The BookGossip

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Old fashioned Christmas, with new ideas

December 11, 2017

It’s December and with it comes the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  The festive decorations and merry caroling puts everyone in the mood for Christmas.  Soon there will be a nip in the air and we will bring out our traditional recipes and perhaps decorating our homes with homemade crafts.  Take a look at these new books for some new traditional ideas.  Relax, enjoy and create!

Make your holiday unique with over 35 stunning handmade projects. Create your own personalized cards, gifts, and decorations to spread some festive cheer.  Every project comes with clear step-by-step instructions and illustrations, requires no specialist equipment, and many can be made in an afternoon, so you can get started right away!

You’ll find decoration inspiration in this Christmas book.   With more than a dozen festive projects with easy to follow directions for the beginner as well as the master quilter.  Not just quilting found in this yuletide treasure but recipes too.  Enjoy!

Bring the magic of a handmade Christmas into your home with 40 projects for gifts, decorations, and homemade wrapping paper. Clear, step-by-step instructions guide readers to create fresh flower garlands, bake edible gift tags, make homemade bath salts, and paint authentic tree ornaments. With last-minute ideas and lots of inspiration, this book will help you wrap up gift-giving and decorating for the holiday season.

Novelty knitters and crocheters will love this collection of mini Christmas projects to crochet ready for the festive season.  Full crochet instructions are provided, and each project is simply photographed so that the reader can see the design clearly – each one costing only 50 cents a pattern!

This holiday classic is filled with re-imagined favorites like Giant Molasses Spice Cookies and Hazelnut Sandwich Cookies; confections like Peppermint Bark, Smoked Almond and Cacao Nib Brittle, and Dark Chocolate-Hazelnut Fudge; and detailed instructions for gorgeous gingerbread houses, cookie place cards, and edible ornaments, this is a cookie book like no other.

Merry Christmas!
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. 

2017 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. 

In 2018 we will celebrate another literary anniversary: 150 years since the first publication of Louisa Alcott’s Little Women and 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.

It 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.

Charles 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.

In 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 & RB Digital.  With audiobooks gaining interest, I wanted to shed some light on some recent releases with notable performances.

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

I 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.

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

Quick, 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.

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

Eleanor 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.

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

With 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.

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

Leia 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.

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

Canadian 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.

Halifax 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.

It’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.

It 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.

2017 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 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.

Imagination Encircles the World

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

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…

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!

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.

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.

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.

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…

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 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.

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…

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.

he 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.

he 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…

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…

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:

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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!

In 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.

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 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.

“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 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:

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!

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!

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.

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 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 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.

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

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? 

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

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 

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

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 here:

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! 

From 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 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.  

Forty 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.

This 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.

As 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.

And 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!

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.

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. 

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!

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!

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.

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 Dryis 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