Patricia’s Picks

NVCL Reads: Written by a Margaret

Margaret_Atwood_2015Whether you love her or loathe her, there’s no denying that when many of us think of Canadian literature, we think of Margaret Atwood.  And with a hit TV show — and the Trump administration in full (golf) swing — there’s no denying our Margaret’s work is enjoying a renaissance.  If you’re planning to read #NVCLreadsMargaret this summer, you may look no further than The Handmaid’s Tale, or you may want to get your hands on Atwood’s Angel Catbird graphic novels, or her books for children.  However, if you decide you’d like to branch out from Atwood, Canada has several awesome Margarets for you to choose from.

stoneangelThe next most obvious choice is Margaret Laurence, best-known for writing books you have been forced to read in high school (The Diviners, The Stone Angel) and loved anyway.     Her earlier works, like This Side Jordan, are set in Ghana, where the Laurences lived for a few years.

mr jonesMargaret Sweatman is yet another solid choice.  She’s even won the Margaret Laurence Award for fiction (thus effectively doubling her Margaret-ness).  We recommend Mr. Jones. “Set in a time of rampant paranoia, Mr. Jones peels back the veneer of Canadian politics to reveal a nation willing to sacrifice its own. It is a fearful time, a time of “peace” at the onset of the nuclear age.” (description from publisher)

Sweatman’s works also work for #NVCLreadsHistorical or #NVCLreadsWinner

momentary darkIf poetry (#NVCLreadsPoetry) is more your speed, try Margaret Avison’s Momentary Dark, “a celebration of the world, but not without edge and a quiet challenge to care for a damaged earth and all its citizens equally, including a veritable populace of city trees graciously and beautifully linking the earth and the sky” (description taken from the publisher).

This would also work for #NVCLreads200 and  #NVCLreadsPoetry

cougar annieAnd finally, if you like your Margarets with a healthy dose of non-fiction, you might want to check out Margaret Visser, Margaret Horsfield, or Margaret Macmillan.  In her Massey Lecture, Beyond Fate, Visser “investigates what fate means to us, and where the propensity to believe in it and accept it comes from.”  Horsfield meanwhile takes local history as her muse, writing extensively about Tofino and Clayoquot Sound.  Like Horsfield, Macmillan is inspired by history.  She focuses mainly on the late 19th and early 20th century, and is best known for her book 1919: Six Months That Changed the World.

 

Whatever your reading tastes, we’ll bet there’s a Canadian Margaret for you.

-Patricia

**For those of you just joining us for NVCL Reads: Canada 150 bingo, please download your bingo card from our website.  Five lucky winners will each receive a $25 gift card to a local bookstore!

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

 

 

 

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

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

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