Monday, June 25, 2018

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

written by Emily Barr
published by Penguin Teen Canada

What an amazing read! I am not normally a fast reader, and wasn't really what one would call fast when I read this book, but I read the entire book in one sitting, very unusual for me. Flora Banks was a healthy, happy young girl in the early part of her life, but it all ended when she was ten. I have always been interested in stories that have a medical background running through it. Why would everything stop when she was ten when she is seventeen now? There is definitely a story here that will prove to be very interesting and very surprising. There is obviously going to be something unique in its structure and in Flora's life. She has a tattoo, she's had it since she was ten, it is on her hand and says FLORA, be brave; very strange for a child that age. But Flora is not five, she is seventeen! She is at a party, it says so on her arm. She and Drake kissed on the beach and she remembers, she's never remembered anything for any length of time, but this she remembers longer than any other thing. Unfortunately Drake is her best friend Paige's boyfriend but he is moving to Norway to study in the frigid north. But why is she like this? What happened when she was ten?

According to her notebook, which is not in her handwriting, Flora can not retain the memory of anything within an hour or possibly less. (Until Drake kissed her on the beach, that's a memory she has partially retained but won't write in the book.) The notebook tells her she had a tumor and it was removed causing her to lose memories of the present. She has Anterograde Amnesia. But does she? Something doesn't sit right. When her parents are called to Paris because her brother is ill, they assume her friend is coming to be with her, not realizing that her friend is angry with her and not a friend anymore. As a result, Flora, having found her passport and money is on her way to North Pole in Norway to visit Drake, so she decides. With Drake in her mind she is remembering, she is not losing the memory. Will she find him? Will she be able to get herself halfway around the world with her memory problems? What is so frightening about traveling? Why didn't her parents take her with them to see her brother in Paris? Why does she want to go to Flambards? Why are her parents so against it? So many questions in this book. The ending took me by surprise, though it shouldn't have. It is in the background of the "memories" and the notes on her arms, post-it notes, and notebook. Why won't her parents take her to a favourite place? This is an incredible story of loss, fear, sadness, lies, over-protection, self-blame, angst, confusion, joint effort between Jacob her brother and Paige who is her best friend, to free Flora from her trapped brain. So much sorrow, angst and need. Did Flora ever get real comfort? Her biggest support will come from the dying brother Jacob and her friend Paige. FLORA, be brave.

As said earlier, I usually take longer to read a story but I was so into it, and I admit to a bit of confusion and occasional lapses while reading, leading to distrust. This is a book I will read again, and a great book club story in my opinion. So, now, what is the real reason for the subterfuge. It is listed as Young Adult, which I consider absolutely correct, Flora is seventeen - now eighteen.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Cracks in the Sidewalk by Bette Lee Crosby

reviewed from Kindle
by Bette Lee Crosby

A very diversified author, Bette Lee Crosby has used a true story for the basis of this unusual book of loss and retrieval of spirit and joy. A single lonely child who dreams of a big family, but has a family and friends who bring happiness to her life. Then one day as Elizabeth becomes a young lady, a young man is suddenly like a new addition to the family. A little worrisome at times but these two are very obviously in love and when he gives Elizabeth an engagement ring she is over the moon. Elizabeth has always dreamed of having lots of children and apparently Jeffrey wants the same. Whatever doubts the parents may have could be interpreted as fearing losing their daughter, after all, they have been a family of three for so many years. But they help them get a home of their own, and soon the first child is born. Thus it begins, a fairytale in the making.

But time has a way of passing and the second child arrives. Beautiful happy children. Life is good, the children are loved by all the family. Soon the fairytale will be falling apart. Pressure of work, pressure of raising a family, pressure of trying to keep up with bills, the usual trials of early years of a hasty decision of marriage and children. Problems everyone can relate to at some point in their lives. But Jeffrey believes the opposite, he believes he has been chosen to have problems and that someone should help him, and at this point the fairytale is mostly over. How little he knows about life. How little time his own family must have spent to bring up a seemingly good, caring man but rather a man who is fractured with what he can't do for his family. So many in life have hidden problems. Most deal with them in semi-organized manner, but there are those who will trip over the "cracks in the sidewalk" without even realizing the road they are heading to. With a third child on the way with complications, Jeffrey is lost in the cares of family and bills and lack of customers coming to buy at his store and the goodness in him becomes lost with the stretch and the fear.

This is a joyous story and a completely sad story. If life were easy, there wouldn't be stories like this, but that is not the way it would be. Once that loss of control of self takes hold it escalates into oblivion. And yet their kids mean a lot to both parents. Unfortunately, one is about to deliver the third child but there are serious complications. Liz must deliver early for the baby's health. And now this happy loving family has broken. Keeping in mind this is based on a true story, this is a very strong image of how people will/can react to each other. A man who is caring for the children (until another woman comes in but I'd be unsure as to how quickly that mistake would be complete), he does care, but begins to lose sight of the childrens' needs as far as their mother's condition goes. A mother who is in terrible crisis healthwise and wants only to be able to see her children, visit with her children and is being denied. Grandparents who learn that in their state they have no say in anything, not even to take care of the children sometimes. So here is a story that can't come full circle. Hatred is very close to the surface, hatred of others, hatred of self, Elizabeth appears to be showing no hatred, but how much time does she have left? There is so much more going on in this tale, and very likely it is similar to other misconceptions of life. How long can people go on under stress. We hear about it all the time. Some hold on longer than others but the end result is too often the same. This story should be read. It needs to be read. Someone's life is going to be so full of stress and feelings of uselessness. If only we could understand each other, care about each other, and give the other something to live for.
This book is really special. Thank you Bette Lee Crosby.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Knock Knock by Debra Purdy Kong

Knock Knock by Debra Purdy Kong

reviewed from Kindle

Who is stalking the senior citizens of Vancouver?
Another great read by Debra Purdy Kong. It's not often I get to read a book, in fact a series, located in my "hometown". Location well described, as well as the dangers we old folk can face just walking, taking transit, or driving a specific route home. For that matter, is anybody on foot or public transit ever completely sure they are safe? I've read several of Debra Kong's books and enjoyed them all. Her characters are always interesting and often in unusual ways. It's a long time since I lived in Vancouver and even though it has changed so much I recognize some parts of it, the people in my old neighborhood.

Doesn't life have crazy moments; imagine a complete misfit supposedly watching out for the safety of senior passengers on public transit. Who/Why would someone hire this person who ignores the people he is assigned to guard? Are these people coming or going? Now imagine that misfit causing more problems than benefits, a real snobby sort who needs to learn a few manners. Casey Holland has her hands full as security officer, and dealing with a person who is not fitting in or not even seeming to care about the people he should, even with stepped up security. She's also trying to plan her wedding, yet still be avidly aware of those riders mostly elderly or frail, and whether they are being followed suspiciously when they get off the transit, she notices the women especially are often wearing more jewellery than they should, and talking about their lives with no thought of their own privacy. She does her best for them including hints on what can make them safer when they get home. But is it enough? In the meantime, Casey is still unable to have her wedding! Too much going on and so little time to plan. When a break-in happens to one of her regular customers, Elsie, resulting in a brutal attack that lands her in hospital, Casey steps up her vigilance, and even begins to escort some of the more vulnerable home, an action that has just begun to really escalate to deadly crime and very nearly takes her own life.

A well-thought out story, a timely story, I really liked it, even with the fears and danger lurking in the shadows watching to take advantage of the elderly in this murder mystery. I'm glad I got to read it, it is compelling in its awareness of what is needed to protect the vulnerable.

The Place That Never Existed by Jim Ody

reviewed from Kindle
written by Jim Ody
publisher CrazyInk

What can I say about the creativity of this book? All I can say is "WOW!" This is the first book I have read by Jim Ody and I must say it is a tightly woven story that leads the reader in many directions.  From psychological overtones, to several sexual encounters, to a heartfelt love that survives regardless of multiple efforts to kill it. From a honeymoon in a village that seems a little strange and has a history of missing people to an ending that the reader will not see coming, my attention was grabbed from the beginning. Of course with a title about the non-existent place that is the source of fear, confusion and deadly pitfalls, I just knew I had to read this book. I am very glad I did and I will be looking for more by this author. The build-up was something that couldn't bring to mind where it was going and when the finale came it was spot on. Jim Ody, you took me completely by surprise.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Twenty-five Years of 22 Minutes by Angela Mombourquette

an unauthorized Oral History of This Hour Has 22 Minutes as told by cast members, staff and guests
by Angela Mombourquette

I really like the way this book is laid out. All the people involved in the conception, follow-up, performance, and the production are recognized in this book. Imagine in this day and age a comedic version of the news becoming a long-running (25 years at the writing of this book) award-winning show coming out of the maritime provinces for the most part. The book is segmented by conversations with each of the people involved in any way with the show. Basically, the book is like an interview with each person; the fact this show ran on a significantly low budget (virtually none) is astonishing. At times it reminded me of the old Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney "We'll put on a show!" "Let's put on a show!" movies.

I really enjoyed how everyone would work on the ideas they came up with. Some of them though really comical, came off badly, which almost made them even funnier. If you were and still are a fan of the show, you will really enjoy this book. If you didn't always watch it, you will enjoy learning how it all went together and wish you'd watched it more. This is a genuine satirical Canadian TV show, with the humour of the Maritimes. No wonder it's had such a long run! 5 stars to this one.