‘I Let You Go’ by Clare Mackintosh

A tragic accident. A past you can’t escape. Wow, what a cracking good read, an addictive twist-filled page-turner. Summer readers, pay attention to this author! I loved her book I See You, also a suspense thriller, but I liked this one even more. The title has multiple meanings at various points in the novel. Loved the clever plotting, characters I really cared about, compassionately portrayed dark issues, an authentic police investigation, pertinent side stories about the detective’s home life, and the unpredictability for the most part, except for the classic “look out, you should have seen this coming and protected yourself better” moment, when the haunted inevitably becomes the hunted, but every true thriller needs one of those right?

With this book it’s best to go in with as little information as possible to enhance the thrill of discovery, so here’s the goodreads synopsis to set up the storyline just enough…

“In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever. Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating…”

An interesting BBC interview with the author, containing no spoilers:

‘Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table with Recipes’ by Shauna Niequist

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”

You don’t have to be a great cook of fancy food in order to have people over for a meal…trust me, I’ve been doing it for years! Even though I don’t love cooking like some people do, I have always been committed to the family dinner because it works like glue in our lives. There’s something about breaking bread and sipping wine and enjoying conversation with family, friends, or colleagues that is more than the sum total of its various parts. Whatever age your children are, whatever your home looks like, whatever you can or can’t cook (Uber eats?), being committed to at least one meal together everyday as a household and having guests often, will bring tremendous blessing to your life. Hospitality in my mind has always been about being welcoming and real and being ‘present over perfect’ which also happens to be the title of Niequist’s next book (Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living). I think I will read it but the title is almost enough already.

Shauna Niequist brings a down-to-earth perspective in her book Bread and Wine. She makes herself vulnerable with the funny and honest stories she tells about her own life with themes of hospitality, spirituality, community, food, friends, family, infertility, love, and shame, AND there is a recipe included at the end of every chapter! I loved this book and read it slowly, trying out her comforting and easy recipes along the way, many of which have already become favourites and are simple enough to memorize and/or tweak to your own tastes.

Pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy the conversation at Niequist’s table!

‘The Thief’ by Megan Whalen Turner


(Queen’s Thief series #1) 
First in the series, this multiple award winning young adult fantasy novel has an interesting premise and a tongue in cheek quality that tickled my funny bone. Gen is a thief who has actually been stolen himself from prison and embarks with his captors on a quest. They need him to steal a treasure from another land and he has no choice but to comply, although this plucky hero makes it abundantly clear that he has no intention of complying easily and has some tricks up his own sleeve–there is more to Gen than meets the eye, so keep an eye out for clues and double meanings. Along the way of the journey, stories are told which set the scene of this fantasy world that will continue in sequels, the next being The Queen of Attolia, which many reviewers have said is far better than this first instalment. There are three more after that: The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings, and Thick as Thieves.

To be honest, the beginning of the book felt as slow and plodding as the journey of the quest itself  (and perhaps that is the point), but the pace picked up in the middle when the big theft gets underway. There are some good twists and turns and though I’m not a big fantasy fan, it is definitely one of those ‘cross-over’ young adult novels that appeals to adults as well as to teens.

‘The Sleepwalker’ by Chris Bohjalian

Two books I read by this author were fabulous (Midwives and The Double Bind) and since reading those, I have been trying to find others of his that are just as good. Alas, this one wasn’t, and neither was The Guest Room, although both are intriguing beach reads, just not as good as the other two. The ending of this one was completely unpredictable which is always fun (this novel is chock-a-block full of red herrings). Bohjalian  is a good writer and can craft a compelling enough story, his novels covering a wide range of topics–you never quite know what you are going to get with this author.

The topic of this novel is sleepwalking, which was interesting to delve into. Sleepwalking is more common in childhood than in adulthood (17% of children sleepwalk in their early years–I did twice) but very few continue to do so as adults. The author focuses mostly on ‘sexsomnia’ a disturbing ‘arousal disorder’ (pun intended) where the adult sleepwalker engages in sexual encounters without waking up–a rather rare occurrence I would think, but interestingly has been used in criminal defence of rape.

When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Their mother has done bizarre things in the night before. As oldest daughter Lianna peels back the layers of the mystery she asks herself: Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her husband was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where is the body? Why does the detective on the case know so much about her mother and why is he now interested in her? Why does her sister have jet-black hair when everyone else in the family is blonde?

‘The Aunts Come Marching’ by Bill Richardson and Cynthia Nugent


(Preschool – 3) Thanks to Jessica for putting me onto this fabulous musical counting book with a catchy marching tune. Road tested with our new grandchild, this slightly wacky but delightful book is already a favourite both with children and adults (always my benchmark with picture books)! The illustrations are such fun, the repetitions irresistible, and in case the tune  is unfamiliar, there is a helpful musical score included. What a great introduction to various instruments as well! The eccentric aunts (not ants) come marching one by one, two by two, etc., all playing loud instruments and bound on staying for awhile. Oh help!! Dad would like to be marching (or swinging) to a slightly less frenetic drumbeat…in his hammock!

‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid

This is an inventive and elegant love story set in the middle of an unnamed war zone. The author, who is best known for his book and subsequent movie The Reluctant Fundamentalist, has a strangely compelling writing style and a fanciful premise for this story which I will not mention since it is best discovered while reading. (Hint: think about something in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) Saeed and Nadia meet when their country is at the brink of civil war. Eventually their only option is to escape to an alien and uncertain future. Can their relationship weather such a huge transition? Issues such as the plight of refugees and migrants, as well as the anger of nativist extremists are all well portrayed, making this slim novel extremely current.

To be honest I loved the creativity of the first half of the book, but found it became a bit flat and less strong in the latter half.  Nevertheless, I’m glad I read it for its quietly profound quality, its perspective on emigration, and because it covers the kind of events that are happening right now.

‘The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit’ by Michael Finkel

If voluntary withdrawal from all human contact were an extreme sport, Christopher Knight could be the best in the world. On a whim he disappeared one day and lived alone in the woods in all seasons for 27 years. In all that time he interacted with another person only once–he said ‘Hi’ to someone on a trail. He never built a fire, not even in winter, for fear of being sighted, using a cookstove instead. Although he felt guilty about it, part of his ability to survive depended on breaking into nearby unoccupied camps and cabins to steal food, books, batteries, and other supplies. Because he never stole much of great value, the regular thefts were something that puzzled and terrorized the cottage dwellers and local law enforcement officers. His decades long sojourn came to an end when he was finally caught and charged for more than 1000 break-ins. When he was captured he was clean shaven and nicely dressed.

Michael Finkel, a journalist for the New York Times was the only personal Knight would tell his extraordinary story to and even that took some doing. His ability to get the details from Knight is as amazing as the account itself. It took Finkel three years of full time work to write these 191 pages. He was dedicated to getting it right and making it as accurate and compelling as possible.

I couldn’t put this remarkable book down and found it haunting and thought provoking. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.