After a fabulous, loud, joyful, peopley, cherished, whirlwind, loved, chaotic, and absolutely wonderful nonstop three weeks of family holiday celebrations, I have extended my blogging break until January 25. However, I did want to share what I have been reading and have a quick catchup with you. I will be reading and replying to all comments and linkups to this post, as well as any current posts of blogs I usually follow.

I look forward to connecting with you there. Without further ado, here are my late December/early January reads.


4+ Stars
“Fresh Water For Flowers” by Valérie Perrin was published in French as “Changer l’eau des Fleurs” and translated into English by Hildegaarde Serle. The English prose is so intricately crafted and artfully paced that it is hard to believe it’s a translation.
This novel features a diverse cast of vividly depicted characters. Managing their individual tales and interwoven plot lines that span across time keeps readers on their toes. The main story unfolds slowly, revealing its intricacies piece by precise piece.

Just when you believe you’ve grasped the complete picture, an alternate point of view of the same event is presented, offering a profoundly thought-provoking contrast.

“Fresh Water for Flowers” is an emotional journey and a poignant exploration of rediscovering life after enduring its darkest moments.

Recommended to me by Marty @ Snakes in the Grass.

Canada’s Most Controversial Novel

4 Stars
My husband recently sent me a CBC article calling Marian Engle’s novel Bear “one of the most controversial books in the history of Canadian literature.” So, of course, I had to read it. Surprisingly, my local library had a digital copy available, which meant I could begin reading immediately. From the article, I already knew there was a sexual relationship between the female protagonist and a bear.

I also knew that the book speaks to conversations we currently have (or should be having) in Canada. Both things were helpful to know before reading.
While the novel made me uncomfortable (significantly), it also slowly, steadily and poetically drew me in. Provocative and introspective, the novel challenges conventions. The relationship between a lonely librarian/archivist and a bear serves as a metaphor for the complexities of human connections. The novel delves into themes of loneliness, longing, and the search for meaning, pushing the boundaries of societal norms.
Engel’s skillful narrative and evocative prose create a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of human nature that challenges readers to contemplate the depths of human desire and the intricacies of relationships. The complex Indigenous-settler dynamic makes Bear a very relevant current read.

Recommended to me by my husband and CBC.


4- Stars

After finishing Alcott’s ‘Little Women,’ a few friends recommended ‘March’ by Geraldine Brooks. I often avoid historical fiction as the intertwining of fact and fiction can confuse and frustrate me. Still, I enthusiastically began reading.

Without question, the novel’s strengths are numerous. Brooks’s prose is exquisite, her narrative compelling, and her characters intricately developed with profound emotional layers. The book boasts impressive research and offers a fresh perspective on the American Civil War.

Brooks fearlessly exposes the heinous realities of slavery and the brutalities of war. Her vivid descriptions of the carnage, horror, and sheer inhumanity make ‘March’ an incredibly intense read, a stark departure from the lighter holiday-themed books I’d previously been reading.

‘March’ offers significant deviation with both Marmee and Mr. March from ‘Little Women’ (based on Alcott’s real-life parents, who inspired the original characters). While I understand creative license, the romantic inclinations between March and Grace felt wrong to me. I can’t help but think that Alcott herself would not have appreciated this specific reinterpretation.

In summary, ‘March’ is worth reading — just exert caution in the timing of when you read it. And definitely do not skip Brooks’ afterward. It is very illuminating.

Recommended to me by Sue @ Women Living Well After 50


5 Stars
I was delighted to serve as a beta reader for the first novel in Joanne Tracey’s new cozy crime series, due to be published in early April. Set in the fictional world of Whale Bay, it’s funny, smart, captivating and seamlessly woven together. I loved that I wasn’t sure who ‘did it’ until the very end.

Currently Reading

Man, I struggled with the opening of this novel. I mean REALLY struggled. Try as I may, I just couldn’t get into it. But, it was Charles (whose other writings I have greatly admired) and a book club read, so I persevered. I am now extremely glad that I did. At book club, we agreed to read only until the end of Book 2, Chapter 8, for now. Once I got there, I desperately did not want to stop. Stay tuned next month for Parts 2 and 3.



Debbie @ Deb’s World
Jo @ And Anyways
Sue @ Women Living Well Over 50

• The bookbag in feature photo was created by Dottie Wombat.

Published by Retirement Reflections

Prior to retirement, I lived and worked in Beijing China for fourteen years (Middle School Principal/Deputy Director at The Western Academy of Beijing). Leaving international life behind, my husband and I retired to Vancouver Island in June 2015. To document both this transition and our new adventures, ‘Retirement Reflections’ was born. I hope that you enjoy reading these reflections, and will be willing to share your own.
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