Glass Shards

“Because even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you, or save you.” ― Natsuki Takaya

Months ago I dropped a little glass desert bowl on my tiled kitchen floor

and tiny glass shards shattered at an impressive radius around the drop site.

I swept and vacuumed.

Then swept some more.

Then vacuumed.

Then mopped and then vacuumed some more.

Still I found shards

clinging to the bottom of my sock,

and sometimes, to my chagrin, embedded in the heel of my foot.

No matter how hard I looked for the miniscule bits -the remnants of my clumsiness ,

I could never find them.

But,

I would come across them at the most inopportune moment –

when I was hopping out the door, one foot shod, the other bare,

or when I was shuffling to get a glass of water before going off to bed.

And I’d have to find pair of tweezers and perform minor surgery and then find the broom and give the floor another going over.

When we throw out insult or hurt someone we love,

it’s like breaking a little glass bowl.

Instead of a slip of the hand it is a slip of the tongue.

A clumsy handling of emotion.

And no matter how hard we try to pick up the pieces and make amends,

there will always be little sharp glass grains of sand

that will hide in wait.

Reminding us that what we say, or don’t say, can haunt us for months.

A Most Agreeable Murder

By Julia Seales

This is a humourous and lighthearted novel about, of all things, murder.

Beatrice Steele is one of a trio of daughters, but she is different from her sisters. Instead of dreaming of love and marriage, or obsessing over balls and tea parties, she is consumed by her fascination with solving murders, especially the murders she reads about in the newspapers. The newspapers tell of gruesome London murders being solved by the handsome and brilliant gentleman Detective Sir Huxley and his assistant Vivek Drake. 

In the conservative and traditional village of Swampshire, Beatrice has to hide her morbid curiosity, else be cast as a social misfit by her community and banished from society.

Until one day, Murder comes to Swampshire and Beatrice, along with the inscrutable Vivek Drake, have to find the killer before they strike again.

This novel is an easily readable tale with engaging characters. The plot is at times predictable but there are several twists and turns at the end that come out of the blue and make it a fulfilling reading experience. The ending sets itself up nicely for a series!  I would love to travel along with Detective Beatrice to solve crimes in the future.

You’ll be able to purchase this novel in summer. A perfect addition to your summer reading list.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the advanced copy.

Chrysalis

by Anna Metcalfe

I loved this book! It is a story about transformation, deciding to design your own life after trauma, and the reinvention of self, in a way. A common theme but written in a very unique format. I loved how it was organized, and I loved the fact that the only information we get about our main character (who remains nameless….unless I missed it) is from other people. So, how biased is this information? We have to form our own opinions about her using only the judgements and opinions of others. The three sources of our information are Elliot, an introverted, socially isolated (by choice) fellow who notices her at the only other place he inhabits besides his home; the gym. Our second source is Bella, her mother, who gives us her daughter’s back story, and Susie, our main character’s best friend, who offers us information from our main character’s life as an adult and her explanation of the catalyst that inspired her transformation.
Personally, I was not too fond of our central figure. Even though I tried to sympathize with our central character’s circumstances and admire her determination. Did I feel this way because I was manipulated by the point of view of others? Probably.
I would consider using this text in a high school English class as an example of author craft. The themes presented would also lend themselves to deep and interesting classroom discussions. I will be on the lookout for more of Metcalf’s work in the future.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the Advance copy. Chrysalis will be available for purchase in April.

Delicious Monsters

by Liselle Sambury

Daisy can see dead people- something she spends most of her life avoiding when she isn’t with her manipulative and controlling college boyfriend, Noah. unfortunately (unfortunately?) Noah has since broken up with her, and now Daisy has found herself stalking his whereabouts and dodging spirits. So when her mother calls and tells her that she has inherited and house and property away from the city, Daisy figures this is as good a time as any to move on with her life.

Brittany is a young woman with an entrepreneurial spirit and a very toxic relationship with her mother. She and her business partner Jayden have been moderately successful with their YouTube series on haunted houses. Now, they are about to research and film another series about a supposed haunted house with a history of violence. But this haunted house is different. Not only does it have a fascinating past, but it is also that house that Brittany’s mom claims “changed her from an abusive and neglectful parent to a completely reformed woman”. Miracle Mansion, she has named.
Miracle Mansion is also the same house Daisy and her mother moved to 10 years earlier.

I loved this book. It so, so well written. It is also very, very creepy and gruesome at times. Both Dasiy and Brittany are characters that become independent through courage. Even though the book is heavy on the supernatural, the internal conflict both protagonists experience and how they deal with it are realistic.

Thank you to Netgalley and Margaret K McElderry Books for the advanced copy.

Little Christmas Memories

Happy, happy Christmas that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! ~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836

As a little girl

Christmas on the farm was simply wonderful.

Because we didn’t have much growing up, my parents made to make the holiday chock-full of special experiences. These little gold nugget memories have stayed brightly glittering as remembrances of my childhood.

There were years when Dad would fire up the tractor, attach a sleigh and slowly drive up to the bush along the perimeter of the far field, taking his daughters, bundled and bouncing, along with him on the all-important mission of finding the Christmas tree of Christmas trees. The dogs would try to race the tractor, but the snow would be too deep and finally, they’d wise up and run along on the track made by the runners on the sleigh.

When we’d reach the bush, we’d tromp through (not an easy feat when wearing leotards, pants snowsuit, ski-doo boots, scarf wrapped around your face and hood tied tight) and look, and evaluate and debate which tree would make the cut and be “the chosen one”.

Finally, deciding on one we could all agree upon, we’d then make out way back to the house where mom would be waiting with all the decorations dug up from the trunk.

The “trunk” was a treat in and of itself and was only ever opened at Christmas. It was a brown steamer trunk with rusted metal brackets and leather fasteners. When she lifted the lid, it emitted a smell that was assuredly mothballs but, to me, smelled of history and memories that were not my own. Inside were glass ornaments of varying colours, a string of blue lights, silver tinsel, white gold and blue tinselled ropes, and the most special of pieces,

the angel.

The angel existed of gold star that held the most beautiful of ethereal beings, wrapped in clouds of white spun silk,

There she would stand on top of the tree, witnessing the love of the little family below.

We didn’t have “stockings” that were “hung up with care”. No, mom would pin our leotards to the side of the chair that faced the tree. Do you know how many oranges fit in a pair of leotards? Santa was able to fit at least half a dozen.

And then the nativity scene.

The crèche Mom made by hand.

My sisters and I found it enchanting. Mary and Joseph and Jesus. The three wise men and shepherds all made from plastic baby dolls bought at Woolworths. Mom would glue cotton balls on their heads and chins for hair and beards. She’d sew a veil and dress for Mary, brown and beige plain robes for Joseph and the shepherds. The wise men got bright red and purple robes trimmed in gold. And animals! Camels and sheep and a cow or two. (Totally out of proportion from the “people”, but we never noticed). One year my sisters and I, at a moment of bravery, peaked under the kings robes where we found feet and legs stuffed in glass mason jars so the dolls would stand up straight. They looked like preserved lab specimens, making the nativity scene even MORE intriguing!

And throughout it all, Mom would play her records. Something she only did during the holidays. We’d listen to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”, Julie Andrews “My Favourite Things”, and Tchaikovsky’s Christmas Concertos.

As a little girl, I loved Christmas not necessarily for what “Santa” brought (although I really, REALLY liked my Sweet Sixteen Barbie) but for all of these activities I did with the family.

The bumping along with my sisters and my father on an excursion, the unwrapping of the angel, the “pickled” feet of the wise men and the crooning of Bing Crosby.

Wonderful.

Warm.

I feel truly blessed to look back at the Christmases of my childhood and feel nothing

but excitement

and love.

The Puzzle Master

by Danielle Trussoni

“Puzzle’s are composed of patterns. They are meant to be solved.” (Trussoni).

If you like Dan Brown’s Da Vinci’s code, you’ll love The Puzzle Master.

When our hero Mike Brink was young he suffered a concussion playing high school football. When he awoke, he was suddenly aware “there was a system, an essential order to the world”  (Trussoni) He saw it” as patterns…patterns everywhere. At first, “all he knew was that he was experiencing highly structured geometric hallucinations on a regular basis” (Trussoni) After years of learning how to live with his “gift” Brink made a name for himself as the foremost puzzlemaker of the world. As such, he is asked by psychologist Dr. Moses to make sense of  a puzzle created by Jess Prince, one of her patients who is herself “living in a puzzle”. Ms Prince, famous writer now infamous murderer, is serving her sentence at the New York State Correctional Facility abd has taken to communicating in complex cryptic symbols.

When Brink meets Miss Prince he feels a strange connection and they have a surprisingly intimate encounter where Prince secretly passes him another puzzle. 

Soon Mike finds himself in a world of rare porcelain dolls, the supernatural, and ancient Hasidic texts which are all as intricately connected as the diagramed puzzles Trussoni includes in her text. 

I had forgotten I liked Trussoni’s writing (read Angelology a decade ago).The Puzzle Master was an easy thrilling read and a great story to reintroduce me to Danielle Trussoni’s writing. Now I have to go back and read her titles I’ve missed.

This novel will not be published until June 2023

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the advanced copy!

The Sour Grape

by Jory John and Pete Oswald

I can identify with Grape. When life doesn’t go exactly as planned or I don’t think I”m getting the attention I deserve , , I DO take it persnallly and hold grudge after grudge after grudge. Because, after all, it is all about me. 

But, just like Grape, I have come to realize that by being honest and listening I will feel less sour and my face will become “less squishy”.

A wonderful story about patience and gratitude told using relatable prose and colourful humorous pictures. 

Even Though I Knew the End

by C.L. Polk

The beautiful Marlowe has asked private detective Elena Brandt to find the White City Vampire, a serial killer leaving a trail of blood across the city. The only thing is Elena is not an ordinary investigator; she is a magical warlock who the Magical Brotherhood had banned for selling her soul to the devil to keep her brother alive. And Marlowe, well, Marlowe isn’t your average client, Marlowe is a demon who promises Elena that she will return her soul if she finds the killer. 

Elena desires to work alone, not wanting to risk the lives and souls of those she loves; after all, hunting a supernatural serial killer is dangerous work. However, she is soon forced to work with her one true love and companion Edith (who has a very interesting sec\ret of her own) and the one person she has put her spiritual survival at risk for, her brother Teddy.

This is a short, fast-paced novel that reads in the pulp fiction style of the dime store detective novels of the 30s. I loved it and wished it was longer to spend more time in the world of auguries, fallen angels and secret brotherhoods.

Two Lovely Picture Books

If you are looking for great picture books for the littles in your life these two would be the best Christmas presents:

Lou by Breanna Carzoo


Lou is a story about a fire hydrant who just knows in his heart of hearts that he is meant for something greater than being, well being a “loo” for the dogs in the neighbourhood. One day a building catches fire and Lou finally realizes his true purpose. The story is humorous and the artwork is simple and fabulous.

Lizzy and the Cloud by the Fan Brothers

Lizzy and the Cloud is a story of a young girl who goes to the park to buy a pet cloud that she decides to name Milo. Now Milo comes with a list of instructions, and Lizzy is sure to follow each one as best as she can so Milo can be well taken care of. Soon, however, Milo becomes too big for her bedroom, and he begins to rumble and grumble forcing Lizzy to make some pretty big decisions about what to do with her unusual pet. The story is charming and the artwork is so beautiful you will have to revisit each page to immerse yourself in the whimsical world created.

Freezing Order: The True Story Of Money Laundering Murder and Surviving Vladimir’s Putin’s Wrath

Bill Browder

This is one of the BEST non-fiction books I’ve encountered in a long time. Honestly, I kept muttering “Holy S*#!” most of the time I was listening to it.
Freezing Order is a book that centres around the Magnitsky Act, an Act named after Browder’s Russian lawyer and friend, who was murdered by Putin’s henchmen to cover up a multimillion-dollar money-laundering scheme. To find justice for his friend Browder devotes his life to promoting the Magnitsky Act, which will enable a country to freeze the assets of any foreign country that violates human rights. Needless to say, many a Russian millionaires would do anything to protect their fortunes.
I listened to most of this book while running and it was so riveting I often found myself extending my distance.

Browder’s experiences are fascinating and frightening. He lives a cat-and-mouse game with one of the most ruthless men in history, Vladimir Putin. Freezing Order is a perfect Christmas Gift for the reader in your life.

A Book To Read on Remembrance Day

I’m not a “re-reader”. I rarely re-read books mainly because there are so many stories out there just waiting to be read I don’t want to “waste” my time visiting the ones I already know. One story I DO revisit at least once a year is the novel A Long Long Way by Sabastian Barry. I HAVE blogged about this book before. It’s one of my favourites and is one of 5 books I own that I will never lend to anyone for fear of not getting it back. It’s a title you don’t often find in bookstores, and it seems to be always “out of stock” online. The Kindle version is available, however, but this novel is worthy of permanent residency on your bookshelf.

Willie Dunne wants to be a police officer like his father, but he doesn’t meet the height requirement. Hence, he decides that “if he could not be a policeman, he could be a soldier” and at 18 years old enlists in the army to bravely fight on the Western Front. We follow Willie through his training, dispatch to the front, and to the trench itself. The novel is very explicit in its description of trench warfare (trigger warning). Still, I do not believe descriptions of war should be sanitized.

Along with the narrative, Barry inserts letters, letters written between Willie and the woman he loves, his sister, and his father. It is these letters that I re-read. These letters are personal and loving and incredibly heartbreaking. These letters emotionally impact me more than any Remembrance Day service ever has.


“Dear Papa, … I believe in my heart that you are the finest man I know. When I think of you, there is nothing bad that arises at all. You stand before me often in my dreams, and in my dreams, you seem to comfort me. So I’m sending this letter with love and thinking of you” (291).

I am tearing up as I type this.

Besides the letters, I also re-read this small section:

“ Then, when he was all shipshape, his father put his big arms around him, and held him close to him for a few moments. . . like an actor on a stage. It was not a thing you would see in real life anyway, and there was a faraway look on his father’s face like it was all years ago …and he was a little lad. But he was a soldier now of some nineteen years and for all that he was glad of his father’s arms around him, strange as it was, strange and comforting as it was.” (74-75).

Willie comes home from the war for a short visit. He is riddled with lice and ringworm and is exhausted both mentally and physically. What does his father do? He bathes his son, wraps him in a clean towel and holds him tight.

It’s as if his father knows….

So, at least for one day, I will try to transport myself to a time and/or place where true heroes exist and heartbreak is staggering.

I will read
I will remember
And I will weep.

If you find a copy of this novel, be sure to buy it.

Weyward

By Emila Hart

Weyward is a multigenerational story about three incredible women. First we meet Altha. It is 1619, and Altha is accused of using witchcraft to murder the husband of her estranged best friend, Grace. Next is Kate. It is 2019, and Kate has fled an abusive relationship in London to find sanctuary in the Old Weyard cottage her great aunt Violet has bequeathed her. Finally, we meet Violet. In 1942 Violet is a young girl who unfortunately hears all sorts of rumours about her “mad” mother, who died when she was born. Neglected by her cruel father, Violet finds solace in befriending spiders and marveling at damselflies.

After their introductions, we quickly learn that the lives of each of these women are interwoven. Their histories begin to crossover and run parallel to each other. Violet eventually learns about her ancestor Altha and uses Altha’s wisdom to help take direction of her own life. And Kate, well, Kate soon has to channel the wisdom and strength of all the strong Weyward women before her to not only survive but to protect her unborn daughter.

I really, REALLY liked this book. One of my favourite formats of novels is to have different chapters written from different characters’ viewpoints and then have their stories diverge either with regard to plot or theme. It was an easy escapist read that was the perfect book to finish on a cold, snowy day. I may have to buy a hard copy once it is published because the cover looks absolutely beautiful.

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s press for the free copy.

The Kids From Fawn Creek

by Erin Entrada Kelly

“I am imaginative and kind” taken from Orchid’s I Am Poem (pg 319)

I loved this book. When I finished reading it I knew that it should be in every library and every classroom. It would make the most amazing read aloud because it is abundant in timely topics and VERY approcable subject matter. It will encourage discussion amongst any age group.

I have read another of Entrada Kelly’s books Hello Universe which I absolutely loved so I knew I was probably going to love this one as well. Entrada Kelly has an uncanny ability to convincingly inhabit the world of adolescence thus creating authenticity to her story telling. 

This is a novel about a group of seventh graders who, as most seventh graders, are trying to figure out who they are, which can be both difficult and easy when you live in the VERY small town of Fawn Creek (or referred to as “Yawn Creek” by most) and if you attempt to break away from that stereotype, you run the risk of being bullied and teased by those who are threatened by your uniqueness. The Fawn Creek seventh graders have recognized “who” others say they are: Lehigh takes a bit longer to learn so he is deemed “Slowly”, Dorothy doesn’t want to rock anyone’s boat let alone her own and wont even acknowledge anyone’s tears for fear it may lead to an uncomfortable conversation, Greyson prefers fashion design over duck hunting but can’t let his friends and family know for fear of judgment, and Janie, well Janie has been the minion of Renni, the queen bee herself, and even though Renni has moved away, Janie is still under her reign. But one day, a new girl comes to town. Orchid Mason is an enigma. It’s not just her name that is exotic, but she comes to little ol Fawn Creek from New York via Paris and, unlike the rest of them, she is extremely insightful,confident and kind. Orchid notices when you are hurting and asks if she can help, has a way of making you feel important and special no matter who you are, and she  recognizes your strengths and helps you see them too. Orchid is as kind as she is beautiful. 

This is a wonderful novel about friendship, courage, and being able to stand for what is right and just in front of those who ridicule you. It’s about being brave enough to choose kindness over cruelty, even if it means breaking from those who you once thought were your friends.

I would use this novel as a class novel study, or at least a choice for student book clubs.