Saturday, 21 December 2013

Special for My Sister, Part One

    Hello.  Yes.  You. Over there.  My faithful readers.  Hi. I'm back.

What?  Where have I been?  Oh yes.  It wasn't a planned absence.  It was a cumulation of everything this year, and especially, what my sister and her family have been going through. I suddenly couldn't say anything.  Not until now.

    My sister's son, my nephew Mathew, has Ewing's Sarcoma.  It's a rare form of bone cancer.  It hits young people and children only.  My nephew is 20.  One day last winter he started complaining that he had a pain in his leg.  It took 5 months and many, many trips to the ER and the doctor's before finally, the tumor was found, in June.  Then two months to get the diagnosis of what kind of cancer it was.  It is in his spine. It is aggressive. The treatment finally began in September.  And the very best news was received last week:  the tumor has shrunk by one third.

This is my Christmas present, and my sister's, and brother-in-law's, and niece's. And most especially my nephew's. This is the best news, and the only thing we all really wanted for Christmas. So thank you to the doctors, nurses, specialists, family and friends who are in New Brunswick where my sister lives, everyone helping in big ways and the small.  The cancer treatment lasts a year, so there is a long road ahead.  There is much needed light now on this road.

My sister is detailing Mathew's treatment on her blog over at Her hope is that as they go through the treatment with Mathew, the things he goes through, the mistakes and the successes, can/will help someone else who has this rare type of cancer.  If you know someone who has it, or has had it, please get in touch with her, and let her know what you are going through.  Sharing helps lighten the burden, especially in this long tough fight.

The news is so good, so wonderful, that my sister sent me a text earlier this week and asked me to get back on my blog and start posting about books so she could know what to read next. 

Her wish is my command.  So this is for you, sis.  Love you very much.

Susan's books of the year, Part one. 

I have been a bad blogger.  I have tried to blog about books I read and enjoyed, especially those I loved.  And yet, many of my favourites from this year somehow I missed!!  I think I was saving them for the special I-just-loved-this-book-post, so please consider if I write a review about a book now here in  this post and the next one (planned for tomorrow), as the post I would have done back then.

Books I Loved:

Of Blood and Honey - Stina Leicht.  I didn't post about this one, and this is a book that deserves it's on post. It is a fantasy about fairies, but not those fairies.  Faeries.  The dark and dangerous kind.  In this book, book one, Liam is growing up in 1970's war torn Derry, Northern Ireland.  He is caught in the Troubles, only his danger is coming from a small man in a red cap with pointed teeth.  Every time Liam sees him, trouble comes and he is in danger. Liam grew up a Catholic family, and his mother eventually reveals that his father is one of the Fallen, a man from ancient Irish myth, one of the main central figures of Irish myth. The war Liam is caught up in doesn't just involve the Protestants or the Catholics, but the Irish faeries, too.  Very different, and very good.  I really enjoyed this one, though a warning that it is dark, very dark, but then the Troubles were a terrible time, too. I like the extra dimension of the myths wandering in the pages, and trying to figure out which is which.

A Dying Fall - Elly Griffiths.  The most recent book in the Ruth Galloway series, set in Norfolk, England.  She is an archeologist,  and in this one she is called to Blackpool to help identify some bones that may or may not be old, or even ancient, and of great importance: are they the bones of King Arthur?  As preposterous as that sounds, it has to be investigated, so off she goes.  Blackpool is also the family home of Nelson, the police chief she has a daughter with.  He is married to someone else, and in this book, some of the characters start to put the pieces together.  I really enjoyed the meetings Ruth has with Nelson's mother and sister, and how Cathbad ends up there too.  This is a brilliant mystery series, with the crimes always believable, and for sad reasons, as they are in real life.  Ruth is fun, and engaging, and hilarious as she recounts why she feels like she can't manage being a single mother and working at the same time.  Often thoughts I have, and I am married, but balancing work and children is difficult. Highly recommended as a thoroughly entertaining mystery series.  I love how she writes about the sea, too, and the wind and the sky, in the marsh where Ruth lives.

The Vampire Tapestry - Suzy Charnas McKee - I reviewed the book, here.  It is one of the best vampire novels.  I have had most of the year to let it sink in, and I really like how we get the different perspectives in this book through the three linked stories.  He is evil, ruthless, but it is all to survive.  Can we blame him?  He simply is

The Beautiful Mystery - Louise Penny.  Outstanding.  I have a confession to make.  For a long time in my life, I have been fascinated by monasteries and retreats that ordinary people can make there.  The idea of two or three blissful weeks by myself, alone, in silence, has always called to me.  So, this summer, I took three weeks by myself when my family went to England to visit my husband's family.  I really needed the silence.  And since then, I have made a point to be more still, to find a time in the day when I sit, and be quiet.  It is amazing how powerful this is. And I realized I don't have to go to a monastery to find it.  I can find it in my own home.  So when I saw that the second to latest in the Armand Gamache series was set in a monastery, I was eager to read this mystery.  And it doesn't disappoint.  It was everything I wanted, in a mystery set in a monastery.  The monks in this book are of a group that were being hunted by the pope back in the 17th century for being heretics.  They fled to the wilderness of the province of Quebec, and remained hidden there for centuries.  Until one enterprising monk taped their music, and in the craze for Gregorian chants that really swept the world in the 1980's and 90's, these monks sent their tape out and it became a huge hit.  Suddenly, they were discovered.  And ordinary people came by the hundreds to seek them out. What does sudden fame and wealth do to a monastery that has no wealth and needed to remain hidden?  Why was the music sent out?  There is quite a bit about music in this book. Penny makes it an integral part of the monastery - all the monks who are there, are chosen for their voices.  This book is about harmony, and how each part fits into the whole, in the community and in the music.  It's wonderful writing.  When one monk is discovered dead in his garden, Armand Gamache as the head of the Surete de Quebec is called to investigate, along with his trusted second in command, Guy Beauvoir.  And in the secluded setting of the northern Quebec woods, the monastery on a lake, a beautiful setting, in the deep silence of the woods, secrets are revealed that change not just the future of the monastery, but also the lives of Gamache and Beauvoir, forever.

The Bone People - Keri Hulme.  Reviewed here.  I still feel the same way about this novel.  Amazing, brutal, beautiful, breathtakingly sad and poetic and haunting.

Some Kind of Fairy Tale - Graham Joyce.  What happens when you have a sister who disappeared one day, and 20 years later she comes back?  Where was she?  And then she says that she went away, taken by a fairy.  Would you believe her?  In this story, this is what happened to Tara Martin, and her brother Peter is the one who has had to hold the family together in the 20 years since.  When she walks back into their lives, 20 years has gone by.  Everything has changed.  For her, it has only been a year or so.  Not 20.  There is something unworldly about her, something that being in fairyland has done to her.  It's an odd story, about the effects her disappearance has had on her, and what her coming back does to them.  She is not the same, and nothing can be the same as it was. The frightening thing is that the fairies want the girls to go with them - in this story, as in the fairy story Tam Lin, it is girls the fairies want, to share their country with.  Tara hasn't come alone, the fairies didn't want to let her go.  The most unsettling part?  The fairies want young girls to go with them.  We meet another character who has been taken by the fairies, and the book ends with the threat of the fairies already laying their charms on another character.  Be careful of strangers, be careful in the woods, don't go in the woods alone......and you can't go home again.  Haunting and gentle, sweet, and melancholic.  This is what fairies are, and what they do.  It's not for children though, this is an adult fairy story. Effectively creepy and dangerous, which is what faeries really are, even if enchanting too.

Wide Open - Deborah Coates. Reviewed here.  I really like the tone of this debut mystery, and the main character herself.  I don't particularly like the ending, though the setting - South Dakota - and the characters are interesting, and the plot - that she can see ghosts - has a fresh air about it.  I haven't picked the second one up yet, but will be in the new year. 

The Burning - Jane Casey - also in the same review above.  I really want to read more in this series.  Bad me for not picking more of this series up this year.  Writing this post is making me realize how much I haven't followed up in mystery series yet!!!!

Despite my silence on here, I have been reading as much as I can this year.  The last two weeks I haven't been able to read anything.  Nothing seemed right. I tried three books, mostly science fiction so I could read for Carl's challenge, but nothing held my attention.  The night before last, I might have found the right one:  Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb.  I'll know more later today and tomorrow.  We are expecting freezing rain for much of the day tomorrow, after receiving close to 20cm of snow through the day yesterday.  Once I get my turkey for Christmas dinner, I plan to stay in and read.  The second best Christmas present for me.

Tomorrow:  Part Two of my books of the year.


Kailana said...

Oh, wow, Susan. I was wondering where you were because you didn't appear for Virtual Advent. I am glad I didn't pester you about it because I had no idea this was happening. I am glad your nephew is showing some progress with his treatments. That is a wonderful Christmas present indeed.

As to your books, you look like you have read some good ones. I am hoping to finally read Louise Penny in the new year. I have wanted to for ages and I have the first book in her series now. I just have to find time to read it!

Susan said...

Kelly, I meant to email you and Marg, and then I realized that I couldn't keep up with the Advent Calendar this year, even though I love the idea so much!! I hope next year will be a much happier time when the advent time rolls around....It is good news about Mathew. Thank you :-)

You have to read Louise Penny! Her books are so good. Both the setting in Three Pines, a place I wish existed (despite the murders they seem to have!), and now this setting in the monastery - I wish it existed too! I'd go there :-) although it's men only, in the book. I really hope you get to read Still Life this year, and enjoy it.

Cath said...

Susan, I'm so sorry to hear about your nephew's terrible diagnosis of that rare form of cancer. How horrible for him and for your whole family. It must be such a relief to have the wonderful news that the cancer is now shrinking. I wish all of you the best Christmas ever.

As I'm sure you know the Ruth Galloway series is one of my all-time favourite crime series. I love her and the wonderful place where she lives.

I read The Vampire Tapestry a few years ago and liked it as well. Rather different to the modern take on vampires.

I love the sound of Some Kind of Fairytale!

Oh, I hope you enjoy The Ship of Magic. I read it for OUaT this year and loved it to bits. Hoping to read book 2 this year.

Just a few days to Doctor Who! :-D

Susan said...

Cath: Thank you so much for your kind wishes. I wish you the merriest of Christmases too.

I kept remembering your post on The Ship of Magic and how much you loved it, so slowly it moved forward on my TBR hill :-) I haven't had the time I wanted to read today, so I'm hoping with the storm we have here tomorrow, I can finally convince myself to sit still for a bit and read! lol

I think you would enjoy Some Kind of Fairy Tale, Cath.

I'm counting down the days to Doctor Who! So is my daughter....we are both sad to see Matt Smith go, though I am anxious to see how Peter Capaldi does as the new doctor. I'm so glad you are enjoying it too! My nephew also watches it, when he is well enough too. Did you like the 50th Anniversary special? Wasn't it wonderful, the three doctors together like that?

Alex said...

The bears and I are all keeping our respective paws and fingers crossed that things will continue to go well for your nephew. It is remarkable how much can be done these days - so different from when I was his age.

I'm glad you like the Griffiths and the Penny. I have promised myself the new Penny for Christmas and woe betide anyone who gets in my way once I have settled down with it. The same will be true when the new Griffiths is published in February.

I hope you enjoy 'Ship of Magic'. I am a great Robin Hobb fan and am very much looking forward to her latest book which is also scheduled for February,

Have a great Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Yipee - love the post! I'm ready to do some reading and your list looks great!

Love you, little sis Patricia

Nan said...

So very grateful for the good news. And I pray he gets better and better. My heart is with you and your family. Love, love.

JaneGS said...

So happy to hear that treatment is being effective for your nephew, and my thoughts are with your family and sister's family.

I understand about the need for solitude and silence--for me also it is a healing and rejuvenating process.

I am eager to start #2 in the Louise Penny series but the one you describe sounds so good that I may skip ahead and read it too.

I think blogging is and needs to be a personal thing--you write and review as time, inspiration, and capacity to share allows. Great to see you posting again!

Stefanie said...

Sorry to hear about Mathew's illness but I am so glad the treatment is working. Best wishes to him for continuing success. And best wishes to you and your family for a merry Christmas!

GeraniumCat said...

Late as ever, but no less sincere in my hope that your nephew will continue to make good progress. I'm so glad that you all had good news for Christmas.

I liked Some Kind of Fairytale too - something a little different. And I do hope you enjoy Ship of Magic, I'm another Robin Hobb fan, and love the way in which what at first seemed like unrelated trilogies have all come together to make one long, wonderful story.

Michelle Fluttering Butterflies said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your nephew but I am so glad to hear the treatment is going well!

Susan said...

Alex: every day we pray it will also go better for him, he is very sick with the chemo. This was such good news we had. Thank you for your wishes, the Bears crossing their paws too!

I look forward to what you have to say about the new Penny, which I have heard is very good and continues from where The Beautiful Mystery left off. A new Griffiths! I had to go look it up right away :-)

I am just about to post about Ship of Magic.....I think you will like what I have to say! :-)

Patricia: love you too, sis. Glad you like the post. Now hope you can find some books to read and get some time in between appointments and feeding Mathew. Hugs.

Nan: Thank you so much, Nan. We all did have as good a Christmas as we could have, including Mathew. Thank you for your loving wishes :-)

Jane: thank you so much! Sometimes when I post about solitude I think my readers think I am pulling away from them, when it is not so much that as not being able to put myself out as much right now. It's interesting as I discover this about myself, because I still do love talking about books and sharing books and blogs with everyone! I love how we all talk about books :-) and then our lives. I just can't do it every day right now.

Thank you for your wishes :-) Every kind thought and prayer helps in this battle, I find.

Stefanie: Thank you so much! I hope you and The Bookman had a very Merry Christmas also. We did. There was much to be cheerful about, with the good news.

Geranium Cat: You and I are often late to these, but I know the sentiment and warmest thoughts are there no matter when we get there.

I'm just about to post about Ship of Magic, so you and Alex will see the post before this response, I think :-) I think you will like what I have to say!

Merry Christmas to you and your family, too.

cloveryness: thank you so much. We are so glad too, of course, and yours and everyone's kind thoughts and wishes here have helped us all too, to know we are not alone in this long fight he faces.

Debi said...

Oh Susan. I'm so very sorry for all you and your family have been going through. But I am so very grateful for the wonderful Christmas present you've all been given!!! My thoughts will remain with you and your nephew and the rest of you family...I'm sure it won't be an easy road, but I hope it is a very successful journey!!! *HUGS*

Susan said...

Debi: Thank you so much! That is what we are praying for and working towards, a successful treatment and recovery. It will be a long step at at time, one day at a time. It certainly makes treasuring everything good we have more important every day we are alive, doesn't it? Merry Christmas to your family, and I hope 2014 brings you a good and welcome change in your health, Debi. Hug back!

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