fatty legs & a stranger at home by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

I count it a privilege to have been invited a few weeks ago to a United Church here in Ottawa where they have a program of evening events to try to develop understanding and reconciliation between the people of the church and the aboriginals who were traumatized by the residential school system.  The guests this particular evening were Margaret Pokiak-Fenton (now in her 80s) and her daughter-in-law, Christy Jordan-Fenton who together have authored these two books: fatty legs & a stranger at home, Margaret’s true story of her experiences as a child that she kept secret for many, many years.

As soon as I received my invitation, I rushed out to purchase both books so I could go somewhat prepared to the event and also, to get them autographed for my niece.  She’s 12 now and will learn a lot of interesting things from these books.  I read them each in a day and found them good to read — nothing truly dark or sinister.  They are two parts of a whole.  Margaret’s older sister had been to school and knew how to read English.  When Margaret was seven, her sister read to her from the collection of coloured books their father had given her for Christmas.  Margaret wanted to learn to read so badly; there was so much she wanted to learn.  She pestered and pestered her father to let her go to the school until he finally relented.  Her sister Rosie was right.  They didn’t just take her hair, they took everything.

a stranger at home is the proof.  When Margaret returned home after two years, everything was different except her relationship with her father.  She could no longer tolerate the rich foods of the Inuit that had been her favourites.  She had forgotten her language and many of the ways of her family and people.  She felt like an outcast, teased by the other children.  Only her father stood by her patiently, helping her to find her way back into her community.

There are other versions of these books meant for younger children and these books could be read by older children, too, if they want know more about some of the sad injustices perpetrated on aboriginals in an attempt to assimilate them and modernize them.  Usually, the motives included wanting to move them off their lands so that the oils and minerals could make white people rich.

Both the books and the evening were illuminating and I was grateful for the opportunity to meet these ladies and hear about their lives and how their books came about.  The books are definitely worth reading no matter what your age and may spur you to learn more about this sad chapter in our Canadian history. * * * *



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Tuesday’s Tantalizing Teasers & First Chapter, First Paragraph: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

First Chapter, First Paragraph has a new host, I’d Rather Be At The Beach, you can reach here.  Easy to participate.  Include your book title and author, a picture of the cover, and quote the first (or first two) paragraph(s) from the book.  Leave your link at the blog site along with a comment on what is posted there.  Learn about other books people are reading by visiting their blogs and noting their excerpts.

My book for today, The Woman in Cabin 10, a novel by Ruth Ware.  It begins with a prologue although it doesn’t say so:

In my dream, the girl was drifting, far, far below the crashing waves and the cries of the gulls in the cold, sunless depths of the North Sea. Her laughing eyes were white and bloated with salt water; her pale skin was wrinkled; her clothes ripped by jagged rocks and disintegrating into rags.

Only her long black hair remained, floating through the water like fronds of dark seaweed, tangling in shells and fishing nets, washing up on the shore in hanks like frayed rope, where it lay, limp, the roar of the crashing waves against the shingle filling my ears.

I’ve started my own meme, Tuesday’s Tantalizing Teasers which may not appear every week but when it does, it will always be on Tuesday.  To participate, show the title, author, and cover, and choose a random (or not) quote to share with other readers.  Here’s my quote from the above book:

I should have felt afraid—a thirty-two-year-old woman, clearly wearing pajamas, wandering the streets in the small hours. But I felt safer out here than I did in my flat. Out here, someone would hear you cry. (p.23)

Would you keep reading?  Have you read this book already?  Share your thoughts and leave a link to your own post.  Enjoy your day!


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Mystery Monday: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

Today’s Mystery Monday feature is The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz, a Swedish journalist and author whose books have been translated into many languages and are on best sellers lists everywhere.  This book is part of a series involving genius hacker Lisbeth Salander (the girl with the dragon tattoo) and Mikael Blomkvist, editor of Millennium magazine which features investigative reporting which champions truth and justice.  They make a great team. . . when they do eventually team up.

Frans Balder is a genius when it comes to computer programming but an outsider when it comes to social situations.  He also sees himself as a lousy father.  When he hears that his 8-year-old autistic son is being abused physically by his mother’s boyfriend and making no progress with connecting with others, Frans gives up his job in Silicone Valley and heads home to Arlanda, Sweden to remove the boy, get to know him, and put him in safer, more professional hands.

Mikael Blomkvist and his magazine are facing a hostile takeover and Mikael is feeling helpless and old.  What he needs, is a real story that exposes criminal activities within supposedly upstanding companies or government that will turn his magazine into a profit-making, up-scale entity again and allow him to buy out from under the company that extended him the funding he needed a short time ago.  What he gets from his new source, Frans Balder, will lead him into the territory of cyber crime where ruthless spies will stop at nothing to achieve their objectives.  He’s definitely going to need Lisbeth’s help.

When the source is murdered, the autistic boy becomes the subject of a massive search as he is the only witness and the underworld wants nothing but to silence him.  An explosive, suspenseful novel that will take you on a wild ride.  You don’t have to know a lot about computers to understand that evil, greedy people can manipulate and hack to achieve their ends and that sometimes ordinary people have to behave extraordinarily to stop them.  A great book — soon to be released in movie format — and I look forward to reading more by David Lagercrantz. * * * * *

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A Borrowed Dream by Amanda Cabot

A Borrowed Dream by Amanda Cabot is her 13th book although it is the first I’ve read by her.  It was given to me by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing, in exchange for an honest review.  It has a Christian theme and takes place in Texas circa 1881 and is the second in her Cimarron Creek romance trilogy.

Take a pretty school marm with a dream, a plastic surgeon turned rancher with a dark secret and an extremely withdrawn daughter, a farmer’s son who continually shows up at school with signs of bruising, and a Philadelphia gangster bent on vengeance and you’ve got the makings of a great plot.

Catherine Whitfield has had a dream for a long time — to go to Paris, walk along the Seine visit the Louvre and Notre Dame — but when her mother dies before they get to take their trip and her dream turns into a nightmare, she thinks maybe God is telling her not to go.  When little Hannah Goddard comes to Catherine’s one-room school house, Catherine can see right away that something is wrong.  Despite all her efforts to bring Hannah out of her shell, she makes no progress and both she and the girl’s father, Austin, are at wits’ ends as to what to do.

Catherine feels an attraction to Goddard but at the same time senses that he’s holding back some deep secret.  She also is part of the Whitfield clan — founders of Cimarron Creek along with the Hendersons — and therefore has been brought up the responsibility of being a role model in this little Texas town where everyone knows everyone, or thinks they do.  There are more secrets to be uncovered and dangers to be faced that may keep Catherine and Austin apart.

This book has a kind of cozy plot and interesting characters but is also full of adventure and surprise.  It is not a fast-paced book but is full of compassion and a realistic view of the time and thoroughly enjoyable.  Despite being a trilogy, it doesn’t leave you hanging at the end.  I especially appreciate the layout of the town and the family tree of the founding families at the front of the book.  Always helpful.  I look forward to reading more by Amanda Cabot. * * * *

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The Birth House by Ami McKay

Kudos to the Britannia Book Club (one of the perks connected with my recent move) for choosing such an excellent read for March.  The Birth House is Ami McKay‘s debut novel and it captures the early 1900’s rural Nova Scotia culture in a thoroughly enchanting manner.

Dora Rare is the narrator/midwife.  She begins her story in her late teens when she lived in a household full of boys, with a somewhat indulgent mother, and a father who has become rather uneasy about her unabashed camaraderie with her six brothers.  She is, after all, the only girl born to a Rare in 5 generations.  Her aunt is involved with the White Rose Temperance Society, has a prim and proper daughter of her own, and objects greatly to her niece being allowed to read what she considers racy literature.

Dora and her mother are among the few friends of Marie Babineau, a Cajun midwife who has wide knowledge and usually accurate premonitions, and remembers clearly the day she delivered Dora Rare — she has always known that Dora would replace her as the only midwife in the small, tight-knit community of Scots Bay.  When Dora is 17, Marie scoops her up to assist in the delivery of Experience Ketch’s 12th baby.  It is Experience’s eldest son in the wagon with Miss B because her husband Brady is out drinking as usual.  Brady is a hard-drinking man who expects everything to be done for him in the house and is more concerned with his own pleasures than about the feelings and well-being of others. Experience is well named.  Brady is abusive of her and their children, his daughter Rose in particular whom he sexually abuses himself and pimps out for extra drinking money.  Experience takes his abuse in an effort to protect her children but lives in constant fear.  Brady haunts Dora throughout the novel.

Dora’s love of reading and joy of “catching” babies entertain throughout the book and the irony of the hypocrisy she uncovers around her (including her strict aunt’s affair with the new vicar) stretches her desire for justice, mercy, and acceptance for all.  She begins a weeknight knitting club in her home called the Occasional Knitters Society which gives other women a chance to get out from under their husbands’ thumbs and also protects Dora when her husband, Archer, comes home drunk expecting marital duties.  He is an insensitive brute who takes off for months at a time and when the opportunity presents itself for Dora to secretly adopt a child of her own she does so in her calm, competent manner as if it was the most natural thing in the world to have such a secret.

The world of her quiet village is turned upside down, wife against husband, when Dr. Thomas sets up The Canning Maternity Home in a nearby town.  Where the local midwife would make a house call, Dr. Thomas expects the labouring mother to make her way down the mountain no matter what the weather and give birth in the maternity home where it is completely sanitized and presumably healthier for both mother and child.  They have to pay for the privilege whereas with the midwife, they only had to give what they could spare, often a chicken, eggs, or an exchange of labour.  According to Dr. Thomas, “science is exact” and yet he has no experience in delivering babies and the scientific theories of the day, oft quoted from the magazine “Science of New Life” or posters on the doctor’s office, are totally ludicrous in retrospect.  When Dr. Thomas tries to have Dora arrested for murder on the word of Brady Ketch, she escapes to Boston where her brother Charlie is working and has found love.

Dora is a gutsy, knowledgeable woman, unafraid to stand up to those she believes wrong, to protect those who are vulnerable, and to work on many levels for women’s rights.  She is a tireless worker in helping others and is willing to stand up against convention in order to live life on her own terms.  From beginning to end, the characters are engaging, the issues both unbelievable and relevant despite the passage of time.  It is not an adventurous, fast-paced story but it is one that captivates from the beginning and demands to be read to the very end.  You can read the opening paragraph and a two-line teaser here.  I will definitely be reading more books by Ami McKay. * * * * *

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Tuesday’s Tantalizing Teasers & First Chapter, First Paragraph: Tuesday, April 10th

One of my favourite movies is Casablanca.  A friend and I just watched it again recently and it has sent us on a bit of a “6 degrees of separation” kick which includes the book for today’s Tantalizing Teaser and First Chapter, First Paragraph memes.  It’s called We’ll Always Have Casablanca which, of course, is a play on a line from the movie — “We’ll always have Paris” says Rick to Ilsa.

First Chapter, First Paragraph has a new host, I’d Rather Be At The Beach, you can reach here.  Easy to participate.  Include your book title and author, a picture of the cover, and quote the first (or first two) paragraph(s) from the book.  Leave your link at the blog site along with a comment on what is posted there.  Learn about other books people are reading by visiting their blogs and noting their excerpts.

My book for today, We’ll Always Have Casablanca, is by Noah Isenberg and contains a thorough examination of every part of the production, cast, crew, publicity, music, and afterlife of the movie Casablanca.  It holds many amazing facts, anecdotes, and reminiscences that will fascinate fans of the movie of all ages.  Here’s how it begins:

Chapter 1  Everybody Comes To Rick’s

Casablanca began its fabled career as a modest, unproduced, three-act play, Everybody Comes to Rick’s, written in 1940 by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. An English teacher at Central Commercial High School in midtown Manhattan, Burnett was at the start of his career as a playwright. He’d only recently finished his undergraduate degree at Cornell University, and reserved his skills as a dramatist mostly for nights and weekends. A few years before, based on his experiences at his day job, he’d finished a draft of a play he called An Apple for the Teacher, which would later be known as Hickory Stick. Cowritten with Fredrick Stephani, it would eventually earn an abbreviated run on Broadway — five days total at the Mansfield Theatre— in May 1944.  Sometime in the late 1930s, Burnett met his writing partner Alison at the Atlantic Beach Club, one of the many cabana-lined enclaves that dot the South Shore of Long Island, which they both frequented in summer. They quickly began a happy collaboration that lasted many years.

I’ve started my own meme, Tuesday’s Tantalizing Teasers which may not appear every week but when it does, it will always be on Tuesday.  To participate, show the title, author, and cover, and choose a random (or not) quote to share with other readers.  Here’s my quote from the above book.

“We know characters better than we know our friends,” [Robert McKee] wrote in his 1997 guide Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, “because a character is eternal and unchanging, while people shift—just when we think we understand them we don’t. In fact, I know Rick Blaine in Casablanca better than I know myself. Rick is always Rick. I’m a bit iffy.” p. 39-40

Share your thoughts!  Would you keep reading?  Have you read this book already?  Leave a comment and a link to your tantalizing teaser.


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Tuesday’s Tantalizing Teasers & First Chapter, First Paragraph: Tuesday, March 20th

I used to participate in a meme called Teaser Tuesday but since it has changed hands it keeps appearing on Wednesdays which are extremely busy days for me.  So I’m starting my own Tuesday’s Tantalizing Teasers which will appear on Tuesdays.  I hope you will join in.

First, First Chapter, First Paragraph, a meme which also does appear on Tuesdays.  It is a meme hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea.  Anyone can play — just copy the first paragraph of the first chapter (or prologue) and include a picture of the book cover. Leave your link at Bibliophile by the Sea.  My book is by Canadian author Ami McKay called The Birth House.

The story follows young Dora Rare in a rural community in early 20th century Nova Scotia as she learns from an older woman how to become a midwife.  She faces the struggles faced by many women of that time — trying to live a secure life, maintain the right to give safe birth, and attain the right to vote.  Here is how it begins:


My house stands at the edge of the earth. Together, the house and I have held strong against the churning tides of Fundy. Two sisters, stubborn in our bones.


To participate in Tuesdays’ Tantalizing Teases, choose at random 2 – 5 sentences from your current read, noting the position in the book or ebook.  Link to my meme and comment here.  Then check out the posts others have left.  It’s also helpful if you include a picture of the cover and a few sentences about the story.  Here is my tantalizing teaser (I hope you will find it so):

How a mother comes to love her child, her caring at all for this thing that’s made her heavy, lopsided and slow, this thing that made her wish she were dead … that’s the miracle.

Have you read this book?  Give us your thoughts.  Are you intrigued?  Share.

Have a Tantalizing Tuesday!

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