Literary Prizes

Mikale’s Fall Picks for 2017

booksandtea

Today is the official first day of fall–by far my favorite season to sink my teeth into a good book. Not only is it the time for wool blankets, tea and general nesting activities (and coincidentally the shoulder period between ski and camping season), it’s also when many publishers unveil their annual heavy hitters in anticipation of all those glittering literary awards.

As the fiction librarian here at NVCL I am privileged to get an insider look into a few of the year’s more intriguing titles. Thus, may I present the books which I am most looking forward to get me through the next few months of hibernation!

 

The Power by Naomi Alderman  power

Although several top authors (Ursula LeGuinn, Margaret Atwood… to name a few) have crafted memorable speculative fiction about what would happen if the traditional power balance between men and women were swapped, Naomi Alderman’s newest book takes it to a new level by unveiling a story about what happens when teenage girls suddenly gain the ability to cause intense physical pain, and even death.

The book tackles questions such as what is power, how do you get it, and how long before it corrupts you. It’s Feminist Science Fiction. It won the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction. What more can I say? Still not convinced? Check out this stellar review from The Guardian.

 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin 

immortalistsI’m always intrigued when a book sells it’s TV rights prior to publication because it indicates that if nothing else, the novel’s concept is imaginative, expansive, and compulsive. As such, when I first heard that they were already planning a TV show centered around this novel which asks the question, “If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?” I knew I would read it.

“The Immortalists is a family love story spanning five decades, centering on four siblings who, as children, visit a fortune teller who predicts the day each will die. Subsequently, they find their lives spiraling and intertwining in dramatic ways, probing the line between destiny and choice, faith and magical thinking, reality and illusion, present and past, this world and the next” (From the publisher).

 

To Kill The President by Sam Bourne

I have mixed feelings about this one, which is the main reason it’s on this list. Although killpresdient“president assassinations” have almost become their own sub-genre, it’s a little bit different when the president in question is highly recognizable, still alive, and currently in office.  Then again, this whole book is about a struggle of conscience. It follows Maggie Costello, a White House Aide and recurring character from Bourne’s previous novels, as she learns about an assassination attempt against the out-of-control President who should clearly not be in power and tries to decide whether to let it happen or not. For anyone wanting to learn more not just about this book, but it’s controversy I recommend checking out this piece by The Guardian . In the meantime, I’ve already placed my hold!

 

Savage Country: A Novel by Robert Olmstead

savagecountry This raw and gritty story begins in September 1873 and follows Elizabeth Coughlin, a widow on the brink of bankruptcy, as she embarks on a buffalo hunt with her estranged and mysterious brother-in-law, Michael, in an attempt to salvage her economic future. Out of their element and overwhelmed by dangers like rattlesnakes, wildfire, rabies, flash floods and everything in between, Elizabeth and Michael’s souls unravel as they take on the cruel work of slaughtering the buffalo.
This is a gripping narrative of that infamous hunt, which drove the buffalo population to near extinction–the story of a moment in our history in which mass destruction of an animal population was seen as the only route to economic solvency. But it’s also the intimate story of how that hunt changed Michael and Elizabeth forever.(From the publisher).

Demi-Gods by Eliza Roberston

Full disclosure: Robertson and I were in the same writing program at the University of demigodsVictoria many moons ago. The fact that she has just published a novel which is receiving mass-acclaim from around the world gives me warm shiny feelings and I therefore cannot wait to read her novel.

 Set in the 1950s over the long, nostalgic days of summer, Demi-Gods is narrated by a striking young woman named Willa who describes a series of brief, highly charged encounters with her stepbrother. Sensitive, playful and original, Robertson is well known for her ability to craft imaginative and poetic prose who’s first collection of short stories Wallflower won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. 

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich 

futurehomeApparently this fall I’m really into speculative fiction, female agency, and books with the word “God” in the title.

“The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Thirty-two-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

 

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time” (From the Publisher)

 

Happy reading!

-Mikale Fenton

 

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

Celebrating British Columbia Books!

quadraIn honor of Monday’s upcoming BC day, we thought it was high time to highlight a few of our province’s literary treasures.  British Columbia is blessed to have a plethora of literary talent, many of whom root their stories in the places and regions they know best: the vast and varied British Columbia landscape. Below is a collection of both contemporary and classic BC-saturated books to keep you company while enjoying the beautiful long weekend ahead!

Happy reading!

New Arrivals

A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World by Susan Musgrave  tastehaida

This is a beaaaaautiful, hilarious, and fascinating collection of photographs, stories, and recipes that reflect BC’s wild West Coast. The first time I picked this book up at the library I knew that one round of check-outs was not going to be enough so I immediately purchased my own copy.

As proprietor of Copper Beech House, an infamous Haida Gwaii bed and breakfast,  writer and poet Susan Musgrave unveils her first cookbook which balances humour and wit to illuminate cooking and living on Haida Gwaii to life with stories gathered over decades.

 

The Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz spawninggrounds

Best known for her gorgeous bestselling novel, The Cure for Death by Lightning and , A Recipe for Bees, Salmon Arm’s very own Gail Anderson-Dargatz has a new novel coming out this fall examines the cultural, and physical geography of the central B.C.’s Thompson-Shuswap region.

 

thien

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien 

As mentioned by Patricia in her last post, Vancouver born Madeline Thein’s newest book is already generating quite a bit of critical attention and was recently nominated for the Man Booker Prize Longlist is an international saga which stretches from 1940’s China to present-day Vancouver.

 

 Bit Rot by Douglas Coupland bitrot

From Coal Harbour’s “Digital Orca”, to City of Glassa literary and visual ode to our fair city, Douglas Coupland is an undeniable Vancouver icon. In his newest book, Bit Rot Coupland mixes short fiction  with essays to explore the ways humanity tries to make sense of our shifting consciousness.  (From the publisher)

Classic Reads

curveoftimeThe Curve of Time by Wylie Blanchet

Wylie Blanchet is a legend, and The Curve of Time is a testament to her bravery and independent spirit. Following the death of her husband, she explored BC’s often rugged a central coast alone with her five children summer after summer in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  Her stories are incredible, albeit at times a little problematic when read from the perspective of a modern reader. That being said, if you haven’t already done so, I really can’t recommend this book enough. Did I mention that she literally died at her type writer? This woman, I tell ya.

 

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson  monkeybeach

A true BC classic, since it’s orginal publication, Monkey Beach has become a fortified piece of the BC literary cannon. “Set in the Kitimaat area, Monkey Beach is a truly beautiful novel filled with details of Haisla culture and wildlife surrounding Kitimaat. It “combines both joy and tragedy in a harrowing yet restrained story of grief and survival, and of a family on the edge of heartbreak” (from the publisher).

 

goldenspruceThe Golden Spruce by John Valliant

What started as a feature article for The New Yorker soon evolved into this epic examination of the tragic loss of one of British Columbia’s most infamous natural wonders, the mysterious disappearance of the man who destroyed it, and a look into life on Haida Gwaii and the global forces which shape it. If you haven’t read this book, do it. Valliant is a master storyteller. He successfully lures readers in with compelling storytelling and pushes them to consider their own complicity in a modern world that often depends on the destruction of nature for survival.

 

Enjoy yourself out there this weekend!

-Mikale

Man Booker Prize Longlist 2016

As fun as it was to predict the longlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize, I did an utterly terrible job of it.  Zero of my thirteen predictions made the actual longlist (which fills me with optimism that I’ll be able to do better next year).  Without further ado, here are the nominees:

From Canada

thienI couldn’t be more excited to see Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien on the longlist.  It’s an intergenerational saga that stretches from present day Vancouver back to 1940s China.  The Globe and Mail raves that this novel “will cement Madeleine Thien as one of Canada’s most talented novelists”, and I can’t wait to read it.

The other Canadian nominee we share with the UK.  David Szalay’s novel in stories All That Man Is gives us glimpses into the lives of nine males at various stages of their lives.

From the US

selloutThe US has a strong presence on the longlist with five nominees:  The Sellout by Paul Beatty, a laugh out loud satire of race in America; acclaimed short story writer David Means’ Hystopiaan alternate history novel-within-a-novel;  Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen, which the Guardian called “a courageous, masterful evocation of physical and psychological squalor”;  Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves, a debut novel set to be published in Canada in January 2017, and Elizabeth Strout’s acclaimed My Name Is Lucy Barton.

From the UK

northwaterThere are also five contenders from the UK:  A.L. Kennedy for Serious Sweet, a love story that will be published in Canada in October 2016; Deborah Levy for Hot Milk, the story of a mother and daughter who travel to Spain in search of a cure for the mother’s illness; Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, a historical courtroom drama set in Scotland that will be available in Canada in March 2017 (and looks amazing!); Ian McGuire’s The North Water, a tale about a 19th century Arctic whaling expedition; and The Many by Wyl Menmuir, a haunting novel about the effect a newcomer has on a small fishing village.

From South Africa/Australia

coetzeeThe Schooldays of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee

This sequel to The Childhood of Jesus will be published in Canada in October 2016.  If Coetzee wins the Booker this year, he’ll be the first person to ever win the award three times.  His previous wins are for The Life and Times of Michael K and Disgrace. 

Anyone want to predict the shortlist*?  Odds are your predictions will best mine.

-Patricia

*The shortlist will be announced on September 13, 2016. The winner will be announced on October 25, 2016. (Go, Madeleine Thien, go!)

Booker Prize Longlist Predictions 2016

The Booker Prize Longlist (aka The Booker’s Dozen) is out tomorrow.  It’s one of the literary highlights of the year.  To be nominated a book must be published in the UK between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016, and have been originally published in English.  That’s a pretty wide open field (as you can see from this Goodreads list of eligible nominees). So who will make the cut?  Here are my predictions:

Which books would make your dream longlist?  Tune in tomorrow to find details of the actual longlist.

-Patricia

 

And the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Goes to…

glorious…Lisa McInerney for her debut novel Glorious Heresies*Glorious Heresies is a darkly comic novel about an accidental murder and its effects on four misfits.  The Telegraph raves, “The Glorious Heresies is a spectacular debut by Lisa McInerney. Tough and tender, gothic and lyrical, it is a head-spinning, stomach-churning state-of-the-nation novel about a nation falling apart.”  We’ve got the title on order in our catalogue, so you can place your hold now.  We’ve also got some suggestions for what you should read while you wait.

greenroadIf you like Irish fiction…

I’d recommend three Irish heavyweights:  Anne Enright, Edna O’Brien and Belinda McKeon.  Enright’s latest novel, The Green Road*, was also shortlisted for the Baileys this year (and was the favourite to win).  It is a moving tale about an aging mother whose children have all left the west of Ireland for greener pastures, and her decision to sell the family home.

nestIf you want to read an entertaining debut novel…

Why not read Cynthia d’Aprix’s The NestThe Plumb siblings are a mess: emotionally and financially.  They are counting on ‘the nest’ – an inheritance from their father –  to put things right.  When coked up Leo Plumb gets in a car accident, his mother bails him out using the funds from the nest.  Can the others get their lives together?

psychoIf you’re in the mood for dark comedy…

American Psycho is one of the best.  Patrick Bateman is a success on Wall Street by day and a heartless killer by night.  He has a keen eye for detail, which he brings to both brand names and torture.  A seriously dark commentary on the excesses of 1980s New York City.  It was also recently a popular off-Broadway musical. Because, why not?

marvelsIf you want a book about misfits…

I’d go for Leslie Parry’s The Church of MarvelsIt’s the tale of four misfits in 1890s New York, and the intersections between their lives.  Odile is determined to find her missing sister Belle; Sylvan is a privy cleaner who finds a baby and is determined to find the child’s mother; and Alphie finds herself imprisoned in a lunatic asylum with a woman who does not speak.

Happy Reading, and congratulations to Lisa McInerney!

-Patricia

*Thank you as always to NetGalley and Edelweiss for ARCs of these titles.

Recent Award Winners

Oh how my TBR pile grows!  Every time it seems like I have a nearly manageable pile of books by my bedside table, I find two or three more I have to read.  This problem gets worse around this time of year thanks in part to the many fantastic literary awards out there.  Here are some recent winners that are simply begging to be read:

vegetarianThe Man Booker International Prize Winner

The Vegetarian* by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith

Yeong-hye is an ordinary woman plagued by extraordinary dreams that inspire her to stop eating meat.  This small change sets a bizarre chain of events in motion in this Kafka-esque novel.

uprootedThe Nebula Award Winner for Best Novel

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

A wizard named Dragon takes Agnieszka away from her Polish village to serve him for a period of ten years.  During that time, she learns she has a rare gift for magic, and finds herself on a deadly quest.

HeadFullThe Bram Stoker Award Winner for Superior Achievement in a Novel

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Did 14-year old Marjorie have schizophrenia or is she the victim of demonic possession?  And was the reality show filming Marjorie representing the truth? Her sister Merry is determined to find out…

inventionThe Orwell Prize Winner

The Invention of Russia by Arkady Ostrovsky

The Orwell Prize is awarded annually to a non-fiction title that “makes political writing into an art.”  This year’s winner examines the social, political, and economic changes that have happened in Russia over the past three decades.

-Patricia

*As always, thanks to NetGalley and Edelweiss for digital ARCs of these titles.