Sunday, 6 May 2018

The Great Alone

The Great Alone
The Great Alone

 The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah's new novel takes us into the lives of the Allbrights. Ernt, husband, father, and veteran recently returned from Viet Nam; Cora, loyal wife and mother; and their daughter, 13 year old Lenora (Leni) are a fragile family.

It is 1974 and Ernt has lost yet another job, and is angry at being tossed aside once more. Fed up with the way America is headed, he decides to move his family to Alaska to live off the grid, on some land left to him by an old army buddy. Both Cora and Leni are unsure about the move, but Cora will go anywhere and do anything for Ernt, and Leni dares to hope the move will make things better for all of them.
They arrive in Alaska ill-prepared for the harsh life they are taking on. Fortunately, the harsh Alaskan wilderness builds strong communities and their new neighbours help the Allbrights to settle in and to hunt, fish, and gather the needed resources for the coming  
   winter. Ernt, Cora and Leni make friends and join in the community, but Ernt’s paranoia   
   and unpredictability begin to overshadow Cora and Leni’s lives and he begins to isolate  
   them from the very people who can help them survive in the north.

  As the days grow shorter and darkness descends, Ernt’s demons grow stronger and Cora   and Leni realize the dangers they face are just as great inside their little cabin as outside in the wilderness. They are alone and will have to protect themselves from everything. 

This is a story of love, loss, and survival that pulls you into the wilderness with each chapter, one that you won’t want to leave once you start reading.

Friday, 20 April 2018

News of the World

News of the World
News of the World

By Paulette Jiles

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd has lived through the American Civil War.  At 72 years old, he deserves a break.  He now makes his living traveling throughout 1870s Texas reading the news to small audiences.  Small town residents love to hear about European wars, the politics of the American east coast, or about the new telegraph wires in Britain, an almost unimaginable piece of technology.

But the Captain’s life changes when he is hired to drive 10-year-old Johanna Leonberger, a recently released Kiowa captive, back to her family in the south of Texas.  It’s a long drive through dangerous territory and Johanna does not want to go.  Raised by the Kiowa from age 6 to 10, Johanna is a Kiowa now and cannot return to the lifestyle of the white European.

The Captain, whose daughters are grown, takes her under his wing.  He addresses her unusual behaviour and manners with the patience of a loving parent.  Kontah, she eventually calls him – grandfather.

As the pair cross the Texas landscape, vividly and beautifully described by author Paulette Jiles, they encounter all manner of hazards: from housewives who berate Johanna for her lack of delicacy to debased criminals who would re-capture Johanna for the most depraved purposes.  Lawlessness and corruption prevail. 

But Johanna is no shrinking violet and despite her youth proves invaluable in a gunfight.  She is rightfully suspicious of all whom they encounter.  She is shoeless and eats with her hands.  She has forgotten both English and German.  She is a warrior.

News of the World is steeped in American history and feels meticulously researched.  Jiles describes the various immigrant populations in Texas as the time – Irish, British, German, Mexican – and seamlessly blends their cultural differences into the narrative.  Freed slaves are now part of the fabric of Texas.  The Native American tribes in the area, the Comanche and the Kiowa, are ever-present threats on the frontier. Johanna’s reluctance to return to the non-native world is striking and utterly believable.

But the real magic of this book is the evolving relationship between Captain Kidd and Johanna.  Their shared journey and their endurance of many hardships bring them ever closer, until they become like family.  Much to his surprise, the Captain grows to care for Johanna.  At 72, he is “still in one piece, alive and unaccountably happy.” (p.163)

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Missing, Presumed

Missing, Presumed
Missing, Presumed

by Susie Steiner

Missing, Presumed, by Susie Steiner is an armchair mystery novel that tells the tale of a fictional high profile disappearance case in Cambridgeshire, England. Edith Hind, daughter of Lady Miriam Hind and Ian Hind, a prominent London physician, suddenly disappears without a trace. 

The apartment she shares with her fiancé, Will, shows signs of a struggle: broken glass is strewn about and there are droplets of blood on the floor, but there is no sign of Edith.

Enter Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw, senior investigator on the case- she knows the first 72 hours are critical to finding a missing person, but after questioning of the likely suspects including fiancĂ© Will, best friend Helena, and Edith’s parents, she comes up empty.  

The story delves deeply into each of the characters, switching back and forth between them, so we see each person’s perspective on the case, while learning about their personal lives. The novel explores most deeply the character of DS Bradshaw, a respected member of the police force, but as we follow her foray into internet dating her insecurities and vulnerable side are revealed.

As the characters are developed, so the mystery unravels, giving the reader clues, red herrings and twists – all characteristics of a good mystery that keeps you guessing until the end.

Many reviews and listings of this book point to it as the beginning of a series. I would certainly be looking for more if that is the case, as I really enjoyed the storyline and its interweaving of the characters I met along the way. 

For other popular reading suggestions check out Richmond Public Library's Web site at 

Friday, 23 March 2018

The Mountain Story

The Mountain Story
The Mountain Story
By Lori Lansens

I love survival stories and Lori Lansens’ The Mountain Story doesn’t disappoint.

At 18 years of age, Wolf Truly has faced many challenges in his life.  His mother died when he was very young, and his father, Frankie, is a drinker, a gambler, and not much of a dad.  After losing a close friend, Wolf decides to end his life by jumping off a cliff at the top of his favourite mountain.

Leading up to this point, Wolf has spent much of his time hiking the mountain trails.  He and his best friend, Byrd, a boy with the same birthday, have a strong connection to each other and to the mountain.

On this fateful day, Wolf takes the tram to the top of the mountain.  As he hikes toward his doom, he comes across three women: Nola, Bridget and Vonn Devine.  The women are searching for Secret Lake, one of Wolf’s favourite spots, but they’ve lost their way.  After some cajoling, they convince Wolf to guide them to the lake.  But when Bridget leaves the trail and a fog rolls in, all four of them find themselves hopelessly lost.

What follows is five days of foraging for food, water and shelter, while Nola suffers dreadfully with an infected wound.  The four must battle the elements and the animals, and after falling down a steep hill, they spend copious amounts of energy trying to climb back up.  But as these hikers deteriorate physically and mentally, they grow ever closer.  The Devines are able to heal some old family wounds, all the while drawing Wolf into their circle.

The harrowing mountain tale is peppered with snippets of Wolf’s life.  From his mother’s death, to his father’s womanizing, to the trailer he now lives in with his Aunt Kricket and legions of her children and grandchildren, his life is as agonizing as his desperate five days on the mountain.

This is contrasted with Wolf’s relationship with Byrd: their immediate connection, and Wolf’s acceptance by Byrd’s family.  When Byrd suffers a life-altering accident, Wolf is pushed to his breaking point.

There is more to this novel than tragedy, however.  The will to fight against all odds and the instinct to protect loved ones eventually supplant Wolf’s desire to kill himself.  Ultimately, this is a novel of hope.

Monday, 5 March 2018



By Fredrik Backman

Beartown is a small town with big dreams. Fredrik Backman takes us into this small community nestled amongst the trees, with a heavier storyline than his usual lighthearted, humorous fiction; maybe that’s because there’s so much riding on the outcome of this tale. Regardless, I was quickly drawn in and I could not put it down, reading it in a day. 

For generations, Beartown has been a hockey town; the old ice rink is still there nestled among the trees, a stark reminder of what the town once was. As the town struggles with a fading economy, the junior hockey team is preparing for the game of their lives- the semi-finals that they actually have a chance at winning. A win will put Beartown back on the map, the factory will re-open, the workers will be re-hired, tourism will increase, people will stop in Beartown instead of passing through. All it will take is for the team to win.

With so much riding on one game, tensions are running high and it is affecting everyone. The board of directors are making hiring and firing decisions, the general manager is consumed and distracted by the game, parents face off against each other, and everything rests on the shoulders of the teenage boys who will win or lose, save or condemn their town.

Will Benji, Kevin, Amat and the others get their chance?  

This is a story about emotions; hope, loss, jealousy, anger, longing, they’re all in there. These feelings can get in the way of decisions that need to be made and should be made, and how the little town that could copes with tragedy in the midst of the biggest game of their lives. 

For fans of Backman’s other Swedish novels, A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises and Britt Marie Was Here, among others, Beartown will not disappoint. This is a story that raises questions that are not easy to answer and make you think about what you would do, if it was you.