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The BookGossip

If you love historical fiction...

November 17, 2017

The essayist and diarist, Anaïs Nin said: “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect” and nowhere is that more true than in historical fiction.  Historical fiction allows readers to step inside the minds of those who came before us, who have shaped our world.  We can experience how they lived in the world of their time and imagine the all-too human side of history.  Putting fictional flesh on historical bones can teach us a lot – about storytelling, history, and most definitely how we got where we are today. 

Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller

Caroline2017 was a big year for the millions of Laura Ingalls Wilder fans as we celebrated the 150th anniversary of her birth and the occasion was marked by the publication of several new books about her.  Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser, The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that inspired the Little House books by Marta McDowell and A Prairie Girl’s Faith: The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Stephen W. Hines to name a few. 

Caroline, Little House, Revisited is a fictional portrayal of the family’s move from Wisconsin to the Kansas Indian Territory in the winter of 1870 but instead of Laura, her mother Caroline takes center stage.  In the Little House books we discovered the frontier life from a child’s perspective but in Sarah Miller’s portrayal we experience it from a mature and realistic perspective.  Caroline is pregnant with her third child as they leave Wisconsin behind.  Pioneer life is hard and there are no close neighbours, friends or family to turn to for comfort or help in times of need.  The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys and like so many others, she will adapt to this strange new place and transform the rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home for her family. 

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper 

The other AlcottIn 2018 we will celebrate another literary anniversary: 150 years since the first publication of Louisa Alcott’s Little Womenand that is exactly where the story of The Other Alcott starts.  It is the year 1868, Louisa’s book has just been published to rave reviews and she is on her way to literary stardom.  Up to that point the life of the Alcott family has not been easy and Louisa is now the breadwinner for this impoverished New England family.  Louisa’s sister, May, was the inspiration for the character Amy in the book and like her, she is an artist.  She did the illustrations for Little Women but they were severely criticized by the press.  Determined to prove herself to her family and critics alike, May declines an offer of marriage from a serious suitor and signs up for rigorous art classes, first in Boston, then in Europe.  She works on her techniques, meets other artist and is slowly but surely getting to be recognized in the art world.   Louisa however holds the purse strings and uses this fact to demand that May comes home to help care for their ailing mother. May refuses, continues painting and finally marries a much-younger man.  Reconciliation between the two sisters, who are so similar in temperament, proves elusive.  Hooper paints a picture of their relationship as close but difficult at times — a portrayal of competing siblings who love each and their family deeply but don’t necessarily get along with each other.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

love and other consolation prizesIt is the year 1909, and Seattle is playing host to the World’s Fair.  Ernest Young, a mixed-race orphan from China, cannot believe his good luck for getting a chance to attend the fair with its exotic exhibits, firework displays and Ferris wheels.  It’s only once he is there that he discovers he will be raffled off - a healthy boy “to a good home.” The raffle winner turns out to be Madam Flora, the owner of the city’s best, most exclusive and refined house of ill repute. Despite protests from upstanding civic leaders who offered the boy to strangers for the price of a ticket in the first place, she takes him to his new home and Ernest joins her establishment as a houseboy. At first, he adapts well to this peculiar environment, glad to escape the school where he never fit in and the meddlesome plans of a condescending scholarship sponsor. He becomes friends with the kitchen maid and with Madam Flora’s daughter, soon falling in love with each girl in a different way.  In the end the reality of the business brings Ernest to the point where he begins to perceive the harsh realities just hiding beneath the illusion of elegance at the Tenderloin, as well as the equally unpalatable hypocrisy and callousness of the society outside.

Alternating between the early 1900s and 1962, when a second World’s Fair takes place in Seattle, this story interlaces the two fairs as turning points in Ernest’s life. His daughter, an investigative reporter, prods him into wading through memories and past events that still impact his family more than 50 years later.  A true story from the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition inspired this very absorbing and moving novel.

Mr. Dickens and his Carol by Samantha Silva

Mr. Dickens and his CarolCharles Dickens, living the life of a successful writer in Victorian London, has been having a few problems of late.  His most recent literary effort, Martin Chuzzlewit, is not selling well. His father and brother keeps on asking for money he knows he will never see again.  He has a family of six children, his wife is planning a large Christmas celebration as well as improvements to their house, his children want more and better toys, and he is expected to contribute to charities. It is all too much.

His publishers suggest that he write a short Christmas book to recoup recent losses and at first Dickens declines. A clause in his contract makes refusal impossible and very reluctantly he agrees.  But the writing process is a struggle and during this time he meets a mysterious woman who becomes his muse and guides him to see the finer side of human nature.  She, with her son and other street children, deepen his understanding, and with new energy he starts again and triumphantly completes the masterpiece we now know as A Christmas Carol.

The author manages to interweave fact with fiction and shows us a man who finds salvation in his writing, understanding finally what he might achieve as he accepts human nature— his own as well as others.  She brings the real meaning of A Christmas Carol to light, and lets the reader form a detailed picture of Dickens himself, London life, and the landscape of the time.

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict

Carnegie's maidIn 1868 Andrew Carnegie wrote a letter to himself in which he declared that he will use his money for benevolent purposes.  What made him decide to do this?  In Carnegie’s Maid Marie Benedict provides us with a delightful possibility for this industrialist’s change of heart. 

Clara Kelley is an imposter.  She is not the experienced Irish maid who was hired to work in one of Pittsburgh’s grandest households but rather the daughter of a poor Irish farmer with nowhere to go and no money in her pockets. The other Clara Kelley has died on the voyage over from Ireland and pretending to be her just might give her the opportunity to earn some money to send back home.  Keeping up the ruse isn’t easy and serving as a lady’s maid in the household of Andrew Carnegie requires skills she simply doesn’t have.  It also involves answering to a haughty mistress, Martha Carnegie, who rules her sons and her household with an iron fist.  Clara’s education and sharp wit allow her to carry off the deception and her intellect brings her to Andrew’s attention. She earns his respect and even affection, but differences in status make any prospect of a relationship unlikely.

With captivating insight and heart, this historical novel tells the story of one brilliant woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist.

 

Find even more historical fiction titles on Novelist Plus or by signing up for the monthly Historical Fiction newsletter.

“You can find magic wherever you look, sit back and relax, all you need is a book” Dr. Seuss.
The BookGossip

 

Audiobooks: A Feast for the Ears!

October 19, 2017

For those of us with busy schedules (which I’m pretty sure is everyone) who want to squeeze in more time to read, audiobooks could be the perfect antidote.  Bring your books with you and harness your reading time while you’re commuting to work, walking the dog or doing house chores.  One of my favourite ways to pass the time quickly on a long road trip is to listen to a much anticipated book! Over the last three years, audiobooks have seen a 31% increase in US sales and is the highest growing segment of publishing.  OverDrive is the largest access point used by public libraries for eAudiobooks and they predict that they will be close to 56 million checkouts in 2017, up from 43 million in 2015 (Kozlowski, M, Global Audiobook Trends & Statistics for 2017, 2016).  

With a rise in popularity, Elgin County Library is making audiobooks even easier to access: we have books on CD and Playaways available in our physical collection and eAudiobooks are available through multiple digital platforms: OverDrive, Libby, Hoopla & RBDigital.  With audiobooks gaining interest, I wanted to shed some light on some recent releases with notable performances.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson 

Narrated by Tavia Gilbert  |  Length: 8 hrs and 37 mins

Be Frank with meI absolutely adored this book and all of its quirky characters.  Frank is the star of the show; a nine-year-old boy with amazing intelligence and the eccentric wardrobe of a 1920's movie star.  Frank's mother "Mimi" or M. M. Banning is the reclusive author of an instant classic and best seller.  When money becomes tight, she starts to write again and a publishing assistant, Alice, is sent to help and check on her progress.  Alice spends her days navigating Frank's antics and Mimi's requests, and falling in love with the chaos of their hidden Bel-Air world. Humorous, engaging, with beautifully written articulate characters, I would recommend this book to fans of Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. I particularly loved the audiobook; Tavia Gilbert does a fantastic rendition of helping us get to know Johnson's characters.  Her voices add a new element to the story that I really enjoyed.  Gilbert was awarded ‘Best Female Narrator’ for this book from the 2017 Audies.

This Audiobook is available as a Book on CD and as an eAudiobook through OverDrive, Libby & Hoopla.

 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch   

Narrated by Jon Lindstrom  |  Length: 10 hrs and 8 mins

Dark matterQuick, smart and very addictive; expect to keep driving around in circles so you can keep listening to this one longer.  Jason Dessen is abducted and knocked unconscious and when he wakes up he’s still Jason, but his life is not the same.  His wife is not his wife and his son was never born, he’s also transformed from a physics professor to a celebrated quantum physics genius who heads a secretive company on the cutting edge of research.  This gripping novel will have you on the edge of your seat, constantly needing to know what is going on.  I loved Crouch’s version of time-travel which was both exciting and mind-bending in all the right ways.  If you love a good speculative thriller, this is for you. 

This Audiobook is available as a Book on CD.

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Moneyman   

Narrated by Cathleen McCarron  |  Length: 11 hrs and 1 min

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fineEleanor Oliphant is completely fine, except that maybe she isn’t… This quirky story will grab your feelers and not let go!  At once both funny and heartbreaking, we watch Eleanor’s routine life open up when she meets Raymond and they rescue an elderly gentleman who falls on the sidewalk.  This British novel is narrated by McCarron who I felt was perfectly matched for the story; she translates Eleanor’s awkward thoughts and feelings which brings the characters to life (Scottish accents included!).  I love listening to books where you get a sense of place from the narrator alone.  This book talks about some heavy issues and does such a beautiful job of balancing this out with humour and grace - it was a pleasure to listen to!

This Audiobook is available as a Book on CD and as an eAudiobook through OverDrive & Libby.

 

I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart & Neil Strauss   

Narrated by Kevin Hart  |  Length: 11 hrs and 14 mins

I can't make this upWith comedian Kevin Hart as the narrator, he inserts charisma and humour into his life stories making you giggle while your jaw simultaneously drops to the floor.   Picture Kevin on stage doing stand up comedy, and then close your eyes; this is exactly what you can expect from this audiobook.  He inflects so much honesty and colourful personality into a highly personal memoir.  What I didn’t expect was to find it filled with life-lessons that have transpired from a life of hard work and facing tough decisions.  This is a clever book for adults who are ok with sailor language (definitely don’t listen with your kids in the car!)

This Audiobook is available as a Book on CD.

 

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson   

Narrated by Joshilyn Jackson  |  Length: 12 hrs and 39 mins

the almost sistersLeia Birch Briggs’ life has been turned upside down.  She discovers she’s pregnant from a one-night stand and before she has the chance to tell her conventional Southern family, she learns that her ninety-year old Grandmother, Birchie, has dementia that she’s been keeping a secret with the help of her best friend Wattie.  On top of this, her normally composed step-sisters marriage has just fallen apart and so Leia and her niece travel to her Grandmother’s hometown in Alabama to try and put things in order.  What transpires is a powerful Southern novel that talks about aging, race and cultural identity in a multigenerational story that anyone from a small town can relate to.  Jackson narrates her own novel which adds a sense of familiarity and delivers perfect pacing.  This novel was an ‘Earphones Award Winner’ from Audiofile Magazine

This Audiobook is available as a Book on CD.

 

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton   

Narrated by Hillary Rodham Clinton  |  Length: 16 hrs and 50 mins

This is one I’m highly anticipating.  Despite your stance on American politics, I’m intrigued to hear Rodham Clinton’s side of one of the most controversial elections in USA history.  Narrated by the author herself, I imagine that it will feel like an intimate interview with the presidential candidate and former first lady.  You’ll also want to pick this up if you’re dying to know What Happened

This Audiobook is available as a Book on CD and as an eAudiobook through OverDrive & Libby.

 

I hope that if you haven’t already, you might consider giving Audiobooks a try!  We have a wide variety of titles, genres and formats to choose from, including many of the best sellers.  Don’t hesitate to ask branch staff for help in finding your next great read or sign up to receive our bi-monthly Audiobook Newsletter that highlights new titles added to our collection!

Always reading (or listening!),

The BookGossip

 

Candian Anniversaries

September 15, 2017

In keeping with the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, here are some more Canadian moments in history to be remembered and read.

The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism  by John U. Bacon

The Great Halifax ExplosionHalifax was devastated on December 6, 1917 when two ships collided in the city's harbour, one of them a munitions ship loaded with explosives bound for the battlefields of the First World War.  2017 marks it’s 100th anniversary.  Want to know more, read The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism  by John U. Bacon.   In this definitive account, bestselling author John U. Bacon recreates the recklessness that caused the tragedy, the selfless rescue efforts that saved thousands, and the inspiring resilience that rebuilt the town. Just hours after the explosion, Boston alone sent 100 doctors, 300 nurses, and a million dollars. The explosion would revolutionize ophthalmology and pediatrics; transform Canada and the U.S. from adversaries to allies; and show J. Robert Oppenheimer, who studied Halifax closely, how much destruction an atomic bomb could inflict on a city.

Against All Odds: The Untold Story of Canada's Unlikely Hockey Heroes by P.J. Naworynski

Against all oddsIt’s the 125th anniversary of the Stanley cup.  Originally commissioned in 1892 as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, the trophy is named after Lord Stanley of Preston, then–Governor General of Canada, who donated it as an award to Canada's top-ranking amateur ice hockey club.  Read Against All Odds: The Untold Story of Canada's Unlikely Hockey Heroes by P.J. Naworynski.  For readers of  The Boys in the Boat, this the remarkable story of the unlikely Canadian hockey team that clinched Olympic gold in 1948.  The announcement was shocking—Canada, the birthplace of hockey, would not be sending a team to the 1948 Winter Olympics in Switzerland.  Outraged, a Royal Canadian Air Force squadron leader, Sandy Watson, quickly assembled a team of air force hockey players who were “amateur enough” to complete under the Olympic guidelines.  The ragtag team got off to a rough start, losing so many exhibition games that Canadian newspapers called them a disgrace to the country. 

Against All Odds is the inspiring untold story of a group of determined men, fresh from the battlefields of WWII, who surprised a nation and the world.

The Year Canadians Lost Their Minds and Found Their Country: The Centennial of 1697  by Tom Hawthorn

the year Canadians lost their mindsIt has been 50 years since Expo ‘67.  The Year Canadians Lost Their Minds and Found Their Country: The Centennial of 1697  by Tom Hawthorn  tells the story of how, at first, Canadians showed little interest in marking the centennial.  But a funny thing happened in the weeks leading to New Year’s Day, 1967. Canadians embraced the official plans for a celebration and, encouraged by government investments, began making plans of their own. For one happy, giddy, insane year, a normally reserved people decided to hold a blockbuster party from coast to coast to coast.

 

 

Vimy: The Battle and the Legend by Tim Cook

vimy2017 marks the centennial of the battle of Vimy Ridge.  The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is Canada's largest and principal overseas war memorial.  Located on the highest point of the Vimy Ridge, the memorial is dedicated to the commemoration of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and Canadian Expeditionary Force members killed during the First World War.  To learn more read Vimy: The Battle and the Legend by Tim Cook.  A bold new telling of the defining battle of the Great War, and how it came to signify and solidify Canada's national identity.  The operation that began April 9, 1917, was the first time the four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together. More than 10,000 Canadian soldiers were killed or injured over four days--twice the casualty rate of the Dieppe Raid in August 1942.

The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports by Jeff Passan

the armThe Toronto Blue Jays are 40 years old.  The Blue Jays played their first game on April 7, 1977 against the Chicago White Sox before a home crowd. Toronto won their first game 9–5.   That win would be one of only 54 of the 1977 season, as the Blue Jays finished last in the American League East, with a record of 54–107.  Find out more about the baseball industry and read The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports by Jeff Passan.   This book is an in-depth look at the most valuable commodity in sports, the pitching arm and how its vulnerability to injury is hurting players and the game.  Every year, Major League Baseball spends more than $1.5 billion on pitchers; five times more than the salary of every NFL quarterback combined. Pitchers are the game’ s lifeblood.

Explore and enjoy!

The BookGossip

 

Imagination Encircles the World

August 16, 2017

Albert Einstein said: "I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." And that last part always makes me think of authors and books because truly authors’ inspiration and imagination encircle the world. I think sometimes we as readers imagine that to write a book is as easy as reading it. I have had the privilege to hear several authors talk about their books and no one has ever said that it was a walk in the park. Even though they all love what they are doing and would not trade it for the world, for the most part, the writing process is way more perspiration than inspiration.

So in this BookGossip edition, I am going to pay more attention to the author, than the new book. I was very fortunate to attend several authors sessions at the most recent Book Expo and found it fascinating to hear how they go about writing their books, where they get their ideas from, and did I mention – they all talked at length about how important libraries are in their lives.

If you would like to win advanced reading copies of some of the following books, it might be a good idea to read to the very end of this edition of the BookGossip…

George and Lizzie by Nancy Pearl

Nancy Pearl is a super power in the library world. She started the first community read program in Seattle, is a pioneer in the field of reader’s advisory and the most important thing – she was the model for the librarian action figure. I had the privilege to have met her and she is the friendliest, most humble person who would not think twice about making fun of herself. She has written several non-fiction books, and George and Lizzie is her first fictional book. At an author’s lunch at the Book Expo she had the audience in stitches as she talked about how this book came about. A few years ago she had surgery to both her feet for which the doctor prescribed her very strong pain medication and in this highly medicated state, the characters of George and Lizzie came to her. Over the span of several years, she kept on building these two characters, constantly adding little pieces of information to finally present the reader with two fully developed characters.

The story of George and Lizzie’s marriage reads something like one of those columns in women’s magazines: "Can this marriage be saved?" They are the polar opposites of each other; George is the product of a happy childhood, he is a successful celebrity dentist and loves Lizzie with all his heart. Lizzie on the other hand had a miserable childhood, is depressed and is still pining for her first love. To find out if their marriage actually survived, you will just have to read the book!

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

Francesca Hornak is a journalist and Seven Days of Us is her debut novel. She got the idea for this book when a doctor friend came back from Sierra Leone after the Ebola virus outbreak there, and she and her whole family had to spend a month in voluntary isolation. When her friend told her about it, it got her thinking about what will happen if you force a family to spend a week together over the Christmas period. She picked Christmas because contrary to its message of peace and love, it has all the makings to turn into a very stressful time for families. She also took elements of the Prodigal Son story, changed it around so that in the book it is the oldest child who goes off to save the world and therefore feels alienated from her family when she comes back for a visit. The youngest daughter stays at home and is the stereotypical self-absorbed millennial. And to make matters even more interesting she gave each character some secrets and skeletons in the closet which will invariably come to the surface in this period of enforced proximity.

Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I am Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan

Kelly Corrigan’s best friend became seriously ill and struggled for a period of seven years with the illness before she died. During this time they had very meaningful conversations about very important things but she could not understand why she could be talking on the phone with her friend having a deep conversation and minutes later she could be livid about the pounds she gained and the fact that she can’t fit into her skirt. She decided to get a better understanding of the clash between the grand and existential, and how it ultimately will be pushed aside by the trivial and mundane trivialities of everyday life. She finally had a conversation with a very wise man and his comment was just three words: "It’s like this" meaning that this is what living is like; it iss high one minute and low the next. This phrase immediately resonated with her and led to a conversation between her and her husband. Between them, they came up with 12 phrases that are important in family life and also in anybody’s personal life. Phrases such as: Tell me more, I don’t know, I’m sorry – and even more important – I was wrong. In her delightful talk she mentioned what became known in their house as the Poop Fight of 2012 and if that sounds intriguing to you, you might want to consider putting a hold on this book.

Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander

Nathan Englander called this latest book a spy story, a thriller and ultimately a love story. The book started with a moment of realization in a university library, and it is a very fitting start for an author in whose life libraries played such an important role. At the time he was living in Jerusalem at the height of the Second Intifada or Palestinian Uprising and when the city became too violent and chaotic, he would take the bus to the university library. In the library, there were Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, right wing and left wing scholars working together in a community of silence. All around the library, there was a war going on but inside those same factions worked together in total peace. He struggled with the question of how one reality can exist within a totally different reality. He wrote this book to try and explain this contrast. Another piece of the puzzle came to him when he read an article about Prisoner X who literally was not alive until he was found dead. This man was born in America, joined the Mossad and spied for Israel, but ultimately turned traitor and spied for Israel’s enemies. This posed the second question he tried to address in the book: What will make you turn traitor against the country you love?

Nathan Englander used the lives of very diverse characters to tell the story of a country torn apart by violence and illuminates the tense and often violent relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. He portrays the moral complexity of their situation by portraying a prisoner locked in a secret cell and the guard who has spent 12 years making sure that door remains closed. As their story stretches out to connect an American waitress in Paris, a young Palestinian man in Berlin, and a fearsome Israeli leader near death, we start to wonder who is guarding whom.

The Windfall by Diksha Basu

Diksha says she writes about the everyday lives of ordinary people in India where since the mid – 1990’s some people have experienced sudden and extravagant leaps in income while other’s situation stayed the same. They had to watch their erstwhile neighbours start shopping at modern malls and not the local street markets. They started to drink imported wines and not the locally brewed rum and started to spend their vacations on the beaches of southern France instead of the beaches of Goa. She does not write about the children growing up in the slums, the henna hands, multi-coloured fabric, marigold flowers, or about immigrants trying to find their place in America. She writes about the India she grew up in and knows well. The book takes place in New Delhi and the city is a central character in the novel. Even though it takes place in India the author hopes that at the core of the book there is something universal, that readers will see that basic humanity stays the same no matter where people live. And above all, she hopes that the novel will make the reader laugh.

In Windfall Mr. and Mrs. Jha suddenly come into a great deal of money when Mr. Jha sells a website he created. The money allows the Jhas to move from their East Delhi housing complex to Gurgaon – a neighbourhood where each house has a gate, a guard, and a swimming pool. Mr. Jha loves their new lifestyle, but Mrs. Jha can’t adapt to their new lifestyle. How are they going to keep up with the Joneses or rather the Chopras next door? If you would like to read this delightful and funny debut novel, you can place a hold yourself or ask the friendly staff at any of our branch libraries to place the hold for you.

 

From time to time Elgin County branch libraries will have author talks in the libraries and I hope that glimpse behind the creative writing process, will make you consider attending these events.

And finally, the first patron to place a hold on The Windfall by Diksha Basu will win a gift bag and advanced reading copies of some of the books mentioned in this edition of the BookGossip!

 

Always reading,

The BookGossip

 

The Best Summer Vacation Ever

July 14, 2017

Conversations in the summer inevitably start off with the usual remarks about the weather, and soon after that lead up to the question: "Are you planning any exciting trips this summer?" And it is really hard to not feel jealous when your friend answers your "No" with an extensive list of their plans for the summer. We here at the library know how you feel and have come up with a travel itinerary that will make even your well-traveled friends green with envy.

 

Any successful trip always starts with a good map…

The Map That Leads To You by J.P. Monniger

Heather and two of her best friends are traveling in Europe to celebrate the end of their college days and to enjoy the last days of freedom before they start to work. Heather has a job as an investment banker waiting for her after her vacation. On a train journey to Amsterdam, she meets the slightly older Vermontian, Jack who is the proverbial free-spirited traveler following in his grandfather’s footsteps visiting several European cities using his grandfather’s journal as a map. During their travels across Europe, they fall in love but is their love strong enough to survive not only their differences in personality but also the secrets Jack is keeping from Heather?

 

 

We have picked some of the best beach houses and cottages around the globe for you …

The Beach House: Coming Home by Georgia Bockoven

The Beach House: Coming Home is the perfect beach (or porch) read for this summer. It has the requisite beach house near San Francisco, lots of emotion, conflict and drama, and keeps you guessing if the main characters will get their happy ending after all. When she was fifteen years old, Melinda Campbell, was pregnant and had to make the tough decision to give her baby up for adoption. Now fourteen years later she is a successful career woman but all the success can’t stop her thinking about her daughter. Jeremy Richmond is the man who adopted Melinda’s daughter. A devoted father, he has been the sole parent for Shiloh after his wife left them. His world gets even more complicated when Shiloh is diagnosed with pediatric lupus and she announces that she is tired of fighting her illness. She wants to stop the treatment and meet her biological mother before she dies. Desperate to do anything that will keep his child fighting the illness, he locates Melinda and arranges for a reunion at the beach house.

The Summer House by Hannah McKinnon

From the San Francisco area beach house we move right across the continent to Rhode Island for the next beach house. Flossie Merrill would love to have her children around her for the summer and invite them all to the family’s beach house for her husband’s eightieth birthday celebration. As their three children arrive at the beach house they bring not only their partners and children along, but their private problems and struggles as well. Nevertheless, Flossy is determined to have the perfect summer holiday and birthday celebrations as this might be the last time they can enjoy the summer at the beach house. The author’s description of beach life, the bonfires, the hot days by the ocean, the starry night skies, and the simple moments in a house by the ocean will make you feel that you are right at home in this big house on the beach.

 

To get to the beach you just have to take a few steps from your front porch…

Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank

Wild Dunes, on the Isle of Palms, is our first pick for the perfect beach. And it is no wonder that the two couples in our next book come back to this resort year after year. Over the years they have build a friendship that withstood financial woes, family tragedies and heartbreak. The devotion and love they share will help them weather the vagaries of time and enrich their lives as circumstances change; their children grow up and leave home, and their twilight years approach. Bursting with the richness of Dorothea Benton Frank’s beloved Lowcountry—the sultry sunshine, cool ocean breezes, icy cocktails, and the starry velvet skies will make you feel that you are right there on the beach.

The Beach at Painter’s Cove by Shelley Noble

The Whitaker family mansion, The Muses by the Sea, in seaside Connecticut was once a famous artists' colony, and Issy loved growing up there with her grandparents. But her family is a hot mess, and after her grandmother has a slight accident, it is up to Issy to pick up the pieces. To make matters worse her selfish sister, Viv has dropped off her three kids at their grandmother’s house and disappeared. Eccentric Aunt Fae can't be counted on, and Issy's mother, film actress Jillian, is off in Europe with her latest lover. So Issy has no choice but to leave her job in New York and move back to Connecticut. Soon Issy discovers that there are even more problems than she bargained for. Leo's bank account has been emptied by Viv’s husband, bills are outstanding, and the house and its contents are in danger of being sold. A family drama, part mystery and part romance, makes for the ideal summer read.

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

The Frost twins live just two and half hours by ferry away from each other, but for them the islands are worlds apart. Separated when their parents got divorced, the two could not be more different from each other – in fact they have had no contact in years. It takes the death of their father to bring the twins face-to-face to try to gain some perspective on their relationship. It’s not an easy thing, getting past the years of resentment, hurt and ultimately blame. High on the drama, gossip and family dynamics, Elin Hilderbrand keeps things interesting, to say the least. Rest assured there isn’t a dull moment with these ladies around.

 

 

And no summer can be complete without …

A French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe

On the coast of Brittany, six college friends reunite for a weekend to celebrate Max’s fortieth birthday. Max is a slightly over the hill rock star who has been in love with his best friend, Helen, for as long as he can remember. He is planning to use this weekend’s reunion to finally declare his love for her and ask her to marry him. The story is also about Juliette, Max’s private chef, who had to leave her dream restaurant in Paris behind and come back to her hometown to look after her elderly parents. As the friends start to arrive for the weekend, the shy and dreamy Juliette finds herself drawn from her kitchen and starts to take an interest in their tumultuous relationships. Juliette also provides the guests with wonderful food; and be warned – you will get hungry while reading this book!

 

Weddings with dysfunctional families can be so entertaining, as long as it’s not your own…

The People We Hate At The Wedding by Grant Ginder

Eloise is getting married in Dorset, England and her mother, Donna, and siblings, Paul and Alice are invited to this lavish and very grand affair. A little bit of digging will warn the reader that this is not going to be your everyday happy family gathering of a wedding. For Alice and Paul, the trip is fraught with a troubled family and personal history: they’re both in poisonous and doomed relationships and see Eloise as the snotty daughter of a rich, absent dad, and Donna as a cold-hearted widow who quickly ditched all remnants of their father after his death. Needless to say, when these four characters finally land in the same location, things go awry very quickly. Written in chapters from different characters’ perspectives the novel moves along quickly, propelled by snappy dialogue and absurd, sometimes cringe-worthy situations. Hilarity and heartbreak go hand-in-hand in this quirky summer read, perfect for reading en route to the next wedding to which you’re invited.

 

To make the summer vacation even better, I have a signed advanced reading copy of the newest Linwood Barclay and it is up for grabs for the first patron to place a hold on The Map That Leads to You

 

Happy reading!

The BookGossip

 

Summer Reading Club 2017 – Celebrating Canada!

June 15, 2017

The countdown to the start of Summer Reading Club is on and the staff in our branch libraries is hard at work getting ready for a myriad of activities. This year’s theme is Celebrating Canada and we hope that it will be a special summer for all our patrons filled with lots of books to read, special library programs, and best of all - prizes!

With the Summer Reading Club in mind, I went to the experts this time and asked the staff for book recommendations. And not just any book recommendations but their absolute favourite children’s book – the one that comes to mind every time somebody asks for a good children’s book to read. Here are their recommendations in their own words:

Farmer Joe baby-sits by Nancy Wilcox Richards

Gabrielle from the West Lorne and Rodney branches didn’t have to think twice about her family’s favourite book. She said: "When my children were very young, Dave and I renewed it at least 4 times, because Charlotte insisted on having it read to her every single day both before her nap and at bedtime. My parents ordered it from Chapters, for her birthday because she wouldn't part with the library copy. Later on, it became Colin's favourite too, and he still has it in his book case. It's a simple story about a grandfather (farmer Joe) who is at his wit's end because his granddaughter has forgotten her red blanket and won’t take a nap without it. Since she won't sleep, he takes her for a tour around the farm. I think my children loved this book because amazingly the farm looked just like my parents' farm. They enjoyed pointing out the red blanket, hiding in the pictures. In a small rural community - with lots of farming grandparents, I think many people could relate to this story."

The Baby goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell and Welcome to the World by Lenette Newell

Renee from our Aylmer branch picked two books for our youngest patrons. She wrote: "The Baby goes Beep starts with baby in her car seat while father drives and continues to follow baby in her daily routines. It is colourful, energetic and includes words, sounds and rhythm. This is a fun book to read with babies & toddlers or together as a group."

 

Renee describes Welcome to the World as "a sweet, simple love letter to a new born about what is in store for him. Included are gorgeous photographs that will mesmerize baby."

 

 

 

One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Leah from Aylmer (or "Leah the Librarian" as she likes to be called) had the following to say about her favourite book: "Inspired by the true story of a Silverback gorilla (Ivan) who lived in a glass enclosure at a shopping mall for 27 years, Ivan shares his extraordinary story about love, loss and the motivating power of friendship. Captured and sold to a mall to attract shoppers, Ivan passes his days in captivity by watching television, drawing art and talking to Stella and Bob, an elephant and dog who are also captive. Years pass and the crowds lose interest in Ivan but it isn't until a new baby elephant named Ruby is brought to the mall, that Ivan re-evaluates his quality of life and works with the help of a human friend towards liberation. An inspiring and endearing illustrated chapter book, this Newbery Award winning title is the perfect read-aloud for children and adults to share. Animal-loving youngsters will learn about courage, the value of friendship and animal rights, but adults will find it just as rewarding. Prefer a picture book version for a younger audience? Borrow Ivan: the remarkable true story of a shopping mall gorilla - a beautifully illustrated picture book that contains photographs of Ivan in the back."

Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman

Janet from the Dutton branch picked this book by the Canadian author because it was one of her family’s favourites. She wrote: "Joseph's grandfather made him a beautiful blanket when he was a baby, but now it's frazzled and worn, and Joseph's mother says it is time to throw it out. Joseph doesn't want to part with his special blanket, and he's sure that his grandfather can fix it. Sure enough, Grandfather miraculously alters the blanket into useful items again and again. But when Joseph loses the final item, even Grandfather can't make something from nothing. But maybe Joseph can? Based on the Yiddish folktale "Joseph's overcoat," Phoebe Gilman's gorgeous artwork charts the transformation of the blanket and the progress of Joseph's family through the years, subtly teaching young readers about a lost way of life."

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

For Kristine from our Straffordville and Port Burwell branches, it was really hard to come up with just one title but she finally picked this book. She describes the book as follows: "It is 1665 London, and the streets are filled with orphans, thieves, madmen, and a few young apprentices are as eager to have fun as to learn their trades. Fourteen-year-old Christopher is luckier than most. The apothecary Master ¬Benedict Blackthorn is both intelligent and kind, forgiving both Christopher's mistakes as well as his ill-planned pranks. But when his master is killed, Christopher is determined to complete his work and bring the killers to justice. This stunning and smart mystery is made even better by well-researched historical detail, intriguing characters, and genuinely funny moments. Whether accidentally shooting the shop's taxidermed bear with his homemade gun powder or outsmarting a ruthless cult of killers, Christopher makes a terrific protagonist, but it's his love for his friends and master as well as his fearless intellectual curiosity that make him a true hero. This book has received many starred reviews and awards, most recently having been nominated for the Forest of Reading's Silver Birch Award recognizing Canadian Fiction. Our local public school runs a book club dedicated to Silver Birch titles, and this book consistently came up as a favourite with our kids, (middle grades, both girls and boys) and they raved about the fast pace and the can't-see-it-coming twists. They couldn't pass it around fast enough - so naturally the sequel, Mark of the Plague, is now in hot demand!"

In answer to my request, I received too many titles to accommodate in a regular BookGossip edition – so I will create a bookmark with even more titles for our young patrons and maybe even those parents who are young at heart. Please visit your nearest branch of the Elgin County Library during the summer to pick up your bookmark and to take part in the wonderful programs and activities of the Summer Reading Club 2017!

The BookGossip

 

Prize Winning NonFiction

May 8, 2017

The RBC Taylor Prize commemorates Charles Taylor’s pursuit of excellence in the field of literary nonfiction. The Prize is awarded to the author whose book best combines a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style, and a subtlety of thought and perception. The Prize consists of $25,000 for the winner! Listed below are the  runners-up, and the last entry is the winning book that was awarded the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize.  Congratulations to all!

By Chance Alone: A Remarkable True Story of Courage and Survival at Auschwitz by Max Eisen (HarperCollins Canada)

By Chance AloneIn the spring of 1944--five and a half years after his region had been annexed to Hungary and the morning after the family’s yearly Passover Seder--gendarmes forcibly removed Eisen and his family from their home. They were brought to a brickyard and eventually loaded onto crowded cattle cars bound for Auschwitz-Birkenau. At fifteen years of age, Eisen survived the selection process and he was inducted into the camp as a slave labourer.  Find out how “by chance alone,” he escapes certain death in the gas chambers.

 

 

Pumpkinflowers: An Israeli Soldier’s Story by Matti Friedman (Signal/McClelland & Stewart)

Part memoir, part reportage, part military history, this powerful narrative captures the birth of today’s chaotic Middle East and the rise of a twenty-first-century type of war in which there is never a clear victor, and media images can be as important as the battle itself. Raw and beautifully rendered, it is an unflinching look at the way we conduct war today.

 

 

 

Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World by Marc Raboy (Oxford University Press)

Marconi was the first truly global figure in modern communications. Through a combination of skill, tenacity, luck, vision, and timing, Marconi popularized-and, more critically, patented-the use of radio waves.  Ships could now make contact with other ships (saving lives, such as on the doomed R.M.S. Titanic); financial markets could coordinate with other financial markets, establishing the price of commodities and fixing exchange rates; military commanders could connect with the front lines, positioning artillery and directing troop movements. Suddenly and irrevocably, time and space telescoped beyond what had been thought imaginable. Someone had not only imagined this networked world but realized it: Guglielmo Marconi.

 

This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and Other Complications by Diane Schoemperlen (HarperCollins Canada) 

“Never once in my life had I dreamed of being in bed with a convicted killer.” For almost six turbulent years, award-winning writer Diane Schoemperlen was involved with a prison inmate serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. The relationship surprised no one more than her. In this candid, often wry, sometimes disturbing memoir, Schoemperlen takes us inside this complex and difficult relationship as she journeys through the prison system with Shane. Not only did this relationship enlarge her capacity for both empathy and compassion, but it also forced her to more deeply examine herself.

 

And the winner of the RBC Taylor Award is ………

Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of Water Lilies by Ross King (Bond Street Books)

Mad Enchantment tells the full story behind the creation of the Water Lilies, as the horrors of World War I came ever closer to Paris and Giverny, and a new generation of younger artists were challenging the achievements of Impressionism. By early 1914, French newspapers were reporting that Monet had retired his brushes. He had lost his beloved wife, Alice, and his eldest son, Jean. Despite ill health, self-doubt, and advancing age, Monet began painting again on a more ambitious scale than ever before. Linking great artistic achievement to the personal and historical dramas unfolding around it, Ross King presents the most intimate and revealing portrait of an iconic figure in world culture.

 

Here’s a link to watch the authors discuss their books: http://tvo.org/video/programs/the-agenda-with-steve-paikin/non-fiction-for-the-win 

Just a few narrative nonfiction titles worth checking out! 

Happy reading,

The BookGossip

 

Spring Showers – Read for Hours

April 18, 2017

The weather in springtime Canada can be fickle – rain, sunshine, thunderstorms, and even snow all in one day! Just when we start getting restless to go outside and get our hands dirty in the garden, Mother Nature decides to test our patience for a little bit longer. So my fellow readers, let’s make peace with the wild weather of April and use this opportunity to indulge in a few more hours of our other favourite pastime – reading. The following books are guaranteed to make you forget the weather and enjoy whatever surprises spring can spring on us!

The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

In The Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz uses the story-within-a-story technique to deliver not one, but two mysteries for the price of one. Susan Ryland is the editor at a small publisher and because her boyfriend is visiting family over the summer holiday she has a lot of time to read the manuscript of a crime novel by the company’s bestselling crime author, Alan Conway. Conway’s sleuth is investigating a murder at Pye Hall and just when he is supposed to reveal who killed the lord of the manor, Susan discovers that the last chapter of the manuscript is missing. Back at the office on the Monday she hears that Conway has committed suicide over the weekend and she convinces her boss that she needs to go to his house and see if she can find the missing chapter. In her search for the missing chapters she becomes convinced that there is a possibility that it wasn’t suicide after all. Alan Conway was such a disagreeable man and so universally hated that there is no shortage of candidates for the position of murderer. Were there some clues in the last chapter of this book as to who his killer might be? Where is Conway’s original handwritten copy of the manuscript? A very clever and masterfully plotted mystery with lots of clues and red herrings to keep you guessing until the final reveal – and because there are two mysteries you will have double the reveal!

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

Good news for fans of Elizabeth Strout’s calm and graceful stories of ordinary, everyday people’s lives. In Anything is Possible, the sequel to My Name is Lucy Barton, the author shows that damaged lives can be redeemed but sometimes the emotional scars can last forever. Lucy Barton’s terrible childhood is revealed by way of the memories and recollections of the inhabitants of Amgash, Ill. Strout uses the same technique as in Olive Kitteridge in that Lucy herself is portrayed in only one of the stories but she forms the definite thread that binds together all the stories of the other characters who have suffered secret misery and are longing for love and understanding. Elizabeth Strout is a master storyteller and is able to convey her characters so vividly that to the reader they become real people, but even more important she makes you aware of the possibility that people you see in your own life are maybe suffering their own kinds of despair or misery, and you never know how much a random act of kindness or a sympathetic ear can mean to a fellow human being.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

The author of the popular A Man called Ove is back with a novel about a small town and hockey, and the violence that can be found under the surface of both. Beartown is dying, jobs are disappearing and the village is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago and that ice rink and the hockey played on it, is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

15 year-old named Maya Andersson, whose father Peter, is the general manager of the hockey club, goes to a raucous celebration party at Kevin Erdahl’s house. Kevin is the star of Beartown’s hockey team and has a chance to go professional. Maya is thrilled at the attention Kevin is paying her, but things get out of hand, and what takes place changes Beartown forever. Lest readers think hockey is the star here, it’s Backman’s rich characters that steal the show, and his deft handling of tragedy and its effects on a small town. Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world

.Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is a woman of routine. She works in the office of a graphic design company and on Fridays she buys a margherita pizza, Chianti, and two bottles of vodka for the weekend which she spends on her own. The only deviation in this schedule is the Wednesday night phone calls with her mother. Eleanor has no social skills, pays no attention to her own personal appearances and has the tendency to say whatever pops in her mind. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling IT guy from her office who has a serious nicotine habit and the style of an overgrown teenager. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kind of friends who rescue each other from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Honeyman delivers a book that is smart, funny, and relevant in a world so focused on appearance and differences. Readers of A Man Called Ove by Peter Backman, and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion will love this very Scottish story of coming-of-age mid-life.

Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Slightly South of Simple is set in Peachtree Bluff, Georgia, an idyllic coastal town where Ansley Murphy spent her childhood summers. Peachtree became a refuge for Ansley, a widow, and her daughters when they were small. Now years later she is the owner of a successful design business and one by one her daughters return to stay with her. Caroline, the oldest, pregnant with her second child, has left Manhattan after a very public announcement that her husband has left her for another woman. Sloane and her two young sons are on their own while her husband is deployed overseas. Emerson, the youngest, is an actress about to star in the biggest role of her life. Although Ansley is happy to have her daughters and grandchildren home again, she begins to feel that the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley's life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open. This novel explores the powerful bonds that exist between sisters, mothers and daughters and is full of Southern charm, fantastic characters, a wonderful setting and plenty of heart.

Hope you find lots of books to read and please don’t hesitate to ask any of our branch staff for book recommendations – we love to help you discover your next good read!

Happy reading!

The BookGossip

 

What’s Next? 

March 16, 2017

Some of the most memorable and popular books have been written as part of a series - Lord of the Rings, good old Harry Potter and more recently The Game of Thrones.  Readers just love to read books in a series and it is not hard to see why.  If you like the main character or the writing style of the author, you know exactly what to expect from the next book in the series. There are series in about every genre imaginable and whatever your taste you will probably find a series you can sink your teeth into. 

Maybe you have read all the books in a favourite series and now have to wait months before the next book will be published? Or your favourite series have come to an end and you are in the market for something new?  Or maybe you lost interest in a series halfway through and are now on the lookout for something completely new and different?  Then this BookGossip edition is just the thing for you!  And the books on this list won’t be out for a few months; so that will give you time to go back and catch up with the previous books in a series.

Anny Boleyn, A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir
Henry VIII and his wives provided us with so much to talk about that centuries later, we still can’t get enough of them!  This book is the second in a series about those famous Tudors - the first book was about his first wife, Katherine of Aragon and in this one we meet Anne Boleyn.  

It is the spring of 1527 and Henry VIII is desperately in love with Anne Boleyn.  Her beauty has enthralled him and he is willing to do anything to have her.  And to get her he will go so far as getting rid of his wife and ignore Cardinal Wolsey’s plans and advice. Anne, on the other hand, is not so sure about the attention she is getting from the king.  She hates Wolsey for breaking her engagement to the Earl of Northumberland’s son, Harry Percy, because she considered him to be the love of her life.  She does not welcome the advances from the King, because she will never be able to love him.  But Anne’s family is one of the most ambitious in the whole of England and they might just have found a way to the very top.  So they will risk it all so see Anne at Henry’s side and she might not have a say in the matter as far as they are concerned.    
Previous book in the series:  Katherine of Aragon

Collared: an Andy Carpenter mystery by David Rosenfelt

Attorney Andy Carpenter is an animal lover, and he has a reputation for saving both dogs and humans from Death Row.  Alongside his beloved golden retriever Tara, Andy solves cases and wins courtroom battles in this popular series of legal thrillers.  All dog lovers can rest assured: the author gave his word that the dog in this series will never die.  And that seems another good reason to consider this series for your book list. 

In this latest installment of the series, Andy and his friend Willie find a dog at the shelter one morning with a note saying that he was found on the street, but when they scan the dog’s chip they find out that he is the “DNA dog.”  More than two years ago Jill Hickman’s baby and dog were kidnapped and neither of them has been seen ever since.  A former boyfriend of Hickman became a suspect and his house was searched.  Neither child nor dog was found, but the boyfriend was arrested.  Dog hair found in his house was linked with DNA tests to Jill’s dog and he was convicted of the kidnapping, but the baby and dog were never found.

Now, with the reappearance of the dog, the search for the child is renewed.  Goaded by his wife’s desire to help a friend and fellow mother and Andy’s desire to make sure the real kidnapper is in jail, Andy and his team enter the case. But what they start to uncover is far more complicated and dangerous than they ever expected.
Previous book in series:  Who Let the Dog Out? 

An Echo of Things to Come by James Islington

You like fantasy where the author is a master at world building?  Twisting and complex storylines keep you up way beyond your bedtime?  Your favourite fantasy books could also be used as doorstoppers – we are talking 700+ pages? You are willing to try an author who himself was inspired by Brandon Sanderson, one of the great masters at writing fantasy?  Meet your next favourite series: The Licanius Trilogy.   An Echo of Things to Come is the second book in an exciting new fantasy trilogy and judging by the rave reviews for the first book, it seems well worth spending some prime reading time on this series.  I tried to come up with a brief synopsis of both the first and second book, but after a few valiant attempts, I think we should just say that this is one series where the reader will have to start with the first book before even attempting the sequel.  
As a side note – while writing this BookGossip edition at my desk in the library, I had a copy of the first book on my desk and a patron stopped by to talk to me.  To my surprise she had already read the first book and could not say enough good things about it.  This enthusiasm coming from such a discerning reader should be considered high praise indeed!
Previous book in series: The Shadow of What Was Lost

The Last Man in Tehran by Mark Henshaw
Decorated CIA analyst Mark Henshaw continues the Red Cell series with The Last Man in Tehran, which starts off with a bang and the adrenaline overload never lets up after that.  An attack on an Israeli port throws the Middle East into chaos and the Mossad responds with a campaign of covert sabotage and assassination, determined to protect the homeland. But evidence quickly turns up suggesting that a group of moles inside Langley are helping Mossad wage its covert war and agent Kyra Stryker must work with retired analyst Jonathan Burke to save the CIA from being torn apart by a conspiracy of moles.

If you love spy books and haven’t read Henshaw’s series, you’re missing out on some of the most authentic espionage thrillers out there.  With his experience working for the CIA, he is one of the few thriller authors who can provide the kind of insight about the ins and outs of the spy world to make these books ring true.  
Previous book in series: The Fall of Moscow Station 

Down a Dark Road: A Kate Burkholder novel by Linda Castillo
Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series has been becoming more popular with each new book added to it; readers love both her main character as well as her portrayal of an Amish community in Ohio.  The author paints such an authentic picture of the Amish lifestyle that it comes as a surprise that she lives in Texas and is not Amish herself.

 The main character of the series, Kate Burkholder, had been raised Amish but after a very traumatic experience when she was eighteen years old, she left the community, joined the police force and is now the Chief of Police in the town of Painter’s Mill, Ohio.  Because she grew up in that community and can speak Pennsylvania Dutch, she has more access to the Amish community than any other of the outsiders or Englisher. So that means that she gets called in whenever a crime involves people in the Amish community.

Down a Dark Road will be the ninth book in the series and in this one Kate has to catch a convicted murderer before he strikes again.  Eight years ago, Joseph King killed his wife and was sentenced to life in prison, but now he has escaped and is on his way to Painter’s Mill.  Their worst fears come true when Joseph shows up at a family member’s house and kidnaps his five children at gunpoint.  
Previous book in series: Among the Wicked

Perish the Day: A Storm Murders Mystery by John Farrow
And last but certainly not least – a little bit of Canadian flavour to our list of books in a series.   John Farrow is the pseudonym of Trevor Ferguson, a well respected Canadian author who was named Canada’s best novelist in both Books in Canada and the Toronto Star. 

In this sixth book of the Storm Murders mystery the retired Montreal police detective Émile Cinq-Mars and his wife, Sandra, travel to Holyoake, New Hampshire, where their plans to attend their niece Caroline’s graduation and Sandra’s dying mother are swiftly upstaged by a homicide spree. Addie Langford, an international finance student at the Dowbiggin School of International Studies has been so beautifully dressed and so carefully arranged on the stairs leading to the Dowbiggin clock tower that it’s hard to believe she was first raped, then strangled, then raped again.  And Addie’s body is not the only one turning up – somebody also shot the custodian Malory Earle and her secret lover, Professor Philip Lars Toomey, crossing the Vermont state line in the process of creating three separate, and most unequal, crime scenes. Luckily for Chief Alex Till, Émile is on hand to display his unmatched talent for talking himself first onto the bell tower, then further and further into the heart of the investigation.

“Truth is a bastard,” the motto of Farrow’s sage sleuth, couldn’t be more accurate this time. The revelations about the Dowbiggin community he ends up unearthing are very sordid indeed.  
Previous book in the series: Seven Days Dead

 

If you want the full list of titles in any of the series mentioned here, please ask the very helpful staff at any of our library branches to assist you.  Or you can also find information about these and many more series by logging on to NoveList Plus on the Elgin County Library’s website - http://bit.ly/2nJm1Uf

The BookGossip

 

February is for Lovers …. Book Lovers

February 10, 2017

Displays of red heart decorations, heart-shaped chocolates and roses remind us that this is the month of love.  The Greeks had six words to describe different types of love, but as far as I can tell they didn’t have one that describes the love affair we readers have with the written word.  Maybe we also have different kinds of book lovers – for some the love of reading is so fierce that it might get close to agape – which is a selfless love that includes all kinds of books. For this reader the written word is almost sacred and books are handled with adoration.  Or it might be philia – the brotherly love and this type of book lover has a very close friendship with books and reading is done for the pure pleasure of it.  Some readers’ love might even be considered pragma, which is a longstanding love that has aged, matured and developed over time – no fads of gimmicks for these readers as they know what they like and they are sticking to it.

Whatever type of book lover you are – February’s picks all revolve around love; love for a city, love for music, love between friends, love for books and so much more! 

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan
The Chilbury Ladies' ChoirFrom all accounts this February publication is shaping up to be a runaway favourite with readers and library patrons.  The novel is written in epistolary format, so the story is told in the form of letters, journal and diary entries and will remind readers of another favourite book told in this format - “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.”  It is the beginning of World War 2 and the first casualty of the war is the church choir.  The vicar thinks that without men in the choir there is not much sense in carrying on with it.  But the ladies have other plans and start a ladies only choir under the baton of a retired music professor.  And as in all small towns there is a lot more going on than meets the eye.  A very shady midwife agrees to do some baby swapping to ensure that the Brigadier has a male heir, the Brigadier’s oldest daughter is trying to seduce an artist who moved to the town recently, a widow whose only son just left for France must put up with a stranger billeted at her house.   The people of Chilbury all have to learn how to cope with everything that comes with war: casualties, bombings, spies, food rationing but the choir is the one place where they can forget about the war and let the music bring them peace. 

Lillian Boxfish takes a walk by Kathleen Rooney
Lillian Boxfish takes a WalkLillian Boxfish has always loved to walk around town and is planning on walking to her favourite restaurant tonight where she has had a standing dinner reservation every New Year’s Eve for longer than she can remember.  Lillian does not mind her own safety, or is particularly worried about the sudden spike of violent crimes in the New York City of 1984.  And as she walks around New York that night she thinks about her own journey through the years: how she ended up in New York despite a mother who wanted her to get married and be a stay-at-home mother; how she got her dream job writing commercials for Macy’s and becoming the highest-paid advertising woman in America, followed by a marriage, motherhood, a divorce and eventually an emotional breakdown.  It is also a story of how the city has changed since the 1930’s and the people who call New York home.  Based on the real life story of Margaret Fishback who wrote commercials for Macy’s in the 1930’s and published several volumes of poetry.  

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
The Keeper of Lost ThingsForty years ago, Anthony Peardew carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese and that same day she unexpectedly died.  After that the broken-hearted Anthony saw it as his job to rescue lost objects - things that people have accidentally dropped, misplaced of left behind.  But on his death bed Anthony realizes that he has not fulfilled his duty to return the things he picked up to their rightful owners and he bequeaths his life’s secret mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.  Laura, a divorcée and in some way one of Anthony’s lost things, moves into his mansion and surprisingly finds a new lease on life.  She makes friends with the neighbours and with these new companions, starts to fulfill Anthony’s last wish.

 
What happens to that irritable ghost?  Well, you will just have to read the book to find out!  If you liked “Silver Linings Playbook” then this book just might be your next favourite.

 
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’ Neill
The Lonely Hearts HotelThis novel has been compared to reader’s favourites such as The Night Circus and Water for Elephants. If that is not enough to make us take a second look at it, the fact that it was written by a Canadian definitely should. Heather O’Neill was born and raised in Montreal and still lives there today.  
Pierrot and Rose were abandoned as babies in a Montreal orphanage and before long they start to show their exceptional talents.  Pierrot is a remarkable pianist and Rose can enchant an audience with her dancing and comedic talents.  They start performing around the city and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.  But the Great Depression intervenes and they sent off to work as servants and both get involved with the seedier side of the city’s underworld.  It takes them years to find each other again and even though they lost their innocence, the dream is still living in them and they will go to extreme lengths to make it come true.   Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.

With her musical language and extravagantly realized world, Heather O’Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell.

Always by Sarah Jio
AlwaysAs we celebrate Valentine’s Day during the month of February, it is only fitting that we also include a more traditional romance in the list as well.  Kailey Crain can’t believe her good fortune: she has a great job as a journalist and she is engaged to Ryan, who is perfect in nearly every way.  After a romantic dinner with Ryan, her life goes into a tailspin when she sees a thin, bearded homeless man on the street outside the restaurant.  When she offers him her bag of leftovers, she is shocked to recognize the man she thought was the love of her life - Cade McAllister.  The book flashes between the present and the 1996 telling of Cade and Kailey’s story.  Set in a Seattle that vibrated with the music scene of the 1990s, Cade McAllister and Kailey Crain were in the heat of new love: they were full of dreams, plans, and the building of connections. They were soul mates.  But in 1998 Cade just disappeared from her life and she eventually moved on and fell in love with Ryan.

 
As Kailey is trying to figure out what happened to Cade back in 1998 and who was responsible for his injuries, she also has to choose between a perfect future with Ryan or dedicate herself to reclaiming a past love that may be gone forever.

 
Plaid and Plagiarism: The Highland Bookshop Mystery by Molly MacRae
Plaid and PlagiarismAnd finally we have to add some murder for the mystery lovers out there and this one seems to be hitting a lot of the must-haves for mystery readers.  First of all, it is set in Scotland, and not only in Scotland but in a bookshop.  And second, it is a cozy mystery crackling with snappy repartee and full of some really sassy characters.  And it is the first in a series.  Sounds like a winner to me!
In the weeks before the annual Inversgail Literature Festival in Scotland, four friends take possession of their bookshop and foolishly think that opening a bookshop will be their only problem.  One of the owners, Janet Marsh finds out that her new home has been vandalized before she could even move in.  When Janet and her business partners go looking for clues as to who had done it, they are very surprised to find the body of Una, a local advice columnist in the garden shed with a sickle in her neck.  Who wanted Una dead? After discovering a cache of nasty letters, Janet and her friends are beginning to wonder who didn’t, including Janet’s ex-husband. Surrounded by a cast of characters with whom readers will fall in love, the new owners of Yon Bonnie Books set out to solve Una’s murder so they can get back to business.

Even though February can be a little bit dreary and dull, The BookGossip hopes that these books will add colour, and of course love, to your world.    

The BookGossip

 

Personal favourites

January 6, 2017

One big benefit of my job – well apart from working in a library – is that I frequently get advanced reading copies of upcoming books from publishers. Advanced reading copies (ARCs for short) or galleys are published ahead of the official publication date and made available to librarians, bloggers and critics by the publishers in the hope of generating interest in the book, generate some advanced sales and also get the word out to the public.

I have been reading a lot of ARC’s over the last few months and the following books were some personal favourites and kept me reading way past my bedtime!

Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz (Minotaur Books – January 2017)

This is the second book in a series and the first in the series, Orphan X, received really good reviews and much love from fellow librarians.  And it seems to be a series that is just getting better with each new book.  In Orphan X we got to meet Evan Smoak, who was taken from a foster home when he was twelve years old and raised by Jack to become a professional killer for the US government.  They have trained several of these “orphans” and they are assigned jobs that the government cannot have any state department involved in.  Evan left the program after he was ordered to kill a fellow orphan and since then have tried to set the world to rights for other people.  If he helped you, the only obligation you have is to give his phone number to somebody who really needs his help.

In the second book Evan is captured by some nefarious characters and locked up in a luxury chalet in what he is told is Switzerland.  He tries his best to escape because there is a girl locked up in a container on its way to some South American harbour and as he is the only one aware of her dire circumstances.   He has to get to her before the guy who bought her receives his latest acquisition. He has also been receiving calls on his cellphone from a boy who claims that Evan is the only one who will be able to save him. 

I can see that this series will become very popular with Lee Child and David Baldacci fans. An added bonus is that Greg Hurwitz is writing the screenplay for a movie based on Orphan X with Bradley Cooper playing the role of Evan Smoak.

 On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins (Harlequin Books – January 2017)

I picked this one because I loved the cover – yes, I will admit that sometimes I will be swayed by a book’s cover.  And in this case it totally paid off.  Just could not put it down and managed to read it in two days flat even though it has close to 500 pages. 

Kate – married for four months to the love of her life and desperately trying to get pregnant.  Ainsley – her step-sister, has been living with Eric for 11 years and helped him when he was diagnosed with cancer.  Now they are having a party to celebrate the good news that he is cancer free.  A freak accident at the party leaves Kate a widow.  Shortly after this Eric dumps Ainsley in a restaurant and writes about it in his blog which of course goes viral.  Ainsley has to move in with Kate and for the first time the two sisters discover that they like each other and family can actually help you get through some tough times.

If you are a fan of books by Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin and Jojo Moyes, then Kristan Higgins might be a good author to add to your list. 

 Faithful by Alice Hoffman (Simon and Schuster -  November 2016)

To my shame I have to admit that this is the first Alice Hoffman I have ever read.  She has been on my “To Read” list since I saw the movie Practical Magic and this book was a good start on my journey of discovery of this author.  Faithful was also the LibraryReads top pick for November 2016.  

Shelby has been living in her parent’s basement for the last two years and cannot see how she can go on with her life.  She feels she is responsible for her best friend lying in a coma in her parent’s home because she was driving the car the night when they were in the accident.  She should have gone on to college but now she is stuck in a coma of her own doing.  This is the story of how Shelby finally managed to get out of the basement, move to New York, and find a way to forgive herself.  This is not a thick book – just over 200 pages – but a pure joy to read from cover to cover!

Victoria: a novel of a Young Queen by Daisy Goodwin (St. Martin’s Press – November 2016)

There seems to be a sudden renewed interest in Queen Victoria.  A serious biography came out recently – Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird – and then there is the much anticipated PBS Masterpiece TV series Victoria.  Daisy Goodwin was the creator and writer of the screenplay for the series and at the same time wrote the novel by the same name.  Reading the Daisy Goodwin book makes you realize that she did her research and managed to make the book a page turner without bending the truth to make for a better story.  She handles Victoria with truth and dignity and at times she comes across like some of the current day spoiled teenage superstars.  And if you think about it, she became Queen when she was barely eighteen years old after a very sheltered life and all of a sudden people had to do what she told them to do.  Her infatuation with Lord Melbourne; the mistakes she made during her first few years as queen; her very troubled relationship with her mother and John Conroy; and eventual transfer of her affections to Prince Albert; it’s all there in this very delightful and enjoyable book.  Now I can’t wait for January to get a glimpse of the TV series!

On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - February 2017)

Faith Frankel has her life figured out, until she buys a little two bedroom bungalow from a woman who claims that her mother has died and she only wants to get rid of the house.  The house needs some major renovations and the daughter is even willing to have them done.  So Faith buys the house and waits for her fiancée to return home from his soul searching journey - walking across the United States and writing about his experience on social media.  Faith even has a map on the wall of her office – the office which she shares with Nick Franconi.  As soon as Faith moves into her house on Turpentine Lane things start to happen:  she finds out that her father has been painting Chagall knock-offs, her fiancée is posting pictures with lots of girls on Facebook, an elderly woman sends a cheque to the university made out to Faith instead of the university, her brother finds creepy pictures in the attic of a pair of apparently dead twin baby girls, and then the police come calling and want to do some tests in the basement!  This romantic comedy makes for a highly entertaining and satisfying read and the author is a good choice for fans of Adriana Trigiani and Sue Monk Kidd.

The Dry by Jane Harper (Flatiron Books – Jan 2017)

Australia.  Unbearably hot and in the midst of one of the worst droughts in human memory.  And Aaron Falk gets a note from his friend’s father:  “Luke lied.  You lied. Be at the funeral”

Twenty years ago Aaron and Luke were each other’s alibis when a friend drowned and now Luke and his whole family have been killed.  At first glance it seems that Luke killed his family and then turned the gun on himself, but it is soon clear that there is a lot more involved.  Aaron’s plans for leaving just after the funeral get changed when Luke’s father asks him to look into the murders.  But not everybody in town is happy with his decision to stay on longer and tensions rise when more and more secrets are discovered. Even small towns can harbour a lot of secrets and Aaron has to decide how much the secrets of twenty years ago affected what happened with Luke and his family.  The author’s description of the Australian outback, the people living there and the scorching heat is so real that you might even forget about our winter and snow and be tempted to turn off the heat for a few hours.  The Dry is Jane Harper’s debut novel and reading it will make you glad that you caught this author at the beginning of her writing career.  The film rights for the book have been bought by Reese Witherspoon’s production company. 

 

My heartfelt thanks to all the publishers who generously provided me with advanced reading copies of the books mentioned above. 

Here’s to many happy hours of reading in 2017!

The BookGossip

 

Wrapping up 2016!

December 5, 2016

It’s December and 2016 is coming to a close. December can be a time for family and entertaining. It also can be a time to reflect on the year that has passed and make plans for the future. Whether you are preparing for the Christmas season or trying to make sense of it all, here are some non-fiction titles that may help guide you through 2016 and beyond. Happy Reading and Season’s Greetings!

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas: 101 Holiday Tales of Inspiration, Love and Wonder by Amy Newmark

Anyone who loves this joyous time of year will love these heartwarming and entertaining stories of family bonding, holiday hijinks, community spirit, and family and religious traditions. A fantastic holiday gift and a great way to start the season!

Christmas is a merry and joyful time of year, full of family, friends, and traditions. You’ll delight in reading these 101 holiday tales of inspiration, love, and wonder. Many will make you laugh out loud; others will make you tear up a little. And all the stories are “Santa safe” so they can keep the magic alive for the whole family!

 

Jamie Oliver's Christmas Cookbook by Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver's Christmas Cookbook is packed with all the classics you need for the big day and beyond, as well as loads of delicious recipes for edible gifts, party food and new ways to love those leftovers. It's everything you need for the best Christmas ever.

 

 

 

The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Gone are the days of stressing over how to please family and friends with different dietary needs. Bursting with knock-your-socks-off, mind-bogglingly tasty vegan recipes for Cinnamon Apple Crepes, Cheeseburger Pizza, Biscuits and Gravy, Churro Biscotti, and so much more, The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook will make everyone at your table happy-even meat eaters and the gluten challenged.

Isa provides everything you need to get your party started, from finger food and appetizers to casseroles, roasts, and dozens of special sides. Then comes a throng of cakes, cookies, cobblers, loaves, pies, and frozen treats to make you feel like the best dang vegan cook in the world.

And with more than 225 seasonal recipes, you'll mix, match, and remix for every celebration in between--filling your life with holiday cheer the whole year round.

A Christmas Cornucopia: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Yuletide Traditions by Mark Forsyth

The unpredictable origins and etymologies of our cracking Christmas customs.

For something that happens every year of our lives, we really don't know much about Christmas.

We don't know that the date we celebrate was chosen by a madman, or that Christmas, etymologically speaking, means 'Go away, Christ'. Nor do we know that Christmas was first celebrated in 243 AD on 28 March - and only moved to 25 December in 354 AD. We're oblivious to the fact that the advent calendar was actually invented by a Munich housewife to stop her children pestering her for a Christmas countdown. And we would never have guessed that the invention of crackers was merely a way of popularizing sweet wrappers.

Luckily, like a gift from Santa himself, Mark Forsyth is here to unwrap this fundamentally funny gallimaufry of traditions and oddities, making it all finally make sense - in his wonderfully entertaining wordy way.

The Yolo Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Saving More, Spending Less and Living a Wealthy and Purposeful Life by Jason Vitug

"You Only Live Once" is a motivational, self-help, and personal finance book geared to people who seek to change their lives through a better understanding of their relationship with money, behaviors and habits, and increased financial awareness.

 

 

 

 

Don't Let Your Anxiety Run Your Life: Using the Science of Emotion Regulation and Mindfulness to Overcome Fear and Worry by David Klemanski & Joshua Curtiss

Anxiety is an epidemic in our modern world. But studies now show there is a direct link between anxiety and how you respond to emotions. Don’t Let Your Anxiety Run Your Life provides a groundbreaking, step-by-step guide for managing the thoughts and feelings that cause anxiety, worry, fear, and panic.

This is the first book to present an integrated model of mindfulness and emotion regulation—both clinically proven for reducing anxiety symptoms. Using these easy mindfulness practices, you’ll learn to manage your emotions and lessen your anxiety, leading to improvements in your social life, work obligations, and family responsibilities.

The BookGossip

 

Secrets, Deceptions and Lies

November 17, 2016

Oh, go on and admit it: we all love secrets. And if these are other people’s secrets, so much the better.  In fact, if that should ever change, there will be a lot of gaps on the magazine shelves in the checkout aisles at the grocery stores.  Some magazines will just go out of business. 

The following list of books deals with secrets in some form or another and the plotlines might even sound like they have been taken from the covers of the above-mentioned magazine covers. The thriller genre seems to be gaining in popularity, and judging by the number of books in this list that had their movie rights sold long before the publication date, the movie industry has also realized this and is ready to tap into the seemingly insatiable appetite for thrillers out there.    

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle

Iris’s world comes crushing down when she hears the news that her husband of seven years, Will, has died in a plane crash.  They had a happy marriage but why did he tell her he was going on a business trip to Florida when the plane he died in was on its way to Seattle. Iris is absolutely devastated and still convinced this must be a huge misunderstanding. And she starts questioning their relationship and wonders what else he lied about. As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to uncover what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she finds shock her to her very core.

 

 

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

Annalee Ahlberg is a sleepwalker who has done some crazy things in the past while out sleepwalking.  Once, she nearly destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home and more terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River Bridge. But this time she has disappeared completely and search parties searching through the nearby woods have come up empty handed. When the police discover a small piece of her nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead.  Gavin, the detective assigned to the case keeps on calling and stopping at the Ahlberg’s home.  As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee’s disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her father was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where was the body?

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

Emma insists to her boyfriend, Simon, they can no longer stay in their apartment after her traumatic assault during a break-in. Their lease is almost up and it seems impossible to find a suitable secure apartment they can afford.  That is until the realtor mentions a special house: One Folgate Street. It's a fantastic property, but the owner is not your typical landlord.

Jane loses her job. She can no longer afford her current flat and has to find something new. So when her realtor mentions this great house for little money she is sure there must be a catch somewhere.  And indeed there is. It's not a typical lease agreement, which is especially fitting since One Folgate Street is not a typical rental.

Each woman is so taken with the house that she is willing to accept the 200 stipulations of the restrictive covenant - no pictures, no potted plants, no books, no ornaments - and complete a long application packet, submit three photos of herself and meet for a face-to-face interview with the owner, Edward Monkford.

The Girl Before is told in alternating points of view, with the chapters rotating between the voices of Emma and Jane, each residing at One Folgate Street, several years apart. The two women are dramatically different personalities, but their experiences in the home, including an affair with Monkford, begin to mirror each others.

The book has been optioned for a movie by Universal Pictures.

The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day

Anna Winger has the ability to get to know people by only looking at their handwriting. Companies make use of her special talent to look for trustworthy employees and people looking for love are sure that she can pick the perfect partner from their letters.  But Anna likes to keep herself separate from other people’s lives and always makes sure that the mess of their lives do not spill over into hers.  All that changes when she is called on to use her expertise on a ransom note left behind at a murder scene in the small town she and her son have recently moved to.  The crime and the note unsettle her and she wonders if the child was kidnapped by his own mother in a bid to save him from his abusive father? Thirteen years ago, Anna did the same thing for her unborn son, now a troubled teen rebelling against the protected life she’s given him. The case gets even closer when her own son goes missing.  To save her son and herself, Anna must face all of her fears and mistakes, and the full consequences of setting aside everything and everyone for family.

Behind her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

John Connolly had the following to say about this book: “The strongest, most unsettling thriller of the year, with a final twist destined to provoke arguments for years to come. Read it now before someone spoils the ending for you.”  There is a reason this book has the hashtag #WTFthatending!!

David and Adele seem like the ideal pair. He’s a successful psychiatrist; she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him. But why is he so controlling? And why is she keeping things hidden?  Louise, David’s new secretary, is intrigued and drawn into their orbit. But as Louise gets closer to each of them, instead of finding answers she uncovers more puzzling questions. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong – and how far a person might go to protect a marriage's secrets.

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

It starts with a simple favour when her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school.  The two boys, Nicky and Miles, are classmates and friends, so Stephanie is happy to help her out.  But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts.  Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. She reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome and reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.  Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing, not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favour, is as simple as it seems.

A Simple Favor has been pre-empted by Fox 2000 for feature development.  

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

The author of the very popular, The Kind Worth Killing, returns with a new psychological thriller that readers will want to read in one sitting, preferably in the daytime. Kate Priddy is having full blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her, locked her up in a closet and killed himself just outside of it.  She decides she needs a change of scenery and when Corbin, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests that they temporarily swap apartments, it seems like a heaven-sent opportunity to recover from her past. 

As soon as she arrives, Kate discovers that there's been a grisly murder next door. A series of small discoveries in the borrowed apartment, a little police attention/skepticism, and a couple of "chance" conversations with neighbors and acquaintances of the victim lead her increasingly to the conclusion that Corbin was romantically involved with the young woman and is the prime suspect.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves, that is until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment—and accidently learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? Jetlagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself. So how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

Told from multiple points of view, Her Every Fear is a scintillating, edgy novel rich with Peter Swanson’s chilling insight into the darkest corners of the human psyche and virtuosic skill for plotting that has propelled him to the highest ranks of suspense, in the tradition of such greats as Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, Patricia Highsmith and James M. Cain.

 

All of the books in this list have been ordered for the library and if you think you might like to read a few of them, please go to our catalogue and place as many holds as you like. You can always ask the friendly staff at the branch libraries to place some holds for you as well.

Enjoy!

The BookGossip

 

Keep them kids reading!

October 4, 2016

Just a few weeks after school has started and parents feel like it has been months since their summer vacation.  Homework, hockey practice, and a million other activities are keeping parents and children busy.  So even though parents realize that reading is important, it is hard to keep up with everything and it ends up being just another thing - on a seemingly never-ending list - of things to do.   

The following books come highly recommended and as an added bonus most are available in audiobook format.  So now if you want peace and quiet in the van on the way to that hockey game – just put the disc in the CD player and in no time you will have your kids hooked on this special type of “reading.”  Even the most reluctant of readers will be as quiet as a mouse – guaranteed!

Time traveling with a hamster by Ross Wetford

For his 12th birthday, Al Chaudhury receives a pet hamster and a letter from his father, written days before his father’s sudden death when Al was 8.  The letter instructs Al to find the time machine his father built and outlines a mission to go back in time and avert the accident that would cause his father’s untimely death.  The time machine (an old Macbook, black electronics box, and zinc tub) is unfortunately still hidden in the fallout shelter at the house where Al and his family lived before his father’s death.  And Al soon discovers that zipping back thirty years requires not only imagination and courage, but also lying to your mom, stealing a moped, and setting your school on fire—oh, and in the meanwhile keeping your pet hamster safe.  Added to that there are some terrible complications involved in time travel – you cannot be in two places at the same time and it is quite possible to obliterate one’s present self!  This incredible debut novel has everything to keep the young reader totally engaged: humour, adventure, heart and a hamster!

Available in book and audiobook format.

Gertie’s leap to greatness by Kate Beasley

Gertie Reece Foy is a fifth-grader with two best friends, a father who works on an oil rig, and whose mother left them when Gertie was a baby to go and live in a house nearby.  Now her mother’s house has a for-sale sign on it, and Gertie learns her mother is planning to get married and move to Mobile. Determined to do something to make her mother notice her before she departs, Gertie comes up with a five-phase plan to make herself the greatest fifth-grader ever.

Gertie’s big plans are destroyed by the arrival of Mary Sue, who thwarts Gertie and her quest for greatness at every turn and subtly prods the class to turn against their former friend.  Gertie is bossy, bouncy, and busy and will show the reader just how a kid who gets knocked down picks herself up. Gertie, not only has to figure out how to deal with Mary Sue and her mother, who thinks that oil rigs are evil and therefore Gertie’s dad’s job is “wrong,” but she must also find an answer to the question of why her mother wants nothing to do with her.  In the smartest kind of writing, Beasley has Mr. Foy explain to his daughter (in a way a child can understand) why her mother left them: “For her, being with them was like wearing a pair of shoes that were too tight.”

Gerty’s gumption, her voice, her determination, and her sass, combined with over-the-top personalities make this the perfect read for the new generation of Ramona and Fudge fans.   If you want a funny, heartwarming, relatable book for children 8 to 12 years old – then Gertie just might be the answer.

Available in book and audiobook format.

The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner

12-year-old Alice is really tall with a huge mop of unruly hair, and looks quite different from her beautiful, distant parents. She has been mocked and bullied at all the schools she ever attended, but when her parents send her to the Experimental Center for Love and Learning in upstate New York, things seem to be different. The school lies in a beautiful setting near a forest and a lake and across from that lake lives Millie, a very small Yare child. The Yares, aka Bigfoots, live in secret, constantly fearing that they will be discovered by humans.  Millie, however, is curious about the No-Furs and wants to become a singer  in the No-Fur world.  Millie and Alice become friends, but it leads to discovery of the Yares. Will the Yare community be forced to move to escape the humans? Or can Alice and Millie find a way to keep the secret? Weiner writes an engaging tale that helps children to understand both bullying and the difficulties faced by people who in some way differ from the norm in the first book of a planned trilogy. 

It was announced earlier this month that the book will be made into an animated movie with a release date of November 2017.

Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz

Michael O’Shaunessey may be the son of the Irish ambassador to Germany, but in 1943, with his flawless German and easy intelligence, he represents the perfect Hitler Youth, ambitiously climbing the organization’s ranks. Michael is living a lie; he despises the Nazis and all they represent. He enlisted in the Hitler Youth in order to infiltrate Nazi hierarchy and access information that will assist his parents in spying for the Allies. When a friend shows him plans for the new jet airplane the Nazis are developing, his covert activities turn deadly serious. In his second novel about the Second World War, the author brings to light a little-known fact of the war - even though Ireland stayed neutral during the war, declassified documents revealed that its diplomats were actively collecting intelligence for the Allies. Gratz takes readers inside daily life in Germany as well as the Hitler Youth organization, making them feel the constant fear and suspicion German citizens had to deal with at that time.   Author’s notes offer additional information and background on the Hitler Youth and the Third Reich. While the book is steeped in historical facts, it is also a suspenseful mystery that will make the reader eager to keep on reading.  Short, action-packed chapters make it a perfect fit for reluctant readers.

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin

Pinmei's gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers.  But when the Tiger Emperor’s men come to their village to conscript men to help build the Vast Wall, they also take her grandmother.  In order to save her, Pinmei and her friend Yishan embark on a voyage to find the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night—the only thing the Emperor will trade for a prisoner’s freedom. Together they must face obstacles usually only found in legends and find the stone before it’s too late.  Lin’s fans will not be disappointed: she again delivers a story with a rich interweaving of ancient tales which has all the elements to keep young fans of adventure, fantasy and mystery turning those pages.    

Available in book and audiobook format.

Sticks & Stones by Abby Cooper

Sixth-grader Elyse was born with a disorder in which the words that anyone uses to describe her appear on her body for weeks at a time.  Nice words like "awesome" or "cool" are soothing, unkind words such as "dork" or "loser" itch more than a thousand mosquito bites.  Her best friend used to try and protect her against the negative comments but since they have started 6th grade, her friend has been hanging out with the popular clique of mean girls and no longer tries to protect Elyse.  When someone starts leaving Elyse notes encouraging her to participate more in school, she learns to overcome her fears, make new friends, and become a leader. Self-acceptance is the key in Cooper's debut, but Elyse's struggle to get there is painfully realistic. Her interior thoughts and monthly letters to herself reveal a healthy sense of humor, but it's Elyse's kindness, perseverance, and smarts that help her rebuild her self-esteem. Cooper's stance on bullying is clear: words can—and do—hurt, but their power over you is only as strong as you allow them to be.

These stories sound so interesting that the kids might not be the only ones enjoying them in those car trips around the country!

Happy reading!

The BookGossip

 

The Truth of the Matter

September 1, 2016

You can’t make this stuff up! One of the fastest growing genres in the publishing industry is creative nonfiction. The goal is to make nonfiction stories read like fiction so that your readers are as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy. Recent creative nonfiction titles from major publishers on the best-seller lists include Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle. Here are some nonfiction titles that will transport you to the Wild West, 1900’s New York City, current Paris, life in sports, and life in a psychiatric ward.  Enjoy!

The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes

by Anthony Sadler

On August 21, 2015, Ayoub al-Khazzani boarded the 15:17 train in Brussels, bound for Paris. Khazzani's mission was clear: he had an AK-47, a pistol, a box cutter, and enough ammunition to obliterate every passenger on the crowded train. Slipping into the bathroom in secret, he armed his weapons and prepared to launch his attack. But when he emerged, he encountered something he hadn't anticipated.

This book is the gripping, true story of a terrorist attack that would have killed more than 500 people if not for three Americans who refused to give in to fear.

Using each hero's point of view in sequence, The 15:17 to Paris skillfully builds the drama of the attack, while weaving in the stories of the protagonists' lives, the friendship and loyalty that would come to define them, and the events that led them, inexorably, to that fateful day.

Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away: A Love Letter to My Family

by Ben Utecht & Mark Tabb

“In this book, Ben doesn’t allow injury, setbacks, and disappointments to define him. His faith and love for his family provide perspective in the midst of challenging circumstances” —Tony Dungy, Hall of Fame Coach and author of Quiet Strength.

After five major concussions, NFL tight-end Ben Utecht of the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals is losing his memories. This is his powerful and emotional love letter to his wife and daughters—whom he someday may not recognize—and an inspiring message for all to live every moment fully.

Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away chronicles his remarkable journey from his early days throwing a football back and forth with his father to speaking about the long-term effects of concussions before Congress, and how his faith keeps him strong and grounded as he looks toward an uncertain future. Ben recounts the experiences that have shaped his life and imparts the lessons he’s learned along the way. Emotionally powerful, inspiring, and uplifting, Ben’s story will captivate and encourage you to make the most of every day and treasure all of your memories.

Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West

by Tom Clavin (publication date: 2017)

Dodge City, Kansas, is a place of legend. The town that started as a small military site exploded with the coming of the railroad, cattle drives, eager miners, settlers, and various entrepreneurs passing through to populate the expanding West. Before long, Dodge City’s streets were lined with saloons and brothels and its populace was thick with gunmen, horse thieves, and desperadoes of every sort. By the 1870s, Dodge City was known as the most violent and turbulent town in the West.

Enter Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. Young and largely self-trained men, the lawmen led the effort that established frontier justice and the rule of law in the American West, and did it in the wickedest place in the United States. When they moved on, Wyatt to Tombstone and Bat to Colorado, a tamed Dodge was left in the hands of Jim Masterson. But before long Wyatt and Bat, each having had a lawman brother killed, returned to that threatened western Kansas town to team up to restore order again in what became known as the Dodge City War before riding off into the sunset.

The true story of their friendship, romances, gunfights, and adventures, along with the remarkable cast of characters they encountered along the way (including Wild Bill Hickock, Jesse James, Doc Holliday, Buffalo Bill Cody, John Wesley Hardin, Billy the Kid, and Theodore Roosevelt) has gone largely untold—lost in the haze of Hollywood films and western fiction, until now.

One of These Things First: A Memoir

by Steven Gaines

The author of New York Times bestseller Philistines at the Hedgerow, Steven Gaines, has written a funny and touching memoir of a young boy's coming of age in a Manhattan psychiatric clinic, described as a hybrid of Running with Scissors and Girl Interrupted.

In March of 1962, the author, who was fifteen-years old, managed to "escape the hawk-eyed scrutiny" of three saleswomen in whose care he'd been left, went to the back of his grandfather's store, punched the glass pane out of a window and sawed his wrists and forearms on the shards of glass remaining in the frame. Narrowly avoiding death, he was hospitalized and, on the brink of being committed to a state hospital, begged his grandfather to bankroll a stay at the exclusive, private posh Payne Whitney located on Manhattan's upper eastside. With self-confessed delusions of grandeur, Gaines, as a patient, comes to understand that his homosexuality is the underlying cause of his suicide attempt. While he undertakes conversion therapy with a young psychiatrist, he becomes the willing apprentices of various celebrities who are also patients at the hospital. With a rare mix of poignancy and humour, Gaines shows an uncanny ability to conjure up a rollicking narrative woven with great moments of insight, separating himself from other memoirists by his sheer ability to tell a story.

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: Murder, Slave Trafficking, and the Unlikely True Story of Mrs. Grace Humiston, Special Civilian Investigator to the New York City Police Department

by Brad Ricca (publication date: 2017)

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes tells the incredible true life story of Mrs. Grace Humiston, the New York lawyer and detective who solved the famous cold case of Ruth Cruger, an 18-year-old girl who disappeared in 1917. Grace was an amazing lawyer and traveling detective during a time when no women were practicing these professions. She focused on solving cases no one else wanted and advocating for innocents. Grace became the first female U.S. District Attorney and made ground-breaking investigations into modern slavery.

One of Grace's greatest accomplishments was solving the Cruger case after following a trail of corruption that lead from New York to Italy. Her work changed how the country viewed the problem of missing girls. But the victory came with a price when she learned all too well what happens when one woman upstages the entire NYPD.

In the literary tradition of In Cold Blood and The Devil in the White City, Brad Ricca's Mrs. Sherlock Holmes is a true crime tale told in spine-tingling fashion. This story is about a woman whose work was so impressive that the papers gave her the nickname of fiction’s greatest sleuth. With important repercussions in the present about kidnapping, the role of the media, and the truth of crime stories, the great mystery of the book – and its haunting twist ending – is how one woman can become so famous only to disappear completely.

Truth is stranger than fiction!

The BookGossip

 

August Thrills and Chills

August 12, 2016

After the focus on mysteries for the previous edition of the BookGossip, it is time to turn the spotlight on thrillers.  In the last few years thrillers have gained popularity, and more and more make it on to the bestseller lists.  So, what is the difference between the two genres? Both involve some criminal activity, catching or getting away from the bad guy(s), and at least the threat of some sort of bodily harm.   

The main difference is in how the stories are told.  Mysteries are usually more cerebral – think Hercule Poirot’s famous saying: “It is the brain, the little gray cells on which one must rely."  Thrillers on the other hand appeal more to the emotions and a need for excitement, a desire to vicariously confront danger and defeat nasty villains.

The following thrillers have won the approval of many reviewers and early readers - guaranteed to give you goosebumps and chills running down your spine.  And anything “chilly” is worth a second look in August!

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

The timing of this thriller could not have been better and conveniently ties in to the Summer Olympics.  In a recent interview with the author, she indicated that her inspiration for the parents in the novel came from US Olympic gymnast, Aly Raisman’s parents.  The Raismans became famous when a video showing their emotional reactions and active participation during the 2012 Olympics, went viral.   

In You Will Know Me, the Knox family unites behind the daughter, gymnast wunderkind Devon.  Parents, Eric and Katie, invest everything - time, money, affection - into Devon’s success and her journey to eventually take part in the Olympics.  Younger brother Drew is often neglected and takes second place in the family, sometimes spending hours in the bleachers while his sister competes. Devon’s Olympic hopes are boosted by charismatic coach Teddy Belfour, who devotes all his energy and attention on Devon, despite the grumbling from other parents. Everything seems to be on track until an unexpected and violent death splinters their lives and threatens Devon’s gold medal trajectory.

In its aftermath rumors start swirling among the parents and gymnasts, and it is up to Katie to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers about her daughter's fears, her own marriage, and herself, forces her to consider whether there's any price she isn't willing to pay to achieve Devon's dream.

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

Fairview, Connecticut is a picture perfect small town. That is until the night young Jenny Kramer is violently attacked and raped at a party.  Rather than allow Jenny to face her memories and work through the emotional pain, her parents authorize the doctors to give her a new and controversial drug that will medically suppress any memory she has of the violent assault.  In the weeks and months after the attack, Jenny’s body heals from her physical wounds but she struggles with her emotional wounds.    Jenny experiences foggy nightmares of something she cannot quite recollect, slowly driving her further into depression.  Her father, Tom, becomes frustrated with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice, while her mother, Charlotte, prefers to pretend this horrible event did not affect her perfect country club world.  Jenny’s session with a psychiatrist will not only reveal her own depression but will also bring some of her parents’ and the community’s skeletons to light.   

Reese Witherspoon’s production company has bought the film rights of the book a year before the book was even published.  

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

Suave and handsome surgeon, Hamish Wolfe, has confounded both police and press by his behavior.  He refused to plead guilty or innocent at his trial for the murders of several young women, which feeds the rumour among police and prosecutors that he is playing games with them and planning to get an insanity plea.  The only thing that remains consistent before and after his conviction is Hamish’s insistence that he’s innocent, as he assures his fellow inmates at HMP Isle of Wight–Parkhurst, his family, his legion of rabid followers, who hold rallies and sponsor fairs to argue his case in the press. Nowhere are his pleas more urgent than in his beautifully crafted letters to defense attorney Maggie Rose.  She is a notorious defense attorney whose specialty is getting convictions overturned and then writing bestsellers about the cases.  Maggie at first resists Hamish’s advances but the more she hears and the more she reads, the more intrigued she becomes. Chapters of her next book are taking shape in her mind, with details of Hamish’s crimes, his trial, and his long-ago involvement with the Fat Club, a group of Oxford undergrads whose filming of their sexual exploits with overweight partners is the presumed back story to his murder of four overweight women. As Hamish and Maggie circle each other, it’s hard to see who’s the cat and who’s the mouse and impossible to predict where their deadly dance will lead.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Grace thought her life would eventually revolve around the care of her younger sister, Millie, who has Down syndrome.  So she is pleasantly surprised to meet and fall in love with the charismatic Jack Angel.  Jack dotes on Millie as much as he loves Grace and that makes Grace love him even more.  After a whirlwind courtship, Grace and Jack get married, and it is not until the couple is away in Thailand for their honeymoon that the reader begins to realize that there is something not right in the relationship. Turns out that Jack, who, ironically, is an attorney specializing in defending battered women, has a dark side he managed to hide very well from Grace.  He insisted that Grace quit her job, refuses to allow her unsupervised contact with the outside world, and cruelly punishes her escape attempts.  And to make matters worse, Millie is planning to come and live with them after she finishes school and it is clear to Grace that Jack has nothing good in mind for Millie.  The couple’s past and present is told in alternating chapters, creating suspense regarding both their origin and their fate. 

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

The Last One brings together two of society’s contemporary obsessions – the threat of global catastrophe and the staged drama of reality TV.   It is a thrilling and unsettling debut novel for the fans of Station Eleven and The Passage.

It begins with a reality TV show and the twelve contestants are sent out into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of endurance. In the mean time an unidentified pathogen kills off a substantial portion of the world’s population, and cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it.  So when one of the contestants - a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo - stumbles across the resulting devastation, she thinks that it is part of the game.

Alone and disoriented, Zoo staggers for countless miles across an unfamiliar territory, but she refuses to quit.  She must summon all of her courage and survival skills, and learn new ones as she goes, to make it back home and see her husband again. 

Paradime by Alan Glynn

After his stint in Afghanistan, where he worked a low-level job in food services for the defense contractor Gideon Logistics, Danny is a mess.  He witnessed a horrific act of violence for which the company was responsible and now the company’s lawyers want to shut him up.  They organize a job for him in a high-end restaurant where he has to chop vegetables for ten hours a day.  The situation quickly turns strange when Danny notices that one of the restaurant’s regular customers looks exactly like him. Online research reveals that his double is Teddy Trager, an investor and the founder of Paradime Capital.  It does not take long for Danny to become totally obsessed with Teddy - stalking him through New York, taking his place at public events and even manages to sleep with his girlfriend.  Plenty of effective surprises keep the plot moving and the final chapters successfully reveal an even darker shade and character in this thriller.  

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

After a ten year absence, Nicolette Farrell is back in her rural hometown to care for her ailing father and to tie up some loose ends.  Ten years ago, just after their graduation, Nicolette’s best friend, Corinne disappeared without a trace and has never been seen again.  The investigation back then focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

As Nic struggles to figure out what really happened to Corinne, she must also face some bitter truths about her provocative friend and herself.  What really makes this roller-coaster of a thriller so memorable is the author’s inspired use of reverse chronology, so that each chapter steps further back in time, dramatically shifting the reader’s perspective.

Happy reading!

The BookGossip

 

Murder, Malice and Mayhem

July 21, 2016

What is the attraction for readers?  Why will mystery readers pick up those books with blood stains and corpses on the cover and read about the gory deaths of characters?  The most obvious answer is that people like to solve puzzles and a mystery gives them the perfect opportunity to transfer that love over to their reading.  In a mystery there's almost always a murder, then there are clues to the identity of the murderer, witnesses are summoned and grilled, there's a detective hot on the trail of the killer, and the killer is brought to justice in the end.  We try to out-guess the detective and solve the puzzle before the eventual reveal. 

But not all mysteries follow this recipe and sometimes the reader will know who the culprit is from the get go and that does not diminish the pleasure the reader is getting from the book.  Another argument is that we humans like to see justice done and by reading mysteries we get the ending that might not always happen in real life. 

For whatever reason you like to read mysteries, there are some fabulous ones coming to an Elgin County library close to you.  

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

A Great Reckoning book coverI just had to start with the newest Armand Gamache mystery, the creative product from the very talented and internationally known Canadian author, Louise Penny.  I know readers look forward to the next book in the series as soon as they finish the current instalment.  As the new leader of the Surete academy, Gamache is working to stop corruption at its source and ensure the best start for the cadets. When a copy of an old map is found near the body of a dead professor, Gamache and Beauvoir race against the clock to find the killer before another person dies.  One of the cadets, Amelia Choquet, does not seem to fit in at the academy with her angry, guarded attitude, body piercings and tattoos.  Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she was a protégée of the murdered professor.

The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.  For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.  

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10 book coverThis tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, has already earned the title of “Woman on a Boat” – reminiscent of “Girl on the Train”.  Lo Blacklock, a journalist has just been given a dream assignment - a week on the Aurora, a luxury cruise ship on the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant - the cabins are luxurious, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant.  This changes as the week wears on, the weather becoming steadily worse with frigid winds above deck and gray skies overhead.  And to top it off, Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. But all passengers remain accounted for, and so the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong.

The claustrophobic feeling of being on a ship and the twists and turns of who or what to believe in this chilling mystery will keep readers on the edge of their seats or maybe even up for the night.   Count on this being one of the hot reads this summer!

Killer Look by Linda Fairstein

Killer Look book coverNew York City is known for its glamour, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its fashion scene. Alex, who normally heads the Sex Crimes division of the DA’s office, is under strict orders to stay home and recuperate from her recent kidnapping ordeal.  But when she is informed that the suicide of billionaire couturier Wolf Savage was in fact a murder, she is swiftly drawn into the case.  It is entirely possible that the reason Wolf’s brother, Hal, and his son, Reed, are so eager to grab the body from the mortuary, has less to do with religious principles than with concealing any telltale evidence of murder. The whole Savage/Savitsky family, in fact, howls like wolves every time Alex approaches them and her boss is no happier that she’s taken it upon herself to work a case he’s assigned to one of her colleagues. But without Alex, who would keep count of all the real-life celebrities from the fashion establishment hovering on the edges of the case or serve as a sounding board for soup-to-nuts explanations of this cutthroat industry?

Linda Fairstein has worked for many years as the chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney’s office in Manhattan and this experience seeps through to her books and adds an element of realism to the series.  Her books all explore fascinating and little-known facts about New York City as the action unravels.

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

The Wolf Road book coverThis one is more thriller than mystery and takes place in a post-apocalyptic British Columbia.  Elka has been living with Trapper in the woods since she was seven years old and she can barely remember her own parents.  She thinks of Trapper as her father and by teaching her how to hunt, set snares, shoot and start a fire, he has made sure that she will be able to survive in the woods.  All she knows of the world outside is gleaned from whispers of a cataclysmic event that turned the clock back on civilization by a hundred and fifty years and reduced governments and technology to shambles, leaving men at the mercy of the elements and each other.

A wanted poster changes everything and Elka realizes that the man who has been a father to her for so long is wanted for the murder of several woman and children. Armed with nothing but her knife and her wiles, she decides to escape his clutches and sets out on a long journey to the frozen north in the hope of finding her long-lost parents.  In this quest she will not only have to fend of wild animals but also the most dangerous animal in the woods, her fellow human beings.  And worst of all, Trapper will use all his skills to find her first. 

The Wolf Road is an intimate, cat-and-mouse tale of justice and revenge, played out against a vast, unforgiving landscape--told by an unforgettable, tough-as-nails young heroine whose struggle to escape the terrors of her past and rejoin humanity are at once horrifying and heartbreaking.

Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope

Collecting the Dead book coverIf you like your mysteries to have some real street cred, this one will be a good choice.  The author, Spencer Kope, is a crime analyst for a county sheriff’s office in Washington State and a former intelligence operations specialist for Naval Intelligence and the book is marked with insider info about the FBI’s forensic skills and methods of operation.

Magnus “Steps” Craig can see people when they’re not there and that gives him the ability to track them better than anybody else. What Steps sees is what he and his FBI partner, Jimmy Donovan, refer to as “shine.” It’s like a colorful, textured left-behind residue that envelops everyone Steps meets and each person’s shine is totally his or her own. Steps and Jimmy are the heart of the Special Tracking Unit of the FBI, which looks for lost and abducted people and the criminals who take them. At the moment Steps and Jimmy are chasing a serial murderer they’ve dubbed The Sad Face Killer, a particularly vicious man who abducts young women, keeps them captive for a while, and then brutally kills them. Steps knows the murderer’s shine and those of his victims, and he and Jimmy follow him from state to state and county to county, trying to catch him before he slays his latest captive.  Crammed with characters who will capture readers' attention and written with understated humour, Kope’s novel features a character who is different, talented, sympathetic, and gifted with great heart.

Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo

Among the Wicket book coverChief of Police Kate Burkholder is called upon by the sheriff's department in rural, upstate New York to assist on a developing situation that involves a reclusive Amish settlement and the death of a young girl. Unable to penetrate the wall of silence between the Amish and "English" communities, the sheriff asks Kate to travel to New York, pose as an Amish woman, and infiltrate the community.

Kate's long time love interest, State Agent John Tomasetti, is dead set against her taking on such an unorthodox assignment, knowing she'll have limited communication - and even less in the way of backup. But Kate can't turn her back, especially when the rumor mill boils with disturbing accounts of children in danger. She travels to New York where she's briefed and assumes her new identity as a lone widow seeking a new life.

Kate infiltrates the community and goes deep under cover. In the coming days, she unearths a world built on secrets, a series of shocking crimes, and herself, trapped in a fight for her life.

 

If you would like to read any of the books above, that is one puzzle you don’t need to solve.  Just contact your local branch library and ask the friendly staff there to place it on hold for you.  And before long you will be totally engrossed in the tale while working on your best impersonation of old Sherlock!

Yours truly,

The BookGossip

 

Read-along books for younger readers

June 22, 2016

Summer vacation is just around the corner and all the libraries in the County are getting ready to welcome the children to this year’s Wild Summer Reading Club.  And isn’t the summer the perfect time to go a little Wild?  Summer is the time of no homework and more time to spend reading with your children.  And if you can find books that you all enjoy and have fun reading, so much the better. The following books we believe will fall in that category and they all have just enough Wild added to them, to keep the kids enthralled and asking for more.  From planning the perfect picnic, to taking a piano to the beach, to those four little words every boy and girl will utter sometime this summer: “Are we there yet” – these are just some of the wonderful books waiting to be explored.  Please contact your local branch library to get more information on the Wild activities and programs offered for children of all ages during the summer.     

Manners are not for monkeys by Heather Tekavec

This funny book turns the topic of manners on its head as a zookeeper moves the monkeys into a cage near the picnic and play areas.  The monkeys can watch the children and before long they start to imitate them.  Mother Monkey does not like this at all – why are her children all of a sudden chewing with their mouths closed?  In fact, her little monkeys won't do any monkey things anymore --- no more swinging all at once from the branches, screeching or tossing their banana peels on the ground. Is there anything Mother Monkey can do to get them to behave like good little monkeys again?

Outfoxed by Claudia Boldt

Harold is not like the other foxes.  He hates eating chicken and would prefer a piece of Swiss cheese instead.  He likes to read detective novels and his biggest dream is to be a detective one day.  His father challenges him to catch his first chicken but things don’t go as planned.  When he is wrongly accused of being the mastermind behind a chicken smuggling crime ring, he finds himself trying to solve the mystery, and in doing so,  saving his chicken friends.

 

 

Bedtime is canceled by Cece Meng

In this cautionary tale Maggie and her brother learn that sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.  The brother and sister wrote a note to their parents to inform them that bedtime was canceled.  Their parents threw the note in the garbage but a breeze picked up the note and delivered it to the local newspaper.  Now the whole city believes that bedtime is canceled and nobody is going to bed.  All the children discover that staying up all night makes you too tired to enjoy the next day and Maggie and her brother have to come up with a new plan to be able to go to bed. 

 

Are we there yet? by Dan Santat

"Are we there yet?" Every parent has heard this classic kid question on a long car ride because face it – car rides can be boring and when things get boring, time slows down.  In this book, a boy feels time slowing down so much that it starts going backward--into the time of pirates! Of princesses! Of dinosaurs! All of a sudden the journey to his grandmother’s birthday party has him traveling through Ancient Egypt and meeting some famous people.  When time speeds up again, who knows where or when he'll end up.

 

 

If you ever want to bring a piano to the beach, don’t by Elise Parsley

When her mother tells her to get ready to go to the beach, she means for Magnolia to bring beach toys,  such as a boat, a Frisbee or a shovel. But Magnolia is a little girl with her own ideas and one very heavy upright piano that she insists on taking with her. What's the worst that can happen? Before long, the piano has smooshed their lunch, gotten covered in seagull droppings, and floated off into the water.  With the help of her brother’s fishing line, she attempts to catch the drifting piano. The only thing she is able to snag is a seashell that, with a little imagination, becomes a boat, a Frisbee, and a shovel. Magnolia learns that if you bring a piano to the beach you might lose it, but you just never know what you might find.

The Not-So-Faraway Adventure by Andrew Larsen

Theo's grandfather was an explorer and he has an old trunk with pictures, postcards, maps and much more that he has collected on his travels.  Theo wants to be an explorer when she grows up and has planned a special trip for her Poppa’s birthday. They plot out their course on a map they've drawn and then take the streetcar to the local beach, where they stroll in the sand, hunt for stones and slurp gazpacho at the beachside restaurant. It's a perfect day, and Theo is so happy to have given Poppa just the right gift. But best of all, Theo has also had her first lesson in being an explorer: you don't have to travel far from home to have an adventure!

The Perfect Picnic by Ciara Flood

Squirrel and Mole are the best of friends and they do everything together.  Today they are going on a picnic and Squirrel wants it to be the most perfect picnic ever.  And that means not only do they need the perfect food but they also have to find the perfect spot for a picnic.  Mole does not really care where they have their picnic, but for Squirrel the hill is too windy, the beach too sandy and the meadow too sunny.  Will the two friends find that perfect spot for the perfect picnic? 

 

 

One day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree by Daniel Bernstrom

A boy and his whirly-twirly toy are just the first things to disappear down the gullet of a hungry snake. The clever boy starts telling the snake how much space there is in his stomach and just how hungry the snake must be and so cajoles the snake into eating more and more animals.  From birds and worms, to mossy sloths, to a single apple bearing a tiny fly, the creatures slide down the snake’s rapidly expanding throat. A final meal proves too much for the voracious viper and next thing you know boy, toy, and a host of other animals end up back into the world from whence they came. The rhythmic language makes this the perfect read-aloud book, while the brilliant illustrations transport readers far away.   

 

Let’s enjoy the extra-long summer evenings by reading together!

The BookGossip

 

A Little Summer Lovin'

June 10, 2016

Are you a teenager looking out that classroom window and dreaming of the long summer ahead of you?  Wishing that you can get the exams behind you, so that you can relax and have some time to read the books you want to?   If you are in the market for a romance, then I just might have a few candidates here for you.  All these books are brand new and on order for the library’s collection. In this list you will find ordinary boys and girls – no werewolves, vampires or zombies this time around - meet up, fall in love and figure out what life and love is all about.  

Under the Lights by Abbi Glines 

And what about a good old fashioned love triangle to start off our collection of romances!  Willa had made some bad decisions in the past but now she is trying to gain back her family’s trust and forgiveness.  Brady, the high school quarterback and the town’s golden boy used to be best friends with Willa but her life choices have made her a different person from the girl he used to know. Gunner, friends with both Willa and Brady, does not seem to care about anyone but himself.  But Willa is the exception—and he understands the girl she’s become in a way no one else can.  As secrets come to light and hearts are broken, these former childhood friends must face the truth about growing up and falling in love…even if it means losing each other forever.

Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies by Laura Stampler

Harper is all set to start working at the Skinny B’s Juice Press for the summer when the ultra-prestigious teen magazine, Shift, calls to say they want her to be their teen dating blogger.  All she needs to do is get herself to New York in two days.

There’s just one problem: Harper doesn’t have a whole lot of dating experience. So when Shift’s application asked for an “edgy” personal essay, Harper might have used her best friend’s experiences for her own. Harper is banking on being able to learn on the job but will the house of lies she has built around her dream job collapse all around her, or will she be able to fake it until she makes it in the big city?

 

In-Between Days by Vikki Wakefield

Things are coming at sixteen-year-old Jacklin Bates (aka “Jack”) faster than she can cope with: her sister isn’t the same person she used to be, she loses her job and the boy she loves breaks her heart.  She finds a companion in Jeremiah, the boy next door with a kind, listening ear and plenty of troubles of his own. Together, over an endless summer, Jack and Jeremiah fix up the abandoned drive-in theater at the edge of town. But even as a fragile romance builds between them, Jack knows deep down that she can’t stay in limbo forever.  Sometimes the hardest part of starting over isn’t choosing a path…it’s figuring out how to take that first step forward.

 

A Season for Fireflies by Rebecca Maizel

A year ago, Penny Berne was the star of her high school’s theater department, surrounded by a group of misfit friends and falling in love for the first time. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, her new best friend is the most popular girl in school, and her first love, Wes, ignores her. Penny is revered and hated. Then, in a flash, a near-fatal lightning strike leaves Penny with no memory of the past year or how she went from drama nerd to queen bee.

This is a heartbreaking story of second chances set in a seaside Rhode Island town. Think of longing for the first boy you ever loved, kisses on the docks, and fireflies lighting up the New England sky at night. 

The Season by Jonah Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer

Megan McKnight is a soccer player with Olympic dreams and she’s never been a girly girl.  So it is no surprise that she is furious when she finds out that her Southern belle mother had secretly entered her as a debutante for the 2016 Dallas season.   One perk of being a debutante, of course, is going to parties, and it’s at one of these lavish affairs where Megan gets swept off her feet by the debonair and down-to-earth Hank Waterhouse. Megan starts to think that being a debutant might not be so bad after all.  

 

 

What Happens Now by Jennifer Castle

The summer Ari Logan first sees Camden Armstrong, she idolizes him from afar. When the two forge a true connection the following summer, Ari falls in love with him.  As their romance blossoms, she’ll have to discover the very real boy behind her infatuation while also struggling with her own demons, obligations, and loyalties.

 

 

 

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

Graham met his best friend, Roxana, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago and fell in love with her.  Now they are sixteen and still best friends, sharing a serious love of comic books. But Roxana just sees him as a friend.  Graham has to do something to change her mind and he decides that this year’s New York Comic Con might just be the place to do it.  He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be...even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones.

 

You Before Anyone Else by Julie Cross

New York City model Finley is looking too much like the “good girl” and it is hurting her career.  If she wants to get better modeling jobs she needs to get some experience and change her image.  And Eddie Wells might just be the way to accomplish that because Eddie is shallow and predictable with just enough bravado and intensity to attract Finley’s attention.  Except Eddie is hiding something really big and when it surfaces, both loving and leaving Finley will become so much harder.

 

 

Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely

Corrina and Hendrix are two lonely souls who both have problems dealing with their families.  But the one person they both love is Gpa and he is fading fast from Alzheimer’s.  Looking for any way to help the man who raised him, Hendrix has made Gpa an impossible promise—that he’ll get him back east to the hill where he first kissed his wife, before his illness wipes away all memory of her.

One hot July night, Hendrix and Corrina decide to risk everything. They steal a car, spring Gpa from his assisted living facility and take off on a cross-country odyssey from LA to NY. With their parents, Gpa’s doctors, and the police all hot on their heels, Hendrix and Corrina set off to discover for themselves if what Gpa says is true—that the only stories that last are love stories.

The BookGossip

 

A Few of My May Favourites

May 9, 2016

As promised, this BookGossip issue is going to be all about those books I am looking forward to reading in May. 

But before we get to that, I have very good news for fans of Andy Weir, author of The Martian.  Apparently he is working on a new book that will be published either late 2016 or early 2017.  According to Weir “the main character is a low-level criminal in a city on the moon. Her challenges are a mix of technical/scientific problems, as well as juggling personal interactions—staying a step ahead of the local police, working with shady and dangerous people to do illegal things … the story takes place in a future society where there is practically no sexism … [it is] another scientifically accurate story.”  As soon as the title is announced, I will let you know. 

And now on to a few of my favourite things:

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

LaRoseEver since I read Erdrich’s The Master Butchers Singing Club more than ten years ago, I have been an ardent fan of all her books.  And I am obviously not the only one anticipating the moment I can lay my hands on her newest. 

In a hunting accident Landreaux shoots and kills his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich.  Dusty was his own son, LaRose’s best friend and the two boys practically grew up together.    Horrified at what he’s done, Landreaux turns to tradition—the sweat lodge—for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. “Our son will be your son now,” they tell them.

LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. He helps Nola keep her depression and dark moods at bay and his new sister welcomes him into the family because he seems to be the only one who can deal with her mother’s terrifying moods.  After some time he even gets to visit his birth family and LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches, and eventually their mutual pain begins to heal.  But accusations from an old enemy of Landreaux threatens this tenuous peace that the two fragile families have reached. 

LaRose is a powerful story of loss, justice, and the reparation of the human heart, and an unforgettable, dazzling tour de force from one of America’s most distinguished literary masters.

Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

Every Exquisite ThingThis one is a teen book but will have crossover appeal for many adults.  Since the publication of Silver Linings Playbook and its successful adaptation into a movie, Matthew Quick has been a favourite of adult and young adult readers alike and his newest will not disappoint his growing group of loyal fans. 

Nanette O'Hare is an unassuming teen who has played the role of dutiful daughter, hardworking student, and star athlete for as long as she can remember. But when a beloved teacher gives her his worn copy of The Bubblegum Reaper--a mysterious, out-of-print cult classic--the rebel within Nanette awakens.

As she befriends the reclusive author, falls in love with a young but troubled poet, and attempts to insert her true self into the world with wild abandon, Nanette learns the hard way that rebellion sometimes comes at a high price.

The Weinstein Company has acquired film rights for Every Exquisite Thing with Ted Melfi to direct.  In a special note to teachers the publisher states that the book is not only an excellent way to teach poetry and literature in class but can also be used to discuss difficult topics such as mental illness, loss, and grief.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

SweetbitterTess comes to New York in the stifling summer of 2006. She is alone, living in a rented room in Williamsburg until she manages to land a job as a waiter at a celebrated downtown Manhattan restaurant. This begins the year we spend with Tess as she starts to navigate the chaotic, punishing, and privileged life she has chosen and discover the remorseless and luminous city around her. Tess is getting educated in oysters, Champagne, the appellations of Burgundy, friendship, cocaine, lust, love, and dive bars. As her appetites awaken—for food and wine, but also for knowledge, experience, and belonging—we see her helplessly drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle. With an orphan’s ardor she latches onto Simone, a senior server at the restaurant who has lived in ways Tess only dreams of, and against the warnings of coworkers she falls under the spell of Jake, the elusive, tatted up, achingly beautiful bartender. These two and their enigmatic connection to each other will prove to be Tess’s most exhilarating and painful lesson of all.

Britt-Marie was here by Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie was HereThis author is quickly becoming one of my favourites and his A Man called Ove has been a bestseller all over the world and a book club favourite.  It was translated into more than twenty-five languages.

To say Britt-Marie is a neat freak, is probably an understatement.  She just can’t stand anything out of its place.  She gets up at 6 am every day, because only lunatics wake up later than that. She does not see herself as passive-aggressive as it’s not her fault if people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticism. She is not one to judge others—no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be.

When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg, she is more than a little unprepared. Employed as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center, the fastidious Britt-Marie has to cope with muddy floors, unruly children, and a rat for a roommate. She finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, layabouts—and a handsome local policeman whose romantic attentions to Britt-Marie are as unmistakable as they are unwanted. Most alarming of all, she’s given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children’s soccer team to victory. In this small town of big-hearted misfits, can Britt-Marie find a place where she truly belongs?

Funny and moving, observant and humane, Britt-Marie Was Here celebrates the unexpected friendships that change us forever, and the power of even the gentlest of spirits to make the world a better place.

 

These books will go to the very top of the huge pile of books that are patiently awaiting my perusal. 

May you never run out of books to read!

The BookGossip

 

April Holds Bring May Books

April 18, 2016

Do you want to know what the next Girl on the Train or Gone Girl is going to be? Do you hate it that by the time you hear about the season’s book du jour, everybody else has known about it for months and has placed so many holds on it that you will probably get it by next season? 

Well, dear reader of The BookGossip, from now on you will know about these lurker bestsellers before anyone else.  And when your friends start talking about a book you can say:  “Oh yes, I read it about a month ago.  You know, just after it was published!”

In this edition of The BookGossip I will let you in on all of the secrets and rumours about books coming in May, especially the ones that have received a lot of attention, love and praise from reviewers and librarians.  Later on in April, I will share the May titles that I am personally looking forward to reading.

 

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

If you like multi-layered thrillers with good character development and a really good story that will stay with you for weeks after you finished the last sentence, Before the Fall just might be the book for you.  Eleven people get on a private jet for a flight from Martha’s vineyard to New York, but  minutes after take-off the plane crashes into the ocean.  The only survivors are Scott Burroughs, a painter-and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.  

Scott saves the boy, and by doing so gets entangled in the subsequent media frenzy that usually follows a tragedy like this.  He has to deal with hero worship, federal investigations of terrorism and criminal activity, and media-driven accusations of financial exploitation. Flashback chapters reveal that one victim was the wealthy head of a 24-hour cable news network that didn’t just report the news, but proudly manufactured it; one victim was a Wall Street financier about to be indicted for money laundering; and the other victims, including an armed bodyguard, also had curious pasts. Scott’s life is an escalating nightmare of media hounding and federal suspicion. His only salvation is a thoughtful, deliberate NTSB investigator who focuses on facts, not speculation. This is a gritty tale of a man overwhelmed by unwelcome notoriety, with a stunning, thoroughly satisfying conclusion.

Reviewers are predicting that Before the Fall will be the book of  the summer of 2016 and there are rumours that it just might be the next Da Vinci Code!

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

When war is declared in London in 1939, Mary leaves her finishing school and rushes to the War Office to sign up. She thinks that she is the perfect candidate to be a spy but instead she is assigned to be a teacher.  When her class is evacuated to the country, Mary persuades Tom, her lover and a school administrator, to allow her to teach a small group of rejected children who are forced to remain. Meanwhile, Tom’s roommate, Alistair, volunteers for the army and must endure a horrifying retreat in France before assignment to the island of Malta, where he and his fellow soldiers receive little food and are constantly under fire. On leave between assignments, Alistair meets Mary and the two are instantly attracted to each other despite their loyalties to Tom. Slowly at first, they begin corresponding as the war plunges forward and the personal losses pile up.

Set in London during the years of 1939–1942, when citizens had slim hope of survival, much less victory; and on the strategic island of Malta, which was devastated daily by the Axis barrage, Everyone Brave is Forgiven features little-known history and a perfect wartime love story inspired by the real life love letters between Chris Cleave’s grandparents.

Redemption Road by John Hart

After five years away, John Hart is back, and Redemption Road is well worth the wait. Hart introduces us to an unforgettable group of characters: Gideon, a teenage boy determined to avenge his mother’s murder; Elizabeth, a veteran police officer under fire for shooting a pair of kidnappers eighteen times; and Adrian, a former policeman fresh out of prison on parole, having been convicted of murdering a young woman and leaving her body on the altar of an abandoned church. When another corpse appears in the same abandoned church, Adrian is the prime suspect and is forced to go underground to prove his innocence. As these three characters’ lives become intertwined, and as the bodies keep piling up, the question arises: what hope of redemption is there for these broken souls?

The After Party by Anton DiSclafani

If you like to read about the glamour of years gone by, DiSclafani’s second novel will give you a glimpse of what it was like to be a young woman in 1950’s Houston.  The book is an intriguing story about the complexities of female friendship and the intricate social hierarchy of Houston’s oil elite.  Joan Fortier is the symbol of glamour and the center of the social scene.  She is tall, blonde, beautiful and has a talent for dominating any room she enters.  She may be the only one of her enviable social circle not yet married and settled down, but that’s okay:  Joan enjoys a good scandal.

Cece Buchanan has been best friends with Joan since pre-school and has grown up almost like sisters, to the point that Cece has difficulty telling where she ends and Joan begins.  Cece is happily married and mother to a beautiful toddler, but that does not prevent her from getting involved in Joan’s exploits.  Told from Cece’s perspective, the narrative cuts back and forth between 1957, when they are in their mid-20s, and their adolescence, when Joan seems set up for the kind of privileged existence that Cece once assumed they both wanted—marriage, a family, and fancy parties. To Cece, Joan seems vibrant and free, but it’s not until later that she realizes no woman in this particular society, not even Joan, can completely escape the social limitations imposed by gender.  The relationship between Joan and Cece becomes increasingly compelling as the story progresses, resulting in a most memorable read.

 

So if you think that you might like to read some of these books, go ahead and place as many holds as you desire.  Remember, a hold placed in April, will guarantee hours of reading pleasure in May!

The BookGossip

 

400 Years and Still Going Strong

March 31, 2016

On April 23rd we commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and a quick search on the Internet brings up an endless list of events and celebrations around the globe.   These include a Shakespeare Conference in London, UK, a free massive online course, numerous productions of his plays and even a reading of his work from the International Space Station, to name just a few.  It is almost unbelievable that one man who wrote in one language more than 400 years ago can still capture the imagination of people around the world today.

Beginning just 40 years after his death, Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted, rewritten, altered and reimagined.  These revisions have kept Shakespeare fresh by adding a modern flavour to his stories.   As time passed, the plays have been turned into whatever kind of output was fashionable at the time: musicals, paintings, ballets, operas, movies and novels.

In 2015, Hogarth Press launched the Hogarth Shakespeare Project – a series of books based on some of Shakespeare’s most beloved works written by eight modern authors.  The first two titles on my list were published under the auspices of this project.  Of special interest to Canadians is the fact that Margaret Atwood has been included in this group of authors and is working on a retelling of The Tempest with a publication date of November 2016.  I love her unique responses in the video clip about the project:

 

Vinegar Girl: The Taming of the Shrew Retold by Anne Tyler (June 2016)

In Vinegar Girl the older Battista girl, Kate, feels like her life is stuck in a rut.  She is running her father’s house and has to play mother for her pretty younger sister, Bunny.  How did this all happen?  Her unusual opinions and outspokenness cause problems at her work even though her pre-school pupils love her to bits.

Dr. Battista’s life is not plain sailing either.  His medical breakthrough can be hijacked by the deportation of his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr.    This research can save the lives of millions, so Dr. Battista will do anything to keep Pyotr in the country.  He has a plan but for the plan to work, Kate must help him.   Kate however is furious: this time her father is really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?

Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson (February 2016)

In this interpretation of “The Merchant of Venice,” Shylock is compared with his modern counterpart in the character of art dealer and conflicted father Simon Strulovitch.   Shylock is presented as a man of incisive wit and passion, concerned still with questions of identity, parenthood, anti-Semitism and revenge. Strulovitch, on the other hand, struggles to reconcile himself to his daughter Beatrice's lifestyle choices and what he sees as a betrayal of her family and heritage.  Shylock’s own emotions change from grief for his beloved wife, to rage against his own daughter's rejection of her Jewish upbringing.  Culminating in a shocking twist on Shylock’s demand for the infamous pound of flesh, Jacobson’s insightful retelling examines the contemporary and acutely relevant questions of Jewish identity.   Shylock is my Name revitalizes Shakespeare’s comedy and allows Shylock to tell us his side of the story as never seen before, and deliver a worthy parting shot.

Beatrice Bunson’s guide to Romeo and Juliet by Paula Marantz Cohen (March 2016)

It should be exciting to start high school but Beatrice Bunson’s expectations are dashed on the first day of school.  Everything has changed over the summer.  Her best friend, Nan, who used to be frumpy and nerdy has transformed into this trim, ultra cool, popular girl, who  is running for Student Council,  gets invited to all the parties and seems to be avoiding Beatrice. Bea’s long time crush does not live up to expectations,   her older sister is acting like she is living in a soap opera and the cool kids are still a mystery to her.  A typical day in the life of a teenager!

The only bright point is Mr. Martin’s English class where they are starting the year with Romeo and Juliet and Beatrice discovers that Shakespeare has something to say about almost everything.   As Beatrice and her classmates tackle the Shakespeare tragedy, they discover the subtleties of the play as well as the broader lessons of love, family, honour, and misunderstandings. Guided by Mr. Martin, these ninth-graders start to understand Shakespeare, as Shakespeare helps them begin to understand themselves.

The Steep and Thorny Way: Hamlet Retold by Cat Winters (March 2016)

A thrilling modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance.  Set in 1920’s Oregon, this is the story of Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man.   She has almost no rights by law and with the Ku Klux Klan breeding fear and hatred in the community, she cannot even trust her friends.   Her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager.  Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him.  The doctor who just happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.  The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a ghost wandering the roads at night.

As I descended: Macbeth Retold by Robin Talley (September 2016)

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple but one thing stands between them and their perfect future: Delilah Dufrey.   Delilah is the star pupil at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize.  Lily and Maria are willing to do anything to take the scholarship away from Delilah. After all, it would guarantee Maria’s entrance to Stanford and assure that she and Lily share a dorm room for four more years.

Together, Maria and Lily harness the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school. But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, it quickly becomes too late for the girls to stop the series of events they’ve set in motion.  From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

 

How are you going to commemorate this Shakespeare anniversary?  I might just go and dig up my copy of Macbeth and reread this tragedy for the first time since my Grade 12 year, many more moons ago than I would care to admit!

The BookGossip

 

It's all about the Title

March 11, 2016

British author Somerset Maugham knew the pulling power of an intriguing title in selling a book.   With titles such as The Moon and Sixpence, The Bishop’s Apron and Cakes and Ale, it is no wonder that an admirer asked the author to read his book and help him come up with a fitting title.  However, Maugham replied:

"There's no need to read your story.   Are there drums in it?"

"No."

"Are there any bugles in it?"

“No."

"Well, then," said the famous author, "Call it No Drums, No Bugles."

In the recent past I can think of a lot of books that became bestsellers just because of their unique titles.   A book called Letters from Guernsey would not have stood out from the crowd,  but The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society became a must read for many a reader and book club.  Other titles that come to mind include Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and Hotel on the Corner of Sweet and Bitter by Jamie Ford, to name just a few.  But catchy titles are nothing new – Shakespeare himself came up with The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Much Ado about Nothing.

And this spring and summer we have so many interesting book titles to look forward to.   I had a hard time picking the best ones to highlight here, but the following titles have received much love and glowing reviews from librarians and reviewers.   

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer (April 2016)

First of all, we librarians would love it if people thought of us as “bad-ass” and then we all have visions of Timbuktu being the sort of place nobody has ever been to.  The book is really about Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu who became one of the best smugglers in the world.  In 2012, thousands of Al Qaeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali, including Timbuktu. They imposed Sharia law, chopped off the hands of accused thieves, stoned to death unmarried couples, and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts. As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali.  Hammer explores the city’s manuscript heritage and offers never-before-reported details about the militants’ march into northwest Africa. But above all, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is an inspiring account of the victory of art and literature over extremism.

Happy People Read and Drink Coffee by Agnes Martin-Lugand (April 2016)

Diane is the owner of Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, a literary café in Paris and leads a seemingly perfect life, but everything changes when her husband and daughter die in a car accident.  A year after the accident she decides that the only way she can get away from all the memories, is to move to a small town on the Irish coast.  There she meets Edward, who is her attractive Irish next door neighbour.  At first he does not welcome this intrusion into his life of solitude but slowly starts enjoying her company. At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Diane’s story is deeply felt, reminding us that love remembered is love enduring.

 

13 ways of looking at a fat girl by Mona Awad  (February 2016)  

Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga, Lizzie has never liked the way she looks.  She decides to start dating guys online but does not send any pictures of herself because she does not think anybody will date her if they could see her.  So she goes on a very strict diet, counting calories eaten, miles run, pounds dropped.  She can now fit into long coveted clothes and enjoy the validation of friends and family. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?  In this brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, the author exposes our body image-obsessed culture and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovable difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform.

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet by  H.P. Wood (June 2016) 

In May 1904 Dreamland on Coney Island opened and its  many spectacles are expected to attract crowds by the thousands, paying back investors many times over.  Kitty Hayward and her mother have just arrived by steamer from South Africa when her mother becomes ill and the hotel doctor sends her to Manhattan to fetch medicine.  But when she returns with the medicine, her mother has vanished. The desk clerk tells Kitty she is at the wrong hotel and the doctor says he’s never seen her before. 

Alone in a strange country, Kitty gets taken in by the members of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, a relic of a darker, dirtier era, and home to a forlorn flea circus, a handful of disgruntled Unusuals, and a mad Uzbek scientist.  They assure her they will help her find out what happened to her mother, but as a plague spreads, Coney Island is placed under quarantine. The gang at Magruder’s finds that a missing mother is the least of their problems, as the once-glamorous resort town is abandoned to the freaks, anarchists, and madmen.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick (May 2016)  

One year after the death of his wife Miriam, Arthur finds a gold charm bracelet while sorting through her possessions, which he has never seen before.   This is the start of a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife's secret life before they met--a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.

Featuring an unforgettable cast of characters with big hearts and irresistible flaws, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a curiously charming debut and a joyous celebration of life's infinite possibilities.

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley (June 2016)  

The publisher has not revealed a lot of details about this title other than it has the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain and the magical spirit of The Life of Pi.  Lily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart and it is the story of a special someone, Lily, who just happens to be a dog. 

Remember the last book you told someone they had to read?

Lily and the Octopus is the next one.

 

 

The Tumbling Turner sisters by Juliette Fay   (June 2016)  

In 1919, the Turner sisters and their parents are barely scraping by and the family is always just one paycheck away from eviction. When their father’s hand is crushed and he can no longer work, their mother decides that the vaudeville stage is their best and only chance for survival.

Traveling by train from town to town, teenagers Gert, Winnie, and Kit, and recent widow Nell soon find a new kind of freedom in the company of diverse performers. There is a seamier side to the business, however, and the young women face dangers and turns of fate they never could have anticipated. Heartwarming and surprising, The Tumbling Turner Sisters is ultimately a story of awakening to unexpected possibilities and to love and heartbreak.

 

Seen anything that piqued your interest? All the titles are already on order and available for you to place holds on or you can ask any of your local branch library staff to place a hold for you.  In fact place as many holds as you want and don’t worry if you don’t like a particular title.  Here at the library we stand by and guarantee our policy of 100% free returns – no questions asked!

The BookGossip