Category Archives: What to Read Next?

Spiders, bugs, and worms…oh my!

“I take my hat off to you — or I would, if I were not afraid of showering you in spiders.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

June was an interesting month in Winnipeg – hot weather, then cool weather; dry periods with the relief of occasional rain. It sounds like the perfect Manitoba spring. But wait, what are those tiny things crawling on the lawn chair you wanted to sit on in the sun? The small black things covering your car? Welcome to cankerworm season. The time of year where getting in your car might require some serious brushing off, and where the eco-alternative, cycling, involves dodging (or not) curtains of worms!

One afternoon I tried doggedly to brave this year’s hoards and swept off my deck and, broom in hand, hauled out my laptop and sat down. This was interrupted every few minutes by a fresh sweep. By the end of the afternoon I felt like I was positively crawling. This got me thinking to a book I had read, that had me crawling in a fairly major way, The Lost City of Z.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon  is an Amazonian adventure story. It chronicles different real life searches for the mythical lost city of Z, alternating between the different adventurers. In 1925 Percy Fawcett, his son, and the rest of his party, ventured into the Amazon hoping to make a huge historical discovery. But the whole party disappeared, and over the ensuing decades, many scientists and adventure seekers have searched for evidence of Fawcett’s party, often coming to tragic ends themselves. The description of the natural world, especially the insect part, is more than vivid. Before I read it I had no idea you could lose a whole backpack in a matter of hours to hoards of ants!

Spiders and I are not the best of friends – I am able to sort of deal with small, non-hairy, non-creepy-with-legs-radiating-from-the-centre kind. Spiders in literature can be pretty cheerful and wise, like Charlotte, whom Wilbur befriends in Charlotte’s Web. But more often they are dark and frightening. The Lord of the Ring’s Shelob fits this bill perfectly – a sort of evil personified (If you LOVE J.R.R. Tolkien then check out Ungoliath in The Silmarillion– she makes Shelob feel almost tame). Then there is Aragog, from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. A sort of sad case, accused wrongly, and loved by Hagrid, he wasn’t quite as scary as some of his literary peers.

Stephen King apparently lists spiders as one of his top fears, but it hasn’t stopped him from including them in some of his novels – they show up in both It and the Dark Tower series. Neil Gaiman includes not one, but thousands of spiders, in his novel Anansi Boys.

 

 

Winner of the 2016 Arthur C Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time includes both ants and spiders. It is the epic story of humanity’s battle for survival on a terraformed planet, but the planet is already populated by an empire of accidentally scientifically evolved spiders!

In Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects, Stewart has uncovered the most terrifying and titillating stories of bugs gone wild. It’s an A to Z of insect enemies, interspersed with sections that explore bugs with kinky sex lives (“She’s Just Not That Into You”), creatures lurking in the cupboard (“Fear No Weevil”), insects eating your tomatoes (“Gardener’s Dirty Dozen”), and phobias that feed our (sometimes) irrational responses to bugs (“Have No Fear”).

As much as insects and other arthropods might make us squirm and crawl,  the cold hard truth is that we couldn’t live on this planet without them!

Enjoy!

~Kristie

Metamorphosis

THIS happened in our garden this weekend over a period of three hours – three hours! The Monarch caterpillar had its fill of the milkweed in our garden, assumed the “J” shape, and transformed into a chrysalis. Over time, its jade and gold shell will become clear and we’ll be able to see the glorious Monarch butterfly colours through it. When the time is right, the butterfly will break out of the shell, spread its wings, and experience the freedom that comes with flight. It’s pretty inspiring stuff.

As the saying goes, change is the only constant in life. And when I think about stories, metamorphosis is a common theme. There are few books that I can think of that don’t deal with metamorphosis or change – directly or indirectly – and at an individual, neighbourhood, societal, or worldwide level. But here are some fiction and non-fiction stories where metamorphosis plays a front and center role, whether the metamorphosis happens with the main character or those around them.

  • The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna. Kaarlo Vatanen, a frustrated journalist, leaves his urban life and goes on an outrageous wilderness adventure with a hare in Finland.
  • Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne Lister by Anne Choma. A fearless and charismatic woman, Anne Lister was an industrialist, landowner, and diarist who recorded the first ever known marriage to another woman – her own. Her four-million word diary continues to shape women’s history.
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Benjamin Button is born an old man and gets younger as each day passes. Can you imagine that?
  • Old in Art School: A Memoir by Nell Painter. The author, a retired and celebrated historian, returns to school in her sixties to earn Fine Arts degrees. Yes, that’s right – degrees! What does it feel like to be “old in art school” and what did she do when someone told her “You’ll never be an artist”?
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Count Alexander Rostov is an aristocrat who has never worked a day in his life. Sentenced to house arrest he lives in an attic room of a hotel across the street from the Kremlin watching Russian history in the making.
  • Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman. Britt-Marie walks away from a loveless marriage and takes a job in a dilapidated recreation center. At sixty-three, she takes on the task of becoming soccer coach to a group of children who aren’t the best at the sport.

How about reading how these transformations unfold? And if you’ve read a particularly good “metamorphosis” book, please do share it in the comments so we can add it to our “to be read” pile.

~ Reegan

Audiobooks for summer vacation

Seeing as how Father’s Day has just passed but many summer days remain, some possibly involving a car and great distances to parts unknown, I thought I would write about our many audiobooks. In honour of Father’s Day, I’ll talk about our many techno thriller, spy, and espionage authors. I might even throw in a Monty Python reference or two.

But first, for those of you who have not heard about our audiobooks, here’s a quick overview:

  • You can borrow audiobooks on CD or download audio files to your computer, smartphone, tablet or other mobile device.
  • To grab a CD, go to your nearest library and ask for the audiobook section. Choose your CD and check it out at a circulation counter or one of our many self-checkout machines.
  • To check out an audio file, download the OverDrive/Libby and RBdigital app (available for both Android and Apple devices).  Once the apps are installed, search for your favorite author or title in both collections and borrow. You can then download the audiobook to your device and listen to it offline – great for planes, trains, automobiles, or anywhere you might be faced with a lot of time and not a lot to do.

To get you started, here are some of my favorite thriller, spy and espionage authors with some of their titles. Enjoy!

Ted Bell

Ted Bell’s Alexander Hawke series are fun, fast, and fantastic. Lord Alexander Hawke, part James Bond and part commando, is a British secret agent tasked with stopping international crises, terrorist plots and crime. His books are fast paced and well written. Ted Bell has a good handle on current events, which he weaves into his novels for realism.

  • Tsar (available on CD)
  • Overkill (available on OverDrive and on CD)
  • Warriors (available on OverDrive and on CD)

Alex Berenson

Alex Berenson, another author who seamlessly weaves fact and fiction to create believable future crises and international situations and writes fast paced engaging novels that keep you reading until the end. John Wells, Berenson’s dour protagonist, is always there to infiltrate various criminal organisations or terrorist cells.

Dale Brown

Former USAF pilot Dale Brown draws on his personal experience and knowledge to create intriguing and technical techno thrillers. He draws on current events to write hypothetical “what if” futures that are thoroughly enjoyable. Brown adds great detail about various aircraft, procedures and events without bogging down his stories with too much technical detail. Most of his novels involve protagonist Patrick McLanahan defeating foreign governments, cartels or terrorist cells.

Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy, the grandfather of the techno-thriller and best-known for his novel The Hunt for Red October, wrote intriguing military action and adventure stories. His books were well researched and combined real-life elements in fictional scenarios.  After his death in 2013, other authors continued his Jack Ryan novels (much like Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series).

Vince Flynn

Like Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn passed away in 2013 and his novels have been carried on by other authors. Vince Flynn is famous for his tough, rugged protagonist Mitch Rapp who is fearless and more than willing to crush some heads to achieve his objectives. Flynn’s Rapp novels involve fast paced action, international crises, terrorists and internal fighting.  Always enjoyable, Flynn’s novels are great summer reads.

If you’re not sure what you want or simply want to browse, try our NoveList Plus database. It has hundreds of authors and titles to browse through. Each entry also links to the library catalogue to tell you whether the library owns that title or owns other titles by an author.

If you want some in person suggestions, please visit any one of our 20 locations. We’re here to help.  Happy post Father’s Day, enjoy the summer… and now for something completely different!

Drew

Fairy Tale Spin-Offs

There are so many stories that we’ve heard over and over again where the princess is cursed or held captive by the evil villain, waiting for her prince to come and rescue her, the kingdom is saved, and they all live happily ever after. But what happens when the story gets changed?

Cinder book cover

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

What if Cinderella was a famous mechanic hiding her cyborg hand and foot and an android?  In this version, Rapunzel could be the greatest hacker in the universe who is also in love with a criminal. Red Riding Hood could be searching for her grandma no matter if there are beasts in her way. Snow White could be trying not to let her illness control her while still attempting to help others on the moon. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer is an amazing series with fun characters who are trying to save the Earth from Queen Luna.

Princeless, Vol. 1:  Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley

Princess Adrienne was put in a tower by her father “The 
King” because he wanted a worthy prince to rescue her, but she decides she doesn’t want to be saved by a prince. Instead, she befriends the dragon guarding her tower and goes on a quest to free her older sisters from their towers. She meets half dwarf Bedelia who chooses to help, even going so far as to make Princess Adrienne a real suit of armour. Along the way Bedelia and Adrienne learn how to believe in themselves and trust each other while battling beasts and outwitting those hunting them. This graphic novel is part of a series that is great for children and adults.

Ash by Malinda Lo

After her father’s passing, Ash has to clean up after her step-sisters and her cruel step-mother. She hopes to one day be taken away from it all to start her own fairy tale. One day she meets a real fairy named Sidhean who wants Ash to join him in the fairy realm. But when Ash starts learning how to hunt with the King’s huntress, feelings start to emerge and Ash has to make a choice between love and escape.

Poison: A Wicked Snow White Tale by Sarah Pinborough

Poison kicks off a wicked tale trilogy. Much to her stepmother’s disapproval, Snow White prefers trousers to tight dresses and horseback to parties. When Snow White falls into a deep sleep is the prince more than meets the eye?

~ Jordan

 

 

Our Watch Has Ended… Now What?

The end of an era of fantastic television that gave rise to epic one-liners, shocking deaths, and a series finale that a few of you may not have enjoyed so much, has finally come to pass. Not to worry though, no spoilers here for those of you who haven’t seen or heard what happens at the end of Game of Thrones (kudos to you, that is a feat in and of itself!). After watching the finale, I, as I’m sure many of you were, thinking “Now what?” Naturally, HBO answered that question by including previews of some pretty amazing new shows that were coming to the network, His Dark Materials series, Westworld season 3 (though that isn’t until 2020), and Watchmen. All these amazing trailers had me questioning whether to cancel my subscription now that Game of Thrones was over. I realize that there are still some great TV series out there, and with great TV series there are of course great books that many are based on. Here are just a few promising starts to series airing this year that may just help with your GOT withdrawal (you can of course still read the books if you haven’t already. If you have, you may need something to tide you over until George R.R. Martin releases the final two in the series.

His Dark Materials

Philip Pullman’s immensely popular trilogy did already have a film version of the first novel, but it didn’t do well at the box office. Now, HBO and BBC are presenting a series of all three novels which looks very promising. Dafne Keen (of Logan fame) plays Lyra, with a fantastic extended cast featuring James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The trailer previewed some excellent visuals and with time to truly flesh out the fantastical world that Pullman created, I have my fingers crossed that the series will do his work justice. For those unfamiliar with this book series, it follows Lyra, niece of famed adventurer Lord Asriel as she embarks on her own adventure to save her friend Will who is kidnapped by a group known as “the gobblers”. Through the series she discovers aspects of herself, her past and her world that will forever change her life.

Watchmen

Based on the award-winning graphic novel by Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons that was written during the 1980’s and was lauded as the first grown-up comic, this TV series certainly looks intriguing. Whether you’re a fan of the Zack Snyder film or not, a series could certainly have the potential of delving into the world that Moore created in the comic. Set during an alternate history where “superheroes” have emerged and the United States has won the Vietnam War, the year 1985 has the world edging towards World War III and the superheroes who were discovered are either in retirement or working for the government. A government-sponsored superhero is murdered and those retired re-emerge.  

Good Omens

Based upon the off-beat and comedic novel Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and the late Sir Terry Pratchett, this TV series, also written by Gaiman looks like a sure hit. And with the Tenth Doctor in it, aka David Tennant, I’m definitely in! The novel follows the angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley, two unlikely friends who take a liking to humanity as they attempt to thwart the apocalypse. Sound crazy and fun enough for you? 

The Twilight Zone

“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas; you’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.

Rod Serling

This introduction has become pop culture legend. I remember the intro from sneak-watching some episodes when I was younger, and then from going on the Tower of Terror just a few times at Disney World, and I get chills each time I hear it, coupled by the fantastic intro music of course. You may remember watching these shows as re-runs on late-night television and many of the shocking twists I’m certain stayed with you. Comedian, screenwriter and director Jordan Peele has revitalized this series with some new episodes that reflect the issues and topics of our time (I’ve watched many of them, and they are quite good!). The library does have all five seasons of the original series for your viewing pleasure, but if you’d like a book similar to The Twilight Zone, the following are my suggestions: Duel: Terror Stories by Richard Matheson (this compilation contains some stories which inspired episodes of The Twilight Zone), Body by Asa Nonami and The Best of Richard Matheson by Richard Matheson.  

NOS4A2

This series (pronounced Nosferatu) is based on a novel by bestselling author Joe Hill, whose father, yes, is Stephen King, but who has written some incredible books in his own right. The book and TV series follow Victoria “Vic” McQueen who possesses an ability of finding things that are lost, as she attempts to thwart seemingly immortal child abductor Charles Manx who takes the children to a place called “Christmasland”. When she was younger Vic was the only kid to ever escape Manx, now older she must risk everything to save her son from being taken. The book itself is certainly very creepy, and the TV series looks unsettling as well, with Zachary Quinto as Charles Manx, it is sure to be one frightening ride.

This is of course just a taste of exciting new TV series coming out, are there any in particular you’re looking forward to watching? Comment below!

Happy Reading (and watching!)

-Aileen

101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life

Have you ever felt, well, a little stuck in the motions of everyday life? Like the routine has become a little stale and the humdrum of normalcy has taken over? Like you might need something to just mix life up a bit? Well, that is exactly how I’ve been feeling lately. Stuck in the everyday of life and feeling a bit off. I couldn’t quite figure out how to shake this feeling, even with the hope of all things summer on the horizon. That is, until my friend Monica sent me an email with a recommendation for a book that has helped to pull me out of my funk and at the very least, made me think about something other than my routine. The book in question is 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life by Roger-Pol Droit.

When I first opened this book, I really had no idea what to anticipate. I only knew that it came highly recommended and that this book in particular was filled with the unexpected.  It was also the word “experiments” that captured my interest; when was the last time I conducted an experiment? I couldn’t recall, so I decided to do exactly that. There are 101 to try after all.

Soon after reading the introduction, which entices the reader to look for “tiny moments of awareness” by disrupting the normalcy of everyday life, I found myself excited (p. ix). This was exactly what I needed. I quickly scanned the list of experiments in the contents and was even more intrigued. At first glance, some experiments seemed impossible, like #21: Try to measure existence or #92: Encounter pure chance.  Some seemed beyond strange, like #18: Visualize a pile of human organs, while others came across as extremely enjoyable, like #49: Browse at the bookseller or #73: Enter the scape of a painting. Regardless, I did start to wonder ‘what have I gotten myself into’ but considering that I felt stuck in a rut, maybe this was a good thing.

The experiments themselves are only a page or two long and indicate the duration, props needed and the effect, usually in single word followed by the instructions that are loaded with philosophical anecdotes and questions. Each is unique and there is an extremely wide range of possible results. The reader is encouraged to alter, adapt or repeat the experiments as needed. This format makes these experiments achievable, some more so than others of course, and does not come across as overwhelming despite how odd some of them did seem. With my first observations over, there was nothing left to do but … well… experiment.

I decided to start with experiments that appeared to be straight forward, like #14: Make a wall with your hands and #15: Walk in the dark. I tried these tasks a few times and found that it did take a bit of time to achieve the desired effect, or at least get close to it. Safety is also an aspect to consider; don’t try #40: Shower with your eyes closed if you’re clumsy.

I moved on to the more contemplative exercises, like #17: Peeling an apple in your head and #52: Walk in an imaginary forest, which requires a lot more imagination and thinking then I had anticipated. I was feeling moderately successful, and then I tried #66: Recover lost memories and found myself unexpectedly enjoying this experiment. The instruction is fairly simple, sit alone but start out with a category in mind; a holiday, a birthday and explore, but don’t force out those memories, let them come all on their own. I sat outside on a beautiful sunny day with the category ‘summer’ in my mind and started trying to remember. It took a little time, but before long I started having memories pop into my mind and I was brought back to buying roses in the Sears Garden Centre with my mom and braiding the stems of dandelions at the playground. I sat for longer than I realized, just taking a tour of my own memories. I began to feel a renewed excitement about summer that I had not experienced since I was in elementary school.

I tried several more experiments, but I did not end up successfully executing all 101 of them. I did find a number of them useful, especially for helping to bring me out of my personal funk. What this book really helped me with was remembering that every now and then I am allowed to, and should, disrupt my routine and do a few out of the ordinary tasks to shake things up. Not every experiment was successful, but they didn’t really have to be. It reminded me that disruption can be good in many ways, even if it’s just your regular thought processes, and there is no harm using your imagination to help with that. I learned that there can be a lot of power in visualization, and well… just thinking about something else.

So, if you’re like me and are feeling a bit stuck, I absolutely recommend this book and trying out a few of these experiments for yourself. You never know what you will discover!

– Kelsey

What odds about Newfoundland lit?

The charm and beauty of this island is worth the long journey to get there. There are many writers and poets who live there, some who ‘come from away’ and fall in love with the place and many who grew up ’on the rock´. While there is much diversity in the stories and writing coming from Newfoundland, there are also some striking similarities.  The challenging weather (Manitobans can relate) and the remoteness of this place often come through in the narratives. And of course there are the many figures of speech Newfoundlanders employ which add a particular flavour.

If you are looking for some travel advice, Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts by Janice Wells will have some insider tips for you. The secret to travelling in Newfoundland is to be open to adventure, talk to locals and they will tell you the best trails to hike, fish to eat and pubs to gather at.

While you are flipping through the Book of Musts, you should also check out The Great Atlantic Canada Bucket List by Robin Esrock and Scenic Driving Atlantic Canada by Chloe Ernst. These books will help you plan your trip out east.

As most of my family lives in Newfoundland, I’ve spent many childhood summers visiting this magical place. Now that my parents have moved back, I continue to visit often. I’ve read my fair share of books by Newfoundland writers – both fiction and non-fiction. Here are a few newer books that will spin you a yarn and maybe have you yearning for more.

Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper
Hooper’s newest book is a gorgeous story told mostly from the perspective of 11 year-old Finn that examines rural outport Newfoundland in the 1990s after the collapse of the fishing industry. Families in these small communities were relocated by the government. Finn and his sister Cora create imaginary worlds on the island and their parents take turns working off the island in the Alberta oil fields to survive. 

Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles
This is a new release that I recommend you get your hands on. The book follows 3 main characters who are from the bay (small remote towns) and their intertwining lives in St. John’s (among townies) in the thick of February weather. The book centres on a restaurant and touches on foodie and chef culture in Newfoundland. Coles is deeply inspired by the #MeToo movement and confronts issues of racism, homophobia, sexism and class that shape contemporary Newfoundland society.

Wildness by Jeremy Charles
Speaking of Newfoundland food and food culture, this brand new cookbook is coming to our shelves soon. The recipes highlight local fare and have stories by the chef along with them.

February by Lisa Moore
This is another heart wrenching story of a Newfoundland woman who is tough as nails. The story follows Helen O’Mara, a woman dealing with the grief of losing her husband when the Ocean Ranger oil rig sinks in a February storm. This historical event is one that many Newfoundlanders remember vividly. Moore also has a newer book of short stories Something for Everyone, released in 2018, which has been well received.

Galore by Michael Crummey
This is novel which crosses multiple generations of Newfoundlanders living on a remote island called “Paradise Deep”. Crummey uses magical realism to explore the deep connections to ocean, land and inhabitants. You will likely need to use the family tree provided by the author but it is well worth losing yourself in this novel. 

Son of a Critch: A Childish Newfoundland Memoir by Mark Critch
It feels right to end this list on a funny book, as for all the difficulties of living in Newfoundland there is a collective sense of humour that is so unique. Mark Critch, of This Hour has 22 Minutes, has written a memoir that taps into this.

For your next good read I recommend you look all the way east to some of the fine writers hailing from Newfoundland. Yes b’y you best believe that Newfoundland lit is worth caring about!

– Kim

Gotta catch them all: The 1990s are back in Detective Pikachu

POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU Photo credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

It is often the case that when a remake of a much beloved character is made, there is both fear and consternation as to the fate of the character. Will the film honour the work of previous writers and do justice to the character; or, will they decide that a new updated version requires a complete rewrite, changing both the tone and essence of the character?

When I heard there was to be new version of Pikachu, and a live action version to boot, I was highly skeptical. Often when animation is rendered into a live version, something tends to get lost in translation. This is because different mediums have varying needs and restrictions from other formats. What you can get away with in a comic or manga just doesn’t work on-screen.

Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when the trailer came out. It’s loosely based on the Nintendo game, Detective Pikachu (hence the title), but don’t be fooled. This isn’t a film for little kids. Judging by the trailer, this film is a bit of a nostalgia piece for those 90s kids who first played Pokémon as trading cards or on a Game Boy. As those kids have grown up, so has Pikachu. Pikachu has gone from being a one-dimensional fighter into a full character with hopes, fears and, most importantly, a voice (courtesy of Ryan Reynolds of Deadpool fame). When Pikachu meets Tim, the only person who can hear him, they set out on journey that leads them to uncover a plot that will change their world.

Sounds good, huh? But if you’re anything like me, you either need a little more backstory or you simply can’t get out opening weekend to see it. So for those that are waiting until after May 10th, take a gander at the original Pokémon to help you along. We have the graphic novels, Beginner Readers, and chapter books (often found in both English & French), the TV shows and the video games to kick start the love of Pikachu. For those who want to take the next step, there is manga for teens and adults, as well as graphic novels and art books that teach you how to draw manga.

So, dust off your Pokédecks, (or whip out your Pokémon Go app), and see what you still need to get, because you still gotta catch ‘em all.

Happy hunting!

~ Katherine

Across the World

When I was in university I had a professor who travelled to India regularly. He inspired me so much with his stories that as a young twenty-something I purchased the Lonely Planet guide, slung on my backpack, and boarded a plane for India. I am not a globe trotter, but of the places I have been able to visit, India definitely remains one of my favourites. The history and beauty, combined with the hospitality of the people I met on my travels, definitely left its mark. And I won’t even get started on the food, which was beyond incredible (thankfully living in Winnipeg we have access to some excellent Indian food!).

*I had a view of the Taj Mahal as good as the one above thanks to the directions in my handy Lonely Planet India guide.  Who knew my 2 star hotel/hostel would have an uninterrupted view from the window (besides the folks at Lonely Planet)?

A number of years after my trip I picked up A Fine Balance, by Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry. Because I enjoyed travelling through India so much, and also love historical fiction, this seemed like a really good fit. In all its thickness, A Fine Balance was still too short—I never wanted it to end. It quickly became one of my favourite books. Mistry catapults you into a fictional 1970s India, during a time of political turmoil, where you witness the lives of four ordinary characters become intertwined. Beautifully written, with vivid images, it is a heart wrenching novel. It is definitely a book to read with a handy supply of Kleenex. When I find an author I like I tend to ‘read through’ a number of their books, and this was no exception. Family Matters and Such a Long Journey, both set in Bombay, as well as Tales from Firozsha Baag, are also fantastic reads.

A few years later a friend and I were talking about books, specifically about ones set in India. She gave me a number of titles she enjoyed, and among them was What the Body Remembers, by Shauna Singh Baldwin. Set in the period of the brutal 1947 Partition, ‘Shauna Singh Baldwin’s debut novel is immaculately researched, bringing to life a troubled time in Indian history from a rarely seen perspective.’ I found this excellent book (In 2000, What the Body Remembers won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in the Caribbean and Canada) introduced me to a time of history, albeit through its fictional story line, that I sadly knew very little about.

Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri’s stunning debut collection of short stories, unerringly charts the emotional journeys of characters seeking love beyond the barriers of nations and generations. In stories that travel from India to America and back again, Lahiri speaks with universal eloquence to everyone who has ever felt like a foreigner. I enjoyed these powerful and often sad stories, and went on to ready The Namesake, The Lowland, and then another collection of stories, Unaccustomed Earth, also by Lahiri.

 

A Suitable Boy, a novel by Vikram Seth, was published in 1993. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multiethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humor and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation. At 1488 pages this was another thick read, and although I didn’t enjoy it as much as other books I had read set in that period, I still appreciated the breadth and complexity of the story.

The White Tiger is on my radar as a book to definitely read soon. It is the debut novel of author Arivand Adiga and won him the prestigious Man Booker Prize. The White Tiger follows a darkly comic Bangalore driver through the poverty and corruption of modern India’s caste society.

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!

~Kristie

 

Spring fiction

Spring has sprung and the new fiction shelves are blooming with a heavy crop of new novels. Here are a few to get you started, or you can view the full list of New Titles for the last 3 months in our online catalogue.

In dog we trust
by Beth Kendrick
When Jocelyn Hilliard is named legal guardian for the late Mr. Allardyce’s pack of pedigreed Labrador retrievers, her world is flipped upside down. She’s spent her entire life toiling in the tourism industry and never expected to be living the pampered life in an ocean side mansion, complete with a generous stipend. But her new role isn’t without its challenges.

The bird king
by G. Willow Wilson
Fatima is a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain. Her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker, has a secret: he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as threatening sorcery. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

Queen Bee
by Dorothea Benton Frank
Beekeeper Holly McNee Kensen quietly lives in a world of her own on Sullivan’s Island. Her mother, The Queen Bee, is a demanding hypochondriac; to escape the drama, Holly’s sister Leslie married and moved away, wanting little to do with island life. Holly’s escape is to submerge herself in the lives of the two young boys next door and their widowed father. When Leslie returns to the island, their mother ups her game in an uproarious and theatrical downward spiral. A classic Lowcountry Tale–warm, wise, and hilarious.

Bunny
by Mona Awad
A darkly funny, seductively strange novel about a lonely graduate student drawn into a clique of rich girls who seem to move and speak as one. Samantha Heather Mackey couldn’t be more different from the other members of her master’s program at an elite university. A self-conscious scholarship student, she is repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort–a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other “Bunny.” But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation from the Bunnies and finds herself drawn as if by magic to their front door. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into Bunny world, the edges of reality begin to blur.

The snakes
by Sadie Jones
Driving through France, recently married Bea and Dan visit Bea’s brother at the hotel he runs in Burgundy. When her parents make a surprise visit, Dan can’t understand why Bea is so appalled, or why she’s never wanted him to meet them; Liv and Griff Adamson are charming and rich. Maybe Bea’s ashamed of him, or maybe she regrets the secrets she’s been keeping… Tragedy strikes suddenly, brutally, and in its aftermath even Bea with all her strength and goodness can’t escape.

The elephant of surprise
by Joe Lansdale
Hap and Leonard are an unlikely pair–Hap, a self-proclaimed white trash rebel, and Leonard, a tough-as-nails black gay Vietnam vet–but they’re the closest friend either of them has in the world. Amidst the worst flood East Texas has seen in years, they save a young woman from a mob hit, only to find themselves confronted by an adversary who challenges their friendship.

The paper wasp
by Lauren Acampora
Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, Abby Graven now works as a supermarket cashier. Each day she’s taunted by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet. When Abby encounters Elise again at their high school reunion, she’s surprised and touched that Elise still considers her a friend. Ever the supportive friend, Abby becomes enmeshed in Elise’s world, even as she guards her own dark secret and burning desire for greatness. As she edges closer to Elise and her own artistic ambitions, the dynamic shifts between the two friends–until Abby can see only one way to grasp the future that awaits her.

Danielle