Book Review Blitz- August

My mission this weekend is to get back on track, to get caught up on my book reviews and make a small dent in my accounts of author events.   These reviews are from the end of August when I had the luxury of some reading while we relaxed and explored New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  We had nightly family reading time as we wound down from days exploring, whale watching, hiking and visiting some tourist attractions.  I will note that although I really enjoyed the Anne of Green Gables and L.M. Montgomery sites, the kids were not as enamoured!

Here are some quick reviews from my August reading:

61.  People of the Book (Geraldine Brooks)

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 11.35.06 AMWhat a terrific story! I think I must be one of the few readers who has not already enjoyed this book.  I am not sure why I waited so long.!  It not only had engaging narrative but shared a dreadful history helping a reader understand the terrible legacy of the persecution of Jewish people throughout history.

The story was told through the viewpoint of young woman, a rare book expert, who worked to conserve a recently discovered Haggadah(a precious Hebrew manuscript) in Sarajevo.  As she finds clues within the book, the books history is revealed and the reader is introduced to brave Jewish individuals and families who attempted to preserve their culture and religion despite horrible circumstances.


62.  Educated (Tara Westover)

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 11.35.26 AMThe only way that I can describe this book, is t compare it to a train wreck.  It is disturbing to read the unbelievable tale of Westover’s childhood but you just can’t put the book down.  Her story is unbelievable and shocking.  It makes the reader angry to think of the neglect and abuse yet the reader can marvel at the the author’s irrepressible hopefulness, resilience and will to learn.

Westover was born into a Fundamentalist, Survivalist family that stocked up or the end of the world, storing away canned foods and supplies.  Although undiagnosed, her father (and the rest of the family) was impacted symptoms that likely represented bipolar disease.  The children were “homeschooled”, and I use that term loosely as they were often responsible for their own learning.  The family never sought medical attention despite severe significant accidents including trauma, burns and even head injuries.

Escaping the family home, she was astonished to learn about how other families lived.  She needed much counselling and support as she chose to embark on university education while losing the support of her family.  Remarkably, despite incredible odds, 3 children of this family would earn PhD’s estranging themselves from their family.

Educated makes a fantastic book club discussion!


63.  The Forgotten Road (Richard Paul Evans)

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 11.36.26 AMReaders may think of Christmas tales (like The Mistletoe Promise) when they see a book by Richard Paul Evans.  He has written over 35 books and writes stories that impart life lessons through fiction.

The Forgotten Road began when a successful pitchman missed his flight.  After a horrific plane crash, he was presumed dead.   Instead of declaring this near miss, he embarked on a pilgrimage.  He walked the famous Route 66, dealing with hardships like being robbed, working with migrant workers and learned lessons from the many interesting people that he met along the way.

Apparently, this is the second book of the trilogy which was an easy read.  I am not sure that I will go back and read the other two but I will likely pick up one of his Christmas stories in December to get into the holiday spirit.


64.  I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (David Chariandy)

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 11.35.55 AMI’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is a heartfelt and honest letter to the author’s 13 year old daughter.  It shares challenges and highlights of his experience growing up in Ontario with his Black/south Asian heritage.  He not only shares his experiences but imparts knowledge and a sense of identity for his daughter with hopes of her being proud of her heritage and confident as she grows into a  young woman.

After meeting David Chariandy at a One Book One London event and reading both Brother and I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You , I have a greater understanding of the perspective and the challenges that youth experience.  I hope that it will be easier for his daughter and the younger generations to live in the diverse communities of Ontario.


65.  The Saturday Night Ghost Club (Craig Davidson)

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 11.36.49 AMThis was a great coming of age story to read while we were camping in New Brunswick and PEI.  Set in Niagara Falls, it tells the story of a neurosurgeon looking back on his childhood, summer days and his relationship with his quirky Uncle.

The cover was terrific – a retro style look reminiscent of books that I read in my teen years!  Along with the cover,  I loved all the eighties references which will have readers reflecting back on their own childhoods, having the independence to bike with their friends, shopping at Woolco and sporting pencil cases with photos from the Goonies!

The topic is very relevant in a time when so many are dealing with mental health challenges and it gives readers perspective of the challenges people face and how they are impacted.

This is my second book by Craig Davidson and it shows the diversity of his writing.  Precious Cargo is a great memoir and I will eventually get to Cataract City which is sitting on my bookshelf!


66.  The Alice Network (Kate Quinn)

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 11.34.37 AMThe Alice Network is another great example of learning history through fiction.  It describes the bravery and strength of women acting as spies during the war which might not be widely known.

The novel is set after WWII when a young woman is struggling with an unwanted pregnancy.  Enroute to Switzerland to take care of her “little problem”, she escapes her mother’s judgemental guidance and sets out in London to find her beloved cousin who had not been in contact since WWII ended.  She meets a couple of unlikely allies as she searches, discovers the fate of her cousin and and slowly learns the heartbreaking story of a  female spy during WWI.

It is not only a quick read but a terrific story and the reader is treated to a synopsis of what is fiction and what is true history at the end of the book.  It is a novel that makes one learn about the quiet bravery and small missions that make a difference during the war.  A great book for YA girls too!

Watch for my September reviews coming soon!

 

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A Legacy of Little Free Libraries, Rest in Peace Todd Bol

Greetings readers,

I am sorry if you have been missing my reviews but don’t worry, I will be back soon!  Although I have been on hiatus, I did want to take a few minutes to recognize a literary hero.

Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 8.16.47 PM

credit to the Little Free Library website

Sadly, Todd Bol passed away today after a short illness with pancreatic cancer.  He was the founder of the Little Free Library organization which shared books around the world.  He leaves a legacy of over 75,000 Little Free Libraries in 88 countries which is an amazing way to share a love of reading!

This fabulous initiative began in 2009 when Bol built a LFL that was modelled after a one room schoolhouse, in Hudson, Wi.  The LFL was a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher, who loved reading.  His neighbours and friends loved it so he built several more to give away.  His original goal was to encourage the building of 2509 LFLs which has clearly been surpassed.

 

Check out LFLs near you on the world wide map.

Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 8.17.09 PMLittle Free Libraries keep sprouting up everywhere and in honour of the legacy Bol leaves, I encourage you to build a LFL to share books with your neighbours, add books to an existing, local LFL or share a book with a friend!

Need to know more?  Here is a link to my LFL page:  Franklin Street Little Free Library.

Rest in peace Todd Bol.

 

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Summer Blitz # 2 (59 & 60)

In an effort to get caught up on my book reviews, here is a snapshot of a couple more books that have been part of my summer reading.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 9.58.40 PM59. The English Patient (Michael Ondaajte)

Many of us have read or at least watched the movie, The English Patient. Originally published in 1992, it tells the story of an unidentified, badly burned man.  This man, presumed to be English, was being cared for by a Canadian nurse (Hana) in an abandoned hospital in Italy at the end of the war.  The couple was joined by Caravaggio, whose experience in the war is unclear but was a Canadian thief and by a Sikh Sapper named Kip who was assigned to disarm bombs left by Hitler’s troops as they abandoned Italy.

The odd group spends their evenings together, telling tales of their experiences and revealing their physical and emotional scars, as the story of the English patient is slowly revealed.

It was a great honour that Michael Ondaatje’s novel won the coveted Golden Man Booker Prize, earlier this year.  This award was chosen by the public who voted from a list of the last 50 Man Booker Prize winning books.

This was my second time reading the novel which slowly entranced the reader to keep turning the pages to discover the origin of the English patient and learn the circumstances leading up to his injuries.   Like his book Warlight, published earlier this year, the readers are treated to a different perspective of the days following the war and learn a bit about history as they delve into the well-described characters.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 9.57.27 PM60.  The Sickness (Alberto Barerra Tyska)

In preparation for my September book club meeting, I borrowed The Sickness from the library.  Our theme for this month is Venezuela, celebrating the heritage of one of our members.  The novel is set in Venezuela yet the challenges of losing a parent are universal.

It was a quick read and but I struggled with the logistics of consent and the sharing of information.  Perhaps the medical system is different in Venezuela but it was surprising that results would be provided to the son of a capable patient leaving him the difficult task of sharing the bad news.  As he debated whether to deliver the  life limiting prognosis to his father, one of his patients was dealing with his hypochondria and attempting to gain advice from the doctor.

It was an interesting story but I struggled with finding the threads between the two story lines and was hoping for more closure at the end.  I do look forward to our discussion both about issues of death and dying and learning more about the country of Venezuela.

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58. Starlight (Richard Wagamese)

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 12.00.33 AMThank you to Allie McHugh at Penguin Random House for sharing an advance reader copy of Starlight in exchange for an honest review.  I had been patiently waiting to learn more about Frank Starlight and understand what had happened after Medicine Walk ended.

The late Richard Wagamese is one of my most favourite authors! Canada has lost an amazing story teller, one who shared his own struggles and whose characters portray the generational devastation from residential schools, the sixties scoop and government assimilation policies.  His beautiful prose leads to learning, acceptance and understanding while highlighting the importance of healing, forgiveness and the ability to start fresh.

Sadly, Richard Wagamese passed away in the midst of writing Starlight.  This novel is the sequel to Medicine Walk and is another book that all Canadians should read (along with mention Indian Horse and Ragged Company)!  I love that the publisher has stayed true to his words, publishing the story as he wrote it and not creating an ending on his behalf.  The story may have ended before the reader was ready, but I appreciate the publishers note at the end, explaining what his family and friends had understood about his plans to end the book.  This was authentic and respectful of this amazing storyteller who left the world too soon.

Starlight continues the tale of Frank Starlight.  He remains on the farm, working the land and supporting a friend.  Sadly, the old man had passed away but he had left a legacy through his quiet love, teachings and the land which he left to Frank.  Life changed dramatically when he offered shelter to a woman named Emmy and her daughter who had escaped a violent relationship.

Through Frank’s calm demeanour and his love of the land, he helps the pair rebuild their confidence and happiness.  He shares his art of nature photography and slowly they learn to trust each other despite Emmy’s worry of her past coming back to haunt her.

After finishing the story, I was left wanting more.  Many times, I felt like I wanted to pick up the book and continue with these characters that I had grown to respect and appreciate.  Wagamese’s art was not only telling a story but building amazing characters that seemed real and stayed with the reader after the books were closed.

I am so sorry that this is the last works of the great Richard Wagamese and hope that he is at peace knowing that his stories are making a difference.  Through fiction, he is helping change the narrative of Canada as readers become allies by learning more about the terrible mistakes of the past and learn to support the work towards reconciliation.

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Summer Blitz (books 50 to 58)

With apologies to my book followers, this summer has been filled with beautiful, sunny days and I have been a bit slow with my book reviews!  In order to catch up, I am doing a summer blitz, grouping together some shorter reviews into one post.


Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 9.28.04 AM50.  Emily Climbs (L.M. Montgomery) – For a long time, I have meant to discover the Emily stories after enjoying the Anne of Green Gables series.  I was not disappointed, see the combined review of the 3 books in the series: here

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 3.39.01 PM51.  Still Waters (Amy Stuart)

I have been privileged to meet Amy Stuart twice.  She is gracious in sharing her encouragement to other writers and could be the woman next door.  She is a mom (of boys) so we know that she is busy, and a teacher, yet has been able to publish not one, but two novels!  She is a role model for her family and for aspiring writers.

I enjoyed reading her first novel, Still Mine, which was a book that kept me turning the pages, anxious to learn the plight of the girl who had disappeared.  In Still Waters, Clare returns as an inept investigator, nursing her wounds from Still Mine and hoping to uncover what happened to a missing woman and her young son.  As Clare becomes enmeshed in the community of High River she discovers that everyone has a secret!

This book is the second in a trilogy and I am looking forward to the next instalment!

Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 9.35.40 AM52.  Emily’s Quest (L.M. Montgomery)  – this is the culmination of the Emily series and describes the adulthood of Emily who has become a successful author.  See review here

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 4.05.16 PM53.  The Breadwinner (Deborah Ellis)

It was terrific to meet Deborah Ellis at the Brantford Public Library where she shared her experiences,  as an author, travelling to other countries and helping others that are less fortunate, to a crowd of adults and children.  I had never read any of her books which are geared to middle-grade students and enjoyed the tale of Parvana, a young, Afghan girl, taking great risks to support her family after her father was put in jail by the Talib.

The book is a great introduction to injustice in the world and should help students realize how lucky they are to live in Canada.  The author’s commitment to assist others is evident in that all the royalties from The Breadwinner are donated to Women for Women in Afghanistan which is a charity dedicated to the education of Afghan girls in refugee camps in Pakistan.

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 4.16.45 PM54.  The Story Girl (L.M. Montgomery)

As I slowly enjoy the novels written by the beloved author, Lucy Maude Montgomery, I listened to the audio version of The Story Girl.  Unlike the Anne and Emily characters, the children in this book are not orphans.  They are spending a summer with their cousins while their father works (it was not all rosy as they had experienced the loss of their beloved mother).  The children enjoy time exploring Prince Edward Island and are kept under the spell of the Story Girl who weaves elaborate tales to keep them occupied.  The Story Girl is a book that kept me smiling and thinking of a simpler time when children played outside, shared stories and were not held captive by the technology of computers, cell phones and video games.  It was a delightful “read” as I discover other books written by of L.M. Montgomery.

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 4.20.15 PM55.  The Great Atlantic Bucket List (Robin Esrock)

As we considered our summer plans, we enjoyed pursuing The Great Atlantic Bucket List which shared many fun experiences on the East Coast.  The author had clearly enjoyed all of the locations and adventures including whale watching, kayaking and forward-facing repelling down a cliff.  The book contained many ideas for dining, travel and enjoying a family vacation.  It is a great resource for anyone considering a trip to the Canadian Maritimes!

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 4.31.38 PM56.  The Plant Paradox (Stephen Gundry)

In my efforts to live a healthy lifestyle, I was curious about the Plant Paradox.  It was written by a doctor, actually a cardiac surgeon, so one would think that it would have been supported by peer reviewed research.  Although there were some interesting ideas at the beginning of the book, I grew more and more disillusioned as I listened further into the narrative.  The author completely lost me when he spoke of plants “protecting themselves”, of his patients who had been able to cure themselves from cancer through diet and how ALS patients could stall their disease from progressing.  I am glad that this was a borrowed audio book as I would not have liked to support this kind of writing at a time when many are looking for quick fixes to weight loss challenges.

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 4.45.45 PM57.  Cat’s Eye (Margaret Atwood)

Cat’s Eye was our July book club pick.  Meetings during the peak holiday season have limited attendance and of the 4 of us, who were able to join, none of us had finished the book by the meeting date.  I would go on to be the only one to finish the book which was chosen in honour of Canada Day.

It was not my favourite Atwood book to read but I did enjoy the way she focused on the richly described characters with little focus on plot.  Written in 1988, it was a slow read taking me two weeks to finish, but her prose is so lovely and I was left pondering the experience of Elaine Risley as she participated in a showing of her art and reflected back on her unique childhood experiences, the cruelty of young girls and her experiences with past lovers that led her to her art.

Margaret Atwood is speaking at Stratford and I am looking forward to hearing this energetic author speak in September!

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 5.04.07 PM58.  The Outsider (Stephen King)

No author can rival the great Stephen King for his creepy tales that keep readers on edge!  I still remember sneaking his book, Christine, under the covers and reading into the wee hours of the night as a young teen… regretting it later when my parents left in the middle of the night to go to the hospital, leaving me in charge of my younger brothers, in our country home… thinking of that devilish car!

Until I was finished, I had not realized that this book was linked to his Mr. Mercedes trilogy.  I was kept hostage reading for two days until I had finished the thick book and was left thinking about the arrest of Terry Maitland, popular Little League coach.  The case seemed cut and dried with Terry’s DNA all over the victim and crime scene until their was plausible evidence of Terry’s alibi including DNA and sightings at a conference.

In true Stephen King style, the reader is kept turning the pages, trying to understand what supernatural events are occurring and who is responsible.  After reading The Outsider, I will now have to circle back to the Mr. Mercedes series.


These are a few reviews of my summer reading.  What are you reading?  What have been your favourite summer reads?  Have you read and enjoyed any of the books in this post?  Please feel free to comment below and enjoy the last couple of weeks of summer reading before the frenetic back to school days begin!

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48. Marilla of Green Gables (Sarah McCoy)

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 3.12.24 PMAs a lifelong fan of the Anne of Green Gables series (written by L.M. Montgomery), I was thrilled to receive an advanced reader copy of Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy.  Thank you to William Morrow Publishers and Harper Collins for sharing this novel, for an honest review, which delves into the early life of Marilla.  This provides insight into her childhood, her adolescence and her young adult years, long before she adopted and was touched by the precocious, red-head, Anne with an “e”!

Fans of Anne of Green Gables will come to understand Sarah McCoy’s version of what led Marilla to her straight-laced, stern approach to child-rearing.  Readers are introduced to the 13 year old Marilla in 1837 as she awaited the arrival of her Aunt Izzy who had come to assist the family as they looked forward to the arrival of the next Cuthbert baby.

With the help of Aunt Izzy, Marilla learns to make red currant wine and hones her dress-making skills.  She is also influenced by her Aunt’s strong independent streak.  The young Marilla experiences a great loss, takes on household responsibilities and sacrifices her happiness and a chance at love due to her own stubbornness.

It was interesting that this character would be linked to the Underground Railroad.  This was an unexpected twist which I am still pondering.  The Underground Railroad led many slaves to freedom but I had not been aware of a Prince Edward Island connection.  It is intriguing to consider whether the proper Marilla would have become involved in this rescue and makes for a thought-provoking storyline.

Overall, I loved the book!  I have enjoyed rereading Anne of Green Gables and finishing the entire 8 book series so it was a treat to consider the experiences that had formed the severe but kindly Marilla Cuthbert.  In many ways, this book was an opportunity to reflect on a book that I had enjoyed in my childhood, much like revisiting Laura Ingalls in Caroline: Little House Revisited.

Marilla of Green Gables is the first book that I have read that has been written by Sara McCoy and I will be keeping my eyes open for her other novels.  I chuckled to read that her dog is named Gilbert – after Anne’s beloved tormentor (later her husband)!

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47. One Story, One Song (Richard Wagamese)

Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 10.43.03 AM“Stories build bridges to undiscovered countries – each other”.

Richard Wagamese was a huge loss to #CanLit but his beautiful stories will endure and resonate.  It is not surprising that Joseph Boyden described him as a “national treasure”.  One Story, One Song is a collection of his experiences and life lessons where the reader is treated to his honesty, insight and perspective which was inspired by his challenging life.

Written by Wagamese, at the age of 54, this is a terrific book to pick up and savour a couple of stories at a time.  It is divided into directions:

East – Humility which he described as the “ability to see yourself as part of something larger… as the great, grand clamour of our voices, our spirits raised together in song”.  In this section he spoke of the bears and the sacred places on the land which grounded him.  It was interesting to learn that he and his spouse bought and renovated a rooming house, removing the active addicts and supporting those that struggled who were “victims of life’s rampant unpredictability”.  He speaks of improving the building both through hard work and paint as well as by hearing the stories of the tenants and helping to make their lives more positive.

South – Trust which he defines as “the ability to open  yourself up for teachings” where he talks about his marriage and his experience learning about the land while living in a foster home.  Even thought the books was written in 2011, his message of not “deliberating on our differences” but using “language to unite us, not divide us”  is an essential message as we deal with current governments, both in the United States and even within Ontario that require lessons in inclusivity and the importance of diversity.

West – Introspection is described as a place of vision, of understanding how teachings can change lives and provide balance.  Highlights of this section include a traditional story of the loon who’s call is to remind us to pay attention and be aware of the teachings.  He shared some of his experience as a journalist covering First Nations issues and how, sadly, so little has changed.  He spoke of the importance of connection, silence (time to reflect) and indulged the reader in describing his writing place.

North – Wisdom is the culmination of teaching and the importance of sharing the learning with others.  He wrote about finding help to understand and worth through his feelings of “unworthiness” and described the love he has discovered with his wife, Debra.  The anecdotes described the care that they have for their tenants and how they try to touch their lives as well as important people along the way, like a teacher who gave him a picture of Martin Luther King when he was being bullied.  He ended with notes on suicide, truth and reconciliation, surviving the sixties scoop and knowing what is important – a simple life and appreciating Canada, “the greatest country on earth”.

The book is completed with the final words of “to be continued” and I hope that the legacy of his thoughts and words are continued through readers who are touched and impacted by his stories and life lessons.  Richard Wagamese lived a challenging life, with abuse, addiction and loss.  He lived the consequences of his parents experience of residential schools yet he shares powerful stories, lessons of hope and delves into healing and understanding what is important:  love, community, nature.

Both his fiction and non-fiction are beautifully written, powerful stories that Canadians need to read.  Not sure where to start?  I would suggest picking up Medicine Walk (my favourite book) or Indian Horse.  Not feeling like reading?  Watch the movie Indian Horse and share it with others, it is important that Canadians understand the brutal history that has impacted Indigenous Peoples and move forward in a way to celebrate connections and community so that history does not repeat itself.

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Happy Canada Day 2018

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 9.54.28 AMAs we celebrate Canada’s 151st birthday, it is time to reflect on some great reading!  We have an amazing collection of Canadian authors to discover and enjoy.  My perennial favourites include:

Medicine Walk by the late Richard Wagamese.  I have enjoyed almost everything by this author and would also suggest Indian Horse (and then watch the movie) and Ragged Company as well as his non-fiction, One Story One Song, for Joshua and One Native Life.

Anne of Green Gables is worth a reread if you have not picked it up since you were a child.  I had only read the first 3 in the series when I was younger so enjoyed completing the series of 8, culminating with Rilla Ingleside which follows the Blyth family and details the struggles of Anne and her daughters as the boys head off to war.  If you have already completed the Anne series, I recently discovered (and enjoyed) The Emily of New Moon series.  It has some delightful similarities but was a refreshing collection of audio books.

Margaret Atwood has been seen in the news frequently and many of you have likely been enjoying The Handmaid’s Tale series which is in its’ second season.  If you have Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 9.59.14 AMnever read The Handmaid’s Tale, or it has been a long time since you finished reading this Canadian Classic, it is time to revisit this powerful story.  This diverse author has written a range of terrific stories that would be terrific to pick up for the holiday weekend.  I am reading Cat’s Eye for our Canada Day themed book club but have also enjoyed Alias GraceHag-Seed , The Stone Mattress and The Heart Goes Last in the last year.  I am looking forward to hearing Margaret Atwood in Stratford this September!

Looking for more suggestions?  Here is my sesquicentennial list to help you read across the country.  You can also join my second annual challenge to read a book from each province and territory this summer!

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 9.55.36 AMIn the meantime, what are you reading this Canada Day long weekend?  What are your perennial favourite Canadian novels and who are your celebrated authors?  Please add a comment about your “go to” novels and inspire more Canadian reading on this beautiful, sunny holiday weekend!  Happy Canada Day to everyone!!

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46, 49 and 51: Emily of New Moon Series (L.M. Montgomery)

Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 9.46.26 AMThe Emily of New Moon series is a sweet and delightful collection of books by L.M. Montgomery.  It was a terrific discovery to listen to during my commutes over the last month.  Like the Anne of Green Gables series it is full of stories about a feisty, orphaned girl who struggles to fit in with her new family in Prince Edward Island.

Emily of new Moon introduces the creative Emily Starr who had only faint memories of her mother who had died years before.  She had enjoyed living with her loving father, who homeschooled her and supported her stories,  until he died of tuberculosis.  She had never met her mother’s family who had been estranged from her mother for many years, angry at her elopement with her father.  The family arrived en masse for the funeral, determined to do what was right and drawing names to decide who would be responsible to bring up the young girl.

As Emily adapted to living with her two maiden Aunts she struggled to conform to expectations.  Her Aunt Elizabeth was very strict and did not appreciate Emily’s creativity and love of writing.  Aunt Laura was loving and was a sweet refuge from the high expectations and cousin Jimmy who had an acquired brain injury from a childhood accident doted on Emily.  Emily adapted to school despite challenging early days.  The fun began as she developed a group of friends including Ilse, Teddy and Perry, who helped to make her days more interesting.

Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 9.28.04 AMIn Emily Climbs, Emily moves to Shrewsberry in order to attend highschool.  She lived with her elderly Aunt Ruth who had even stricter rules than New Moon.  Aunt Elizabeth had not been keen to continue her education.  A deal was struck that she stopped writing fiction if she wished to attend highschool.  Emily worked hard at her studies and began writing poems in the absence of fiction.  As she gained success,  publishing her poetry and later writing for the newspaper, she proved that her writing could be lucrative.  Emily had yet frustrated the proper Aunt Ruth as she had fun, got into a few scrapes and experienced misunderstandings with her friends who had also moved to Shrewsberry. to attend school.  Regardless of the challenges, she slowly gained the love and support of Aunt Ruth just as she had done with her family at New Moon.

Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 9.35.40 AMThe final book, Emily’s Quest is full of marriage proposals!  Emily received multiple offers in marriage waiting for the one man who has always had her heart.  Like Anne and Gilbert, in the 8 book Anne of Green Gables series, Emily and her love had a series of misunderstandings and it took a long time for them to realize their love at the same time.  During these years, Emily remained single, wrote stories  to support herself and enjoyed her time at New Moon.

The Emily of a New Moon series is a sweet collection of tales detailing the struggles of an orphaned girl who came to love her new family and life at New Moon.  There are certainly similarities to Anne of Green Gables but it is also unique with vivid descriptions of Emily coming of age.  The books describe life on Prince Edward Island during the early twentieth century and helps a reader to reflect on simpler times.  Although technology was not a complication then, Emily experienced the age old challenges of bullying and fitting in at school as she grew into a confident young woman.

These books were great to listen to during commutes, had me chuckling and reflecting on my own visit to Prince Edward Island in 1996.  They are beautifully written and I look forward to returning to PEI and reading more of the works of L.M Montgomery.

 

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45. Warlight (Michael Ondaatje)

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 9.57.50 AMWarlight describes the time following World War II through the eyes of Nathaniel, a man trying to figure out his life and reflecting back on his time as a fourteen year old boy.  He and his younger sister, Rachel, had been abandoned by their parents at this critical point in their development.  They  believed that their parents had to travelled to Singapore for their father’s job but later discovered their mother’s trunk, neatly packed, still in their basement sparking a mystery to solve.

They are left in their family home, in the care of a mysterious man that they called The Moth.  They meet an odd collection unique individuals who watch over them to keep them safe while they struggle to understand their circumstances.  Nathaniel learned a lot working a few odd jobs including working in a hotel and later helping to smuggle greyhounds with a shady character he called The Darter.

As an adult, Nathaniel reflects on his childhood experiences as he grieves his mother’s death and tries to understand her life.  His experiences lead him to a job with the British Intelligence where he pieces together bits of his mother’s life as a spy.

The Warlight is a slow read, a masterpiece of words which untwines as Nathaniel ages.  It almost needs a second read to really understand and piece the story together.  The book is a one of a kind story which takes place after the war (refreshing since there are so many books set during WWII).  I am disappointed that I was unable to meet Michael Ondaatje when Warlight was released but getting into Toronto on a weeknight is never easy and I am hoping there will be future opportunities.

Reading this book makes me want to revisit The English Patient which I read many years ago!

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