Fall Reading

Patricia’s 2017 Fall Picks

Fall sunsetFall for me is a time of spectacular sunsets – when the days get a little darker and the evenings have a little more bite to them.  I like my fall reading to take that darkness and run with it.  The contrast between what I’m reading and my cozy surroundings, well, that’s what fall reading is all about.  Here’s are the new releases I’m drawn to this fall:

September

sleeping beautiesSleeping Beauties by Stephen & Owen King

You can’t get much darker than an epic new novel by the master of horror (and his son).  “In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep: they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent.”* Yes, please.

ngLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told Youwas a quietly thrilling look at the ways in which we fail to understand each other.  Her follow up, Little Fires Everywhere, deals in family secrets and centres around a custody battle that divides a town. “It explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.”*

solar bonesSolar Bones by Mike McCormack

I often imagine what it would feel like to write something utterly fresh and technically masterful – like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway.  And while such innovation is not in all of us, it certainly seems to have found a home in Mike McCormack.  In Solar Bones McCormack writes “a three-part harmony of experiment, comedy and metaphysics” within a single novel-length sentence.  

lostLost in September by Kathleen Winter

Kathleen Winter wrote Annabel one of those rare books whose writing made my stomach ache it was so good.  And it wasn’t just the writing — the characters, the story line, the evocation of place — Annabel had it all.  And thus I eagerly await Lost in September, a story about a damaged war veteran transplanted in time.

October

dunbarDunbar by Edward St. Aubyn

King Lear is recast with Henry Dunbar, “the once all-powerful head of a global media corporation” in the lead.  “Imprisoned in a care home in the Lake District with only a demented alcoholic comedian as company, Dunbar starts planning his escape. As he flees into the hills, his family is hot on his heels. But who will find him first, his beloved youngest daughter, Florence, or the tigresses Abby and Megan, so keen to divest him of his estate?”*

powerThe Power by Naomi Alderman

I couldn’t wait for this Bailey’s Prize winner to be released in Canada, so bought a copy online from the UK.  Alderman’s novel explores the metaphor of power by making it literal.  Women are capable of electrocuting others and therefore have power over men.  How do an abused foster child, an rising politician, and a crime boss’ daughter choose to wield what they’ve been given?  It’s rare to find a novel this dark that’s got a sense of humour too.  Easily one of the year’s best.

manhattanbeachManhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad is one of those books that makes me excited about the future of fiction.  It was so playful and connected and experimental that almost the only way you could follow something like that up is to do exactly what Egan has done and revisit traditional storytelling.  “With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world.”*

hiddenseeHiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire

Hiddensee imagines the backstory of the Nutcracker, revealing how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how he guided an ailing girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a Christmas Eve. At the heart of Hoffmann’s mysterious tale hovers Godfather Drosselmeier– the ominous, canny, one-eyed toy maker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s fairy tale ballet– who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter.”*

turtlesTurtles All the Way Down by John Green

Okay. Okay.  This one might not qualify as dark.  But to be fair, I’ll read anything Green writes.  Until recently, the plot of his latest had been a closely guarded secret.  We now know it’s about a 16-year old girl named Aza, her BFF, and their quest to solve the mystery of a “fugitive billionaire” and claim “a hundred-thousand-dollar reward. […] In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.”*

This Thanksgiving let’s all be thankful for the time we get to read.  (To my children, yes, that IS a hint.)  Happy Thanksgiving!  Happy Reading!

-Patricia

*Descriptions provided by the publisher

 

 

 

 

 

Literary Prize Lovers’ TBR

gillerIt’s been an exciting week for literary fiction.  First up was the announcement of The Scotiabank Giller Prize’s 2015 longlist.  The list features twelve titles, and includes fantastic authors like Heather O’Neill (who read at this year’s North Shore Writers Fest).  With the shortlist being announced on October 5, only the most dedicated Canadian fiction fans will have time to tackle all twelve titles in time.  (Is it just me who spends an inordinate amount of energy ghost judging literary awards?)  If you only read a few, here’s what I recommend:

outlineOutline by Rachel Cusk

Get to know the main character of Outline, not through her actions, but for the things people confide in her.  The novel is told in ten conversations.  If the concept doesn’t grab you, it’s worth reading for the writing alone.

trueAll True Not a Lie in it by Alix Hawley

I enjoy historical fiction about the New World.  In Hawley’s debut novel she invites us into the man (and myth) of Daniel Boone (of whom I must confess I know nothing).  Author Alexei Zentner raves, “Alix Hawley’s debut novel is audacious and bold, like an early Ondaatje, with writing that is luscious, lyrical, and bloodthirsty.” 

undermajorUndermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt*

A foreboding castle.  A colourful cast of villagers.  A dark secret.  A beguiling beauty.  Welcome to Patrick deWitt’s world.

***

bookerAnd then this morning the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize was announced.  I’d read only two titles on the longlist (Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread, and Lalami’s The Moor’s Account) and was really hoping to see the latter make the cut.  Sadly, it didn’t, which only makes me more interested to get to know the titles that bested it.  My husband, has already read three of the shortlist and recommends:

sevenkillingsA Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

First off, there are way more than seven killings in this violent novel about a turbulent time in Jamaican history.  Second, it clearly evokes a sense of place and character.  Third, it’s HUGE, which is always an appealing quality in a fall read, no?

A Little Life by Hana Yanagiharalittlelife

See how anguished the guy on the cover looks?  Apparently the whole book is like that.  The whole book.  All 720 excruciatingly beautifully written pages of that level of pain.

What about you?  Are you excited for awards season?  Do you try and read the longlists, shortlists, or do you wait for the winner to be announced?  Sound off in the comments.

Happy Reading!

–Patricia

Heidi’s Fond Farewell

ElephantsThe time has come, dear readers, for me to move on. I start a new job at Vancouver Public Library next week, so my Top Shelf blogging days are over. But have no fear! Patricia and Michael will hold down the fort until my replacement is found. As a parting gift, I give you my Top 10 favourite books I have read since I started here at NVCL in May 2011 (in alphabetical order):

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

The Likeness, by Tana French

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

The Son, by Philipp Meyer

The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, by Bob Schocochis

Where’d You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

Honourable mentions: Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill; The Southern Reach Trilogy, by Jeff Vandermeer; The Interestings, by Meg Wollitzer; Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain; and Just Kids, by Pattie Smith.

It has been a joy blogging about books and reading, and I especially want to thank my colleague Patricia, whose blogging and book enthusiasm is neverending delightfully contagious. Blog on P!

Adios!

Heidi

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Patricia’s Fall 2014 Picks

We made it!  Now that the kids are finally back to school, life can return to normal.  (Yay!)  Normal for me is reading book blogs and savouring the decision of what to read next.  Will it be a book by an old favourite?  One that’s longlisted for a major award?  Or maybe some non-fiction?  Read on to discover my Fall 2014 picks.

eggspoonSeptember

My old favourite for September is none other than Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked.  In Egg and Spoon, Maguire takes on Russian folklore.  I’m looking forward to reading it aloud to my girls.betrayers

I’m sure I’m not the only one looking forward to finding out the Giller Prize winner this year.  I think the longlist looks amazing (like a checklist of things people could buy me for Christmas even) and the book I’m most looking forward to of the lot is David Bezmozgis’ The Betrayers*. An Israeli politician flees scandal for Yalta, where he must confront the man who denounced him to the KGB.

learnNo fall release resonates with me quite so much as Benedict Carey’s How We Learn. Having recently tried to educate my children at home, wondered if I’m getting it right, and how I could help them better, this title has shot to the top of my TBR pile.  For fans of Outliers and How Children Succeed, this title promises to teach us how to study smarter, not harder.

 

someluckOctober

October’s old favourite had to beat out some tough competition:  John Grisham, Jodi Picoult and David Nicholls* all have new books out this month.  (Click on the author’s names to see the new titles.)  In Some Luck*, Jane Smiley begins a new trilogy.  Beginning in 1920, each chapter tells the story of a year in the life of an Iowa family.

Just in time for Hallowe’en comes V-Wars Volume 1*.  Bram Stoker award-winning author, Jonathan Maberry promises that the vampires in thisasyouwish graphic novel “will be based on creatures that appeared in actual beliefs.”  I guess that means nobody sparkles.

For non-fic this October, I’m going once upon a time to As You Wish, Cary Elwes‘ collection of tales on the making of The Princess Bride.

November

jennyStephen King’s Revival is out this November!

I’m intrigued by Jenny Erpenbeck’s award-winning novel End of Days*, in which an unnamed woman lives and dies different deaths in each chapter.  It sounds perfect for fans of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life.

vodkaNine-year old Lev and his family fled Russia during the 1980s.  In his memoir, A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, he retraces their long journey to America in order to understand himself more deeply.

Happy Fall Reading!  Thanks as always to NetGalley and Edelweiss for keeping me in books!

–Patricia

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

 

Patricia’s Fall Picks

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