Mikale’s Fall Picks 2016

teabooks

Short, crisp rainy days. Slow-cooked root vegetables spiced with nutmeg and coriander. Crispy home-made bread. Wool sweaters. Tea. Thick books.After a whirlwind summer, there are not enough cliched nouns to describe how much I love and relish the fall season.

This is the time of year where I typically pull-back from my social calendar, take a break from weekend adventuring and settle in for some serious nesting. It also happens to be one of the greatest seasons for literary fiction as publisher’s unleash many of their heavy-hitters for awards season and early Christmas shopping. The only issue I had choosing this fall’s picks was limiting the list to a reasonable number because so many of my favourite authors are releasing new titles, and each book looks so, so good.

And thus begins a new season of glorious hibernation….at least until ski season.

 

The Course of Love by Alain de Bottoncourse-of-love

If we have crossed paths in the past couple of weeks then you’ve probably already heard me raving about this book. It is essentially a cross between a novel and literary essay, as we follow Kristen and Rabih through the ebbs and flows of their long-term monogamous relationship. The story is told in two parallel voices: one follows the two central characters as they navigate “happily every after” and the challenges which blossom after love’s original conception– raising children, adultery, laundry etc.. The other voice  objectively analyzes each of the character’s thought patterns and actions with remarkable clarity and psychoanalytic prowess.  I truly loved this book, and look forward to reading it again–albeit next time on my own copy so that I can scribble in the margins and underline my favorite passages.

wenjack.jpgWenjack by Joseph Boyden

Nearly 50 years after his tragic death, 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack’s story may finally be getting the attention it deserves.  As noted in this recent Maclean’s article,  this year three Canadian artists are using each of their respective mediums to shed light on the Residential School experience using Chanie as their voice and focus. Boyden, alongside Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie and graphic novelist Jerry Lemire,  mobilize the incredible power of narrative and one boy’s tragic story to illuminate this horrific chapter in the history of Canada’s First Nations peoples.  In Wenjack, Boyden has created an imagined re-telling of Chanie’s last hours alive as he runs away from a North Ontario Residential School realizing too late just how far away home is.  Like all of Boyden’s novels, Wenjack is already being touted as a literary masterpiece full of haunting landscapes, imagery and characters.

By Gaslight by Steven Price bygaslight

Back in 2014 Victoria, BC authorSteven Price made literary headlines when his latest novel, By Gaslight caused a highly competitive auction at the Frankfurt Book Fair before being sold for a rumored record-breaking advance. Since then, anticipation has been building among readers everywhere to get a chance to dive into this Victorian period piece and see what all the fuss is about. At nearly 800 pages, it is a spellbinding thriller embedded with dark, poetic imagery and detailed descriptions.

 spawninggroundsThe Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

I have been a fan of Anderson-Dargatz since picking up her brilliant debut novel Cure for Death by Lightning many moons ago. Since then, the author has written numerous other beautiful novels which each with a distinct sense of place rooted in our beautiful province and the struggles which erupt as nature and man intertwine and collide. Her latest novel weaves multiple-generational stories of settlement along a fictional river in south-central B.C., not far from Kamloops. The Spawning Grounds has been receiving excellent reviews as an instant BC classic with a supernatural twist.

Nutshell by  Ian McEwan nutshell

Aside from the fact that Ian McEwan is undoubtedly one of our country’s strongest writers, his new novel sounds so fantastically bizarre that it’s hard to resist. Set within a mother’s womb, the story is told from the perspective of what McEwan describes as “a rather old fetus nostalgic about the times when he was small enough to float freely around in the womb” in this Globe and Mail interview, who bares witness to murder, deceit and all other matters of thriller intrigue. Again, impossible to resist.

Moonglow: A Novel by Michael Chabon

moonglowReading Chabon is to read magic. Ever since The Adventures of Kavalier and ClayI have been a loyal Chabon-ist, and felt that his novels sparkle with an electric sense of playful history. In his latest book, Chabon blurs the lines between fiction, memoir and biography as he tells the story of his grandfather, whose life as an engineer, veteran, and felon offers an entree into themes of heroism and imagination.  Although the author tends to obsess over detailed side plots, such as the craft of comic making in the 1940’s in Adventures, and has at times been accused of losing track of the central story, I find these tangents  fascinating.

 

Happy nesting!

-Mikale

Patricia’s 2016 Fall Picks

Hurray!  The weather has turned!  Not feeling it?  Hear me out… Now that summer has fled we can all succumb to the urge to curl up with our favourite blanket, a cute cat (or dog, or…), and a hot cup of tea and read until our hearts content.  (Or until someone needs help finding the soccer cleats; whatever comes first.)  Here’s what I’ll be reading this fall:

The ConjoinedSeptember

September is an embarrassment of riches.  Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow* takes us to 1920s Moscow, where Count Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the luxurious Metropol Hotel.  Closer to home, Jen Sookfong Lee’s The Conjoined* tells the story of Vancouverite social Dear Mr. Mworker who finds the bodies of her two missing foster sisters while cleaning out her recently deceased mother’s freezer.  In Dear Mr. MHerman Koch, author of The Dinner and Summer House with Swimming Pool, promises to keep us guessing once again.  This time around Koch writes about a novelist who’s obsessed with his neighbour.   My last pick for September is Alain Gillot’s The Penalty Area*, a heartwarming story about an Under 16 soccer team and their downtrodden coach.

The NextOctober

October is usually all about horror.  This year I’ll be making an exception for three books by women writers:  Stephanie Gangi’s The Next tells the story of a Joanna’s search for a happy ending from beyond the grave.  The Comet Seekers* is an ambitious offering from debut novelist Helen Sedgwick; the two main character’s lives are linked via comets.  Finally, Francine Prose’s Mister Monkey* looks like a whole helluva lot of fun. It tells the story of the cast of an off-off-off Broadway children’s musical.

Swing TimeNovember

Plan to make time for the heavy hitters this November.  Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon both have new fiction coming out.  At its heart Smith’s Swing Time* revolves around friendship and music to tell the story of two dancer friends only one of whom has talent. Meanwhile in Chabon’s Moonglow* a grandfather (who may or may not be Chabon’s own) reveals his deathbed confessions to his grandson.

More Big Name AuthorsHag-Seed

 

Several amazing big name authors have titles coming out this fall — so many that I could have spent a whole post just on them:   Emma Donoghue has The Wonder*, a story based on history about an Irish girl who fasts for four months (September).  Not to be outdone, Margaret Atwood has two offerings this fall:  Hag-Seed* is  a retelling of JerusalemShakespeare’s The Tempest and part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series (October) and Angel Catbird* a comic book about a hybrid man-cat-owl (September).  Maria Semple‘s follow up to Where’d You Go Bernadette, Today Will Be Different* is a big-hearted story of a modern woman whose life is a mess (October). And finally, Alan Moore has that last word on what we should all be reading this fall: his doorstopper Jerusalem* (September).

Happy reading!

-Patricia

Booker Prize Shortlist

I have a confession to make: I’d only read two of the Man Booker Prize longlist when the shortlist was announced.  Of the two (Eileen and My Name is Lucy Barton), I strongly preferred Eileena confidently written character study of an extremely unlikable young woman.  Now that it’s been shortlisted, I’m very interested to see how it fares against the other shortlisted titles.  They are:

The SelloutThe Sellout by Paul Beatty (available in book and ebook)

After his father’s death a young black man seeks to reinstate slavery in the inconsequential town of Dickens, California.  It’s a satirical look at race relations in the US.

Hot MilkHot Milk by Deborah Levy (available in book)

Levy’s previous novel Swimming Home was awash in beautiful language.  I’m very much looking forward to Hot Milk, the story of a claustrophobic mother-daughter relationship set in Spain.

His Bloody ProjectHis Bloody Project by Graeme Mcrae Burnett (available in ebook)

A historical literary thriller from a small publishing house?  Yes, please.  Already a winner for beating out some huge names to land a spot on the shortlist, Burnett’s His Bloody Project promises to keep you enthralled to the last page.

All That Man IsAll That Man Is by David Szalay (available in book and ebook)

It’s wonderful that both Canadian longlisters made the shortlist.  What does manhood look like at the different stages of life?  Manhood is the central preoccupation of this collection of interconnected short stories.

Do Not Say We Have NothingDo Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (available in book and ebook)

This is Thien’s year.  Her novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing has also been longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.  It’s a sprawling family saga set in present-day Vancouver and China before, during, and after the Tiananmen Square protests.

Get your holds in now!  The winner will be announced on October 25.

-Patricia

 

 

 

Kat’s Fall 2016 Picks

While I’m not quite ready to admit that Fall is actually on the horizon, I’m more than happy to start thinking about what I’ll read during the season. And I’m sure I’ll be ready for some serious reading time once this  foolish attempt to ride my bike up to Whistler is finished on Saturday. So here’s what I’ll be reading while I’m taking a break from my bicycle and letting my poor muscles recover!

September

survivingloganSurviving Logan, by Erik Bjarnason and Cathi Shaw

At 5,959m elevation, Mt. Logan is Canada’s highest peak. In 2005 North Shore Rescue put together a team of experienced mountaineers and search-and-rescue personnel to tackle the summit. The expedition started out with good weather, but it quickly took a dangerous downturn, trapping three members of the team on the mountain. This true story recounts their efforts to survive the storm as conditions turned from bad to worse, to near tragic. There are many great mountaineering books out there with amazing stories of survival, but I’m really looking forward to reading one featuring local figures.

summerlongSummerlong, by Peter S. Beagle

In his first novel since 1999, the author of the beloved The Last Unicorn tells the story of a longtime couple who take in a young waitress, who in turn begins to inspire development and change in the both of them. This book is being described as mythical fantasy, and even has a Pacific Northwest setting to boot, so this is probably the book I’m most looking forward to this season.

nutshellNutshell, by Ian McEwan

A tale of deceit and murder, told from the point of view of a 9-month-old unborn child. It’s a mix of psychological thriller, mystery comedy, and tragedy, but the narration alone sounds too odd and interesting to pass up!

 

 

October

numberofthingsA Number of Things, by Jane Urquhart

Inspired by Canada’s upcoming sesquicentennial (I did not know that was a word until now… 150 years, for those of you in the same boat as me), Canadian author Jane Urquhart tells the stories behind 50 Canadian objects, including a particular cherry tree, an artist’s shoe, a tea doll, and a royal cowcatcher. I had to look up what several of the items actually were (including the cow catcher… apparently my train-knowledge is lacking), so this promises to be an informative read made poetic by Urquhart’s always beautiful prose.

cyclistoutinthecoldThe Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold, by Tim Moore

Travel writer Tim Moore has previously attempted to cycle the Giro d’Italia route on a period bike while in a period costume, and the Tour de France route complete with the requisite cheating and excessive wine-drinking. Continuing to display a complete lack of self-preservation, he has most recently spent three months cycling the 9,000 km route of the old Iron Curtain on a two-geared East German shopping bike. Moore’s books are always worth a read, and are a great mix of travelogue, history, and amusement at someone else’s self-inflicted pain.

appetitesAppetites, by Anthony Bourdain

In chef and travel writer Anthony Bourdain’s latest, he offers a collection of his personal favourites, both from home and from his travelling years of sampling food from all over the world. It contains recipes that Bourdain thinks everyone should know how to cook,  but also promises to “terrify your guests”… apparently that’s “with your culinary efficiency”, but I’m choosing to take it out of context. Especially since the cover itself is a bit on the terrifying side.

crosstalkCrosstalk, by Connie Willis

In Crosstalk, Science Fiction writer Connie Willis takes social media and communication to an extreme with a near-future world where couples can actually get a procedure increase empathy between them. The procedure is designed to help with emotional connection and communication, because nothing could possibly go wrong with that, right?

 

November

fateofthetearlingThe Fate of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen

This is the conclusion of the Tearling Trilogy. Its first volume (The Queen of the Tearlingwas fairly standard fantasy, but in a surprising move the second volume (The Invasion of the Tearling) began crossing over into dystopian sci-fi, and after that I can’t wait to see how Johansen is going to tie it all together. But the real strength of this series has always been the wholly believable development of Kelsea’s character, from awkward, insecure teenager to strong monarch determined to save her people, so I would definitely recommend checking out the series – it’s unique, with a steady, engaging plot that gives equal weight to its characters and its action.

willfulchildWillful Child: The Wrath of Betty, by Steven Erikson

I’m always looking for new books to add to my funny sci-fi & fantasy list (which is still a work in progress), and I’m definitely on the Trekkie-spectrum, so I have high hopes for enjoyable silliness on this series. This is the sequel to 2015’s Willful Child, a spoof on the whole exploring the galaxy Star Trek type genre, which sold me with the tagline “Bravely going where they really shouldn’t”. I’ll be saving this one for a really rainy day when I need a laugh.

 

What are you reading this season? You know, when it arrives. Which definitely isn’t quite yet.

– Kat

Patricia’s Picks for Stress-Free School Lunches

After two glorious months of summer the Labour Day weekend has somehow once again managed to sneak up on my and my family.  We find ourselves utterly unprepared for the looming cycle of up early, pack lunches, rush to school and work, lessons, lessons, lessons, homework, bed, and repeat.  If you’re anything like me, all of the above is a chaotic labour of love with the exception of packing lunches.  Lunches do me in.  (Seriously in September alone there are 19 packed lunch days x3 kids…. That’s nearly 60 kid lunches!?!)  Here’s where I’ll seek inspiration this September:

LunchWhat’s for Lunch: How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World by Andrea Curtis

Why I really like this book is because it offers children a way into a deeper understanding about food.  My children are incredibly lucky to always have enough to eat, and this book allows them to lock into an appreciation of that fact, while piquing their curiosity about how children eat in other countries.

ellaDeliciously Ella Everyday:  Quick and Easy Recipes for Gluten-free Snacks, Packed Lunches, and Simple Meals by Ella Woodword

Any packed lunch cookbook with the words “quick,” “easy,” and “simple” in the title is all right by me, but Ella Woodword’s ambitions don’t end there.  She also aims to help eaters eat less sugar, meat, and dairy without intensive labour.  Best of all, the recipes contained within are suitable for adult lunches too.

workmanThe Mom 100 Cookbook: 100 Recipes Every Mom Needs in her Back Pocket by Katie Workman

Parents, Katie Workman gets us.  She’s organized her cookbook both by meals and by dilemmas parents face, covering everything from potlucks to getting your little ones to eat more veggies.  (My one complaint is that I wish she’d given a shout out to the dads in the title — They cook too.)

harrycookbookThe Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Buchotz

I’m fully intending to leverage the Harry Potter connection here to amp up the my kids’ enthusiasm for lunchtime.  There’s way too much sugar in this cookbook for it to be a reliable standby in my kitchen, but I’m relying on a little slight of hand with this one.  If I make a Delciously Ella recipe with the Harry Potter Cookbook on the table… Well let’s just say the associations they make aren’t my fault and leave it there, shall we?

Here’s wishing you a magical 500+ packed lunches ’til summer!

-Patricia

Sci-Fi, Fantasy, & Horror Awards Roundup

The 2016 Hugo Award winners were announced on the weekend, and I was really happy to see that, despite the ongoing drama of the Sad / Rabid Puppies and their efforts to return science fiction to its “traditional” roots, the Hugos are continuing to reward innovative and diverse storytelling. I’m also stoked that my two favourite novels from 2015 have both picked up awards (and two of the most prestigious ones to boot!) – Naomi Novik’s Uprooted won the Nebula, and N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season won the Hugo. I wouldn’t have been able to pick one over the other, so I’m glad they were both recognized.

For those unfamiliar with the major awards in this multi-faceted genre, here’s a roundup of some of the major ones, and the winners/nominees for 2016 so far!


The Hugo Awards 

hugoawardFirst awarded in 1953, the Hugos are given by the World Science Fiction Society. Anyone can actually nominate and vote on the Hugos by becoming a Worldcon member for the coming year. There are currently 14 categories, including best novel, best novella, best novelette, best short story, best graphic story, best dramatic presentation (long and short). See http://www.thehugoawards.org/ for the full list.

2016 Winners Include:

 

The Nebula Awards

nebulaEstablished in 1965, the Nebulas are presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and honour the best works of science fiction or fantasy published in the United States. There are 6 categories: best novel, best novella, best novelette, best short story, the Ray Bradbury award for outstanding dramatic presentation, and the Andre Norton award for young adult science fiction and fantasy. See http://www.sfwa.org/ for more.

2016 Winners Include:

  • Best Novel: Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
  • Best Novella: Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Andre Norton Award: Updraft, by Fran Wilde

 

The Bram Stoker Awards

stokerawardPresented by the Horror Writer’s Association, this has been awarded for “superior achievement” (rather than “best”) in horror and dark fantasy writing since 1987. There are currently 11 categories, including: novel, first novel, short fiction, long fiction, and young adult fiction. More information – and a better look at their amazing trophy – here: http://horror.org/awards/stokers.htm

2016 Winners Include:

 

The Philip K. Dick Award

philipkdickThis award is given to the single best original paperback of the year, published the US. It’s a joint effort, currently presented by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, The Philip K. Dick Trust, and the Northwest Science Fiction Society, and was first presented in 1982. See http://www.philipkdickaward.org/ for more info.

2016 Winner: Apex, by Ramez Naam

And there are still a few of the major awards still to be distributed this year:

The World Fantasy Awards 

worldfantasyawardFirst presented in 1975, the World Fantasy Awards are given out for the best fantasy fiction by the World Fantasy Convention. Up until this year the trophy was a bust of a caricatured H.P. Lovecraft, but it has now been retired due to complaints that Lovecraft, while an important influence on the genre, cannot be representative of the entire genre due to his overt racism. No word on what the new trophy will be, although the World Fantasy Convention finished receiving submissions in April. The 2016 winners will announced in late October, and there are 10 categories. Read more at http://www.worldfantasy.org/

2016 Best Novel Nominees:

 

The Arthur C. Clarke Award

arthurcclarke
This is a British award, given to the best science fiction novel published in the UK (although there’s no restriction on the author’s nationality, as long as the book was published in the UK – Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was the first winner). It was established in 1987, and, like the Philip K. Dick, is a single-category award. Read more at https://www.clarkeaward.com/

2016 Nominees:

 

Sunburst Awards 

sunburstawardCanada’s own award for “excellence in Canadian Literature of the fantastic,”
this is a juried award for speculative fiction in 3 categories: adult, young adult, and short stories. It has been distributed since 2001. Find out more at http://www.sunburstaward.org/

2016 Shortlist Nominees for Adult Fiction:

 

I know this list of awards is woefully incomplete, so for a great run-down of more of the sf/fan/horror awards out there, check out http://www.locusmag.com/SFAwards/

Any ideas for 2017’s nominees yet?

– Kat

Backyard Bears & Other Outdoor Musings

With multiple local bear incidents in the last week and my inclination for spending my spare time outside, in or around the woods, I’ve been thinking about living in such close proximity to wildlife as we do North Van, and what that means in terms of ensuring both their and our well-being. I’ve also been evaluating my outdoorsy know-how (particularly in regards to bear encounters!) and have decided that I could definitely use a refresher course. So if you’d like to brush up your wildlife and wilderness safety knowledge with me, here’s what I’ll be reading!

Co-existing With Our Neighbours…
livingwithbears bearsinbackyard livingwithwildlife   urbanbestiary
These titles each offer a look at living in close quarters with our furry (or feathered… or scaly) neighbours. Linda Masterson’s Living with Bears Handbook (on order) is now in its 2nd edition, and offers practical solutions to avoid conflicts with backyard bears. Edward R. Ricciuti’s Bears in the Backyard (on order) follows a similar vein for other animals – including coyotes and cougars – as well as bears,with a great mix of stories, research, and advice.

Russel Link’s Living with Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest (on order) covers a wide variety of backyard visitors – mammals, birds, and reptiles – specific to our region, discussing both how to identify them and live harmoniously with them. Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s The Urban Bestiary is a more philosophical title, exploring the science, myth, and stories of common urban critters using a through a bestiary-like format.

In Defense (and Celebration!) of Bears…
grizzlymanifesto bearspirit
For most of us, bears inspire equal parts fear and awe, and these two titles do an excellent job exploring that. In The Grizzly Manifesto, journalist and conservationist Jeff Gailus explores the politics of Grizzly population management in both the US and Canada, and is a an eye-opening wake-up call. Bear: Spirit of the Wild is a bear photography collection from National Geographic, and (as you’d expect) is filled with powerful, spectacular shots of polars, grizzlies, black, and spirit bears from photographer Paul Nicklen’s journeys in the Canadan, Alaskan, and Norwegian wilderness.

Outdoor Safety…
ultimatebackcountry outdoorsafety bearaware
For those of you who spend time hiking and backpacking,  here are a few titles specific to outdoor adventure. Aram von Benedikt’s Ultimate backcountry Survival Manual is a recent release (May 2016), covering a wide array of backpacking gear, skills, and survival situations – including animal encounters – in detail.  BC Author Mike Nash’s Outdoor Safety & Survival covers all of the essentials, including gear, navigation, wildlife encounters, first aid, and other emergency situations (personally, I love the cover). Alternately, if you’re looking for something more focused, Bill Schneider’s Bear Aware (on order) is – in Falcon Guide style – a succinct, “quick reference bear country survival guide.”

New Outdoor Adventure Books…
bravingit becomingwild
Or, if you prefer your outdoor adventure by proxy, try one of these recent titles. Braving It by James Campbell is a story of a father and daughter’s adventures in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as an exploration of a father-daughter relationship and a child’s coming-of-age.  In Nikki van Schyndel’s Becoming Wild, she recounts her experiences living self-sufficiently for 18 months in coastal BC’s wilderness. I’m most intrigued by her bringing a cat along…? My cats wouldn’t last a minute – they’re more afraid of bugs and spiders than I am.
Wishing you happy and safe outdoors-ings, whether in person or by armchair!
– Kat