Sunday 27 April 2014

Long post for the end of April...

Oh my, I have so much to tell you about today… I think I need a larger tea pot to make enough chai tea to keep me sipping while I write!  Where to start…

I’ll start with the book sale, which I mentioned in a post last week.  I went after work on Friday, but I was tired, it was raining, I was on a schedule, and I knew I didn’t really need any more books, so I managed to find only four titles that I thought would be interesting.  After all, I didn’t want to come away with nothing.  I picked up two titles that I have read before, Zoë Heller’s What Was She Thinking:  Notes on a Scandal, which I may put on our book club list for next year, and S J Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep, which I think has recently been made into a movie, but which is an awesome book.  Then I got two titles by authors whose works I want to start reading or want to read more of:  Richard Russo’s Empire Falls, and The Collected Works of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (I’ll admit that my interest in Sherlock Holmes came about because I have recently become a devotee of the British series “Sherlock” with Benedict Cumberbach and Martin Freeman).  I also picked up a paperback copy of Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, which I wanted to have on hand in case I felt like reading that early gothic novel.  As we were out on Saturday morning, I suggested to my husband that we swing by the book sale again, since I knew that this would be the time when they would have the “Fill your bag or box for $5.00” deal.  Friday is the best time to go if you are looking for particular books or authors, as the selection is greater, but Saturday is best if you want to pick up titles by authors you are curious about but don’t know whether you’ll like their writing, or if you just want to try something new.  I came away with a few titles that I will pass on to a friend, since I think she will like them.  But I also got a number of books for myself that I know nothing about:  Netherland by Joseph O’Neill, Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky, an early book by Orange Prize-winning author Andrea Levy, a novel by Kate Christensen, one by Peter Hedges and Ha Jin, a mystery by Akë Edwardson, a memoir by Maria Coletta McLean about living in Italy, and a book of letters by Governor General award-winning non-fiction author Karen Connelly (I didn’t know who she was when I picked up the book, but it had a great cover, so I added it to my bag).  I hope that I will enjoy at least a couple of these “unknowns”, but if they don’t appeal to me, I can always pass them on to others or donate them to a good cause.   So that was great fun, and worth the brief diversion from our Saturday schedule.

I also want to mention that The Massey Murder by Charlotte Gray has been chosen as the One Book, One Community selection for this year.  This book is also on The OLA Evergreen 2014 list of nominees (, and although I haven’t yet read it, I’m sure it is a good read.  A brief summary:  In February of 1915, a member of one of Canada’s wealthiest families was shot and killed on the front porch of his home in Toronto as he was returning from work.  Carrie Davies, an 18-year old domestic servant, quickly confessed to the murder, but who was the real victim here, Charles Massey, a scion of a famous family, or the frightened, perhaps mentally unstable, Carrie, a poor British immigrant?  Set against the backdrop of the Great War, this sensation crime and trial is brought to life for the first time by award-winning historian and biographer Gray.  The link for the One Book, One Community site is on the right-hand side of this blog, under "Book-related sites", if you want more information about this title or this program.
I have finished listening to Leonard Rosen’s second book, The Tenth Witness, recently.  This novel is the prequel to All Cry Chaos, which I also recently enjoyed.  In this prequel, the main character, Henri Poincaré, is not yet working for Interpol.  He is a young man just starting out in an engineering business with his friend Alex.  It is 1978, and they have just been offered a job by Lloyds of London to design a dock to be used for the retrieval of the HMS Lutine, a Dutch ship that sank off the Dutch coast in 1799.  The insurance company expects to find bars of gold, but what Henri discovers instead, upon making the acquaintance of Liesel and Anselm Kraus, is a complex and dangerous family history which leads him back to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, and the use of slave labour in the production of steel for the Nazis by Kraus Steel.  The closer he gets to members of the Kraus family, the more he is drawn into this investigation and the six degrees of separation that unite his recently deceased neighbour and friend, and the powerful men who committed heinous war crimes and were offered opportunities to seek refuge from the law and “disappear” into new identities in other parts of the world after the war.  This excellent novel is at least as compelling as All Cry Chaos, which I really enjoyed.  Be prepared to get caught up in the mystery, and make sure you have plenty of reading time for this one – you don’t want to read it in dribs and drabs, but will want to devour whole huge chunks of the book in one sitting. 

And last but not least (well, maybe ‘least” is the right word), I finished a book that I read for my committee, Somewhere In-Between by Donna Milner.  This recently-published Canadian novel is set in rural British Columbia, and tells the story of a couple, Julie and Ian O’Dale, who have recently lost their 16-year old daughter Darla in a car accident.  They each blame themselves, and are unable to talk about their grief.  Thinking that a change of residence may help, former real estate agent Julie agrees to Ian’s wish to purchase an isolated ranch with its own lake on the outskirts of the town in which they currently live, a town that holds too many memories of Darla.  With the purchase of the ranch comes the occupant of the trapper’s cabin near the lake, Virgil Blue, a Native Indian who keeps the ranch running while keeping to himself.  This mystery man, whose life holds many sorrows, seems to be the one thing that Julie and Ian are able to talk about, as their marriage disintegrates further over the first few months they spend at the ranch.  Only when another near-tragic event occurs are they able to get past their grief and reach a stage of acceptance and an ability to move on.  With spirit bears and dreamcatchers, voices from beyond the grave and sweat lodges, this book offers insight into the myths and legends of Native Indians, while also presenting one family’s struggles to deal with loss and grief.  Unfortunately, this reader found that the novel often felt heavy-handed and forced, instead of uplifting and spiritual.  That is not to say that other readers would not enjoy this book, just that I didn’t particularly like it.  But I was compelled to read it to the end, to find out how they found peace, and also to see what happened to Virgil, in my opinion the most interesting character in the book.

That’s all for now (I’ve run out of tea, and am ready for breakfast).  Have a great day!

Bye for now…

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