Never judge a book by its cover, right? But that is just what I do, too often. I read Flesh, Bone and Water because I was out of books and the library was closed Sunday. Also it was free, an advanced readers' copy that I was given at the Northern Lights Library System Conference in September. Then it languished on the book pile on my night table.
What a pleasant surprise! Flesh, Bone and Water switches settings between London, England and Brazil and times between the narrator/protagonist's youth and his present as a forty-seven year-old physician. It tells a simple enough story of a young man whose mother dies, whose father is too stern, and a forbidden love. The contrast of cultures, of youth and middle age kept me turning the pages. The Brazil setting and different life style was fascinating because I know nothing of Brazil.
Flesh, Bone and Water is Luiza Sauma's first novel and she is a woman writing from a man's viewpoint. She was born in Rio de Janeiro and raised in London. A lesson for me- the old adage is true. You can't judge a book by its cover.
And for a complete change of pace, here is Krysten Ritter's Bonfire, a psychological thriller. Ten years ago, Abby Williams left Barrens, an Indiana small town. Now an environmental lawyer, she is assigned, with a team, to investigate Optimal Plastics, suspected of contaminating the community's water. Since she left, Optimal has become the "saviour" of Barrens, employing most of the town and contributing heavily to its economic and cultural life. The population has risen form 2,000 to over 5,000 and it's a much more prosperous place.
Before she even reaches Barrens, the bad memories and the intense feelings return. More than anything, she'd rather turn around and go back to the life she's carved out in Chicago.
Abby and her team are stonewalled when they try to investigate Optimal. The illness and disappearance of a childhood friend turned high school nemesis haunt her. She tries reconnecting with her father. There are old high school classmates ( she never had friends ) but who among them can she trust? Perhaps no one Soon even her investigative team doubts her stability and is afraid she might be having a breakdown. Bonfire rushes to a climax and a satisfying conclusion. I read it in a day.
Krysten Ritter is an actor, producer, and writer. Perhaps it is her experience as Netflix's Marvel's Jessica Jones and her other roles that have helped her to craft such a page turner.
The Substitute is a difficult book to get into, at least it was for me. Warren Botts, the substitute, is taking a break from his lab (he's a PhD) and teaching middle school science. He's introverted, more than a little socially inept but very concerned about creating his lessons effectively. One morning he finds one of his students, Amanda, hanging from a tree in his backyard. Of course, he becomes a suspect, has few social supports, and the mystery of the young girl's death are a big part of the book.
An anonymous narrator, who has an even more dysfunctional home life than Warren, is an alternate observer of the murder. This narrator isn't any more likeable than Warren and it is hard to relate or engage with either of them.
However, I did persevere and it was worth it. I did not have any idea who had killed Amanda and the revelation was a surprise.
Nicole Lundigran is a Canadian author and The Substitute is a House of Anansi book.
Our Little Secret by Roz Nay is another character study of a disturbed murder. Not that I think there is another kind. The story opens with Angela in a police interrogation room as she informs the detective that she will talk to him and answer his questions BUT only if he lets her tell her tale her way. He agrees and she starts 10 years earlier when she was a high school student.
A brilliant girl but a misfit who catches the eye of the BMOC, HP, a handsome, easy-going charmer. Eventually, hormones being what they are and teenagers what they are, the become lovers.
Angela has been accepted to Oxford University, England. She wants to stay in her pokey hometown but can't. Off to Jolly Old.
Their relationship doesn't last the separation and HP marries Siska, the Aussie he met in England.
The "threesome" that develops is strange but we always hear and see it from Angela's point of view. When Siska disappears and is found dead, suspicion falls on her. Did she do it? Was she set up and framed by others? Our Little Secret is well done but again it's hard to connect with Angela.
Our Little Secret is Roz Nay's first novel who now lives in BC. Simon and Schuster are publishers.
One of the best parts of this dystopian YA novel, the first in the Winterkill series, is the setting. The Canadian prairies are re-imagined in a time when civilization as we know it has collapsed. There is the river, the prairie and the forest at the edge of the colony. The trembling aspen description and the use of Saskatoons is spot on. A band of survivors has settled into a protected community with very strict rules.
It is run by The Committee and life is, for the most part, a struggle. There are the taboos, the inhospitable winter months, the loss of technology and the return to labour-intensive methods. Emmaline is 15, soon to be 16, and a gatherer. She finds things for the herbalist who tries to look after ills with the most primitive of potions. Few can read and there isn't much to read.
The story follows Emmaline, Tom, and Kane who all have secrets and suffer from the lack of freedom and the strict repression of the Committee. There is the danger from outside. Watchers along the wall are tasked with sounding the alarm if the malmaci approach. There are three groups in the community- the English-speaking, the French speaking, and the French-First Nations speakers.
Boorman's story comments on religion, power, and repression. Winterkill is the first in the series, followed by Darkthaw and Heartfire. If the next two books are as good, I'll read the second and third.
Kate Boorman lives in Edmonton.
I am an avid reader and like to share some of my "finds" with others.