The BookGossip

2016 BookGossip Editions:

Check out what The BookGossip has to say by clicking on the book covers below!

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!

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 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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.  

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.


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!

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

“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, 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.

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 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 Holmesis 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!

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.

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.  

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.

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 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. 

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.  

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 1, 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.  

I 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.  

This 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!

New 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.

This 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.

If 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.

Chief 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.   

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?

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.

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?” 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.

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.

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!

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? 

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. 

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.

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?

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 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. 

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.  

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.

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.

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.

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:

Ever 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.

This 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.

Tess 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.

This 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.

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!

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 isForgiven features little-known history and a perfect wartime love story inspired by the real life love letters between Chris Cleave’s grandparents.

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?

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:

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?

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.

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.

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.

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 SixpenceThe 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?”
“Are there any bugles in it?”
“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 ShrewA 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.   

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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