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