Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts

Monday, July 4, 2022

Reviewing Sugar Birds: A Novel by Cheryl Grey Bostrom

One way to describe Sugar Birds is to call it a coming of age story. Which it is. But it is also a look at parenting, families, relationships, survival, and faith. Each of these characters were unique. However, their common bond (for the most part) was having gone through some hard times then deciding how they would treat others. All of this while they are on a search and rescue mission to locate poor little Aggie. I was completely absorbed in this book from the beginning.




The story is told by Aggie and Celia in alternating chapters. 

Aggie

Agate Esther (Aggie) is a just-turned 10 year old girl who lives with her parents and her brother. She is consumed with bird-watching. She is familiar with the forest around her and just cannot follow her mother's directions to stop climbing the trees to observe the birds. Aggie documents the birds in her notebook and is encouraged by her father to do so. However, she defies her mother's directions to stay out of the trees. After they have conflict about the issue again, Aggie decides to try to get back into mom's good favor by making kindling as a gift. Unfortunately, she inadvertently causes a house fire.

"Her chest clenched, wringing her insides hard, like a dishcloth. Dad. Mama. She killed them with those sticks. With her fire. She beat her legs with clenched first, bit her cheeks, tasted blood." - Sugar Birds

Believing she has killed her parents and will be arrested, she panics and flees to the forest to hide. She has plenty of survival skills but will she survive the predators? 

Celia

"We're on track for the cabin by eight tonight, Daddy" I flipped down the visor mirror and twisted the stud in my infected earlobe, my teeth set against its sting." - Sugar Birds

Celia is a 16 year old young lady, who thinks she's going to the family lake cabin in Washington state with her dad. Her mother, not the most warm and attentive on any day, has left them. Celia is trying to move on from that betrayal when her father discloses that he's not taking them to the cabin. He's taking her to her grandmother's home while he goes on a remote work assignment for several months. Celia is furious that her father is also leaving her and she immediately starts to formulate a plan to runaway. She believes that she'll find a way to return to Texas on her own and will stay with her friend Meredith. The very same friend that her dad doesn't approve of. 

I hope that I'm not making Celia sound like a run-of-the-mill ungrateful adolescent character. She is not. Celia is a high school math nerd, cross country runner, compassionate young lady who helps her grandmother rescue and rehabilitate birds. However, with Meredith's tutoring, she has just begun to catch the attention of boys.

"Dancing flames didn't cause those astonished stares when I walked through that crowd in Meredith's hand-tooled cowboy boots with Luke hanging on me. I swear Meredith sensed that I was about to ditch him and run to the ladies room to scrub my face and calm my hair down a little. She trotted up beside us, looped her arm in mine and whispered that I was a Harrison County version of Sandy in Grease." - Sugar Birds
After her father drops angry/hurt Celia off with her grandmother, she quickly catches the attention of Cabot. 

Mender

Marta Burke a.k.a Mender a.k.a Gram is an aclaimed biologist who has retired but who is active rehabilitating birds. She gardens. She prays. And she cares deeply for others. Mender has taught Celia the skills needed to handle and rehabilitate birds; raptors being Celia's favorite. Will Mender be able to keep Celia from being the prey?

Burnaby

Burnaby. Aggie's older brother and Loomis' employee. Burnaby has difficulty with interactions, eye contact, and affection. But his is a good employee, following rules and routines. He too loves the natural world and is very specifically drawn to bird and animal bones. 

I absolutely loved Burnaby's character. 

"Mama says I give speeches when I should be conversing. Misplaced monologues are selfish, she says. Talking should be reciprocal. Unselfish. Like tossing an apple back and forth so each hearer can catch it. She says I should listen without having a speech ready. Consider. Respond. Listen again."  - Sugar Birds

Harris & Bree

Harris is Aggie and Burnaby's father. He moved them to the area, after he left the Alaska Forest Service, in order to be close to family. He nurtured the children's love of the outdoors and knowledge base; such as foraging for edible plants and water that is safe to drink. Bree also loved the outdoors. And once-upon-a-time, she collected Agates from a cliff. And this is how they chose Aggie's name. Bree struggled with mental illness and Aggie resented the change.

Loomis & Nora

This couple is Aggie's Aunt and Uncle and Mender's neighbors. They own a dairy farm. They employ Burnaby and Cabot.

Cabot

Twenty-year-old Cabot likes Celia. As have the others, twenty-year-old Cabot has been through some rough times and he has chosen to hang on to his anger and lash out at others. He is the villain, and his behaviors are a perfect example of a budding abusive relationship. 

I LOVED Sugar Birds: A Novel by Cheryl Grey Bostrom


I am rarely able to read a book in a matter of 2-3 days. Not only did I read this in 2 days, I stayed up last night after 2:00 am trying to get to the end. I wanted to learn who survived and whether or not some of them didn't. Granted, I'm on vacation so it was an easier decision to stay up many hours past my bedtime. But I'm not so sure I would have put the book down even if I had to work the next morning. Not only were the characters interesting, but the descriptions of the setting painted the picture perfectly.

I do not feel that I've been able to review this book as it deserves. I hope you will take a peek at it on Amazon for not only the long list of awards this book has received, but the reviews from the other readers. 

If you read Where the Crawdads Sing and loved it, you'll enjoy this story. 




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Monday, January 3, 2022

Book Review: The Borrowed World by Franklin Horton

I recently binge-read an entire 9 book series: The Borrowed World series by Franklin Horton.  I have since read several unrelated books and none have captured my attention and absorbed me into the setting as this story did. I still wish the visit with Jim Powell, his family, and his community had not ended. 

Book Review: The Borrowed World by Franklin Horton


The Borrowed World (a Post-Apocalyptic Societal Collapse Thriller)

The story opens with a man, a terrorist living in the US, and the moment that the next plan to terrorize the country becomes a viable thought while watching a television documentary about the nation's failing infrastructure.

"The surgeon recalled the attacks of September 11th. He envisioned a broader attack. Something with more men and lasting devastation. Something more visceral and less flashy"  - excerpt from The Borrowed World

During the first few chapters, the reader observes the work of the terrorists; how they destroy important sites across the United States including the Alaskan pipeline, Wolf Creek Dam, multiple refineries, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Transformers at power stations were also destroyed. Power, communication, and transportation systems immediately failed. Law enforcement and medical services failed soon after.  The nation was completely changed from that day forward. 

Jim Powell is the main character. He lives and works in southwestern Virginia and frequently travels to Richmond with his co-workers. He and five of his co-workers were in Richmond when the attack occurred.  Jim woke in the hotel without power and his phone only partially worked, showing a pixelated headline stating "America, Nation Under Attack". He attempted to call home but received only the recording that the circuits were busy.

Jim's co-workers in Richmond are Gary, Lois, Alice, Randi, and Rebecca. At work, Jim is abrupt and abrasive. He and Lois tend to butt heads on a typical day. Their opposite opinions continue into this emergency situation. Jim wants to return home immediately. Some of his co-workers, Lois included, want to stay where they are and see what happens. 

They decide to drive home as a group but immediately run into one dangerous situation after the next.  These situations included difficulty getting gas, violence in the rest areas, and travelers being unwelcomed in the small towns along the interstates.

Jim is a prepper and has a "Get Home Bag" (similar to a "Bug Out bag if you've heard of them. However, Jim's Get Home Bag is full of items to help him return home rather than leave home in the event of an emergency). Gary has a similar bag. When they are unable to continue their trip via car some of the group decides to walk home, using the Appalachian Trail for a portion of the journey, while some of the group decides to wait for the promised help from the Government to first move them from the rest areas to a camp and later transported to their hometowns.

The chapters switch between the experiences of the part of the group who decided to walk home and the experiences of the part of the group who decided to wait for transportation at a camp.

Meanwhile, Jim's wife Ellen is at home with their two children. She is doing the best she can to follow the things Jim taught her about being prepared while keeping her family safe from those who come to steal their food and possessions.

Reasons Why I Loved This Story and Read the Entire Series

It was immediately obvious that Jim was one of those characters who is flawed. Maybe not even likeable to some. But I couldn't help but root him on... hoping he got home quickly for the sake of his wife and children. But quickly is relative when you are talking about walking across the state of Virginia. The other characters were each unique and their voices were clearly their own. I never had to pause to try to remember who was who.  It was very interesting to see how each individual made their choices. I fell in love with Randi and Gary and hoped for their safe travels. I forgave Jim for his abrasive rule-breaking and was pleased for his sake that he had broken some of the agency and HR rules.

In addition to the fictional aspect of this story, I enjoyed the informational portions of the book. In the forward the author states:

"During periods of elevated terror alerts and especially during Hurricane Katrina, I thought often about the vulnerability of a person traveling during a national disaster"  

"As a way of passing the time during long drives, I developed 'get home plans' for each trip. Given what I had in my luggage, what avenues of travel would be available to me?"  - Franklin Horton

As a result, he packed differently for trips - including a good pair of walking shoes. Over the years I've observed people (women especially) getting stuck in blizzards and walking through deep snow in flats or heels. Still, I do not tend to keep good walking shoes in my vehicle, but after reading The Borrowed World  I will begin to do so. In addition to shoes, the author clearly has experience with a variety of survival/camping/hiking items.  For example, he spoke of a brand of water filter that would be an excellent addition to my own camping/day hiking items.  His style of "product placement" or product recommendation did not interrupt the flow of the book at all as it was such a part of the story yet provided factual information about his own preferred items. 

This is not a how-to prep book. But it does present much food for thought related to disasters (natural or man-made). This is a story about people trying to survive an extreme terrorist attack that disables life as we know it. It also peeks at the negative view of "preppers" but pulls back the curtain on how vulnerable we all truly are and that it doesn't hurt to be at least a bit prepared for extreme circumstances.

Finally, when I was much younger I read The Stand by Stephen King. That story, especially the beginning description of the pandemic and those trying to survive it, kept me awake reading at night. But later in the book the story started to drift for me as it included more of the dark fantasy. The Borrowed World never drifted for me. It remained in the realm of disasters that could really happen and the possible resulting  struggle over resources. The reality that the food supply is not infinite and starving neighbors can go to great lengths to take your remaining piece of crusty bread is unnerving. I kept turning pages to see if and how the Powell family would survive.

More Reading:

Readers may also enjoy One Second After by William R Forstchen. One Second After is a story about America's power grid going down after an EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) weapon was detonated over the US. Previously I thought EMPs were the product of active imaginations. However, I have since learned that it is something that has actually been discussed in Congress and is something that could really occur. In One Second After, families and a community are again trying to survive without electricity, communication, and without a supply of food.  This fictional story kept me interested, but I did not find the individual characters as memorable as Jim Powell et al.




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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Emma Donoghue's The Pull of the Stars Book Review

Journey to Dublin, Ireland, during the time of the Spanish Flu in 1918 and discover parallels with the world's pandemic experience in 2020 in this fascinating page turner by Emma Donoghue.

I will start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed the book The Pull of the Stars by Irish Canadian author Emma Donoghue. My book club chose it and when I first picked it up to read, I had forgotten that it was about a pandemic. It is a story of the Great Flu or the 1918 Influenza, which we now call the Spanish Flu. As it turns out, it was good and it was doubly interesting because of the current pandemic.

Set in Ireland in 1918, it tells a fictional story based on the very real world of a midwife working in a Dublin hospital who is assigned to the maternity fever ward. Not much bigger than a closet, this ward is where they quarantine pregnant women who are stricken with influenza. 

We meet a young midwife named Julia Powers who finds herself alone on her shift with the responsibility for all of the care of these sick, pregnant women.  She is at times aided by one of two women. Firstly, Doctor Kathleen Lynn, who is based on a real historical figure and who is wanted by the Dublin police because she was involved in the 1916 Irish Uprising. Secondly, she is assisted by a young volunteer from an orphanage named Bridie Sweeney who has absolutely no training or education but is quick on her feet and ready to do whatever is required of her.

Included within the story is a peek at the science of the time with regard to the flu and midwifery. It is a visit to the Dublin of the times where they were struggling with not just the flu but the devastation caused by World War I and the 1916 Uprising. Along the way, it also shares a look at some of the Irish societal injustices that existed at the time.  

The book is eerily similar to the current world situation even though we have the advantage of modern day science. Amongst other similarities are the facts that some still managed to question the value of wearing masks and others recommended taking weird remedies.

The Pull of the Stars is a page turner, a non-stop story that happens mostly during one long shift in the hospital during which Powers, sometimes aided by Doctor Lynn and/or Bridie, go from crisis to crisis to crisis. 

The timing of the writing of this book may have been a bit unfortunate though it was written before the current pandemic. After all, who wants to read a story based on a pandemic when they are living through one? However, the timing was not deliberate. Donoghue started writing the story in 2018 and the manuscript was sent to the publishers in March of 2020. 

After possibly a brief moment of hesitation because of the subject matter, the book drew me in and it became interesting to see, as the author says, "the way it mirrors our current situation."  The Guardian says, it is "a beautifully modulated historical novel."  I agree.

Reading this book now is different than it might have been before, for sure. NPR says, "The fourth wall of fiction is broken here. The pandemic spreads out beyond the pages into whatever rooms we are quarantined in.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Do I recommend The Pull of the Stars? Yes, I do. I highly recommend it. It is a fast moving account of life in a maternity fever ward with parallels to the current world situation.  Anyone who enjoys historical fiction, has an interest in Ireland and/or midwifery will enjoy this book.  

I think NPR gives another good reason to pick up this book when they say that that Donoghue has "given us our first pandemic caregiver novel - an engrossing and inadvertently topical story about health care workers inside small rooms fighting to preserve life." 

I say, don't miss it. Order your copy from Amazon now by clicking right here.

See you 
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

More Ireland:

Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes


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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Canada Reads Book List 2021

Canada Reads Book List 2021

Every year Canada's Broadcasting Corporation or CBC as it is more commonly known, releases a short list of five Canadian books. It's a battle of the books competition in which the five books are brought forward by five Canadian celebrities and in March they come together over five days to debate the merits of the books eliminating one each day. On the final day, a winner is proclaimed the book that we should all read. 

I thought I would give you a brief review of the Canada Reads program and the books that were nominated this year. It was interesting to learn a bit about each of the books and consider adding them to my reading list. Obviously since I have not read them, I cannot personally vouch for them though I can give you a brief description, share the official Canada Reads book trailers, and, at the end, tell you the name of this year's winner.  I might help to know that these books have often been nominated for other literary awards.

Here we go, the nominated books for 2021 under the theme 'One Book to Transport Us'.


BUTTER HONEY PIG BREAD BY FRANCESCA EKWUYASI 

Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Butter Honey Pig Bread transports the reader from Lagos to London to Halifax. It is the story of three generations of women from Nigeria, a mother and her estranged twin daughters. The mother "believes that she is an Ogbanje, or an Abiku, a non-human spirit that plagues a family with misfortune by being born and then dying in childhood to cause a human mother misery. She has made the unnatural choice of staying alive to love her human family but lives in fear of the consequences of her decision." This book is about food and family and forgiveness, about choices and consequences, and about friendship and faith. 

Rated 4.3 out of 5 by Amazon readers and 4.4 out of 5 by Goodreads readers. 

Writing on The Suburban author Meredith says that this book "ended up being her personal favourite to win the 2021 competition. It was a book that she simply didn’t want to put down and a story that she didn’t want to end."

Here's the official Canada Reads book trailer:




TWO TREES MAKE A FOREST: IN SEARCH OF MY FAMILY'S PAST AMONG TAIWAN'S MOUNTAINS AND COASTS 

Two Trees Make a Forest: In Search of My Family's Past Among Taiwan's Mountains and Coasts

Two Trees Make a Forest transports the reader to Taiwan and is a book about memory, love, and landscape, about finding a home, about the distance between people and places and how they meet. 

The author uncovers letters written by her immigrant grandfather that take her from Canada to her ancestral home in Taiwan where she searches for her grandfather's story while learning about the land that he grew up on. She hikes and bikes and swims. She learns about the mountains and the flatlands, the flora and the fauna. She discovers the similarities between natural stories and human stories that created her family and this island. The book is about the world of nature but it also looks at the colonial exploration of Taiwan. It "encompasses history, travel, nature, and memoir."

Rated 4.1 out of 5 by Amazon readers and 3.6 out of 5 by Goodreads readers.

The reviewer on Bomb says, that this book is "A remarkable exercise in careful attention, be it to the nuances of language, the turns of colonial history, or a grandfather’s difficult-to-read handwriting, Two Trees Makes A Forest is a moving treatise on how to look closely and see truthfully, even as the fog rolls in."

Here's the official Canada Reads book trailer:




THE MIDNIGHT BARGAIN BY C.L. POLK

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

The Midnight Bargain transports the reader to Regency England. It is a fantasy novel set in a world that looks like Regency England where women must give up their ability to perform magic when they get married. Obviously, this means that you have something else to think about when you are a mighty sorceress and aspire to be the best female magician. In this book the main character wants to be come a full Magus and continue pursuing magic like men do but her family needs her to be a debutante during Bargaining Season and marry to save them financially. She finds the key to becoming a Magus but it is twisted up with the brother of a handsome, compassionate, wealthy man. The question becomes, will she become a Magus and ruin her family or will she marry the man she loves and give up her magic and identity? 

Rated 4.3 out of 5 by Amazon readers and 4.2 out of 5 by Goodreads readers.

Colleen Mondor on Locus says, "The witty exchanges are indeed sparkling and the verbal cuts are of the sharpest varieties. Polk is so clearly in her element that readers will be carried away by the sheer radiance of her smartly crafted prose and, like me, sorely miss Beatrice when they make that final and satisfying turn of the page."

Here's the official Canada Reads trailer for The Midnight Bargain:




HENCH BY NATALIE ZINA WALSCHOTS 

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Hench transports the reader to the world of superheroes and villains. As a young woman working as a temporary office employee, she finds a great job as a hench. Howver, things go wrong, the hero leaves her injured and she gets laid off. Using her internet prowess, she finds out that what happened to her is not unique and when she shares her story, she no longer feels powerless. She discovers that the differences between good and evil may boil down to marketing, which she knows how to manipulate. When she is once again employed, albeit this time to one of the worst villains out there, she discovers she could save the world. 

This book is a novel of love and betrayal and revenge and redemption. It is a look at the cost of justice via "a fascinating mix of Millennial office politics, heroism measured through data science, body horror, and a profound misunderstanding of quantum mechanics." 

The readers on Amazon gave this book a 4.5 out of 5 and the readers at Goodreads gave it a 4.15 out of 5.

In the promotional information about the book, Seanan McGuire says "Hench is fast, furious, compelling and angry as hell." On NPR, Jessica P. Wick says, "Although the author tackles serious issues like how women are treated in the workplace, or how friendships might splinter under the weight of fear, Hench is steeped in the glorious campiness of Golden and Silver Age superheroes. There are lava guns! Mind control devices! Costumes! Lairs! Supercars! Awe! Names like Doc Proton, the Accelerator, the Tidal Four, Electric Eel, the Cassowary, the Auditor. It's fun. It's emotional. It feels like a friend. But it's not comforting. I think it might be terribly honest, and I honestly can't wait to see what Natalie Zina Walschots does next with the genre."

Here's the official book trailer for Hench:




JOHNNY APPLESEED BY JOSHUA WHITEHEAD 


Johnny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

Johnny Appleseed takes us to the world of an Indian glitter princess. Our main character is trying to forge a life off of the reserve in the big city and becomes a cybersex worker in order to survive. He has to go back to the 'rez' and his former world for the funeral of his stepfather. What follows are seven days. Seven days full of stories that include "love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition and heartbreaking recollection of his beloved grandmother." As he readies to return home, he figures out how to put together his life in this look at "First Nations life which is full of grit, glitter, and dreams."

Amazon reviewers give Johnny Appleseed a 4.3 out of 5 and reviewers on Goodreads, a 4.1 out of 5.

The Globe and Mail says, "Despite its often serious subject matter, Jonny Appleseed is a very funny book, in the same way that Indigenous people themselves are often very funny despite our traumas. In that way, reading this book felt to me like home. Every line felt like being back on Six Nations, laughing with my family, even though I was in my apartment in Brantford. With its fluid structure and timelines, Jonny Appleseed creates a dream-like reading experience – and with a narrator as wise, funny and loveable as Jonny, it’s the sort of dream you don’t want to wake up from."

Here's the official book trailer for Johnny Appleseed:




AND THE WINNER IS...


After five sessions of debate that you can watch on CBC by clicking right here, the panel voted Johnny Appleseed as the winner. In my mind, though I have yet to read any of these books and they may not all appeal to everyone, these books are all winners in their own ways.  

Here is the highlights reel from the five debates. It gives a further insight into each of the books, into the passion behind the individual presenting the book and into the varied and interesting stories written within.



That's it. The 2021 Canada Reads book list. There are a bunch of books here that I would never have picked randomly but some of the storylines and some of the reviews from other individuals have left me thinking that I might read them. How about you? Are there any books on this list that you find intriguing? Any that you have read?

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

QUICK LINKS:



CBC's Canada Reads Book List 2021






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Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Moonlight Child - Book Review

 

Things just aren't adding up.  Late one night, while out on her patio watching a lunar eclipse, Sharon spies what appears to be a very small child washing dishes in the kitchen of the house across her back yard fence.  How can that be?  The neighbors don't have a child that young.  And even if they did, why would she be doing dishes hours past her bedtime?  

Perhaps it is nothing, but what if it isn't?  Sharon Lemke finds herself wondering if her imagination is merely running wild.  Soon, though, when Niki, an eighteen-year-old who has recently aged out of the foster care system comes to live with her, Sharon's concerns become shared.  

As it has been said, it takes one to know one, and Niki knows plenty about what it means to be endangered.  The clues are pinging Niki's internal radar system.  She isn't willing to leave things to chance if there is a child who may be at risk.  

Though Sharon has followed proper channels (notifying the appropriate social services authorities about the unusual circumstance next door), bureaucratic wheels often turn much too slowly for those fearing the worst.

Niki and Sharon decide to take matters into their own hands.  Can they pull off a clandestine investigation without endangering themselves or others?  Is there something sinister at play here? What will happen if they are caught in the act of spying on neighbors who may not be what they outwardly appear to be?  

For me, an exceptional book is one that makes me care.  I was all in shortly after being introduced to Sharon, Niki, Mia, Jacob, and Griswold.  There was so much to love about the redemptive moments.  Of course, there are individuals you will likely despise.  Every powerful story needs that counterbalance.  

I came away from this read thinking about the people who pay attention when they feel something isn't right.  Not only that, I reflected on the difference between those who act on their intuition and those who do not.  This story drove home for me the necessity of being a noticer who actually does something for the lost and the unseen individuals of the world.

I highly recommend The Moonlight Child by Karen McQuestion.  








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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Antoine Laurain's Vintage 1954 Book Reviewed

Antoine Laurain's Vintage 1954

I usually know exactly how I am going to start a book review before I even put the book down. However, that was not the case with the book Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain because I was concerned that speaking of any of the individual moments in the book would ruin the fun surprises.

Inspired by the tagline on the front of the book I decided I would simply ask, “What would you do if you could travel to the Paris of your dreams. In 1954?” That is exactly what happens in this book though it is definitely a case of time travel for entertainment purposes and not a scientific look at time travel.

Four residents of a Parisian apartment building meet and, after sharing a very special bottle of 1954 Beaujolais, they discover that it has, as the back cover of the book says, special properties. They wake up the next morning in 1954 with some of them temporarily unaware of the difference and others instantly aware that things are not as they should be.

The characters are an interesting mix that includes a man whose family originally owned almost all of the apartments in the building, an antique restorer, a mixologist and an American tourist who is renting an Airbnb. It is through each of their perspectives that we see Paris of the 1950s.

NB Magazine put it perfectly when they say that, "the comedy is gentle and slightly absurd and that there are many clever vignettes and sketches that enrich the novel." I totally agree. Vintage 1954 is a lightweight but charming, entertaining and sometimes funny book that is RECOMMENDED by me. 

The book was exactly what I and perhaps even you need right about now. It is historical fiction of a different sort. It is quirky or whimsical. It is a romantic book but one in which the romance stems from the setting and the storytelling rather than the fact that two of the characters in the book discover that they love each other. Some might call it a good summer read.

In my mind, there is nothing dark or nasty about it at all though there is a sex scene and the drinking of alcohol. The book is a chance for a trip to Paris from the comfort of your armchair and an opportunity to see and think about some of the contrasts between the Paris of 2017 and the Paris of 1954 and of course, simply the contrasts between those years wherever you may be. The world is a very different place today than it was then.

I enjoyed meeting the characters, seeing Paris through each of their individual lenses, seeing the city of lights in a different time and having the opportunity to meet some of the celebrities who frequented 1950s Paris. I am not naming the celebrities so that you can enjoy them when you meet them in the book.  I was surprised at the very end of the book when the author managed to squeeze in a little life lesson for each of them.

How about it? Would you like to travel back to 1954 or to read this book? Find your copy of or learn more about Vintage 1954 on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy your copy of Vintage 1954 on Amazon.
The Time Traveler’s Wife movie review.
An American in Paris movie review.
Discover French Kiss, the ultimate romantic movie soundtrack
Pam Jenoff's Lost Girls of Paris book review. 









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Thursday, February 4, 2021

Six Weeks To Live - Book Review

Imagine going into a routine doctor's appointment and learning you have six weeks to live.  For most of us, that would be the worst news ever.  Though it is an unexpected and terrible diagnosis for forty-eight-year-old Jennifer Barnes, the real shock is yet to come.  

To cope with an anonymous, random killer like brain cancer is hard enough.  To suspect that the real killer is someone she once loved, makes everything that much more devastating.  With the end so near, will there be time to discover the truth?  

Catherine McKenzie's upcoming release, Six Weeks To Live, is stunning suspense that explores how family secrets, deception, and revenge is a cancer far more potent than glioblastoma.

Jennifer's family members doubt her sanity.  Surely, the brain cancer is warping her mind.  One would have to be losing it to believe her husband, the father of her children, could do something as diabolical as poisoning her.  It's crazy.  Or is it?

There is plenty of motive.  Jennifer's estranged husband has been relentlessly hammering her for a divorce, which she refuses to give him.  He and his new girlfriend are harboring a secret, which is more than reason enough to want to knock off the wife standing in the way of their happily ever after.  

Dare we hope Jennifer's grown girls, a complex set of triplets, might come on board to help her track down an explanation for mysterious lab results predating her terminal diagnosis?  Isn't it the least a mother can expect when things turn dire?  If only family dynamics and relationships were that easy.  

Time is very quickly running out.  Who, or what, will win in the end?  Can there even be a win in this situation?  

Six Weeks To Live is the best novel I have read all year.  You will want to pre-order your copy now.  It releases on May 4, 2021.  I received a digital galley from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  My sincere thanks to the publisher, Atria Books, and the author, Catherine McKenzie, for this deeply satisfying reading experience.  












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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Jeffrey Siger's The Mykonos Mob (Island of Secrets) Reviewed

Jeffrey Siger’s The Mykonos Mob

My accidental introduction to Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis via Jeffrey Siger’s tenth book, The Mykonos Mob, came about because of the pandemic. Limiting trips to public places means that my husband has become the designated library picker upper. Most of our library books are requested in advance online and then picked up when they are available but on this particular day I felt like reading something different and my husband left home with instructions to find me something different to read. Maybe something that was recent. Maybe a mystery or a thriller. 

He came home with a number of options including this one, The Mykonos Mob, which follows Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis who leaves Athens for the Greek island of Mykonos. To those not very familiar with Greece, like myself, Mykonos is a Greek island with a thriving tourist industry and a reputation. That is, a reputation for a busy beach scene and lots of nightlife. It is considered an international playground and may not necessarily be the kind of vacation I would be looking for but is interesting as a destination nevertheless.

In this book, Kaldis works to solve the murder of a corrupt former police officer who now runs a protection racket on Mykonos. We meet the main players who include Kaldis, his Special Crimes unit, his wife and an interesting American woman who has transplanted herself to Mykonos and who plays piano in a bar at night and solves local crimes during the day.

As an armchair traveler, I don’t think any of my ‘trips’ have included Greece. This book offered a look at the seedy underbelly of the island but also at some Greek culture. It is not a travel guide nor a travel book per se and some parts of the life reflected in this book might have you thinking you do not want to visit Mykonos but it was interesting to learn about some of the issues of life in Greece and in particular on Mykonos. The author, Jeffrey Siger, left a career as a Wall Street lawyer in New York to live on the Aegean Greek island that is Mykonos and to write books like this one. It is intentional that they share a fast moving story and some real life Greece.

RECOMMENDED?


I enjoyed The Mykonos Mob and yes, I do recommend it. I enjoyed the look into life in Greece, a place that I would like to visit one day, and I liked the main characters. I will be reading the rest of this series. I think this book would suit any man or woman who enjoys a good murder mystery as well as someone with an interest in life in modern-day Greece.

Jeffrey Siger’s Island of Secrets

BOOK LIST


Here’s the order you should read the books. Note that this book, The Mykonos Mob, is number ten in the series. Starting with number ten is not my usual style and I doubt it is yours. Another important note is that the book name was changed to Island of Secrets when it was released in paperback.

Murder in Mykonos
Assassins of Athens
Prey on Patmos
Target
Mykonos After Midnight
Sons of Sparta
Devil of Delphi
Santorini Caesars
An Aegean April
The Mykonos Mob (Island of Secrets in paperback)
A Deadly Twist

Find your Jeffrey Siger book on Amazon in hardcover, paperback or Kindle by clicking right here.

Do you like a good murder mystery?  Have you read any good fiction books set Greece that you would recommend, mystery or otherwise?

See you
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy The Mykonos Mob (or any of Jeffrey Siger’s books) here on Amazon.
Jeffrey Archer’s False Impressions Reviewed.
The Coffee House Mysteries reviewed.
Death Takes A Spin: An Upcycling Mystery reviewed.










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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

James Patterson's The Christmas Mystery Book Review and Book List

James Patterson The Christmas Mystery Book Review

Christmas 2020 was not going to be the best Christmas ever and so I went looking for a Christmas-themed book that wasn't romantic in nature or particularly Hallmark in style though don't get me wrong, I enjoy Hallmark Christmas movies. A little bit of romance would have been okay but that should not be central to the story.

I wound up searching for some of my favorite writers, looking to see if they had written any Christmas stories but striving to avoid jumping into the middle of an established series. I found a few when I searched for James Patterson. Five to be exact and here is the list:

THE CHRISTMAS WEDDING


First, there was The Christmas Wedding by Patterson and Richard DiLallo. It was suitably Christmas-y but seemed at first glance to be way too romantic to meet my needs at the moment. I would, however, like to read it some day.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALEX CROSS


Second up was Merry Christmas, Alex Cross, which sounds good. However, it is number 19 in a series of 28 books featuring Detective Alex Cross. I have read some of that series and am reminded to go back and read more but picking up number 19 because it was Christmas in theme would have been, at least in my mind, wrong.

THE 19TH CHRISTMAS


Third was the 19th Christmas by Patterson and Maxine Paetro. It is book 19 of a 21 book series featuring the Women's Murder Club. I'd love to read the series sometime so starting with book 19, even if it is a Christmas story, would have been as I said a moment ago, wrong.

THE CANDIES SAVE CHRISTMAS


Fourth and really an outlier was The Candies Save Christmas. It was definitely not what I was looking for though the idea of the book actually made me smile. It sounds like an sweet book though one aimed at a slightly different age group than I represent. "No sugar, no fat. C’mon, take a look! The best Candies ever . . . Candies in a book!" In a children's board book that premise seems somewhat adult but in any case it was not what I was looking for.

THE CHRISTMAS MYSTERY


Finally, I stumbled on The Christmas Mystery: A Detective Luc Moncrief Mystery by Patterson and Richard DiLallo. It turned out to be a part of a series, too, but this time it is the middle of a three story series of short novels or 'bookshots' as Patterson calls them.

Since I was having a bit of a time finding a Christmas-themed book that appealed to me, I decided that a bookshot, which is intended to be devoured in a few hours and supposed to be un-put-downable, was what I was going to read. So I did.

Within the pages of The Christmas Mystery, I was introduced to Detective Luc Moncrief. Moncrief is from France but is solving crime in New York City, which is a bonus for me. I visited New York City last year and loved it. Revisiting the city through a book, a puzzle or a movie is a fun outing of sorts in this time of staying home and staying safe. 

In the first section of this book, Detective Moncrief and his partner hunt for art thieves who have stolen priceless pieces of art on Park Avenue. The second section takes them to France providing yet another chance for the reader to partake in some armchair travel. The cases in this 160-page book are simpler than you would find in a full-fledged crime novel and were solved fairly easily. 

James Patterson Christmas Mystery Book Review List

WOULD I RECOMMEND IT?


The Christmas Mystery was far, far from James Patterson's best work and the reviews on Amazon are lukewarm. It was a simple, easy read with a hint of Christmas, lots of shopping and some humor.  It was not as exciting or as well developed as a full novel but I think that should be expected of a shorter book. The book suited my needs at the moment and I would recommend it for someone looking for exactly that - a simple story that they could breeze through fairly quickly. 

Find your copy of all three of the Detective Luc Moncrief bookshots on Amazon by clicking right here. You will find all three from the series available individually or as a set and yes, they are available in your favorite format be that paperback, Kindle or audiobook.

What Christmas books are you cozying up with this year?

See you at 
the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

P.S. The next book I picked up was Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan. It was totally a love story though I did not see that coming. I was hooked by the promise of yet another book set in New York City and missed that the pages were going to be filled with romance. It was good with a lot of humor and lots of tension, including sexual suspense and eventually actual sex between the two main characters. Learn more about Miracle on 5th Avenue on Amazon by clicking here.

More James Patterson Reading:

James Patterson's The Golf Trilogy Reviewed.







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Ian Rankin's Knots and Crosses Book Review

Knots & Crosses: Tartan Noir Crime Novel by Ian Rankin 

In 2019, I was introduced to Ian Rankin via Carleton University’s Learning in Retirement program, Classics of Detective Fiction: From the 1960s to Today. I really enjoyed Rankin's Black and Blue, which was the book we read but only recently returned to start at the beginning of the series and read Knots and Crosses.

When Rankin wrote Knots and Crosses in 1987 he thought he had written a standalone crime detective novel and had even planned on killing Detective Rebus at the end of the book. Success for Rankin and Rebus was not fast in coming. After publishing Knots and Crosses to little fan fare, Rankin put Rebus aside and moved on to write his next book with no idea that he would eventually return to Rebus' world and that he would still be writing books for the series in 2020

Knots and Crosses Book Review
Anyway, I read Knots and Crosses. I really enjoyed it. I recommend it. Need I say more? Well, yes, I suppose I should because you may not have read anything by Ian Rankin and you may not have seen my earlier review of the eighth book in the series, Black and Blue.

I wrote about the number of covers that the eighth book has had and you won't be surprised to hear that this book also has had many covers. I had to work a bit to find a picture of the original cover, which I believe the image at the bottom of this page to be since Rankin describes the original cover as having knots and crosses on it and this is the only one that fits that description. 

Knots and Crosses is a classic detective story with a strong plotline. It was written in 1987 and based firmly in the Scotland of the time. It is considered British Realism Noir or Tartan Noir as it was written by Scottish writers and is set in Scotland. The Scottish story has style elements from other American and European crime writers of the same time period. 

Detective Rebus is a former Special Air Service (SAS) officer now doing police work and coping with a difficult past in a very destructive manner. Typical to noir, he is a working class main character who doesn't have ordinary heroic qualities like idealism, courage and morality. He's a drinker and a smoker and does not have many friends nor successful relationships. He is not above stretching the law in an effort to solve the case he is working on, which is also common in gritty, noir detective novels. 

Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin
Because Knots and Crosses is the first book in the series, we are given the back story of Detective Rebus while he attempts to solve the nasty case of a serial murderer who is killing young girls and advertising that fact to the police.

REVIEWS


"Most of Knots and Crosses is claustrophobically situated inside his mind – and it’s a lonely, uncomfortable place. His asperity, his broken marriage, his drinking, his cold flat, his falling asleep in chairs because he can’t quite drag his tired hide into bed … Perhaps you could argue that these too are the stuff of cop cliché. But they feel real here. He feels like a character with weight. Rankin...nails the essentials."  I agree with The Guardian, Rebus seems perfectly developed in this story.

Another review on The Guardian says, "It is not always easy to read because of the context, but it grips you so hard that it feels compulsory to read on..."  Yes, this book has some uncomfortable moments but it will have you wanting to know who did it and you will read on.

Ian Rankin's First Book, Knots & Crosses
Finally, in the year that this book was written, Kirkus said, "Solidly drawn characters, keen psychological insights and an intriguing, well-knit plot—along with a rather florid but individual writing style—make Rankin a newcomer to watch." More than twenty successful novels later, I say they were right with that prediction. 

Knots and Crosses comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me.

WHO WILL LIKE KNOTS & CROSSES? 


If you enjoy a well-written detective novel, I believe that you will enjoy this one. It is a crime fiction classic now and it is immensely readable. It does have violence, sex, drugs and murder but nevertheless I enjoyed the story, getting to know Detective Rebus a bit better in the process. For armchair travelers, it is also a look at the nice and the not-so-nice underbelly of Scotland's Edinburgh.

On Amazon, you will find Knots and Crosses by clicking here and all of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels by clicking right here.

See you at 
the book store! 
Brenda 
Treasures By Brenda 

Quick Links



Knots & Crosses Book Review

Ian Rankin's Knots and Crosses Book Review







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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey, A Book Review

Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey, A Book Review

Following the very successful novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes Heather Morris' 2019 book, Cilka's Journey. Yes, it is a sequel of sorts to the first book though it definitely stands alone. 

Frankly, this book is another dark look into a horrible time in man's history. That's to be expected based on the subject of the novel. Initially, I did not care for how the story flipped back and forth between the main character's time in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Germany and in her time in the Vorkuta Gulag Labor Camp in Russia but I quickly managed to overcome the darkness and the style and be absorbed by the very real characters in the story.

Cilka was sent to Birkenau when she was taken from her home at the age of 16 simply because she was Jewish and young and healthy and able to work. When Birkenau was liberated, she was tried and sent to the Siberian labor camp for having slept with the enemy. For her crime, she received a sentence of 15 years of hard labor. 

Whether the beautiful 16 year old really had any choice about whether to sleep with the enemy or not is debatable but the book is about her journey through and survival of both facilities. I don't need to say how unpleasant that situation was and I will not reveal how it ended.  Here's the official book trailer:


 


This second video is from the author and discusses albeit briefly the connection between this book and her first, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. 

Warning, this next video has LOTS OF SPOILERS but it does do a good job of telling you about the story.



FICTION OR NON-FICTION?

If you watched the preceding video, you know the answer to this question. Cilka's Journey is a fictional account of the true-life story of Cecília Kováčová. 

Of course, the story is filled out with details the author cannot really know but in large part it is said that the book is based on the conditions and situations people including Cilka found themselves living in at those two facilities. 

Descendants, however, declare the story to be outrageous calling it "lurid and titillating." They say that this is not the way Cilka shared her story to them.

The author defends the book saying that it is based on first-hand testimony given by people she interviewed and the experiences of women who were subjected to the life in those camps. She says, "It is a novel and does not represent the entire facts of Cilka's life." You can read more about the controversy here on The Guardian

In another interview with ABC, the author defends the disputed fact that women were used sexually in the camps and sums up with, "If it's all the same to you I think I'll go with their testimonies because they were there."


Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey Book Review


IS IT RECOMMENDED?

Yes, this book is HIGHLY RECOMMEND by me. The book has an average 4.39 stars on Goodreads and 92 percent of the reviewers on Amazon gave the book a five-star rating.

WARNINGS

Well, I feel that writing a warning about the unpleasant reading that comes in a book set in Nazi Germany and a Siberian Labor Camp in the 1940s is almost unnecessary I will say that this book deals with sex, starvation, murder.  The main character's work in the Labor Camp finds the reader face to face with terrible workplace accidents. It is definitely not nice but it is present and it is an intricate part of the story.  Plus, of course, there is the controversy of just how true this story really is.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK

Anyone who has an interest in historical fiction will enjoy the book, with consideration to the warnings given above. Anyone who read The Tattooist of Auschwitz and liked it will enjoy this book. As author Heather Morris says in the second video shown above, you should enjoy this book "not for the horror and evil that is included but for the humanity and the compassion and the love and the hope." I agree.

You can find your copy of Cilka's Journey on Amazon by clicking right here. Be sure to come back and let us know what you think of the book.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Robin Sloan's Sourdough, A Book Review

Sourdough Book Review

We love Sourdough. It is nearly unanimous in our book club. Not a cookbook, it is instead a funny story that is very readable, which is what we all need this year. It is a bizarre yet magical fairy tale of sorts set in today's world. It is about finding your passion and following it and about baking bread and the science of baking bread. In particular, it is about sourdough bread and the life of one computer programmer who learns to make some very special bread. 


BOOK SUMMARY

Robin Sloan's Sourdough Book Review
Author Robin Sloan reckons that Sourdough may be the first English book to feature a sourdough starter that has feelings as as an important supporting character.  The other main character is a lonely young woman named Lois who takes a programming job in San Francisco where she passes the days and nights of her life doing work that she does not care for. 

Eventually, Lois is finds an escape after repeatedly ordering takeout from a mysterious little café. The owners of the café serve up  combination of spicy soup and sourdough bread that is very comforting to Lois and that restores both her body and her soul. She becomes their Number One Eater or at least a very loyal, regular customer. However, her relationship with the café comes to an abrupt end but not before she takes ownership of the sourdough starter. The starter is alive, which means she has to look after it or it will die. 

Anyway, it turns out that this starter is quite special and Lois makes the best sourdough bread ever with it. Indeed it is so successful that she leaps head first into baking bread and the bread literally changes her life. It helps her to climb out of the low spot that she has been barely surviving in by introducing her to new people and giving her a passion project. 

Eventually the bread leads her to a farmer's market unlike the one you thought of when I said the words farmer's market. This market is a part of the underground economy. It is radical and it is filled with experimental foodstuffs. To be invited to this market means that there is something unusual about what you do and in Lois' case it is because of her story. That is a successful software programmer turned baker. What happens next? Well, let me just say it is all very unexpected and you will have to read the book to find out.

Sourdough is about San Francisco. It is about geeks, nerds, coders, secret societies, conspiracies, books and even about robots. It is a look at two kinds of culture: the worlds of high-tech culture and bread culture, which you might not think could collide. Finally and obviously, it's about bread.


IS IT RECOMMENDED?

Sourdough Bread Story by Robin Sloan
Yes! The book Sourdough  is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me though I am pretty partial to sourdough bread, too. The book may have bread as the focus but it is not boring. It is a work of fiction that is easy and light and might just make you happy. Consider what these others have had to say about the book:

The Guardian says, "Sourdough is a soup of skillfully balanced ingredients: there’s satire, a touch of fantasy, a pinch of science fiction, all bound up with a likeable narrator whose zest for life is infectious. The novel opens a door on a world that’s both comforting and thrillingly odd. Savour it."  I like this recipe and I did savour the book.

The L.A. Times says, “Sourdough displays both lightness and a yearning for escape, but only in the best sense." I agree. Lois is on an entertaining adventure that I was only too happy to go along on.

In her letter to the book blogger Nut Free Nerd (NFN) says, "You (the book) reminded me of the value of carving out time in a busy schedule to do the things you love, and that you never know where life will take you...You were so wacky and whimsical and witty and entertaining that I found myself constantly thinking about you in between reading you and I still find myself thinking about you all these weeks later." I'm with NFN. I was reminded to stop working and to make time for life and the things I love and enjoy and like NFN, I am still thinking about the book, still cultivating sourdough starter and still trying to make sourdough bread in my bread machine. 

Finally, here's a one-minute review of the book:


 

WARNINGS

Sourdough by Robin Sloan is a Good Loaf
Some prefer the first half of the book to the second as the second half takes a turn you might not see coming. I was okay with the twist, which is simply totally unexpected and not offensive in any way. There is really not a lot to be offended by in this book. There is some mild swearing and of course, this book will make you want to to eat or maybe even bake sourdough bread. There is the potential to gain weight if you find yourself needing sourdough bread. Finally, there is a lot of food wastage but at least, it's not real food that is being wasted and definitely no characters go hungry in the book. Slurry, anyone?

WHO WILL ENJOY THIS BOOK?

I think a lot of people will enjoy this book including but not limited to foodies and bread lovers, bakers and non-bakers and computer folk.  Anyone who is looking for something fun with an almost discernable scent of bread will enjoy it and as the L.A. Times says, anyone who is looking for a book that is "light but not trite" will find that this book rises to the occasion , pun intended. This book will entertain you and it might also leave you pondering which is a better of doing things - the traditional way or new and improved ways.

I recommend buying the hardcover copy of the book. It has a textured cover that glows in the dark, which is totally appropriate for the this book and the properties of the sourdough starter. Find your copy of Sourdough in whatever format you prefer on Amazon by clicking right here

Finally, I want you to admit that the loaf of sourdough bread in the introductory photograph was not baked by me. It is a product of the most amazing folk at Black Walnut Bakery in Cumberland near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

Quick Links:



Sourdough or, Lois and her Adventures in the Underground Market by Robin Sloan


A review of the novel about Sourdough bread by Robin Sloan








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