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My Progress:

10 / 30 books. 33% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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My Progress:

18 / 51 states. 35% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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13 / 50 books. 26% done!

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20 / 50 books. 40% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

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38 / 50 books. 76% done!

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33 / 52 books. 63% done!

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23 / 40 books. 57% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

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5 / 25 books. 20% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

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24 / 26.2 miles. 92% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

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19 / 100 books. 19% done!

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49 / 104 books. 47% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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39 / 52 books. 75% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

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44 / 165 books. 27% done!
Friday, December 13, 2019

Despite Rich Subject Material, Historical Orphan Novel a Long, Preachy Slog

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In turn-of-the-century London, many families are struggling to make ends meet.  After the death of their main breadwinner, the McAlisters are only a few thin coins away from the poorhouse.  To help provide for her mother and three younger siblings, 21-year-old Laura McAlister works as a lady's maid at a posh estate an hour away from the city.  When she learns her mother has been hospitalized with a grave illness, she resigns her position and hurries home—only to find that her brother and sisters have already been turned out of their home and taken to an orphanage.  Desperate to rescue her siblings, Laura makes every attempt to free them, only to find they won't be released unless she can pay a large amount of money.  Knowing hundreds of orphaned British children are regularly being shipped off to Canada, whether they're truly parentless or not, Laura is frantic with worry.  With no way to make the kind of cash she needs, she makes the drastic choice to join the staff of the orphanage using a false identity in the hopes of sneaking her siblings away in the night. 

When Andrew Frasier, the son of Laura's former employer, discovers Laura's ruse, she's terrified the gig is up.  Surprisingly, he joins her in her quest to not just find her brother and sisters, but also to save children like them from being shipped overseas against their will.  Can the duo find Laura's siblings in time?  Or will her deceit be brought to light, cutting off her last chance to save them? 

I've read plenty of books about orphanages, orphan trains, and early versions of foster care in the United States, but I had no idea that England sent more than 100,000 poor and abandoned children to Canada between the years 1869 and 1939.  Those who received them, be it as adopted children or household servants, were assured the kids had been orphaned.  Was that true in every case?  Undoubtedly not.  

As a way to explore this question and bring light to the plight of the children who were sent to Canada, where many were overworked and abused, Carrie Turansky penned No Ocean Too Wide.  Although the McAlister Family is fictional, the made-up characters represent the real kids who endured mistreatment at the hands of the adults who exploited them.  Turansky handles the horrors of the situation gently, but the book's based-on-true-events background is heartbreaking nonetheless.  With such a rich subject to draw on, it's unfortunate that No Ocean Too Wide features blah, underdeveloped characters and a very slow-moving plot.  Written as a Christian novel, it's also quite heavy-handed in the religion department.  All of these things made the book feel like a long, preachy slog.  While I found the subject of the novel fascinating, I had a hard time getting through it.  Needless to say, I'm not going to bother with its forthcoming sequels. 


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of No Ocean Too Wide from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Standalone Thriller Not Armstrong's Best Work, But Still Compelling

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Keeping devastating secrets from her past away from her safe little life in a Chicago suburb has taken a toll on 30-year-old Bree Finch.  A former stay-at-home mom, she's now separated from her husband, working a part-time job, and seeing her young daughter only on the weekends.  She knows these changes make her look unstable, can see the judgmental looks in the eyes of the other moms, but Bree has to do what she has to do to keep Paul and Charlotte safe.

While at the park alone one day, Bree witnesses a shocking crime.  A child is kidnapped.  Although no one else sees the incident and no parent at the park is missing their kid, Bree knows what she saw, even if the police think she's making up a story to get attention.  If the authorities won't take the disappearance seriously, she will have to investigate on her own.  When the corpse of a young woman is subsequently found in the park, Bree is surer than ever that something horrible has happened.  Soon, she's fully embroiled in a situation that's spinning out of her control.  Who is the dead woman?  And what really happened to the boy Bree saw being taken?  Did her eyes deceive her?  Or is the child even now in grave danger?  

I'm a big fan of Kelley Armstrong's Rockton series, so I'm always up for a new book by her.  A standalone, Wherever She Goes is not as unique or riveting as other of the author's crime thrillers, but it is compelling.  The characters and plotline might be cliché, but I still burned through the pages of Wherever She Goes because I cared about Bree and had to know what was going to happen to her.  In spite of that, this one ended up being another like-it-didn't-love-it read.  It's not Armstrong's best work, but I'm still a fan.  Her mystery novels are always engrossing, even if some are better than others.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of lots of other mystery/thrillers, but no specific title is coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, innuendo, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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