Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Fates and Furies

Finished April 23
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, read by Will Damron and Julia Whelan

This novel tells the story of a couple, Lotto and Mathilde, first in Lotto's voice and then in Mathilde's. Lotto is short for Lancelot, and he comes from Florida, where his father died young and his mother now holds the purse strings of a water bottling empire. He has a younger sister, Rachel, and a paternal aunt, Sally. After his father's death, he ran wild with a group of local kids a bit older than him, and when things came to a head, got shipped off to boarding school, in exile. He was an outsider at first, until he found a way to be popular, and his anger sadness is one he fights his entire life. He loves attention, adulation, and admiration. When his first choice of career doesn't take him where he dreams, he chances upon another that does. As he keeps looking for more, he finds himself also more lonely.
Mathilde is also exiled at a very young age, sent to an uncle that provides shelter, a basic education, and food, but no more. Mathilde grows up feeling that she doesn't deserve love or happiness, that at the core of her is a dark place. When her uncle won't fund her college, she finds a way to do it without him, but it only confirms her feelings about herself.
When the two meet, they find something in each other that fills a hole in them. And for a long while they feed off each other, but this dependency is both good and bad, and, in the end, unsustainable. Neither one gives all of themselves, Lotto not seeing what Mathilde is really worth, and Mathilde not seeing her own value.
This is a sad book, with characters who never get enough, who hold a grudge long past normal, and some who see the real goodness in people beyond what they themselves believe.

The Clay Girl

Finished April 22
The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker

I loved this book. I've been reading it very slowly, so as to savor it.
The main character here is Hariet (Ari) Appleton, and this book takes her from the age of eight through sixteen from 1961 on. Ari's family has issues, big issues. Her father is an abuser, and a charmer, and when she is eight and the authorities become aware of the abuse, rather than face up to it, he traumatizes his daughters further by killing himself in front of them. The kids are all farmed out to various relations, with Ari being shipped out to Cape Breton to stay with her Aunt Mary and Mary's partner Nia. They give her the home and love that she has never had from her own parents. Ari also has an imaginary friend that she talks with, and who never deserts her, Jasper, a seahorse.
Unfortunately, Ari is returned to her mother in Toronto, she reunites with her sisters, all of whom have been touched by their past. She also finds her mother with a new man, Len. A good man. Even as Ari's mother sinks back into a life of addiction and men, Len is constant and his family becomes a refuge for Ari, just as the family she left in Nova Scotia was. Her sisters have different reactions to their abuse, some needing to go through worse times before finding their feet. One leaves, one finds religion of a sort, and the others make their way through various dark experiences to happiness. Ari, as the youngest can't escape so easily, as even as she plans her way out, she finds new obstacles set before her, new losses to endure. But she also finds new allies, new friends, and new family, even where she least expects it.
Ari's voice is unique, and she emerges as an artist and storyteller through her life experiences. As she is told by her aunt, she is not dirt as some described her but clay, malleable into a wondrous being. I fell in love with her, and ached with her during the bad times. She is empathetic, observant, and smart. I want to see more of her story.

A Place Called Sorry

Finished April 19
A Place Called Sorry by Donna Milner

This novel takes place in the interior of B.C. in a small town called Sorry, with the majority of the story taking place in the 1930s. The story of the town's name is an interesting one, and speaks to the nature of the community.
Adeline (Addie) Beale lives with her parents and her grandfather Chauncey on a large ranch outside of town. Addie loves the ranch and pretty much lives outside, to the dismay of her mother, a woman who grew up in Vancouver and was educated as a nurse, but met Addie's father when he was getting his law degree, and married him. She misses the city, but she knows her husband's life is entwined with the ranch. When tragedy strikes the family, things change drastically.
Addie spends a lot of time with her grandfather, and he shares with her diaries that he kept as a teenager when he first arrived in B.C. with his father. As Addie gradually learns of her grandfather's past and its tragedies, she also finds a new friend in another outsider in their small town. Alan Baptiste is the son of Rose, the wife of the store owner in town Dirk VanderMeer. Alan's mother brought him with her when she married Dirk, afraid that if she left him on the reserve, he would end up in residential school. The two get along well, have similar interests, and both are picked on by the schoolteacher Mrs. Parsons, Alan for his race and Addie for her unconventionality.
When Alan's family also faces tragedy, he comes to work at the ranch and the two grow closer. But the town isn't done with them yet, and as the war begins, more challenges come into their lives.
This is a story of prejudice, of finding your own way in life, and of facing your past, even the parts you regret. It is also a story of our country's history, one that still affects us today.
Milner's writing, as always, brings it to life, making me care about these people and their lives.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

A Cast of Vultures

Finished April 18
A Cast of Vultures by Judith Flanders

I thoroughly enjoyed the first in this series featuring book editor Samantha Clair, A Murder of Magpies, so was eager to read this one. There is a lot going on in this book, which always makes for a page-turner. Sam is involved in her neighbourhood, and has become a go-between between two gardening friends, Mr. Rudiger and Viv. Mr. Rudiger is her upstairs neighbour, living on the top floor of her house, and Viv is an older woman who lives closer to the farmer's market Sam visits every Saturday. When she stops by Viv's as normal to deliver some cuttings, Viv unexpectedly invites her in and involves her in a little B & E as a worried neighbour of a missing man. Soon after, a house in the neighbourhood burns down, and the circumstances lead to an investigation.
Meanwhile, the publishing firm Sam works at has called in management consultants to make some changes, and her able assistant Miranda has concerns about a memoir she is editing.
Sam attends meetings, both work and community, gathering information, calls on her well-connected mother Helena for assistance, as well as a young techie, and her boyfriend, a CID investigator.
When she finds herself targeted by unknown men, she can't help but start making connections.
I love Samantha's intelligence and wit, and the writing is wonderful.
One of my favourite scenes is this one:
Christ, I was naked. I'd been too startled, first, and then too scared, to notice, but here I was, standing with an adolescent boy in a light well at two in the morning, with only a phone to cover myself with. And phone coverage, as we all know, is never very reliable.
which gives an example of her humour. I also like that she knows her skill set and her values, but also acknowledges her failings and her insecurities. She is a woman who stands up for herself and her friends, but isn't afraid to admit her mistakes. A very relatable character.

One Tiny Lie

Finished April 16
One Tiny Lie by K.A. Tucker

This is the third book in a series, and the only one I've read so far. Livie is just starting college, at Princeton, the school that her father wanted her and her sister to attend, just like he had. When she was eleven, her parents died in a car crash, one that badly injured her older sister Kacey. Kacey has struggled to recover, and even though Livie seems to be doing well, getting great marks and doing everything according to a long-set-out plan, Kacey is worried about her. So Livie agreed earlier in the summer to talk to someone and she's been shaking her life up a bit.
Now, as Kacey sees her off to school, she finds herself talked into an off campus party, where she lets loose a lot more than she ever has, beginning with Jello shots. The next morning she finds herself with a new nickname, an incomplete memory of the previous evening, and a sore back. As she gradually remembers the events of the evening over the school term, she settles into a pattern of partying, studying, and questioning her own feelings, and finds herself drawn to a young man that she knows is trouble.
This is a story of coming of age, but also one of coming to terms with the past, not only for Livie, but for other characters as well. Her relationship with her sister is a strong one, but this is the first time she's really been making decisions that are hers alone.
Despite the American setting, the author is Canadian. This series will definitely appear to the adult reader ready to move on from teen fiction.

Monday, 10 April 2017

An Intimate Wilderness

Finished April 8
An Intimate Wilderness: Arctic Voices in a Land of Vast Horizons by Norman Hallendy

To understand the value of this book, you have to know the author's background. Hallendy has spent over fifty years building relationships with the Inuit, from translators to elders, to the elders' families. He was given the name Apirsuqti, which means "the inquisitive one." He is the world's leading authority on inuksuit. He has received recognition for his work from the Royal Canadian Geographic Society and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. He is an ethnographer of international renown.
This book contains observations, descriptions of experiences, conversations, storytelling, Inuit history and legend, intricacies of the language and the importance of naming, and as with many things, the parts add up to so much more together than they do singly.
His work has allowed him to immerse himself in their culture, learning the words for places, experiences, symbols, people, nature, and ideas. He knows when to listen and when to ask questions. He respects the culture and you can tell he really wants to understand and know what he is asking about. He cares about the people he meets.
While this book tells of places, events, and ceremonies long kept to themselves, his telling of them is not a betrayal, but becomes a trusted, well-researched archive. Due to the influence of white colonizers on this culture, a disconnect has been introduced between the older people who still remember either for themselves or from their parents and grandparents the way things were done, the way lives were lived before and the younger generation who live in towns and lead a more modern way of life. As he says "There came a time when the elders no longer handed down tales, songs, customs, and mysteries. Instead, catechism and schooling were the shape the Inuit child's knowledge and future." This book is a bridge between those two world, to ensure the stories and traditional way of life are not forgotten.
There are so many beautiful and important things in this book and I am so glad they have been gathered up before they were lost to history. As one interaction goes "...when I asked him about myth and reality he explained to me that there are things said to have happened that may or may not have happened. It doesn't matter, as long as they are believed. The expression he used was sulinngikkaluaqtut ukpirijaujut, the reality of myth."
The book includes photos, drawings, maps, art, and other visual aids to understanding, some specifically made for the book.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Monthly Mix-Up Mania 2015-2017 Completed

So, I completed the Monthly Mix-Up Mania, but not quite to the standard I set myself.
I had intended to read the books in letter order, but didn't stay on top of it, and ran out of time, with 3 letters to go. So I went back over the time period and found 3 books that met the requirements and used the for the B, E, and R of December.
It was a fun challenge, but sometimes limiting.
The home page for the challenge is here.

Official Start date: April 1, 2015. 
End date: March 31, 2017, yes, two years, because well, we have other challenges to do ;)

My books
J - A Jury of Her Peers by Elaine Showalter. Finished April 13, 2015
A - The Afterlife of Stars by Joseph Kertes. Finished April 18, 2015
N - Neverhome by Laird Hunt. Finished April 26, 2015
U - Uncommon Grounds by Sandra Balzo. Finished May 4, 2015
A  - All Saints by K.D. Miller. Finished May 20, 2015
R  - The Road Taken by Michael Buerk. Finished May 30, 2015
Y - The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol. Finished June 26, 2015

F - Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Finished July 15, 2015
E - Expect More by R. David Lankes. Finished July 18, 2015
B - Burned Alive by Souad. Finished July 18, 2015
R - The Road is How by Trevor Herriot. Finished August 6, 2015
U - Uncertain Soldier by Karen Bass. Finished August 8, 2015
A - The Arsonist by Sue Miller. Finished August 9, 2015
R - The Robber of Memories by Michael Jacobs. Finished September 2, 2015
Y - Yankee in Atlanta by Jocelyn Green. Finished September 4, 2015

M - A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders. Finished September 6, 2015
A - Astray by Emma Donoghue. Finished September 17, 2015
R - The Ragtime Fool by Larry Karp. Finished October 5, 2015
C - Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. Finished October 11, 2015
H - Happy City by Charles Montgomery. Finished November 1, 2015

A - Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash. Finished December 21, 2015
P - Pack Up the Moon by Rachael Herron. Finished December 27, 2015
R - Rosemary Cottage by Colleen Coble. Finished January 14, 2016
I - The In-Between Hour by Barbara Claypole White. Finished January 19, 2016
L - The Longest Afternoon by Brendan Simms. Finished February 20, 2016

M - The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell. Finished March 12, 2016
A - Anomaly by Krista McGee. Finished March 12, 2016
Y - The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. Finished April 2, 2016

J - The January Dancer by Michael Flynn. Finished April 6, 2016
U - The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan. Finished April 24, 2016
N - The "Natural Inferiority of Women, compiled by Tama Starr. Finished May 23, 2016
E - The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton. Finished July 1, 2016

J - Joy Comes in the Morning by Jonathan Rosen. Finished July 8, 2016
U - Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters. Finished July 17, 2016
L - Lauchlin of the Bad Heart by D.R. MacDonald. Finished August 22, 2016
Y - You're Not Lost If You Can Still See the Truck by Bill Heavey. Finished August 26, 2016

A - The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki. Finished September 15, 2016
U - Untethered by Julie Lawson Timmer. Finished October 3, 2016
G - Green River Falling by R.J. McMillen. Finished November 8, 2016
U - The Undertaker's Wife by Dee Oliver. Finished November 17, 2016
S - Schlump by Hans Herbert Grimm. Finished December 1, 2016
T - Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. Finished December 3, 2016

S - The Slow Waltz of Turtles by Katherine Pancol. Finished December 31, 2016
E - Eel River Rising by Laura Reasoner Jones. Finished January 14, 2017
P - The Palace of Heavenly Pleasure by Adam Williams. Finished February 4, 2017
T - Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg. Finished February 5, 2017
E - Eight Girls Taking Pictures by Whitney Otto. Finished February 12, 2017
M - Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis. Finished February 13, 2017
B - The Burial by Courtney Collins. Finished February 18, 2017
E - Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman. Finished February 18, 2017
R - The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel. Finished February 19, 2017

O - On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman. Finished February 20, 2017
C - Cake or Death by Heather Mallick. Finished February 23, 2017
T - There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron. Finished February 27, 2017
O - One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn. Finished February 28, 2017
B - Boar Island by Nevada Barr. Finished March 1, 2017
E - Educating Alice by Alice Steinbach. Finished March 5, 2017
R - Racing the Sun by Karina Halle. Finished March 6, 2017

N - Noughts & Crosses by Marjorie Blackman. Finished March 9, 2017
O - Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra. Finished March 11, 2017
V - Vigilante by Kady Cross. Finished March 12, 2017
E - The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Finished March 15, 2017
M - The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell. Finished March 18, 2017
B - Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Finished March 18, 2017
E - The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys. Finished March 19, 2017
R - The Redemption of Galen Pike by Carys Davies. Finished March 19, 2017

D - Displacement by Lucy Knisley. Finished March 20, 2017
E - Egg Drop Dead by Laura Childs. Finished March 21, 2017
C - Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans. Finished March 28, 2017
E - Exit, Pursued By a Bear by E.K. Johnston. Finished March 29, 2017
M - A Murder for Max by John Lawrence Reynolds. Finished March 30, 2017
B - Baghdad without a Map by Tony Horwitz. Finished June 6, 2016
E - Expect More by R. David Lankes. Finished July 18, 2015
R - The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill. Finished January 16, 2016