Patricia’s 2016 Summer Picks

wantallthebooksThis summer I want to read all the books, don’t you?  ‘Spoiled for choice’ doesn’t even begin to describe the new releases out this season (…which is how a list of 6 titles turned blossomed into the 8 10 12-strong list you see before you). Whether you are looking for something heart warming or spine chilling, summer 2016 has you covered.  Here’s a small fraction of the books I’ll be devouring:

Cuddled Up With the Kids

harrypotterAt the risk of stating the obvious the book of summer 2016 is a script for a play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and IIPicking up nineteen years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the play focuses on Harry’s son, Albus.  I know the risk of disappointment is always great when expectations run this high, but it’s Harry Potter, so it’s bound to be lifechanging, right? (July)

furthermoreAlice in Wonderland fans will want to check out Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore.  In this re-vision of the Alice narrative, Alice is a 12-year old girl whose father has mysteriously disappeared.  She enlists the help of her frenemy Oliver to venture into the land of Furthermore and bring her father home. (August)

With a Flashlight Under the Covers

watchYou’re never too old to stay up too late eagerly turning pages to find out how the story ends.  For years Stephen King has been my go to late night reading buddy.  This summer he offers us End of Watch, the conclusion to the Bill Hodges trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes.  Hodges once again faces off against Brady Hartsfield who has developed unforeseen powers thanks to an experimental drug.  (June)

devilsrockI was so blown away by Paul Tremblay’s Stoker award-winning A Head Full of Ghosts that I can’t wait to get my hands on his latest, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock*Ghosts did a marvellous job of walking the line between realistic drama and supernatural thriller partly because Tremblay revels in his characters’ unreliability.  Devil’s Rock promises more of the same with the missing of a teenage boy Tommy, and the promise of finding him relying on the lies and half-truths told by the friends he was with before he disappeared. (June)

With a Box of Tissues

lilyHere’s one that’s perfect for fans of Garth Stein’s heartwarming The Art of Racing in the Rain.  And perfect for dog lovers.  And fans of quirky fiction like The Storied Life of AJ Fikry or The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  Lily and the Octopus* by Steven Rowley tells the story of singleton Ted Flask, and his furbaby Lily.  As for the octopus, you’ll have to read it to find out more…   (June)

With a Highlighter

homegoingThese days my Litsy account is non-stop quotes from Yaa Gyasi’s  Homegoing*, a sprawling family story that starts in 18th century Ghana with two sisters: one who marries a British governor and lives in a castle, and one who is forced into slavery.  It’s the kind of book you put down every few pages just to savour the writing properly.  My favourite quote so far: “Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you.  Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.” Literary tattoo anyone? (June)

With a Fruity Drink in the Sun

nineSooner or later we all need something frivolous and fun.  I’m looking forward to dipping into Nine Women, One Dress*a novel about an LBD in NYC and the women who buy, return, and borrow it from Bloomingdale’s (July)– and Hadley Freeman’s Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies* — because I quite simply am still not over Molly Ringwald, Baby, or Buttercup (June).  If I’m blessed enough to need a third fruity drink book, I choose Danika Stone’s All The Feels, a YA title that celebrates geek fandom. (June)

 With a Fan (When It’s Just Too Hot)

sunlightWhen it’s too hot to move, I recommend reading about the cold.  This summer I’ll be heading to Clachan Falls, November 2020.  Jenni Fagan’s post-apocalyptic The Sunlight Pilgrims* tells the story of an Earth with three suns, melting polar ice caps, and a temperature of -40C (in England!?!).  Trust me, when it’s scorching out, this one will hit the spot.  It’s a joyful novel about how we adapt and survive.  (July)

Wherever, Whenever

spellsMy final two picks are books I’m so excited to read that I’ll dive right in wherever, whenever.  Emma Cline’s debut The Girls* is a coming-of-age story that will get under your skin with its examination of the intensity of female friendships framed by a Manson-like cult.

Toronto! Witches! Russian folklore!  Family relationships!  Shapeshifters!  Claire Humphrey’s debut The Spells of Blood and Kin has it all, and I want in. Now, please.

What are you planning to read this summer?


*Thanks to NetGalley and Edelweiss for ARCs of the starred titles — much appreciated!




Patricia’s 2015 Fall Picks

autumn2015Autumn is an invitation to walk in the woods all day and curl up with an amazing book all night.  Here’s what I’ll be reading as the days shorten while rain patters against windows:


undermajorUndermajordomo Minor* by Patrick deWitt

I would love to be able to go back in time and read The Sisters Brothers again for the first time.  It was funny, heartfelt, and relentlessly entertaining.  So it stands to reason that I have ultra high hopes for deWitt’s newest offering, a darkly comedic love story.  deWitt will be at the Vancouver Writers Fest this October.

ferranteThe Story of The Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

It’s finally here!  The final book in Ferrante’s mesmerizing series, The Neopolitan Novels.  This book continues to trace the tumultuous lives of longtime friends, Lila and Elena as Elena returns home to be with the man she’s always loved. Don’t let the cover fool you, Ferrante’s books are perfect for fall reading.

goldfamecitrusGold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Kirkus Review calls Gold Fame Citrus a “A tour-de-force first novel [that] blisters with drought, myth, and originality” and raves that “Watkins is magnificently original.”  I’m looking forward to sinking down into the novel’s post-apocalyptic desert landscape and seeing if the two main characters, Ray and Luz, have what it takes to survive.


goldenThe Golden Son* by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Gowda’s debut, Secret Daughter, was such a joy to read because of of how easy it was to become immersed in Indian culture and family drama while reading it.  The Golden Son looks to be in the same vein.  Anil is an Indian boy sent to America to become a doctor.  While he acclimatizes to American culture, his family and friends remain tied to tradition.

cityonfireCity on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

I know that Franzen’s Purity is the doorstop-of-a-novel to beat this fall, but I’m much more excited about Hallberg’s City on Fire, which takes place during New York’s 1977 blackout.  At the heart of the story is the mystery of who shot punk fan Sam and why.

cleopatraCleopatra’s Shadows by Emily Holleman

Ever since devouring Margaret George’s The Memoirs of Cleopatra more than 15 years ago, I’ve been a fan of ancient Egyptian historical fiction.  Rather than focussing on Cleopatra herself, Holleman delves into the lives of her sisters, Berenice and Arsinoe.


japaneseThe Japanese Lover by Isabelle Allende

I will read anything by Allende, and almost anything set in WWII.  In 1939, Alma’s parents send her from Poland to the safety of San Francisco.  There she meets and falls in love with Ichimei, but then he is sent to an internment camp.  The novel traces the story of their secret relationship in the decades that follow.

avenueAvenue of Mysteries by John Irving

A new John Irving novel is a truly exciting thing indeed.  From Homer to Owen, he has created some of my favourite fictional characters.  While Irving can usually be relied on to write about New England, wrestling, and unusual sexual relationships, this book the story of a Mexican man in the Philippines appears to be a departure.

calvinCalvin by Martine Leavitt

My final pick is a YA book about a schizophrenic boy born on the day the last Calvin and Hobbes comic was printed.  Calvin believes that his illness can be cured if he can persuade Watterson to write one final Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.  From the author of the utterly unforgettable Keturah and Lord Death.


*As always, thank you to Edelweiss and NetGalley for ARCs of these titles.

Patricia’s 2015 Spring Picks

Though I still can’t watch news from out east without a cardigan and blanket on, spring has arrived here in North Van.  With it, comes plenty of rain (and plenty of good excuses to curl up with a pot of tea and a brand new book) and some warm dry days (and some good excuses to sprawl out on a picnic blanket with a brand new book).

Right now I’m craving hearty non-fiction that sucks me into other people’s lives, and absorbing literary fiction.  The latter is no doubt inspired by the recent announcement of the Bailey’s Prize Longlist, which every year sends me into a frenzy of reading.

Here’s what are my Spring Picks:

March 2015

unicornThe last unicorn: a search for one of Earth’s rarest creatures by William deBuys

If I tell you I’m excited to read a book about a saola, you would look at me blankly.  What is a saola anyway?  But if I told you the book is about the hunt for a mammal so rare that it wasn’t discovered until 1992, you might be just as excited as I am.

americanAmerican Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus

An award winning journalist discovers that her great-great-grandmother Julia  is a ghost that haunts an upscale Santa Fe hotel and sets out to learn more about her.

April 2015

afterbeforeAfter Before by Jemma Wayne* (Bailey’s Prize Longlisted)

Three strangers living in London find their lives intersect in unexpected ways.  Emily has survived the Rwandan genocide and is trying to make a life in a new country; Vera is a recent convert to Christianity trying to reconcile with her past; Lynn has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and is bitter and full of regret.

dearthiefDear Thief by Samantha Harvey* (Bailey’s Prize Longlisted)

This novel of female friendship is getting rave reviews.  I have to confess though, it’s the premise that draws me in.  Dear Thief is a novelization of Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” — the story of a love triangle told as a letter.

May 2015

shoreThe Shore by Sara Taylor* (Bailey’s Prize Longlisted)

The Shore is thirteen chapters about the lives of residents of The Shore. It spans across time from 1876 to 2143, and blurs the lines between realism and fantasy. The Guardian raves, “This debut is a testament to an exuberant talent and an original, fearless sensibility. It’s also enormous fun to read.”

greenroadThe Green Road by Ann Enright*

If you haven’t read Ann Enright before, I urge you to do so.  The way she describes relationships is both poignant and devastating.  I am utterly looking forward to this Irish family saga.


*Thank you to Edelweiss and Net Galley for providing ARCs of these titles.

Elena Ferrante

thosewhoIt all started innocently enough.  As the 2014 Best of lists started coming out a name I hadn’t heard before kept cropping up:  Elena Ferrante.  Her latest book, Those who Leave and Those who Stay made the New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year list, and the New Yorker’s Best Books of 2014 column; it placed fifth on Publishers Weekly’s Top 10 and made Kirkus‘ list as well.  Those who Leave and Those who Stay is the third book in a proposed series of four — how had I not heard of the series before now?  Curious, I asked for My Brilliant Friend, the first book, on my Christmas list and Santa obliged.

My Brilliant Friend is not a small novel — it’s over 300 pages, and yet not four days after Christmas I was done (and more than 100 pages into the second book).  I’ve temporarily abandoned the other books on my TBR:  Lily King’s Euphoria, Station Eleven (Heidi’s favourite of 2014), and John Scalzi’s Lock In.  Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels are simply that good.  And absorbing.

brilliantAt its heart, the Neopolitan novels are about the complicated relationship between two women:  Lila and Lena.  It’s that simple.  We meet the girls when they are young enough to think that their dolls are vital, and that the neighbour is an ogre.  They are friends yet don’t always act like it; their friendship is rendered in all the complexity of a real relationship.  Lena is jealous of Lila’s fierce intelligence and beauty, Lila envies the opportunities Lena has that she herself is denied.  The first book ends with the description of what someone is wearing.  In Ferrante’s hand this amounts to a shocking revelation.  I picked up the second book nearly immediately and haven’t looked back.  I highly recommend you do the same.  Book Four is due out this fall, and I have complete faith that it’ll be tops of several 2015 Best of lists.



Heidi’s Summer Picks – 2014

Some say Summer is a time for fluffy reading, but I’m not so sure I like that word. I prefer the term intriguing.

When the sun is out and the days are long, I want something gripping, invigorating, and substantial enough to measure up to my longer warm-weather runs and bike rides. Something I can really sink my teeth into.

If you feel the same way, here are a few suggestions:

BlackHourThe Black Hour, by Lori Rader-Day

A sociology professor who specializes in crime becomes a victim of violence in this debut mystery set in Chicago. Library Journal says: “While [Rader-Day] captivates from page one with her psychologically attuned debut, it is the sociological frames that work so well…. Alternating points of view, superb storytelling, and a pitch-perfect take on academia.” If you are a fan of mysteries that focus as much on character and setting as they do on plot, this one’s for you.

FourthOfJulyCreekFourth of July Creek, by Smith Henderson

 Entertainment Weekly gave this novel an A, saying “Like the body of water in the Montana wilderness that gives this novel its title, Fourth of July Creek wends its way through territory that’s treacherous and beautiful, often both at the same time. It’s not just the deep wooded scenery and mountain vistas that lend Smith Henderson’s stunning debut novel its power, it’s the slippery slopes of damaged human spirits that are breathtaking and heartbreaking.” The story follows social worker Pete Snow as he attempts to aid a young boy and his survivalist father in the wilds of Montana during the Reagan years.

FriendshipFriendship, by Emily Gould

From a former Gawker editor and new media provocateur comes this debut novel about being a 30-something woman, friends, and work. I’m not sure how much more relevant a book could be to my life. 🙂

RememberMeLikeThisRemember Me Like This, by Bret Anthony Johnston

 A few months ago, I came across Stephen Marche’s review of this thriller in Esquire Magazine‘s May 2014 issue. (I love Esquire and read it religiously, even though it’s my boyfriend’s subscription and he never even picks it up). Marche said: “I know the novel you’re looking for. It’s the thriller that also has interesting sentences. It’s the one with a driving plot but fully realized characters as well, the one that flows like it was plotted by Dennis Lehane but feels like it was written by Jonathan Franzen. The high-end potboiler. The literate page-turner. It’s a surprisingly rare breed even though it’s so obviously the novel we all want. Fortunately, there’s Bret Anthony Johnston’s Remember Me Like This.” It’s like he was reading my mind! This is the novel I’m looking for!

VacationersThe Vacationers, by Emma Straub

A seemingly perfect Summer read about a family vacation in Majorca, Spain, that the New York Times Book Review raves is “gorgeously written” with “characters that are smart, addictively charming, delightfully misanthropic and fun.” Sign me up!


What are you looking forward to reading this Summer?





Patricia’s Summer Picks

This summer I’m not going anywhere.  At least not physically.  Instead I’m taking a course in Children’s Lit and kicking back at home.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t be dreaming of adventure in far-flung locales.  Here’s where I’ll be travelling this summer:

australiaAustraliaBittersweet* by Colleen McCullough

I have fond memories of basking in The Thorn Birds one summer.  I’m eager to repeat the experience with this epic (and romantic!) tale of the Latimer sisters — two sets of twins, all of them aspiring nurses coming of age in the 1920s.

Release Date: August 2014

japanJapan:  Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years of Pilgrimage* by Haruki Murakami

Closest in feel to Norwegian Wood, this novel takes us on Tsukuru Tazaki’s quest to find out why his once close knit circle of friends excluded him.

Release Date: August 2014

 russiaRussia:  The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil

Twins find themselves taking opposing sides in this dystopian alternative to present day Russia.

Release Date: July 2014

greeceGreece (and Norway, Canada and USA):  So Long Marianne: A Love Story* by Kari Hesthamar

The life story of Marianne Ihlen — Leonard Cohen’s muse and inspiration for a supremely beautiful song.

Release Date: June 2014

portugal Portugal:  Devil on her Tongue* by Linda Holeman

Canadian author Holeman whisks us away to 18th century Portugal where a 13-year old outcast and her mother are

abandoned by her father.

Release Date:  June 2014

africaVarious places in Africa: O, Africa by Andrew Lewis Conn

Similar in feel to (one of my favourites) The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, O Africa tells the story of gambler Micah and his twin brother Izzy, who travel through Africa to film a comedy in the jungle.

Release Date: June 2014


I tried very hard to pare this list down so I wasn’t spending all my ‘travel time’ in the US.  There are three books I couldn’t bear to leave off this list:  2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pyjamas* by Marie-Helene Bertino (which traces a spunky girl jazz singer’s Christmas Eve adventures in Philadelphia) and two in New YorkThe Girls at the Kingfisher Club* (in which the roaring twenties meet the Twelve Dancing Princesses) & My Salinger Year* (which follows Rakoff as she interns for Salinger’s publisher in the 1990s — it’s one of my favourite reads so far this year).


Happy Summer Reading!  (I’ll won’t be back until my course ends in mid-August!)


*Many thanks to both NetGalley and Edelweiss for providing ARCs and keeping Heidi and I in fabulous reads!