Canada Reads books: Part 1

March 2- March 8

On the Kindle, I started with Company Town, since it was most accessible from the US. As I started reading, I put in my order for the rest of the books, which arrived very quickly. Happily, I could read all the books at once, my favorite way to tackle the Canada Reads books!

I was delighted to find that Company Town is post-apocalyptic fiction, one of my favorite genres. The story was excellent, and the details of how lives might be enhanced by science not far into the future seemed entirely plausible, and fascinating. Plot twists were surprising, but believable, and I loved reading this whole book. After this one–I was hoping it would win the week. But I hadn’t read any of the others.

Next, I read Fifteen Dogs, also on the Kindle. An original take on the novel, this one follows the sometimes brief stories of 15 dogs who have been given the gift of language by some mischievous Gods. Brilliantly, this provides an opportunity to explore some philosophical questions about the meaning of life, defining happiness, and the role of consciousness and self-awareness in our lives. Can’t wait to hear the discussions on this one!

Stepped off the Canada Reads path to try Coffin Road, which I enjoyed immensely. A very satisfying thriller set on remote British islands, with bees, boats, and super twists.

I also read Behind Her Eyes, because I could download it on the Kindle when I ran out of other reading. I’m not sure what I think about it, to be honest. Lots of good, unexpected twists and turns, fascinating psychological insights, but I kept waiting for the ‘real life’ explanation, and it wasn’t that kind of book.

 

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The Wind and the Wolves

February 23-March 1

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is the lovely coming of age story of a girl who has lost her beloved uncle to AIDS, set in 1987. It’s fascinating and horrifying to see how people dealt with HIV—and those who were ill—not so very long ago. June’s story is difficult, but hopeful, and kept me engaged from start to finish.

I had picked up Before the Wind: A Novel in Canada on a trip some time ago, and it had languished in the tbr pile for a long while. Jim Lynch tells the story of a difficult and challenging family living in the Pacific Northwest.

As a psychologist friend once told me, a sailboat’s just a mechanism for a journey.

Perhaps, but from my mother’s vantage, a sailboat is a mechanism for transferring the motion of wind into the motion of water. The wind pushes the boat, the boat pushes the water.

The sailing aspects of the story were beautifully written, and accurate—which was excellent. Details of marina life, and boating characters, were amusing and rang true. The characters were so real to me I wanted to find out what they were doing now. Great story.

All these and Their Finest

February 16-22

Long Time Lost

I wanted a gripping mystery for this week, and to a great extent, this served the purpose. I ended up feeling that some of the protagonists were making unlikely choices near the end, to drive the plot, rather than fulfill their own stories. Good story, but didn’t hold me at the end.

We Are Called to Rise

This story made me cry. It brings together stories of unlikely allies. I loved the way the different threads were tied together at the end, bringing real characters, unique, but united in their humanity, together, with a strong message of hope. The Las Vegas background, as an ordinary place to grow up, provided a very interesting perspective too.

“What is most beautiful is least acknowledged.

What is worth dying for is barely noticed.”

 

The Woman Next Door

This story, by Yewande Omotoso, surprised and delighted me. It is set in Cape Town, and reveals the story of two women who live next door to each other, but despise each other, for a range of reasons. Circumstances lead to changes in their relationship, and the unfolding story of their interdependence is realistic and compelling.

California

Post-apocalyptic fiction, so appealing to me anyway, this story of a young couple struggling to survive in the wilderness was extremely satisfying. The conditions of the ‘apocalypse’ were frighteningly within the realm of the possible, and the subsequent journey also seemed real. This was a debut novel—I’ve downloaded her second to my Kindle and I’m eagerly awaiting her third, set to be released in May.

Their Finest

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I’m saving this one for my Mom, who lived through parts of the blitz in London as a young child. This novel tells the story of an aspiring writer, called in to add feminine touches to scripts for screenplays during the Second World War. It’s funny, poignant, and interesting.

A big week of haunting reading

February 9-15

I started this week with The Winter People. Apropos since we had a huge although brief, snowstorm. This is an eerie tale set in rural Vermont, following the story of a family and its connections through generations to a ghostly story based in (and near) an old farmhouse. Beautiful details, and some sweet family elements pulled me in to the weird and frightening ghost story.

The Natural Way of Things was astonishing and super scary. The beautifully written story of women locked away at an outdoor camp somewhere in Australia, it had a very Lord of the Flies feel to it, with Margaret Atwood overtones as well. I read this almost overnight, fascinated by the mystery of their arrival at the camp, and committed to finding out how it ended for the engaging women involved.

Dead Wake impressed me tremendously. I’d had it in the tbr pile for while, but have to be in the right frame of mind for nonfiction-type stories. This is the fictionalized story of the sinking of the Lusitania, with detailed research into naval warfare, the shipping business at the time, and the lives of families involved with the sinking. Fascinating, and horrifying. The details were tremendous, and the insights into the changing rules of warfare were illuminating.

The newest shipment from Just the Right Book, Kitchens of the Great Midwest followed the family and cooking lives of characters in the Midwest. A few recipes, lots of great stories, and a satisfying ending–loved it.

A House in the Sky was my re-read for book club, so it was mostly a skim this week. The story of a Canadian woman kidnapped in Somalia is gripping and brutal. We had a great discussion in book club, and it left me wanting to read the book by her fellow captive (Price of Life by Nigel Brennan) as well, just to learn more about the ordeal–or at least for a different perspective.

Family happiness, futuristic crime fiction, historical fiction: A bit of everything

February 2- 8

The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness

So I totallimg_7251y bought this book because I loved the cover. It started out as a light read, but I was completely pulled into the main character’s life as an adopted woman who finds out
she has a sister, and then begins to look for her birth mother. The story explores the different ways we belong in, and create, families throughout our lives. The characters are endearing but very real, and this book completely spoke to me.

Exploded View

Set in Los Angeles in 2050, this police procedural feels eerily accurate. In a world where people are constantly immersed in visual and virtual information transmitted through accessories, few experience the world in its raw state. I found the issues around fake news and setting up your own ‘bubbles’ of information fascinating given current events. The historical events between now and then were plausible, in a terrifying way. I loved the attention to detail, the characters, and the whole world of solving mysteries with a huge range of technological advantages at your fingertips—or in your glasses even.

The Ballroom

The cover of this book also was instantly compelling to me, and the story was haunting and beautiful. The tale of two lost souls who end up in an asylum, and find, then lose, each other again, had me staying up late and waking up early to read. The historical elements were on point, and the humanity of the characters was deeply moving. I loved everything about the story.

Iceland to LA with a lot of ground in between

January 25- February 1

Hillbilly Elegy

A colleague lent me this book, which I was eager to read given the reviews suggesting it would provide insight into Trump voters’ perspectives. The author is a Yale-educated lawyer who was raised in Appalachia and Ohio. He takes us through his youth, and we begin to understand the history and life choices affecting his extended family in both places. Parts of it highlighted the brutality of living in poverty, and it highlights the real and difficult challenges facing families trying to move up in the world, no matter how far away they move, geographically, from their origins. There were tears in my eyes before I finished the Introduction—and the story and writing were gripping from the start. Well worth the read, although I still have a lot of questions about those voters.

Burial Rites

Set in historic Iceland, this novel tells the story of a servant woman accused of murder, and waiting for execution by beheading. It is as gruesome and sad as you might expect, winding the reader into her life story, and the lives of the farm family hosting her until the execution date. This story provided amazing insights into how life must have been in the rugged hills of Iceland where farms were far apart, travel was difficult, and days were cold and dark.

The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga

January 22nd was the day I finished my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Course, so, better late than never, I started reading about how to create my own yoga business. It’ll start with me teaching friends at home, but at least I have some ideas about expansion in the future if I decide to go that route.

Angle of Investigation

Trapped on the train with my other book finished, I delved into the Kindle to find something that would suit my unsettled mood. I always love some Michael Connelly—intelligent crime fiction with compelling stories. This was three shorter stories in one e-book, and I think I had read it before, maybe 5 years ago. I enjoyed them all again, and it fit my reading needs.

Soul Mates: A novel

A very pragmatic friend of mine recommended this—I was surprised by her choice, and the recommendation, until I had read it all. She described it as a story about a married guy who falls in love with his yoga teacher. I was reading it on Kindle, so I got a lot of Romance recommendations on the home screen during the read, but the book was not at all what I expected. More like a detective story, it focuses on the journey of his ex-wife to find out what happened to him after he comes to a bad end. There is lots of yoga—with a really interesting (and maybe a tiny bit snarky, regarding the husband’s yoga experience) perspective. The ending surprised me, and I was pretty engaged in the story all the way through.

We All Looked Up + More

January 18-25

Mercury: A Novel, by Margot Livesay, was an interesting break from my other reading. The story, told from a husband’s perspective, illuminates a marriage gradually tearing apart because of the wife’s obsession with a horse at the stable where she works. I found the story compelling, the family interesting, and the insights into horse farm life appealing. There was so much foreshadowing before we got to the climatic event, I just wanted her to cut to the chase already.

The Sixth Idea is a murder mystery, part of a series, with an interesting conceptual base. I liked it enough to find out what happened, but since I haven’t followed the whole series, I was not entirely clear on the role of some players and groups, and how they had come into being.

Out of Bounds is a great mystery story, with details set in the past, but the story taking place in the present. The lead detective Karen Pirie is featured in Val McDermid’s series of books, and I enjoy following her life as a police detective. Details are good, twists in the story are good—and plausible, and I always want to find out how it ends. Hope there are lots more in this series.

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We all Looked Up: This is exactly the kind of book I love—something catastrophic is going to happen to the entire earth, and we see how some group of people reacts to that. In this YA novel it’s a group of teens. I really enjoyed following their different paths as they grappled with their individual terrors, family and peer group relationships, and decisions, while the world moved towards disaster.