And Six More...

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I enjoyed reading this little book, but I'm not as thrilled
with it as everyone else seems to be. I don't know if I
just wasn't in the mood or if I'm too dull to grasp the
deeper meaning, but honestly I found it not all that

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
I enjoyed this while I was reading it, but now I can't
remember anything about it. I may have read it too quickly, or at a time when I was pre-occupied with other things. Lots of people rate it highly, for me it just didn't stick.

Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan
I'm so glad I read this. It's historical fiction that centers around the 1917 explosion in Halifax Harbour when a heavily loaded munitions ship collided with another vessel. The story itself was just so-so, although I liked some of the characters and found myself caring what happened to them. The strength of this novel is in two things: its portrayal of Canada and her people in 1917 and its so-real-you-could-almost-feel-it description of the explosion. I'm a Maritimer, so of course I've seen the anniversary documentaries and read the articles, even read another novel set in the aftermath. But I've never read anything like this. I don't think I had any real idea how massive, how powerful it was or the extent and scope of the damage. The way he sets the stage for what's coming builds the tension until I almost didn't want to know. The first chapter is Sunday, then each day is another chapter. Thursday morning it happens. He's so smart in his telling of it that when you're reading it you hold your breath, you marvel as you watch what happens moment by moment. The earthquake it caused, the brutal air concussion, and the tidal wave were new to me, or at least this level of detail was. The effect those things had on the people, animals, buildings and land was nightmarish. I feel like I watched it in slow motion. If you're curious about what happened that day, read this. Any weak spots in the plot are more than compensated for by the way the author pulls you into this historical reality. It's more than a novel; it's an experience.

The Plague by Albert Camus
I put this off year after year until now just to discover it's really good. It's not the Hollywood style story about plague with all the blood and gore (there is a bit) and dramatic death scenes. Its not so much about the sick people (it is a little) as it is about the rest of the town and how people find different ways to cope with the chaos going on around them. The medical people, town leaders, church and business people, and all the folks who care for sick and dying family members have to find a way to get up every day and carry on. I would never have imagined it would be so engrossing. Well worth the read.  

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Lisa Genova's books allow us to share the experience of a person suffering a debilitating disease. This time it's ALS and the victim is a world famous pianist at the height of his career. We watch as he loses control of his body, and his life, piece by piece. It's hard to read, but I find her books fascinating for what they teach me. I wasn't terribly keen on the story this time, finding the characters rather flat and the writing not as good as her other work, but I'm glad I read it. I will keep reading them as long as she keeps writing them because I learn so much from them. I think my favourites are still Left Neglected and Still Alice, but I liked Inside the O'Briens as well. Love Anthony and Every Note Played are at the bottom of the list for me. I was interested to read that her purpose for these novels is more to create awareness and generate funding than to entertain. With that goal in mind, I say mission accomplished.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Loved this one. Lily is a young girl growing up on a peach farm in South Carolina with her abusive father and a black woman (the cook) named Rosaleen. Rosaleen is stubborn and feisty and when she insults some of the racist men in town she is beaten and locked up in jail. Lily breaks her out and they set out on a long walk that will lead them to a bee-keepers farm run by three sisters, two/thirds of whom welcome them in. As the connection between Lily's dead mother and the sisters comes to light, Lily and Rosaleen begin to heal, finding acceptance among kindred spirits . That may sound corny, but this book is not. It's well written, poignant, and funny. A strong story with vivid, eccentric characters. I feel like I stepped inside the time and place depicted as soon as I read the first page, and I had a hard time putting it down. Excellent.