Monday, 23 March 2020

A day late... because I can!

It is a bit strange but also quite wonderful to be writing this post on a Monday that is not part of a long weekend, nor is it March Break or any other official “day off” for me.  As for many of you, I am not at work today due to the closure of my workplace, and while this is a difficult time for everyone, I’m finding that steaming cups of tea, bakery-bought or homemade treats, long walks and good books are keeping my spirits up.  
I read two books last week.  The first was a Children’s book called Wait Till Helen Comes:  a ghost story by Mary Downing Hahn.  This chapter book tells the story of three children, twelve-year-old Molly, nine-year-old Micheal, and their seven-year-old step-sister, Heather.  At the beginning of the book, the children are surprised when their newly-married parents announce that they are moving from their city home to a converted church in the country, which will allow these artistic parents to have better workspaces and a full-size painting studio.  They move soon after the announcement, which coincides with the end of the school year, and the children must find ways to amuse themselves in this new, lonely, isolated environment. Molly and Michael are typical siblings, often arguing but ultimately standing together when necessary.  Heather, on the other hand, is jealous of her new family members, always seeming to be angry, and often manipulating her father into believing that her step-siblings are treating her badly so that they get punished. When the children are out exploring the grounds around the church, they discover a graveyard, and Heather is drawn to a small stone hidden by the tall grass under a tree.  Upon further inspection, the groundskeeper, Mr Simmons, discovers that this is the gravestone of a young girl with the initials, H E H, the same initials as Heather, a girl who was the same age as Heather when she died. Upon further research, the children discover that this is the grave of Helen Elizabeth Harper, whose parents died in a fire a hundred years earlier and who drowned in the pond trying to escape.  The parents’ bodies had never been discovered, so Helen was buried alone under the tree. Heather’s mother also died in a fire when Heather was three years old, so she feels an affinity with Helen and visits her grave often, claiming to be talking to the dead girl and stating that Helen is her only friend. While looking for Michael one day, Molly discovers an old, crumbling house where she finds Heather, and possibly Helen, too. But no one will believe Molly, and Heather is determined to set Helen against Molly, Michael and their mother, so that she can drive them away, and she and her father can join Helen forever.  Can Molly convince her brother, mother and step-father that this is really happening? Or will she have to try to overcome her dislike of her stepsister and try to save her from the malevolent clutches of Helen all on her own? You’ll just have to “wait till Helen comes” to find out! I wanted to read this book because it was mentioned so many times in one of my favourite Children’s books, Ban This Book by Alan Gratz as one of the banned books that the kids in this book read.  They often commented to each other, “just wait till Helen comes!”, which piqued my curiosity.  It was OK, not as scary as I thought it would be, although there was alot of discussion about death and suicide.  I’ve now read most of the significant titles mentioned in Ban This Book - yay!!
And I read a book that my Friends Book Club was supposed to be meeting tonight to discuss, The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain.  Of course, we can’t meet so we’re moving this discussion to our May meeting, at which time we’re hoping things will be back to “normal”, whatever that may be in two months.   I decided to finish the book, since by the time I discovered our meeting was cancelled, I was already halfway through it. This novel is told from the points of view of Caroline (Carly) Sears and Hunter, Carly’s brother-in-law, and spans the 50+ years between 1965 and 2018.  Carly is a physical therapist and is married to Joe, an engineer in the armed forces in the 1960s. One of her patients is Hunter, an intriguing man with a mysterious past, whom she introduces to her sister Patti. They are a happy foursome for a few years, until Joe is killed in Vietnam and Carly discovers she is pregnant.  She also discovers that her unborn daughter has a fatal heart defect, a condition she would do anything to change. When Hunter comes to her with a plan that may save her daughter’s life, she must decide if she is truly prepared to do anything to help save her daughter in this time-shifting, genre-bending novel. I have to say that, while Chamberlain is a bestselling author and loads of people love her books, I really don’t enjoy reading them.  I listened to one of her novels as an audiobook, The Secret Sister, which I also did not enjoy.  This novel had an interesting premise, and some parts were thought-provoking, but, overall, it was just too wordy and repetitive for my liking.  Having said that, it was interesting enough to keep me reading to the very end, just to find out what happens. I think it will lead to a lively discussion, though, as it deals with many provocative, highly discussable themes, both domestic and science fiction-ish.  
That’s all for today.  I’ll wait until the snow stops before going out for my daily walk, but I’ve got a great book on the go right now, The Rapture by Liz Jensen, which I will tell you more about next week.  Stay healthy, stay safe, get outside, and keep reading!
Bye for now…
Julie

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