Fiction

I Want All the Books!

The weather might be terribly treacherous, and driving might be dangerous, and I might not be able to be on social media or the Internet much these days because too much negativity is just plain bad for me; but THIS IS THE BEST BOOK WEEK in a very long time!  I’m pretty sure many of us could read only books that were published this week and be happy little bookworms for quite some time to come.  There’s something for everyone.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a selection of this week’s choicest goodies:

impossibleThe Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak*
Until May 1987, fourteen-year-old Billy Marvin of Wetbridge, New Jersey, is a nerd, but a decidedly happy nerd.  Afternoons are spent with his buddies, watching copious amounts of television, gorging on Pop-Tarts, debating who would win in a brawl (Rocky Balboa or Freddy Krueger? Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel? Magnum P.I. Or T.J. Hooker?), and programming video games on his Commodore 64 late into the night. Then Playboy magazine publishes photos of Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White, Billy meets expert programmer Mary Zelinsky, and everything changes.**

norseNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman*
Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.  In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki–son of a giant–blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.**

pachinkoPachinko by Min Jin Lee*
A new tour de force from the bestselling author of Free Food for Millionaires, for readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone. PACHINKO follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.**

possessionsThe Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy*
In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances. […] A tale of desire and obsession, deceit and dark secrets that defies easy categorization, The Possessions is a seductive, absorbing page-turner that builds to a shattering, unforgettable conclusion.**

refugeesThe Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen*
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer was one of the most widely and highly praised novels of 2015, the winner not only of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, but also the Center for Fiction Debut Novel Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the ALA Carnegie Medal for Fiction, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the California Book Award for First Fiction. Nguyen’s next fiction book, The Refugees , is a collection of perfectly formed stories written over a period of twenty years, exploring questions of immigration, identity, love, and family.**

 

Happy reading!

-Patricia

*Thanks to NetGalley and Edelweiss for advanced readers’ copies of these titles.

**Blurbs provided by publishers.

 

 

Patricia’s Top 10 Reads of 2016

2016 is well-acknowledged to have been a pretty terrible year.  You know why.  On the plus side, 2016 has been a very very good year for books.  Here are my ten favourites:

hatchingBest Horror – The Hatching
I cannot imagine anything more terrifying than alien spiders that do what the spiders in this novel can do (and I’ve had six month’s worth of delicious fun trying.)  Let me say it again:  alien spiders.  (Also, they chew.) I pride myself on liking epically violent horror and yet could only read this book — the first in a series — with the lights on in the daytime when other people were around.  Warning: You will want to read the sequel immediately after finishing this book.  Also: alien spiders.

weepingwoman

Best Fiction for Art Lovers – The Weeping Woman
I feel deeply in love with this novel about a Cuban woman living in Paris and writing a biography of Picasso’s one-time lover Dora Maar, and have been mulling it over in my mind for the better part of this year.  Its release was timed near perfectly with the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibition Picasso: The Artist and his Muses.  I’m very much looking forward to a re-read in 2017.

exitBest Teen Read – Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Hermione Winters is a high school head cheerleader who gets raped at cheerleading camp.  The way that she copes and heals in the aftermath makes for compelling reading.  Hermione’s powerful relationship with her best friend Polly and the strength she draws from her make this book my favourite YA read of the year.

blizzardBest Post-Apocalyptic Red – The Blizzard
In nineteenth-century Russia. Garin, a district doctor, is desperately trying to reach the village of Dolgoye, where a mysterious epidemic is turning people into zombies. He carries with him a vaccine that will prevent the spread of this terrible disease but is stymied in his travels by an all-consuming snowstorm.*

prettyfastBest Quick Read – Life Moves Pretty Fast:  The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies (And Why We Don’t Learn Them From Movies Anymore)
It’s okay to be authentically awkward in 80s films, and to dress badly, and to grapple with difficult problems.  Hadley Freeman celebrates many of our favourite 1980s films while examining them with a critical (often feminist) eye.  This book would make a perfect Christmas present for anyone nostalgic for the 1980s, or for those interested in feminist takes on pop culture.  Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

paxBest Book to Share with the Family – Pax
Pax is the story of a boy and his pet fox, Pax.  Peter’s father forces him to abandon his beloved companion in the woods.  Unable to be apart Pax and Peter each go on journeys to get back to one another.  The story is told alternates between Pax and Peter’s perceptions.  Pennypacker does a marvellous job of writing a page-turning adventure that still leaves room for quiet beautiful moments. (And Jon Klassen should illustrate everything.)

preciousBest Memoir – Precious Cargo: My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077
Craig Davidson is now a well-known writer of Canadian literary fiction.  He’s also a successful writer of horror under the pseudonym Nick Cutter.  And he used to be a bus driver. “For readers of Kristine Barnett’s The Spark , Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree and Ian Brown’s The Boy in the Moon, here is a heartfelt, funny and surprising memoir about one year spent driving a bus full of children with special needs.”*

breathBest Tearjerker – When Breath Becomes Air

Confession: Even the title makes me teary.  I cried so much reading this book that my eyes hurt for a whole day.  After nearly a decade of training to be a neurosurgeon, 36-year old Paul is on the cusp of the career of his dreams when he learns that he has an aggressive form of cancer.  I cannot highly recommend this memoir enough: it’s questioning, moving, and wise.  Nor can I warn you enough against reading it in public.  It should come with a warning: for home use only.

everyheartBest Fantasy – Every Heart a Doorway
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been one of those people who still half believes in magical lands like Narnia or Fillory.  I can clearly imagine how privileged I would feel to belong in a place so precious that few people know it’s really real.  I can imagine how desperate I would be to get back ‘home’ to such a place if I left.  This book tells of children who have found their ‘home’ in magical places and are desperate to get back there.  It feels raw and true and beautiful.

homegoingBest Book of 2016 – Homegoing

The concept of Homegoing is simple and rich: it traces the lives of the descendants of two half-sisters born in 18th century Ghana.  One sister marries an Englishman an lives in a castle; the other is captured into slavery.  Each chapter jumps forward one generation.  There is longlasting evidence of the damage done by colonization and slavery in these very personal feeling stories.  Best of all, the ending is note perfect.

I’m super keen to know what other people’s favourite reads of 2016 are — Please share in the comments!

-Patricia

*Description from Bibliocommons

All Hallow’s Read (and Watch)

timeflies

Time flying

Time flies and somehow Hallowe’en has snuck up on me this year.  And now it’s only five days away!  I understand that doesn’t leave you a lot of time to plan what you’re going to read and watch for your Hallowe’en thrills, so without further ado, here are some frightening (and sometimes gory) recommendations to help get you in the spirit:

Before ‘found footage’ horror was a thing, there was Cannibal Holocaust: a 1980s Italian horror film in which a team of documentary cannibalfilmmakers head to South America and are brutally killed.  Initially released as a documentary, the film’s director was arrested on obscenity charges after its release.  Cannibal Holocaust –and several other horror films!– is available to stream from the library via InstantFLIX.

I can’t be the only one who has been waiting years for someone to write a novel inspired by Cannibal Holocaust because debut novelist Kea Wilson has done just that with We Eat Our Own.

A Head Full of GhostsWant less gore and more slowly deepening horror?  Try Paul Tremblay’s Stoker award-winning A Head Full of GhostsThe Possession is a reality TV show which delves into the lives of the Barrett family as they deal with their teenage daughter’s demonic possession.  Don’t let the reality TV veneer fool you: this book will have you utterly creeped out by the last page.

Have a must-watch scary movie or must-read Hallowe’en read?  Please share in the comments below — I’m always looking for new ways to lose sleep.

-Patricia

 

 

 

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

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

You and I are Going to Live Forever…

This week my Facebook feed was ablaze with findings from research done by Yale University suggesting that book lovers live longer (sometimes, not always, accompanied by YouTube clips of Oasis singing “Live Forever“).  In the interest of living a long long long long life, I decided to do some ‘science’ of my own.  If reading books makes you live longer, which book on my TBR pile would boost a readers’ longevity most?  Here’s how things panned out:

LiveForever1The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

This re-issued classic measures in at a paltry number — so small it barely registers on my tape measure unless I squint.  It does, however, pack a big wallop: a dense novella about a poor girl in Rio de Janeiro.

LiveForever3A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel

More promising is Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety — a 872-page door stopper that tackles the French Revolution.  It shadows three men Robespierre, Desmoulins, and Danton, from their childhood, and charts the rise of the Reign of Terror.  As a longtime fan of A Tale of Two Cities, I feel like this book would make a good entry into Mantel’s fiction while adding years to your life.

longevityThe Dying Grass by William T. Vollmann

Now we’re getting places.  Vollmann’s 1300+ page account of the Nez Perce War (not to be confused with pince nez) is sure to aid readers questing for immortality.  It also offers an immersive look at the conflict between Native Americans and European colonials.  Washington Post called it,”the reading experience of a lifetime.”

The Familiar LiveForever4by Mark Danielewski

When the books are best measured vertically, you know you are on the right track.  Danielewski’s The Familiar is not only HUGE, it’s a wildly experimental novel that centres around a 12-year old epileptic girl named Xanther.

What can I say? I like big books! Which big books will you use to read yourself into old age?

-Patricia

Brazilian Fiction

Rio_2016_logo.svgIt’s almost impossible to believe that we are into August already — a month that heralds the arrival of the Summer Olympics (aka Rio 2016).  Whenever the Olympics are held, the book lover in me wants to get a literary taste of the host country.  Here are some works of contemporary Brazilian fiction you might enjoy:

perfectdaysPerfect Days by Raphael Montes

Teo is a loner who identifies more with his med school cadaver than he does with other humans — until he meets Clarice.  When Clarice rejects him, Teo kidnaps her and takes her on a road trip around Brazil.  Montes has been hailed as the Brazilian Stephen King.

crowblueCrow Blue by Adriana Lisboa

After her mother’s death, thirteen year old Vanja moves from Rio to Colorado to search for her biological father.  Lisboa does an exemplary job of “[documenting] the experiences of travel and interacting with other cultures, […] as a means to explore the attachment to her home country and understand its history and politics.”

silenceThe Silence of the Rain by L.A. Garcia-Roza

This police procedural is the first in a series that’s a bestseller in Brazil.  Inspector Espinosa is called in to investigate the murder-robbery of Roberto Carvalho, a businessman with million dollar life insurance policy, a missing secretary and a very attractive wife…

beardBlood-Drenched Beard by Daniel Galera

Galera’s novel whisks readers off to Garopaba in southern Brazil, where an unnamed young man arrives to start a new life and solve the decades old mystery of his grandfather’s murder.

 

Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelhoeleven

Maria is a young prostitute with a dim view of romantic love who goes of a voyage of self discovery as she travels from Rio to Geneva.  Coelho is internationally bestselling author of The Alchemist. 

Feliz leitura!

-Patricia