VALENTINE – Elizabeth Wetmore

Valentine: A Novel

I’ve read Caleb Pirtle’s  books and blogs set in Texas—enough to know that the climate is harsh and drilling for oil even harsher,

In VALENTINE, by Elizabeth Wetmore, harsh morphs into downright grim. The relentless heat seeps out of every page urging you, the reader, to turn on the air conditioner. The violence and the apparent lack of caring, like a punch to the gut, leave you breathless. Yet, you keep turning the pages. You have to know.

The widow, the young Mexican girl, the pregnant mother and her daughter, the young girl trying to take care of herself and her father—each presenting the oil patch from their point of view with their fear and strength and the often deeply buried tenderness making unexpected appearances.


Mercy is hard in a place like this….

It’s February 1976, and Odessa, Texas, stands on the cusp of the next great oil boom. While the town’s men embrace the coming prosperity, its women intimately know and fear the violence that always seems to follow.

In the early hours of the morning after Valentine’s Day, 14-year-old Gloria Ramírez appears on the front porch of Mary Rose Whitehead’s ranch house, broken and barely alive. The teenager had been viciously attacked in a nearby oil field – an act of brutality that is tried in the churches and barrooms of Odessa before it can reach a court of law. When justice is evasive, the stage is set for a showdown with potentially devastating consequences.

Valentine is a haunting exploration of the intersections of violence and race, class, and region in a story that plumbs the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into beauty and hope. Told through the alternating points of view of indelible characters who burrow deep in the listener’s heart, this fierce, unflinching, and surprisingly tender novel illuminates women’s strength and vulnerability, and reminds us that it is the stories we tell ourselves that keep us alive.

AKIN — Emma Donoghue

Absolutely marvelous!

Noah is about to celebrate his eightieth birthday in Nice — the city where he was born, the city he hasn’t seen since he was four years old – when his eleven year old great nephew is foisted on him by a desperate and persistent social worker.

Noah, determined to get to Nice and unravel the mystery of his mother’s photos, refuses to give up his trip and takes the boy along. The ensuing adventures of this unlikely pair take the reader on a wild ride through Nice and back to WWII as they search for the answers Noah needs. A story of adventure, bonding, and finding home.


Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he’s discovered from his mother’s wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he’s never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip.
Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy’s truculent wit, and Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.
Written with all the tenderness and psychological intensity that made Room an international bestseller, Akin is a funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy, born two generations apart, who unpick their painful story and start to write a new one together.

Tacos de birria – Canadian style

One of our favorite breakfasts in Mexico can be found at the taco stand a couple of blocks down the street. Tacos de birria: Shredded meat served with onions (cooked or raw), broth from the meat if you like, and your choice of hot sauce (the red one) or salsa suave (the green one made from avocado).

Well, we’re back in Canada and found these treats at our favorite coffee shop, La Roux Patisserie, in China Town, Victoria, BC. I know,> A french pastry shop in China Town!? But, hey, you can’t argue when everything is so tasty..

Churros on the street corner – Mexico

On our way home from dinner, we stop at the corner for churros. Our timing is perfect as the chef is just starting to heat the oil.

The batter:

I won’t presume to recommend a recipe. There are many on the Internet, but I have no idea which might be close to this original.


Using the pastry funnel to put the batter into the oil. :




The finished product: To be dipped in a large shallow bowl holding a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, and (the chef’s secret ingredient) chocolate powder.


By the time the chef wraps our churros in a large sheet of brown paper a long line up has formed behind us.

These treats are definitely worth the wait.



Voyage of Dreams – Ariel Lawhon

Flight of Dreams: A Novel

Wow! Just wow! Lawhon has brought the story of the Hindenburg’s last flight to life in a stunning creation. Based on the actual passengers and crew on board, she has woven a beautiful portrayal of passion and intrigue in her creative imagining of what could have happened before the enormous airship burst into flames just as it landed in the US.

There is nothing in Lawhom’s story that rings false likely because of her intensive research about the Hindenburg itself as well as the bits and pieces of information that she could find about the passengers and crew.

One small complaint. I wish they hadn’t put a picture of Emilie on the cover. I prefer my own version of what she looked like and it’s nothing like the picture they chose.


On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.

Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.

Brilliantly exploring one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century, Flight of Dreams is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing till the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after.

Coronavirus and Fluevog shoes

Fluevog designs ‘The Dr. Henry’shoe inspired by B.C.’s provincial health officer

Vancouver shoe designer John Fluevog says pre-sale of new pink heel set to begin next week

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is adding another title to her long list of credentials — shoe muse.

John Fluevog Shoes is launching a limited edition shoe called “The Dr. Henry,” inspired by the public health official.

The Vancouver designer says the pink-heeled tribute was made with Henry’s blessing, and all proceeds from a pre-sale set to begin next week will be donated to Food Banks B.C. to support the fight against COVID-19

Henry has gained legions of fans for her calm, compassionate and candid demeanour — as well as her fashion sense — during frequent news appearances to keep the public apprised of the latest developments in the pandemic.

Fluevog counts himself among this following, and apparently the feelings are reciprocated, as Henry is an “avid Fluevoger.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry, who admits she is an avid Fluevog shoe-lover at a COVID-19 news announcement in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“At times like these, we’re so fortunate to have someone who is calm and comforting but direct and positive and realistic, informing and educating us day to day,” Fluevog said in a statement.

“We always like to find ways to help and to highlight those who are doing good in our world. To hear about and see that our admiration for Dr. Henry was mutual was just a beautiful cherry on top of an already great idea sundae.”

The two-tone pink heel features patent leather accents, interlacing and a buckle, as well as some wise words from its namesake.

Fluevog says the inside of the shoe will be stamped with a reminder from Henry to “be kind, be calm and be safe.”

A Spool of Blue Thread — Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread: A Novel

Are family lives really held together by a fragile thread? Tyler’s exploration of this concept is brilliantly and beautifully executed through the minute details of family life.

And who is the center of the family? Mom? Dad? The wayward brother?

Reading this book creates an urge to jump in and become a part of this family as they work through their lives and sort out the circumstances that threaten their bond.


“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon…” This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the 21st century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.

Brimming with all the insight, humor, and generosity of spirit that are the hallmarks of Anne Tyler’s work, A Spool of Blue Thread tells a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity. It is a novel to cherish.

Tinacos – aka water tanks – Mexico

Virtually every building in our area of Mexico has a Tinaco or water tank on the roof. Water is pumped up to the Tinaco and gravity feeds the water to your taps. If you want more than a drizzle in your shower, you add a water pressure tank to the system.

Modern tinacos look like this.



You sometimes see a cement tinaco on the roof of an old building. They can be as much as 100 years old.

I wonder if the modern ones will last as long?