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. 

The Luminaries

by Susan Dennard

The Luminaries is a wonderful fantasy novel filled with Banshees Werewolves, Vampires, and all sorts of nightmares that haunt the woods.
Winnie aspires to be a hunter, and only one thing stands in her way; four years ago her father was deemed a “traitor” to the Luminaries and thus exiled from Hemlock Falls. Winnie and her mother and brother are allowed to remain but are considered outsiders in not only their luminary community but also in their family clan.
If Winne can survive the hunter trials and become a Hunter family will once again be accepted into Luminaries and reclaim the respect they once had.
The Luminaries is a supernatural fantasy novel that is filled with just the right amount of gore and adventure. I always love a kick-ass young protagonist and in this regard, Winnie fits the bill.

Thank you Netgalley and Tor Teen for the free book!

Only Sisters

by Lilian Nattel

This is a novel about grief; not just grieving death, but grieving the past, grieving failed relationships, and grieving “what could have been “.

Our main character Joan is a middle-aged palliative care doctor who gently and respectfully helps the critically ill navigate their remaining months on earth. However, When her mother Sheila becomes ill, Joan finds it difficult to not only help her mother find peace but also difficult to reconcile with her past.

Early in the novel,  Joan’s sister Vivan ( a nurse working with Doctors without Boarders) Skypes to tell her that she is going to a remote village to help with the Ebola crisis. Vivian requests that if anything happens to her, Joan is to take on her persona and continue communicating with their mother via text and messenger until Sheila dies, thus sparing her the heartache of losing a daughter in her final days. 

Yes, soon Joan gets word that Vivian does indeed die, leaving Joan’s responsibility of helping her mother come to peace with both her daughters. 

This novel obviously does deal a lot with death and dying, not exactly light reading fare. But it also deals with love and hope and the strength that comes with facing your truth. 

O Caledonia

by Elspeth Barker

I was away in Victoria this past weekend. Of course, I visited Munroes, THE most breathtaking bookstore in my neck of the woods. Gift card in hand (from my beautiful friend Debbie), I spent time within its walls doing one of THE BEST things in the world to do: running my fingers along the spines on the bookshelves until I settled on two (full disclosure, I picked 7, realized I only had a carryon, then had to narrow it down to two). One of the chosen was O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker.
Full disclosure, I thought this one could be a quick read. Still, I had to take my time with it….it is so beautifully written but SO unsettling in content. For example:


Halfway up the great stone staircase which rises from the dim and vaulting hall of Auchnasaugh, there is a tall stained-glass window. In the height of its Gothic arch is sheltered a circular panel, where a white cockatoo, his breast transfixed by an arrow, is swooning in death….at night, when the moon is high, it beams through the dying cockatoo and casts his blood drops in a chain of rubies onto the flagstones of the hall .”(pg 1)


The novel starts with the murder of our tragic heroine, so you know how it ends before you even begin (as foreshadowed in the quote I shared above). The story is simply and tragically the story of Janet from birth to her death at 16. Janet is one of the most fascinatingly disturbing characters I’veI’ve met. I sympathize with her, but at times I find her incredibly annoying. She is self-centred, spiteful, and stupid at times, but she is also confused, unloved, and brilliant. She is treated horribly by many people, but then she, in turn, is capable of doing horrible things. I kept reminding myself that she was just a little girl and many of her choices were reactionary and, therefore, not wholly her fault. Janet would make a fascinating character study.
This book left me unsettled. I loved it. I’ve asked people to read it so I can talk to them about Janet.
Find it.
Buy it
Read it.
Then send me a wee message to tell me your thoughts.

The Great Alone

by Kristen Hannah

The Great Alone is a novel about survival. Ernt Albright has survived as a POW of the Vietnam War and now he is trying to survive life with PTS. Cora, Ernt’s wife, is trying to survive the unpredictable violence of her husband. Their daughter  Leni is learning to survive the volatility of her home life. To compound this need for survival, Ernt decides to move his family to an isolated cabin in Alaska, where they intend to live off the land…and off the grid. 

Once in Alaska, Ernt becomes involved with a group of anti-government survivalists, thus feeding his paranoia and violent outbursts.

With her father’s escalating violence and her mother’s inability to leave, Leni attempts to live life as best she can by attending school and becoming friends with the only person her age, a boy named Matthew with whom she eventually falls in love.

Soon her father’s rage and paranoia become so intense, Leni begins to fear for her life and the lives of those she loves.

The Great Alone is a quick and easy read. Its plot is engaging but at times predictable. It was a perfect read for me to finish in a day of airports and layovers.

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands

by Kate Beaton

Wow, I did not know what to write for this one.

I loved it. It disturbed me. It made me laugh and tear up and feel insurmountable rage. In fact, the rage that has stuck with me.

Ducks is a graphic novel that tackles a variety of issues: environmentalism, indigenous rights, a sense of home, and sexual harassment. Heavy, I know, however, Kate Beaton doesn’t use her graphic novel to lecture us on these issues No, she simply and honestly retells her experience moving to For McMurray and working at the oil sands. This is an important book that will leave you thinking about it long after you read it. I would definitely use it as part of a novel study in High School Social Studies and English classes.

Unreconciled

by Jesse Wente


A must-read.

Wente “argues that ‘reconciliation’ is a flawed concept; peace between First Nations and the state of Canada can’t be recovered through reconciliation because no such relationship ever existed”. Wente’s writing is powerful; he conveys his message clearly, using his experiences growing up as an Indigenous person in Canada.

I would use this book in my classroom, and should be in every school library.

An important author,

an important book,

an important message.

The Cloisters

by Katy Hays

I love novels set in museums, libraries and universities. Is “Dark Academia” a genre? A sub-genre?
This novel is set in New York, more specifically, The Cloisters. Google it; it looks absolutely beautiful.
Our protagonist Ann Stillwell is brilliant. She has mastered several languages (several of them dead) and is gifted at translating. These skills have taken her to New York, where she, by sheer coincidence (or is it?), gets a job researching and acquiring rare tarot cards.
At first, Ann begins to notice strange events and behaviour happening around her, but when a dead body is found in the library, she realizes that the job she has so gratefully been offered isn’t everything that it seems.
The novel had me invested enough that I quickly devoted an entire day to finishing it. The characters were interesting (especially Ann and her backstory). Still, it was the various settings that I found particularly intriguing, and I found myself wanting to visit New York to find rare book stores and antique shops.
The Cloisters is Kay Hays’s debut novel, which is a good one. I will keep my eye out for more of her writing in the future!

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon and Shuster, and Atria Books for the free copy. You’ll be able to find The Cloisters on the shelf on November 1st.

Elizabeth Finch

by Julian Barnes


This novel is about a man named Neil who is obsessed with his university professor Elizabeth Fitch. The novel serves as a homage to this woman who inspired our narrator to, well, to think. Although Neil loves Elizabeth’s class (Culture and Civilization), he does not write his final essay and instead invites Elizabeth to lunch. Lunch becomes biannual event where Neil and Elizabeth meet and talk, with Elizabeth always giving Neil something to think about and paying for lunch.
When Elizabeth dies, she leaves her academic journals, and Neil has to decide what to do with them.
Along the way, Neil decides to write that final essay he never got around to writing all those years ago. The author includes this lengthy essay about Roman Emporer Julian Apostate within the pages of the novel itself.
I found this short novel somewhat interesting. It definitely was a deviation from the summer reads I have been consuming. There is no real suspense or intricate plot to speak of; rather, it is more a novel about a man’s relationship with a woman he found fascinating.
The character Elizabeth Fitch compelling; I would have loved to have read HER story. This novel isn’t for everyone. It seemed to me that Barnes wrote this story more for himself rather than to entertain the reader, which is perfectly fine with me.

Thank you to Netgalley for the free copy.

Ghost Wall

By Sarah Moss

This is Silvie’s story.
The novel starts with the tale of ancient Britons sacrificing a young girl to the bog. It doesn’t tell you why but I assume it is because…well, she’s young and a girl (always targets for ritualistic sacrifice).
The rest of the novel is about Silvie. Silvie’s father is a bus driver who is more than consumed with what life was like for the ancient Brits and believes that life was better when people lived off the land and held to strict rituals.
Silvie’s father takes his family to join a group of anthropology students and their professor in recreating what life was like thousands of years ago. While those from the university are participating, for the most part, for the sake of research and academia, Silvie’s father sees his role as an ancient patriarch of his clan far too seriously. Soon Silvie begins to feel as though she, too, will end up in the bog.
This short novel (a mere 130 pages) is written in what I feel is stream of consciousness. Sentence fragments, run-on sentences and the absence of quotation marks all contribute to the chaotic nature of Silvie’s ordeal.
A good book and definitely worth a re-read AND discussion with others.