number of billable hours are down for the month.  Nicole is highly competitive and takes this criticism and the implied threat of dismissal very personally.  Her husband, Dan, works as on-site counsel and faces none of these pressures, and he tries to reassure her that things will get better, although they are definitely struggling, both financially and in their relationship.  When Nicole receives an invitation to attend a week away at a ranch to join an exclusive women’s networking group, she jumps at the chance, even though Dan warns against it, claiming that it sounds like a cult.  Panthera Leo, as the group is called, is made up of high-powered women who profess to stick together, watch each others' backs and help each other out, to deal with things “like a man would”.  Nicole bonds with a couple of the women, and while she is shocked by some of the events during the week, she sees the value of this group and accepts their help when faced with difficult situations at work and in her personal life.  The things that are asked of her seem benign, but when one night, after a frantic call from a member, things seem to spiral out of control, Nicole must figure out a way to leave the group without ruining the life she and Dan have built together and also ruining her career.  This novel totally sucked me in from the beginning and kept me turning pages to find out what happens next.  It reminded me a bit of The Other Black Girl, in that you never quite knew exactly what was going on at any given time, because the narrator of the story only has her version of events to share.  But all things became clear as I reached a very satisfying conclusion, and I was both glad to find out what was really happening and sad that there wasn’t more to read.  I would highly recommend this thriller to just about anyone who enjoys books about hidden agendas, secret organizations and cults.

And I finished another fabulous book last week, Escaping Dreamland by Charlie Lovett, which was very different from Please Join Us, but was also un-put-downable.  Lovett’s novel has two storylines set in two different time periods.  In 2010, Robert Parrish is an up-and-coming author who seems unable to write a follow-up to his bestselling debut novel.  He and his girlfriend Rebecca are struggling in their relationship, as Robert refuses to reveal the truth about his past with his father.  After a huge argument that results in Rebecca's departure, Robert realizes that the only way he can win her back is to delve into his past, which involves a series of children’s books that created a deep bond between father and son, but which also holds a dark secret.  In 1906, Magda, Eugene and Thomas are three strangers who end up meeting and developing a deep friendship over their efforts to write three children’s book series.  They have a wonderful time and enjoy many outings together when not working on their books, but after an event that threatens to sever their relationship, things are never quite the same.  Can Robert figure out what he has to do to win Rebecca back?  Will Magda, Eugene and Thomas ever resume their friendship?  These questions and many more will be answered if you read this excellent novel.  It was a perfect example of metafiction, which is coincidental, as I was just reading a book to the students at school, The Wonderful Book by Leonid Gore, that was also an example of metafiction - and the kids even understood the concept!!  It was an homage to the power of children’s books and the effects books can have on us.  It was a love song to New York, and also a history lesson - the amount of research for this novel was extensive.  It was beautifully written and each character was fully developed and credible.  I was sucked into both dramas and found myself looking for reading opportunities wherever I could.  As you can probably tell, I loved, loved, loved this book!  And it was just a fluke that I even discovered it, as I read a review for a newer publication by this author but my library didn’t have it yet, so I checked this one out instead.  The cover didn’t even really appeal to me, since it suggested a work of historical fiction, which it kind of was, and which I don’t normally enjoy.  So here’s a lesson in the truth about not judging a book by its cover!  I think if you enjoy novels that are steeped in the love of books and reading, and especially the value of books for children, then this is the book for you.

That’s all for today.  Enjoy the sunshine and the unusually mild weather!

Bye for now... Julie

Monday, 10 October 2022

Post on Thanksgiving Monday...

Well, it’s a perfect fall day, for which I’m truly thankful, as I’ve got time this afternoon for a long walk.  I’ve got laundry hanging outside in the sun to dry and a delicious homemade muffin with rhubarb from my garden to enjoy with my steaming cup of Pu-Erh tea.  And this is another post on a Monday… I think Monday is the new Sunday!

This post will be super short, as I have a kitty lying on one arm, making it very difficult to type.  Last night I finished Canadian author Joy Fielding’s recent domestic thriller, The Housekeeper, which I thought was OK, but not as riveting and “page-turner-worthy” as I’d hoped.  Adult daughter Jodi hires Elyse Woodley to work as a housekeeper for her elderly father and invalid mother, and at first she seems too good to be true.  Unfortunately, we all know the truth about things that seem too good to be true, so when things begin to go wrong, we know where the story is headed.  There were few surprises in this book, and I found most of the characters, while credible, to be either very disagreeable or very unlikable… but that’s just my opinion.  As a thriller, it ticks all the boxes, and I can see why she’s a bestselling author.  It was a “Canadian Tire” book, but if you’re in the mood for a domestic thriller, especially one highlighting many parts of Toronto, you could do worse than this one.

That’s all for today.  Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Bye for now... Julie

Monday, 3 October 2022

First post for October... on a Monday night!

Since this doesn’t get emailed out to anyone anymore, I guess I don’t really need to comment on what day it is, but old habits die hard so thank you for your patience.

This is going to be a quick post, as it’s late-ish on a Monday night and I’m tired, but I didn’t do this yesterday and wanted to get it done before I forgot everything about our book club meeting this past weekend.  We discussed Where the Crawdads Sing, which, if you read my last post, you know I didn’t enjoy.  Well, we had a nearly full house on Saturday and everyone finished and liked (but not necessarily loved) the book.  The first thing one member said when asked what she thought of it was, “Well, I certainly had to suspend my sense of disbelief”, which I think was the problem with my reading.  I thought this book was supposed to seem credible, but if I’d realized that it was a modern-day fairy tale, I may have been able to get through it with fewer issues.  Most everyone said they were immediately drawn in and the story held their interest to the very end.  One member said it was a slow ride, not gripping, but a gradual build.  Everyone found the character of Kya fascinating, and we all thought she was brilliant, that she represented untapped nature in its purest form, and Tate embraced and nurtured this "nature" while Chase aimed only to dominate and destroy it.  Kya’s isolation was both prison and freedom, and her interactions with Jumpin’ and Mabelle, while her only social interactions other than with Tate or Chase, had limitations that both she and society placed on them.  We talked about so many other things, and had a wonderful discussion.  One member said that they thought this was the longest discussion we’ve had about a book in ages, which I think is true.  They thought it was a great choice, and I agree that it has plenty of talking points and is a great book club selection, so if you haven’t read it or are looking for a book for your book club, I think I can safely recommend this title.  

I also just finished a wonderful teen novel, Family of Liars by E Lockhart.  This is the prequel to We Were Liars, which I listened to as an audiobook sometime in the past year and really enjoyed.  Here’s what I said about the first novel last October:

“And speaking of coming-of-age novels, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart also focused on a group of privileged teens who spend their summers on an island privately owned by one of the teens’ family.  But this summer is different for reasons that are slowly revealed throughout the novel.  Something has clearly happened, but what?  And who, if anyone, is at fault?  This was another novel that deals with actions and their consequences, and I loved this one, too.”

I couldn’t give much away about that book without spoiling it, and the same goes for this novel, which looks at the teen’s parents when they were just teens themselves, and what has shaped them to be a family of liars, where the lying began and why.  If you love novels filled with family secrets and hidden pasts, then these two might be good choices for you.  But I want to caution you to read the original book first and the prequel after, as it contains spoilers.  

That’s all for now.  Happy Reading and Happy Fall!

Bye for now... Julie

Monday, 26 September 2022

Quick post on a Monday night...

It’s late-ish on a Monday night, a school/work night, and I’ve just attended a union meeting on Zoom, so I’m pretty tired, but I wanted to write a quick post about a book I finished on Saturday.  I finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, a book that has come highly recommended by a number of very different people I know.  It is the book that we will be discussing on Saturday at my book club meeting, and I have to say that I was very unimpressed.  I think there must be something wrong… no, not wrong, just different… about my book tastes, because I rarely enjoy the books that “everyone” is raving about, books that are being made into movies, etc.  I don’t know why that is, what I look for and appreciate in books that seem to be missing in these stories, but it happens regularly enough that I’ve begun to wonder why my reading tastes are so much different than those of the majority of other readers.  In case you don’t know what this book is about, in case you missed the movie trailers, this novel focuses on Kya, a girl who basically raised herself in the marshes of New Orleans in the 1950s and 1960s.  A death occurred in 1969, and we read about Kya’s early life and how she grew up, supporting and educating herself while being shunned by the nearby town and labeled the March Girl.  I don’t want to give anything away, but you can probably guess what happens with Kya and how she might be associated with the events in 1969.  I guess I didn’t enjoy being inside Kya’s head so much and living her lonely, isolated life on the marsh.  I found the writing somewhat uneven, and the characters and storylines not at all credible.  But I can believe that it would make an interesting, suspenseful movie!  Anyway, I’m curious to hear what my book club members have to say about it and will update you next week.

Have a good night!

Bye for now…

Sunday, 18 September 2022

A "no-book" post on a muggy day...

This may be the last of the muggy days for this year, which would make me so happy.  We had a brief taste of fall weather with one cool, refreshing day last week, and I’m ready for it to make a comeback.  For now, I’m enjoying a steaming cup of chai and a bowl of what must surely be nearly the last of the summer strawberries, blueberries and peaches.

I didn’t read anything last week because I was waiting for my book club book to become available, so while I was waiting, I tried out a few books I already had borrowed from the library, but with no success.  When my hold became available, I rushed to pick it up, but I really struggled to get into it.  Then I had a number of things unexpectedly come up that I had to take care of after work several days last week, and I never did finish the book, which we are meeting to discuss tomorrow.  The reason I’m writing about this is to talk about reading choices.  I’ve decided to stop participating in this Friends Book Club, as I just feel like I’m reading too many books that I didn’t choose, while the library holds that I personally selected pile up and end up being returned unread.  I already have one book club that I facilitate, and I think that’s enough.  Reading is my favourite thing to do, and there will always be more great books out there than there is time to read them, so why would I spend my time reading something I’m not really into?  It wasn’t an easy decision to come to, as I really enjoy getting together with this group of friends and catching up, but I realize that when reading becomes work, something has to go.  So I guess what I’m saying is, don’t bother reading a book that’s not grabbing you.  Rest assured that there will be something else at hand that will pull you in and keep you engaged, delighted or inspired.

That’s all for today.  Get outside and enjoy the sunshine before the rain arrives!

Bye for now...