Sunday, 28 February 2016

Read and Buried

Finished February 27
Read and Buried by Erika Chase

This is the second book in the Ashton Corners Book Club mystery series. Set in Ashton Corners, Alabama, this book has Lizzie Turner, leader of the book club and educational reading specialist, asked to invite visiting author Derek Alton to her upcoming book club meeting. Lizzie is surprised, but amenable, and even when her next encounter with Derek causes her to question his character, she still moves forward with the plan. But when his unexpected visit to her home ends with his murder, things get more intense. Lizzie's new boyfriend, local police chief Mark Dreyfus seems distant, unknown women are calling Lizzie looking for information on Derek's new book, and Lizzie's sleuthing uncovers both Derek's womanizing history and the secrets of many local women. Despite Mark's warnings, Lizzie can't keep herself from digging into the crime, and as she puts herself in danger, she also finds new allies.
Lizzie is an interesting character, perhaps too nice for her own good sometimes, and yet she does have a strong sense of justice. Mark seemed a bit disappointing at first, but he developed better as the story went on. Lizzie's book club has a nice mix of characters with potential for a variety of plotlines as this series continues.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

The Longest Afternoon

Finished February 20
The Longest Afternoon: The 400 Men Who Decided the Battle of Waterloo by Brendan Simms

This slim history book looks at the decisive action that occurred at the farm of La Haye Sainte, the battle that was decisive in the action at Waterloo. The action began on June 18 1815 and the main players against Napoleon's troops were the King's German Legion, but the forces present also included British, Nassauers, Dutch, Belgian, Brunswickers, and Hanoverian regular army.
Simms shows us the timelines from both the French side and that of their adversaries. We see the men involved, their individual actions and reactions, their fates, and their interactions with each other. Simms also looks at their loyalty to the cause that shows in this battle and posits theories behind it.
Three maps are included: one of the farm, one of the troop positions the night of June 17-18, and one of troop placement across Europe. I would have liked more information on these, such as legends and text backgrounders, as the information on the maps wasn't always covered in the history given here.
The notes and bibliography are numerous, providing citations and further reading for those looking to delve deeper into this historic event.

Where Secrets Sleep

Finished February 18
Where Secrets Sleep by Marta Perry

This mystery novel begins as interior designer Allison Standish is going to the small Amish village of Laurel Ridge to see the building she has inherited from her grandmother. Allison never knew her grandmother and her father disappeared from her life without notice when she was six. Allison has a good relationship with her mother, stepfather and stepbrothers, but she has always felt a bit separate from the rest of her family.
In Laurel Ridge, she finds a community that is supportive and caring, but her inheritance comes with strings attached. As she learns about Amish life from her partner in the quilting store, she also learns more about her grandmother and her father. When things start to go wrong, and Allison is threatened, she finds that her new friends are more than protective of her. If someone is trying to scare her into going away, she is determined they won't succeed. With her new ties to the community, she is determined to get to the bottom of whoever is threatening the wellbeing of those who live there.
This story has mystery, romance, and self-discovery. As Allison learns about her family, she also learns about her own feelings about herself and her relationships, and as she begins to care about those she has come to know she wants to find how she fits into this community.

Do Not Disturb

Finished February 18
Do Not Disturb by Tilly Bagshawe

This romance novel has a lot going on, including some suspense. As the book begins, Honor Palmer has called a formal meeting to transfer management of her father's assets to herself as his dementia makes him unable to do it himself. It is not a smooth transfer, as her father Trey seems to have grown more and more attached to the idea that women don't have business skills and doesn't want her to take the management of the family hotel from him. Her socialite sister Tina doesn't mind as long as she gets a nice allowance as a result.
Meanwhile Lucas Ruiz has fought his way up from poverty in Ibiza, and with the financial help of a well-off lover has graduated from a prestigious hotel management program. Now he is fighting for a dream job at a luxury hotel, a step towards his ultimate goal of owning his own hotel chain. When he succeeds, he also gains a few enemies and finds that not all doors in upper society circles are open to him despite his charm. When Anton Tisch, his hotel's owner's, ambitions pits him directly in competition with Honor's family hotel in East Hampton, the sparks really begin to fly.
We see a lot of very driven characters here, from diverse backgrounds. Lucas cares for his mother despite her weaknesses, but is a player in his personal life, who doesn't treat women all that well. Honor is driven to prove her skills in revitalizing the family hotel, but is naive in her personal life. She both cares about her sister and resents her lifestyle. Lucas has an unlikely friend, who comes from a wealthy family, Ben Slater. Ben is a low-key man with a romantic side and strong sense of ethics. He is good as his job in finance, but isn't skilled with relationships.
The Carter family is a conservative, but wealthy family in East Hampton. Devon plays a role in society and his church that doesn't align with his personal life, and he seems to care more about appearances than other people. His wife is lonely and insecure despite her beauty. His daughter Lola is also driven, focused on a fashion design career despite her father's expectations. She knows how to use her assets to get what she wants, most of the time. Lola's brother Ned is a good talker, but doesn't seem to accomplish as much as he says, and isn't willing to work for it.
Honor's sister Tina also knows how to use her assets, and she can turn any bad situation to her advantage. Her activities are definitely not okay with the conservative set, but she doesn't take herself too seriously.
Sian Doyle is driven towards becoming a journalist, despite her working class mill town background, and she is willing to work hard to get there. She is lucky in the people she meets that give her opportunities, but it is her hard work that brings her success.
On the darker side, Anton motivations aren't always clear, but his competitiveness is extreme, giving him the drive to win whatever it takes.
Lots of sex, dirty deeds, and society viciousness is here, along with the romance and suspense.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Lumberjanes: A Terrible Plan

Finished February 14
Lumberjanes Volume 3: A Terrible Plan created by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson and Brooke Allen

This third volume continues with the adventures of April, Molly, Mal, Ripley and Jo at Lumberjanes camp. Badges covered in the four chapters are If You Got It, Haunt It; Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fondant, Go Ball-istic, and Oldie But Goodie. The other badge covered is Grungeon Master. This collection brings back Bear Woman from the first volume and looks at how competitiveness can impact fun. Here the girls split into two groups for most of the action.

Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max

Finished February 13
Lumberjanes Volume 2: Friendship to the Max created by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson and Brooke Allen

This is the second volume in the collection featuring the five Lumberjanes of Roanoke cabin. Again it contains 4 chapters, each focused on a badge. They are: Friendship to the Craft, Jail Break, Friendship to the Max, and Space Jamborie. There is also reference to the Con-Quest badge. This continues the story from the first volume. Jen starts to get more involved.
Friendship is a strong theme here, and each girl has her own skill set that contributes to the group. Bubbles the raccoon was a nice addition.
This book also contains a preview of the graphic series Giant Days, which follows three girls at university. I enjoyed it as well.

Lumberjanes: Beware the Holy Kitten

Finished February 13
Lumberjanes: Volume 1: Beware the Holy Kitten created by Shannon Watters, Nicole Stevenson and Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen

This teen graphic novel features a group of five girls: Jo, Molly, Mal, April, and Ripley. They share the Roanoke cabin at the Lumberjanes camp. Their cabin counsellor is Jen. The girls are up for any adventure, and this volume contains four. Each of the four chapters focuses on a badge the girls can earn. Some of them already may have the badge, others get it through the events in the chapter. Here the four badges are Up All Night, Naval Gauging, Everything Under the Sun, and Robyn Hood. There is also reference to another badge one of the girls earns, Pungeon Master.
These books illustrate girls being outdoorsy, adventurous, caring, and helpful. I won the first three books in the series recently, and enjoyed the characters as they dealt with monsters and other troublesome creatures.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

The Far End of Happy

Finished February 13
The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft, performed by Janet Metzger

This novel was inspired by a real life episode in the author's own life. As the book begins Ronnie wakes up in the guest bedroom of her home, on the morning that her husband is supposed to be moving out. This is a temporary measure, giving Ronnie time to find a new place to live for her and their young sons, while getting them out from sharing the same roof. Ronnie has grown more and more unhappy in her marriage, initially allowing herself to be stifled in her own career goals, then finding that her husband has kept secrets from her regarding his spending, their financial circumstances, his consumption of alcohol, and more. As he has grown more distant, their physical intimacy has also diminished, and Ronnie feels that she must begin again for her own good.
That morning, she finds her husband's bed not slept in, the TV blaring, and an accusatory note left in her office. As she gets the boys up and ready, her husband Jeff reappears, but it becomes obvious to all of them that he is drunk. As her youngest son Will takes it upon himself to intervene, her husband's unstable state of mind becomes clear. His car is stocked with alcohol and he threatens to kill himself with a shotgun.
This novel covers the next twelve hours as Ronnie, her mother, and her mother-in-law all examine the events that have led to this day. All three of them, as they wait under police protection in the nearby firehouse, look back at their relationships, their own struggles with life, and their questions about what more they could have done.
This is an exploration of depression from family members viewpoints, and about the complex feelings that exist when the help they want to give isn't accepted.

Gentle Spectrums Reading Challenge 2016 Sign-Up Post

Gentle Spectrums 2016

Gentle Spectrums 2016
There are two parts to this challenge
COLOURFUL  —  10 books
BRIGHT  ———  20 books
IRIDESCENT  —  30 books
Any colourful titles, including the vocabulary words above.   We are now using levels “Colourful”, “Bright”, “Iridescent” as progress markers solely.  Log any quantity you finish!
Related words:  meowing, purring, tweeting, flying.
Birthdays, marriage, graduation, retirement, baptism, healing rituals.
4.  FOOD
Any connection, even “Winnie-The-Pooh”.  Look up our inventions, like the 911 emergency number.
Famous inanimate pairings:  bowl & spoon, peas in a pod, spark to a flame, moon & stars, black or white, a wink & a smile.
Commitment levels are unnecessary.  In Limitless Palette”, levels are used as creative signposts for measuring progress.  Repeat any “Gentle Subjects” too, as often as you can.  Don’t stop:  all reading has a home here!
*  A Goodreads group for the host's whole quartet is here.

Gentle Spectrums 2015 Wrap-up

Gentle Spectrums  ran from February 2015 to February 2016!
Gentle Spectrums 2015
 There were two parts to this challenge. I was three books short on part A and 1 book short on part B. Better luck next year. 
For the first time in any circle:  choose a colour level!  Accepted now:  Colourful, colour, bright, light, iridescent, iridescence, dark, shade, hue, spectrum, rainbow, prism.
Limitless Pallet Levels
 I am going for the Colourful level this year. 
1. Sitt Marie Rose by Edel Adnan. Finished February 1
2. Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman. Finished February 25
3. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. Finished April 10
4. Red Gold by Alan Furst. Finished April 26
5. The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol. Finished June 27
6. Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann. Finished January 11
7. Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers. Finished January 21 (multiple colours!)
**** (B)  GENTLE SUBJECTS ****
Please complete 1 each, of these 10 subjects.  Keep on adding anything that fits for extra points.
~ (1)  STONES  ~
Variations of the word, gems, jewellery, ruins, geological formations.

I read nothing in this category.
~  (2)  CHEERFUL  ~
Uplifting, positive messages;  conveys pleasant thoughts, images.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce. Finished March 6
Dream Days by Kenneth Grahame. Finished April 30
Happy City by Charles Montgomery. Finished November 1
~  (3)  NATIONS  ~
Cultures, locations:  lakes, towns, even well-known places;  fictional included.

Last Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin. Finished August 28
Yankee in Atlanta by Jocelyn Green. Finished September 4
~  (4)  PLANTS  ~
Trees, flowers, lawns, fields, grasses, grains, and gardening paraphernalia.

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman. Finished February 25
Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra. Finished May 4
Rosemary Cottage by Colleen Coble. Finished January 14
~  (5)  WATER  ~
Water bodies, proper names, closely-connected components:  taps, sinks, pools.

I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson. Finished February 16
Up the Creek by Nicholas Oldland. Finished December 5
Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash. Finished December 21
~  (6)  SPACE  ~
The sky, its contents, spatial matter, concepts, tools.  Star Trek / Star Wars-related

The Afterlife of Stars by Joseph Kertes. Finished April 18.
Pack Up the Moon by Rachael Herron. Finished December 27
Huntress Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff. Finished January 9
~  (7)  DAUNTING  ~
Any title that has you thinking:  “Oooo!  That does not sound good”!

Road to Reckoning by Robert Lautner. Finished May 7
Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer. Finished June 7
The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill. Finished January 3
~  (8)  STRUCTURES  ~
A building, its rooms, proper names, any of a structure’s parts.

Safe as Houses by Susan Glickman. Finished November 15
~  (9)  TIME  ~
Any signifiers of time, like seasons.  Any unit-measurers, like watches and calendars.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. Finished October 11
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. Finished October 13
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. Finished December 15
~  (10 HUMOROUS  ~
Odd, or anything that gives you a grin.  I’ll accept a ‘pun laid on too thick’ grimace too!
Shoot the Lawyer Twice by Michael A. Bowen. Finished February 7

The Full Ridiculous by Mark Lamprell. Finished February 8
Heir of the Dog by Judi McCoy. Finished February 22

Maybe a Fox

Finished February 13
Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee

This children's novel is aimed at the 10-14 age group. 12-year-old Sylvie and 11-year-old Jules grow up at the edge of the forest, living with their dad after the mother died when Jules was just five. Their best friend is Sam, who lives nearby. Sam is 11 and a half. The two girls are close, and play a lot of games together include a game that imagines what happens when you die that they use to imagine whether their mother went with the wind, or became a star. Jules is a rock hound, always looking for interesting rocks. Sylvie is a runner, always trying to become faster, but without explaining why to her younger sister.
At the end of a path through the woods is a river. The river disappears into an underground cavern and reemerges beyond into a more placid pool before resuming its journey. The girls have been warned against going to the river at its more dangerous point, but are drawn by the stories associated with it, the promises of wishes fulfilled when wishing stones are dropped in.
Sam is glad that his older brother Elk has returned from Afghanistan, but his brother is different and seems to have left part of himself behind. Also left behind is his best friend Zeke, the son of another neighbour. Elk had asked Jules to look for the mysterious stone Grotto that legends spoke of, and leave two agates there for him and Zeke if they didn't return, and Jules still searches for this lost place.
When Sylvie goes out for a run one morning against her sister's wishes and doesn't return, the changes to Jules and her father's lives are massive. Meanwhile, nearby, a mother fox gives birth to three young cubs, knowing that one of them is different, tied to the spirit world in a way she recognizes but doesn't understand. The stories of the young fox Senna, and Jules are tied together along with other lost souls.

Another story of loss for children is Beautiful Goodbye by Nancy Runstedler.

Monday, 8 February 2016

We Were Liars

Finished February 8
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, read by Ariadne Meyers

This teen novel is told from the point of view of Cadence Sinclair Eastman. She is the granddaughter of Harris and Tipper Sinclair, a wealthy couple who owns their own island Beechwood, near Martha's Vineyard. The Sinclairs had three daughters, Carrie, Bess, and Penny. Cadence is the daughter and only child of Penny. Her cousin Mirren is the daughter of Bess, and has younger twin sisters Liberty and Bonnie, and a younger brother Taft. Her cousin Johnny is the son of Carrie and has a younger brother Will. The summer that Cadence, Mirren, and Johnny turn 15 is the summer that everything changes. Cadence's father left them earlier that year, making Penny the last of the three sisters to get divorced. Carrie is the only one in a new relationship, but her boyfriend Ed is not acceptable to the Sinclairs, despite the many years Carrie and him have been together. Ed's nephew Gat has been coming to the island every summer for years as a companion for Johnny. The four teenagers have formed a tight bond over the years. The summer they turn 15 is also the first summer without Tipper, who has died recently, and that has affected the dynamic of the family, causing the sisters to vie for the inheritance. As they try to involve their children in the competition, Cadence, Mirren, Johnny and Gat, the Liars as they term themselves, do what they can to thwart this rivalry, wanting to return to a time of happy families. But something very bad happens as a result of their actions, and Cadence is injured. She has only spotty memories of that summer, severe migraines, and other injuries. The summer she was 16, she was kept away from the island by her parents, and the threat is there for the summer she is 17 as well. When they give in and Cadence returns to Beechwood, she finds that even her cousins will not tell her what happened that summer, and as she goes about the activities they all enjoy, she finds the memories gradually returning. She must discover if she is willing to face the truth about that summer, the guilt, and the loss.
This is a powerful story of the emotional life of teenagers, the immediacy of everything, and their not always good reactions to situations. I recently read this article from the Globe and Mail on teen brain development that really is relevant to this book. There is a great Tumblr page that has been put together on this book showing a map of the island, a family tree, and using images and quotes from the books to give a sense of this book.

Another teen novel that has a character struggling with difficult emotional baggage is The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson.