National Book Award

Book Awards Season is (finally) here!!!

Some of us get excited about our kids going back to school, and some of us get excited about pumpkin spice season.  I’m sure I’m not alone in absolutely adoring fall because it marks the arrival of book award season — that wonderful time of the year when my TBR pile strains beyond all hope of ever reading every book on it — and I love it.

Here are some of the nominated works I hope to read soon:

From the Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist:

truckI Am a Truck by Michelle Winters

Agathe and Réjean Lapointe are about to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary when Réjean’s beloved Chevy Silverado is found abandoned at the side of the road—with no trace of Réjean. As her hope dwindles, Agathe falls in with her spirited coworker, Debbie, who teaches Agathe about rock and roll, and with Martin Bureau, the one man who might know the truth about Réjean’s fate. Set against the landscape of rural Acadia, I Am a Truck is a funny and moving tale about the possibilities and impossibilities of love and loyalty.*

Boy EatingThe Bone Mother by David Demchuk

Three neighbouring villages on the Ukrainian/Romanian border are the final refuge for the last of the mythical creatures of Eastern Europe. Now, on the eve of the war that may eradicate their kind—and with the ruthless Night Police descending upon their sanctuary—they tell their stories and confront their destinies.  Eerie and unsettling like the best fairy tales, these incisor-sharp portraits of ghosts, witches, sirens, and seers—and the mortals who live at their side and in their thrall—will chill your marrow and tear at your heart.*

mindsofwinterMinds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin

Fay Morgan and Nelson Nilsson have each arrived in Inuvik, Canada, about 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Both are in search of answers about a family member: Nelson for his estranged older brother, and Fay for her vanished grandfather. Driving Fay into town from the airport on a freezing January night, Nelson reveals a folder left behind by his brother. An image catches Fay’s eye: a clock she has seen before. Soon Fay and Nelson realize that their relatives have an extraordinary and historic connection — a secret share in one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of polar expedition.*

(I’ve read only one of the longlist, Eden Robinson’s Son of a Trickster and I highly recommend it for its refreshing blend of gritty and magic realism.)

From the Man Booker Prize Shortlist:

lincolnLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo  is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?*

(I’ve read two of the remaining five on the shortlist — Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves.  I’m partway through a third, Paul Auster’s (possibly pointless but nonetheless enjoyable) 4 3 2 1.  So far my money is on Hamid to take the prize; I’d go for the audiobook read by the author.)

From the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers Literature:

marrowthievesThe Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden – but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.*

(If you haven’t already read it, please stop reading this post immediately and check out fellow finalist Angie Thomas’ gut wrenching The Hate U GiveIt’s topical, powerfully written, and well worth reading for Starr’s dad’s ideas about Harry Potter alone.)

From the National Book Award Longlist:

naomi kleinNo Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need by Naomi Klein

Remember when it all seemed to be getting better? Before Trump happened? What went wrong, and what can we do about it? Naomi Klein – scourge of brand bullies, disaster capitalists and climate liars – shows us how we got to this surreal and dangerous place, how to stop it getting worse and how, if we keep our heads, we can seize the opportunity to make it better.*

manhattan beachManhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

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. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.*

pachinkoPachinko by Min Jin Lee
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.*

I’d love to hear what book award nominees excite you.

Happy stacking! Happy reading!


*Blurbs provided by publishers.

Patricia’s Fresh Picks for October 2015: Comics and Graphic Novels

I’ll read anything.  Anytime.  Anywhere.  I love literary fiction (and hit refresh on my browser several times today waiting for the Man Booker winner to be announced — Congratulations, Marlon James!); and I love YA and Children’s lit whether I’m reading to my children or on my own (Confession — it was very hard not to write this entire post fangirl-style about the 10th anniversary edition of Twilight, which we now have available through 3M).  And I get almost giddily excited on Wednesdays (aka new comic day) when I can go down to Big Pete’s and pick up the latest issues of my favourite comics.

Not everyone likes to read issue-by-issue though.  Sometimes it’s nice to devour an entire volume of five or six issues in a single sitting.  This month, my fresh picks are a selection of great comics and graphic novels that you can borrow from us.

Saga (Volumes 1 to 5)

Alanna and Marko are star-crossed lovers, soldiers on opposite sides of the war.  They are on the run because they have dared to break society’s greatest taboo by giving birth to their interracial daughter, Hazel.  The Star Wars-influenced story is lovingly brought to life through the vibrant art work of Fiona Staples.

Wayward (Volumes 1 and 2)

Wayward is like Buffy with creatures based on Japanese folklore.  Rori Lane is the teenage daughter of an Irish father and Japanese mother, now divorced.  When Rori moves to Japan she discovers that she has supernatural powers.  And she’s not alone…

Wytches (Volume 1)

Sailor’s family moves to Litchfield, NH to escape from Sailor’s past.  At her last school Sailor was bullied, and when her bully mysteriously went missing, vicious rumors circulated that Sailor was a murderer.  But Litchfield doesn’t offer Sailor the respite her family had been hoping for as it harbours menacing supernatural secrets.

Sunny Side Up

I love this middle grade graphic novel that is itself a love letter to comics, and my daughters love it too.  Sunny is sent to stay with her grandfather in his Floridian retirement community, while her family deals with Sunny’s elder brothers delinquent ways.  We particularly love the book’s humour and heart, but also enjoyed the pop culture details from a world gone by.  (Yes, girls these were real.)

As it’s not Wednesday yet, I still have time to sneak in a few chapters of Life and Death before it’s time to pick up my pull list.  Happy Reading!


Book News Roundup!

CatchingFireIn honor of the movie’s opening weekend, The Onion reviews the new Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Hi-larious.

The U.S.’s prestigious National Book Award winners were announced this week.

“Selfie” is Oxford’s word of the year.

The Globe and Mail has released its annual lists of 100 best books of 2013 divided into a subcategories of genres, including Best Canadian Fiction and Nonfiction, Best International Fiction and Nonfiction, and Best YA and Children’s Books.

Tell the CBC about how a book changed your life and you could win a trip to Toronto for the Canada Reads live studio taping.

NVCL’s Fresh Picks — June 2013

katespadeWhen you’ve got something new, it’s nice when someone notices.  A fabulous new bag can be made more fabulous by an appreciative audience – the same can be said of new books.  From now on, we’d like a chance to show off some of the newest additions to our collections, our Fresh Picks.  Here are some of the most exciting new books we’ve very recently added to our shelves:

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes*shininggirls

What makes it exciting?  A time travelling serial killer who seeks out girls he perceives as having ‘vital energy.’  It’s graphic, yet thrilling.  In the New York Times, Janet Maslin raves that it’s a “strong contender for the role of this summer’s universal beach read.”

Taipei by Tao Lin*taipei

What makes it exciting?  The sparkly cover may be the only thing about this book that screams excitement, but there’s a certain allure to reading about the heartless ennui of youth.

transTransAtlantic by Colum McCann*

What makes it exciting?  McCann’s Let the Great World Spin won the 2009 National Book Award and the 2011 IMPAC Dublin award (it’s the award chosen by public libraries, so I follow it).  I’m eager to see how his newest compares – it’s a sprawling interconnected narrative perfect for fans of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.

seaThe Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay*

What makes it exciting?  The sense of mystery.  Nastya Kashnikov’s life is in ruins.  She finds herself drawn to Josh Bennett, a boy who has lost everything.  The mystery of how Nastya became broken is parceled out in this immensely readable first novel.

weareallWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

What makes it exciting?  The premise is intriguing. Kirkus raves that this story of a woman grieving the loss of her sister (who happens to be a chimpanzee) is “technically and intellectually complex, while emotionally gripping.”

*Thanks to NetGalley for providing promotional copies of these titles.


Heidi’s Spring Picks 2013

One of the best things about having Patricia on my team is that the woman is so obsessed with reading new fiction that she hoards Advanced Reading Copies from Netgalley on her various eReaders. (Seriously — if there were a segment on that Hoarders TV show for eBook lovers, Patricia would be on it).

Last week, she bestowed upon me her much-loved, and much-used, first Kindle, which she tenderly refers to as Kindiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Her newer, more high-tech Kindle is named Kindiana Jones and the Temple of Doom — how’s that for Super Nerd Status?) To my delight, Kindiana was chock full of books on my Spring Picks list! So I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Patricia for graciously sharing Kindiana. It made me feel so special, as I know she treats her Kindy as if it were her fourth child, and doesn’t loan it out to any old reader.

Here are my spring picks:



ZZ: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Anne Therese Fowler * and Call Me Zelda, by Erika Robuck: Yes, I have happily jumped on board the Roaring 20s/F. Scott Fitzgerald bandwagon. This spring, in addition to The Great Gatsby film release in May, come not one but two (!) novels about Mrs. Fitzgerald. Zelda was known for her neurotic and beguiling ways, and I can’t wait to immerse myself in her story. Twice!

Z Pub Date: March 26, Call Me Zelda Pub Date: May 7th



All That IsAll That Is, by James Salter: In a recent Slate article entitled “The Greatest Novelist You Haven’t Read,” Katie Roiphe says that Salter’s books are “as good as those of post-war novelists like John Updike, Philip Roth, Richard Ford, and critics have often said so, and yet he is nowhere near as beloved or popularly read.” I’m actually not a major fan of any of those writers, but I’m still intrigued enough to pick up this war-torn love story.

Pub Date: April 2


FlamethrowersThe Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner *: Even if I knew nothing about this novel, I would still read it because of its awesome cover. The fact that it’s about a young female motorcyclist and artist in 1970s New York and Rome, and is written by the National Book Award finalist for Telex from Cuba, doesn’t hurt either.

Pub Date: April 2


Pink HotelThe Pink Hotel, by Anna Stothard: The serious curb appeal applies here too. Who could resist this flamingo-coloured cover? A 17-year-old girl discovers a trove of her deceased mother’s love letters in a Venice Beach hotel and attempts to return them to their writers. Revelations ensue.

Pub Date: April 23



Dual InheritanceA Dual Inheritance, by Joanna Hershon*: Described on Goodreads as “for readers of Rules of Civility and The Marriage Plot,” both of which were on my favourites list in 2011.

Pub Date: May 7



Wonder Bread SummerThe Wonder Bread Summer, by Anya Jessica Blau: One of the other nice things about having Patricia on my team is that she tends to read much more eclectically than I do. I’ve already admitted my shortcomings as a diverse reader. And I’m afraid this list, chock-full of WASPY coming-of-age stories, is further proof of my limited tastes. The Wonder Bread Summer, for example, is a coming-of-age story about a 20-year-old girl in 1980s Los Angeles. At least some many of these titles are set in the recent past? There. I’m broadening.

Pub Date: May 28




*We were lucky enough to receive e-copies of these books thanks to NetGalley.


War Stories

No matter your ideological stance on war, there is no denying that it makes for riveting reading material. Complex characters, charged situations, taught narratives.  Humour, philosophical depth, staggering fear and the full gamut of human emotion. These are the reasons I’ve been burrowing into war fiction lately, and fortunately for me (and you) this year has proved fruitful on the war genre front, with these three critically acclaimed novels:

The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers, is a quietly piercing account of the fear many soldiers face in the parenthetical disorientation of war. Shortlisted for both this year’s National Book Award and Guardian First Book Award, Powers’ novel is based on his own experiences as a U.S. Army private in Iraq, and was pronounced “the All Quiet on the Western Front of America’s Arab wars” by Tom Wolfe.  Disturbing and beautiful, this one sneaks up on you – though subtle, Powers’ authentic voice is heartbreaking.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain, has also garnered comparisons to groundbreaking war literature – Karl Marlantes (author of Matterhorn, a novel about the Vietnam War) — called it the “Catch-22” of the Iraq War, and it is also a finalist for the National Book Award. The day-in-the-life plot follows Billy Lynn and Bravo Company on a victory tour after the squad’s heroic firefight was caught on film and widly broadcast on the nightly news. Billy and his comrades drunkenly navigate a chaotic Dallas Cowboys game, hit on cheerleaders, and try to remain respectable in front of many rich, high-profile Republican patriots.  It’s one of those novels where nothing much happens, but Billy is so irreverent, his inner monologue so poignant and memorable, that you can’t put it down. Highly recommended for those who like a little humour with their pathos.

Fobbit, by David Abrams

Fobbit: fä-bit, noun. Definition: A U.S. soldier stationed at a Forward Operating Base who avoids combat by remaining at the base, esp. during Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2011). Pejorative.
Also by an Iraq vet, Fobbit satirically chronicles the back-end of the war machine, where soldiers work desk jobs and strategize more about Xbox and NASCAR, and finding empty Porta Potties, than military missions.  Described by Kirkus as: “Sardonic and poignant. Funny and bitter. Ribald and profane. Confirmation for the anti-war crowd and bile for Bush supporters.”