2014

Patricia’s Picks for Halloween Horror

I almost couldn’t write this post today.  One of the things that is so wonderful about horror is the catharsis and that accompanying rush of joy you get when a beloved fictional character has lived despite the odds.  The flip side of that is the punched-in-the-gut feeling you get when that character doesn’t make it.  Walking Dead fans you know what I’m talking about.  While the Internet debates whether he lived or did not live (please let him survive this!), please enjoy my 2015 Halloween Horror Picks:

The Border by Robert McCammon

First Line: The boy who was running ran into the rain.

Setting: Earth — in the midst of a war between two alien factions.

Nature of Evil: Gray Men – cannibalistic mutants

For fans of: Stephen King’s The Stand and The Walking Dead

Red Winter by Dan Smith

First Line: The village cowered with doors closed and windows shuttered.

Setting: 1920s Russia

Nature of Evil: Koschei the Deathless

For fans of: Russian folk and fairytales, Catherynne Valente’s Deathless

Cauchemar by Alexandra Grigorescu

First Line: Hannah waited exactly seven minutes before touching Mae’s cold body.

Setting: Louisiana swamp

Nature of Evil: supernatural forces

For fans of: Southern gothic horror like Donald Ray Pollock’s The Devil All The Time

The House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill

First Line: As if by a dream Catherine came to the Red House.

Setting: The Red House, the former house of “Britain’s greatest taxidermist” [Because, why not?]

Nature of Evil: The aforementioned Red House

For fans of: The Woman in Black, Joe Hill

Happy Halloween all! May Glenn be safely returned to us before my next post.

–Patricia

Patricia’s Fresh Picks for December 2014

Okay, I admit it: between baking, attending Christmas concerts, wrapping presents and other festivities, there isn’t much time left for reading in December.  Still, a girl can dream.  If you manage to squeeze some pleasure reading into the busy weeks ahead, here’s what I recommend:

emmaEmma by Alexander McCall Smith*

Yes, that Emma! Emma is the latest retelling of Jane Austen’s work to come out of The Austen Project.  Previous works include Val McDermid’s deliciously modern Northanger Abbey and Joanna Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility.  I can’t think of anyone whose writing style would better lend itself well to the material.  It should be enough to tide us all over until Curtis Sittenfeld’s Pride and Prejudice comes out next year.

thereonceThere Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children Until They Moved Back In by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya*

Confession:  I’m usually sucked into Petrushevskaya’s short stories by their evocative titles.  Her previous works include: There Once Lived A Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself and There Once Lived a Woman who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby.  

 

holdthedarkHold the Dark by William Giraldi

The NY Times raves, “Hold the Dark is an unnerving and intimate portrayal of nature gone awry. It forces us to confront a menacing otherness that lies beyond the typical order of things. It’s all but bereft of levity, spectacularly violent and exquisitely written. If dust jackets were more than paper and ink, this one would bear blood and frost.”

 

Happy reading!

–Patricia

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

Holiday Gift Guide 2014

What’s better than books as gifts? Books AND other stuff, together, as gifts!

Here are a few gift ideas for you this holiday season:

BigLittleLiesFor the Book Clubber: Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty

“A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly?  What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what? From the beloved author of The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot.”
Pair with fancy bookends.

 

GardenersGardenFor the Gardener: The Gardener’s Garden, by Madison Cox

“The ultimate garden book – both a collection of gardens from around the world and a resource for those seeking inspiration on garden design and planting. Featuring over 250 permanent gardens by leading garden designers, horticulturalists and landscape architects, from the 14th century to the present day.”

Pair with a beautiful hanging planter.

EssentialismFor the Life Guru: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown

An approach to life for those who want to get more done in less time. This book offers a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.

Pair with a simple black Moleskin notebook.

WorldIceFor the Nerd: The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin

“This lavishly illustrated volume is a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms, providing vividly constructed accounts of the epic battles, bitter rivalries, and daring rebellions that lead to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones. In a collaboration that’s been years in the making, Martin has teamed with Elio M. García, Jr., and Linda Antonsson, the founders of the renowned fan site Westeros.org—perhaps the only people who know this world almost as well as its visionary creator.”

Pair with this sleek but burly beer horn.

OnePotFor the New Parents: One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals From your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More, from the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living

This is a fabulous cookbook for parents (or anyone, really) who wants to put relatively simple, easy, delicious and healthy-ish meals together on weeknights but who don’t want to just resort to quesidillas, bean burritos and scrambled eggs once again. As always, the Martha Stewart Living team has made sure these recipes are well-written and accompanied by nice images. I love this cook book!

Pair with a Lodge cast iron skillet.

BunchFor the Shopping Buddy: A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy, by Sarah Lazarovic

“A witty, gracious, and charmingly illustrated anti-consumer manifesto. Like most people, Sarah Lazarovic covets beautiful things. But rather than giving in to her impulse to spend and acquire, Sarah spent a year painting the objects she wanted to buy instead. Based on a visual essay that was first published on The Hairpin, A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy is a beautiful and witty take on the growing “slow shopping” movement.”

Pair with a pretty pouch to hold all the extra money she’ll save.

StationElevenFor Speculative Fiction Fans: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

“An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.”

Pair with a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife, to survive the collapse.

Cheers!

-Heidi

 

Michael’s Autumn Non-fiction Reads

Ordering books is one of my favourite roles as a non-fiction librarian. I get to peruse all the publishers’ catalogues and anticipate all the great material that’s coming our way. Here are a few of the books on order that I’m looking forward to this autumn:

EpilogueEpilogue: A Memoir by Will Boast

Settling his father’s estate, Boast discovers that his dad had another family before marrying his mother. Boast sets out to meet his newly-discovered half-brothers and finds out how little he really knew about his father – revising his views of his personal history along the way.

FlirtingWithFrenchFlirting with French by William Alexander

In his fifties, Alexander decides he has to master the French language – after all, he is a raging Francophile. But the process turns out to be more complex than anticipated…. Part humorous memoir, part exploration of the neuroscience of language acquisition, this promises to be an amusing plaisir.

HowIWonHow I Won the War for the Allies: One Sassy Canadian Soldier’s Story by Doris Gregory

After challenging UBC’s discriminatory policies against women, Doris Gregory joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corp. She crossed the U-boat infested Atlantic, dodged bombs in London, and smuggled herself into neutral Ireland. A war memoir from an unexpected voice.

InnocenceOnTrialInnocence on Trial: The Framing of Ivan Henry by Joan McEwen.

After twenty-seven years in prison, Vancouverite Ivan Henry was acquitted due to lack of evidence. This important story reviews a terrible miscarriage of Canadian justice – and promises to make your blood boil.

TerroristSonThe Terrorist’s Son: A Story of Choice by Zak Ebrahim

The son of the terrorist who planned the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, Ebrahim was raised in a fanatical home. Yet as he grew older, he rejected the radical hatred that surrounded him. A plea for a humane worldview, published by the TED talks people, this promises to be an interesting read.

-Michael

Heidi’s Under-the-Radar Fall 2014 Picks

 

Over the weekend, I thought about how my recent Fall Picks post featured mostly literary heavyweights and books that have already received a good bit of hype. Nothing wrong with that. But I’m also pretty excited for a few Fall books that are more under the radar. Here they are:

FameLunchesThe Fame Lunches: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, the Brontes, and the Importance of Handbags, by Daphne Merkin (Sept. 2)

A collection of essays on everything from handbags to John Updike, lip gloss to Michael Jackson, and everything in between.

WomenInClothesWomen in Clothes, ed. by Sheila Heti (Sep. 4)

A tribute to self-expression based on the expertise of more than 225 contributors, including interviews, essays, sketches and photos.

WolfWhiteVanWolf in White Van, by John Darnielle (Sep. 16)

Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of 17, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined.

BookStrangeNewThingsThe Book of Strange New Things, by Michael Faber (Oct. 28)

Called to perform missionary work on a world light years away where the natives are fascinated by the concepts he introduces, man of faith Peter Leigh finds his beliefs tested when he learns of natural disasters that are tearing Earth apart.

UnspeakableThe Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, by Meghan Daum (Nov. 18)

Essays on sentimentality and its impact on the way we think about death, children, patriotism, and other matters.

 

-Heidi

 

 

Heidi’s Fall 2014 Picks

I know I might offend some people by saying this, but I am so ready for Fall. Sweaters! New leather boots! Crisp days and cool nights!

But most importantly, publishers seem to tap into our atavistic back-to-school mentally with their Fall releases. It’s when they bring out the big guns: the heavyweight authors, big ideas, meaty tomes we want to sink our teeth into with the end of Summer’s languorousness. (Yes that is a real word, I looked it up).

Here are the books I can’t wait to get into this Fall:

WeAreNotOurselvesWe Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas (Aug. 19)

Entertainment Weekly gave this WWI-era family saga an A, calling it an “absolutely devastating debut (that) is a very traditional novel written with minimal flair.”

BoneClocksThe Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell (Sept. 2)

If I have to tell you why I’m excited for this book, we can’t be friends anymore.

StationElevenStation Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (Sept. 9)

A post-apocalyptic novel about the power of art in a world that has been upturned by a pandemic. The main character, Kirsten, is an actress with the Traveling Symphony, a small troupe that moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Tattooed on her arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.”

PayingGuestsThe Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters (Sept. 16)

I am a fan of Sarah Waters’ spooky historical novels, and this one is getting rave reviews. For example, this is what Michael Dirda has to say about it in the Washington Post: “Some novels are so good, so gripping or shattering that they leave you uncertain whether you should have ever started them. You open “The Paying Guests” and immediately surrender to the smooth assuredness of Sarah Waters’s silken prose. Nothing jars. You relax. You turn more pages. You start turning them faster. Before long, you resemble Coleridge’s Wedding-Guest: You cannot choose but read. The book has you in thrall. You will follow Waters and her story anywhere. Yet when that story ends, you find yourself emotionally sucked dry, as much stunned as exhilarated by the power of art.

UsUs, by David Nicholls (Sept. 30)

I LOVED David Nicholls’ One Day, so I have high hopes for this follow up about marriage and parenthood in London.

NotThatKindOfGirlNot That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham (Sept. 30)

Lena Dunahm (of Girls‘ fame) could write a post card and I’d be excited to read it, so I’m really looking forward to her first collection of essays.

What about you? What are you excited to read this Fall?

-Heidi

 

Books on the Big Screen – September & October 2014

Books are a powerful source of inspiration for movie makers.  This seems especially true in late 2014.  If you are the kind of reader who loves saying, “I loved the movie, but it wasn’t as good as the book”, here’s what you’ll want to read before you head to the movie theatre:

September

The Drop (September 12)

Dennis Lehane’s story “Animal Rescue” has become The Drop.  Two down on their luck people find something to believe in in an abused puppy.   It sounds like a story of faith and love — and it is — albeit one with the Chechen mafia in it too.

The Maze Runner (September 19)

In this Hunger Games read alike, sixteen-year-old Thomas wakes up inside a maze with no idea how he got there or how he’ll get out.

This is Where I Leave You (September 19)

Talk about good casting!  When I read this book, I vividly imagined Jason Bateman as Judd, the loveable son whose life is in ruins.  This is Where I Leave You is a comedy about an absurdly dysfunctional family mourning the loss of their patriarch.

October

Gone Girl (October 3)

Amy Dunne is missing.  It’s presumed she’s been kidnapped.  Is her husband, Nick, responsible?

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (October 10)

“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” Alexander has been commiserating with children since it was first published in 1972.  The film version promises modern upgrades (like texting) and enlarges its focus to include Alexander’s entire family including his parents (played by Steve Carrell and Jennifer Garner).

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks (October 17)

I’m only faintly embarrassed to be anticipating this undoubtedly schmaltzy tale of first love rekindled.

Before I Go To Sleep (October 31)

It’s possible that I’m in the minority in not liking this thriller at all.  Heidi devoured it.  Either way, I’m looking forward to the film because the acting from Nicole Kidman and Mr. Darcy (umm… sorry… Colin Firth) is bound to be something worth watching.

Which fall film are you most looking forward to?  Let us know in the comments below.

–Patricia