Friday 16 October 2015

Boy, Snow, Bird

Boy, Snow, Bird
Boy, Snow, Bird

by Helen Oyeyemi

A modern-day fairy tale, Boy, Snow, Bird takes place in small town Massachusetts, 1953.  Fleeing an abusive father, Boy Novak arrives in Flax Hill and adopts it as her home.  She meets and marries Arturo Whitman and becomes a mother to his beautiful daughter, Snow.

Snow’s goodness and beauty is legendary, and she’s often treated like a delicate doll.  At first Boy is absolutely taken with her, but when her own daughter, Bird, is born, Boy becomes, shockingly, the wicked stepmother.  To Boy's surprise, Bird is dark-skinned.  Her birth reveals deep secrets about the Whitman family.  Boy loves her daughter and cannot stand the contrast between Bird and the perfect Snow.  She sends Snow away, and Bird grows up knowing little about her sister.

Helen Oyeyemi’s novel touches on dark family secrets.  It features chilling scenes with Boy’s father (the rat catcher), and later portrays a family that shuns its own racial heritage. The final chapters reveal the strangest secret of all as Boy’s family ties are finally explored.  The end will leave readers feeling breathless… and wanting more.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Me before you

Me Before You
by Jojo Moyes

I had heard the name Jojo Moyes buzzing around the book blogs in the past year or so, but I hadn't read anything by her until now. Me before you is fantastic. Dealing with some very serious issues that make you think long after you've finished reading the book.

Heart-wrenching, funny, thought provoking - an overall great read. Jojo Moyes is now on my favourite authors list, and I can't wait to read the sequel, After you.

Monday 31 August 2015

Go Set A Watchman

Go Set A Watchman
Go Set A Watchman
by Harper Lee

It's hard to follow up a classic like To Kill A Mockingbird, especially after 55 years.  Harper Lee's other manuscript has finally been published, and fans of To Kill A Mockingbird may not like what they read.  

The story didn't draw me in until about page 100.  After that, I enjoyed it and tried to take it with a grain of salt.  The story takes place 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird and some of the changes that have taken place will not be to readers' liking.  

Atticus has lost his saintliness and become a more of a regular human being.  This shift, in fact, is the crux of the story.  When Jean Louise (a.k.a. Scout) discovers that the racism of 1950s Alabama is now part of her father's world-view, she has a breakdown.  She must come to terms with Atticus the man as opposed to Atticus-who-can-do-no-wrong the father.  Readers will also struggle with this new Atticus as many of us have revered him for years.

There are other changes that are quite unsettling which I won't give away here.  Suffice to say, some To Kill A Mockingbird fans may want to avoid this novel, but many, like me, won't be able to stay away.  Overall I liked the book and I can still separate it from my feelings about Lee's original novel. 

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Kitchens of the Great Midwest
by J. Ryan Stradal

I had read many positive reviews about this title and I was really excited to read it. The reviews were right - this is an excellent book. However, it is definitely not what I expected.

When I first started to read the book I thought the book would be mainly about Eva Thorvald - a genius with food at a young age. However, the book is, and is not, about Eva. Each chapter is from a different character's point of view. Eva is sometimes central to this character's life, but more often than not, she makes an appearance in a small, but vital way.

When I finished the book I thought to myself - what is this book trying to tell me? And I think I could probably have some pretty interesting discussions about what this book's goal is, but for me it is a subtle reminder about slowing down and enjoying life. Taking each moment, whether good or bad, and understanding its importance. Food is a major theme in this book, and becomes a way to connect people in a variety of ways; for example, a way to meet up with friends and family, to appreciate the simple things in life, to get through tough events, and as a way to show people you care. This book can really be interpreted in several different ways which makes me thing this would be a fabulous book for a book club as there are so many subtle nuances to explore and discuss - all with some yummy food of course.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Who do you love

Who do you love
by Jennifer Weiner

Rachel Blum (pronounced Bloom) and Andy Landis meet each other for the first time in the Emergency Room waiting room when they are only eight years old. Rachel has a congenital heart defect and has just undergone heart surgery to save her life. Andy is there for a broken arm. Rachel is surprised to find out that Andy is at the hospital all alone. She decides to tell him a story to help him forget about the pain. However, Andy's mom soon arrives and he leaves to see the doctor - both believe they'll never see each other again. However, soon after Andy and Rachel's live become intertwined in one way or another. Linked by a night that changes both their lives.

This is a sweet and heart warming story about the importance of love, even if it may break your heart.

Monday 13 July 2015


by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Sweeping love story meets meditation on race relations: this is Adichie at her best.
Ifemelu grows up in Nigeria and in high school, meets Obinze, the love of her life.  Sounds cliché, but Adichie’s writing makes it so real, so heartfelt, that even the most jaded readers will want this love to flourish.

But, as often happens after a high school romance, things change.  In a country where children are primed to move abroad when they reach adulthood, Ifemelu moves to the United States.  It is there that she discovers the concept of race.  In Nigeria, race is not something she ever thinks about.  In the U.S., her life is defined by race.  She must learn her place in a complicated racial hierarchy and discovers that she is on the bottom.  As she struggles to find work, Ifemelu begins to blog about her experiences.

Race is a central concept in the book as Adichie touches on everything from the acceptability of wearing your hair in braids, to the racial divide between light-skinned and dark-skinned blacks.

Her life evolves in the U.S., and Ifemelu begins to thrive.  But something is pulling her back to Nigeria.  Which brings us back to Obinze.  Now married with a child, Obinze and Ifemelu find each other again.  Will their love return after all these years?  What follows may bring some readers to tears.

Saturday 11 July 2015

Cross-Stitch Before Dying : an Embroidery Mystery

By Amanda Lee

When a Bollywood starlet is found murdered all suspicion is on Beverly, the costume designer. What does this have to do with our main character Marcy, you might be asking yourselves. Well Beverly just happens to be Marcy's mother. Set in quiet Tallulah Falls; Beverly suggested the location for the filming of a big Bollywood production. The whole town was excited until the tragedy struck. There was some tensions between the diva starlet and Beverly over costume choices and decisions so the town has decided that Beverly is the main suspect. It turns out there were many people that didn't like the starlet so the list of suspects is long and Marcy is up for the task so from her little embroidery shop she will solve the crime.
This is a fast read, great for these hot summer days. I read this while summing myself at the beach this weekend; a light read just right for helping to get your mind off the stresses of the day. Amanda Lee, author of the Embroidery Mystery series, has created an interesting mystery with a little bit of a love story and of course the mention of Angus the dog. Angus is, by far, my favourite character in this book. So pick up Cross-stitch Before Dying today, sit back and enjoy.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

The Husband's Secret

The husband's secret

by Liane Moriarty

Cecilia Fitzpatrick accidentally comes across a letter her husband wrote to her after the birth of their first child. However, the envelope says not to open the letter unless he's dead, and he's very much alive. What would you have done? The decision Cecilia makes may not only ruin the life her and her husband have built together, but the lives of those around her as well.

I can't wait to read Moriarty's other book, Big Little Lies. Hopefully it's just as good!

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Uprooted Naomi Novik

Agnieszka loves her home of Dvernik even though it is nestled along the enchanted Wood. The Wood has destroyed villages, corrupted the townspeople, and its magic becomes stronger every year. The only way the town Dvernik has been able to survive is with the help of the Dragon. His magic ensures the people are safe and that the Wood does not creep any closer. The only thing he asks for in return is that each year a village girl who has turned 17 will live in the tower and serve him. She will come to no harm, but she will have to stay for ten years.

The year Agnieszka turns 17 she knows that she may very well be chosen; however, everyone knows her best friend Kasia is the prettiest, most elegant and accomplished of them all. Agnieszka on the other hand can't leave her home without ripping a hole in her skirt, or spilling something on herself. But the Dragon surprises them all and his choice will change everything.

Friday 12 June 2015

How to be a Parisian Wherever You Are

by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret, and Sophie Mas

I studied fashion and even received a degree in it but I still feel like my style is lacking that certain "je ne sais quoi." I picked up this book on a recommendation from one of our customers here at the library. She is a very stylish woman, you know the kind; elegant, beautiful posture and bold lipstick. My hopes were high for this book; "was I finally going to look as elegant as those Parisian women in the movies?" I read through "How to be a Parisian wherever you are" in one sitting. The four authors have broken up the book into sections which give the reader a French woman's view on style, attitude, relationships, and culture. This romp through the life of a true Parisienne is filled with humour and I found myself giggling out loud quite a few times. There are many tips and tricks including; "Parisian Snobbism," "Classic (and foolproof) French Recipes," and at the back of the book lies a special treat a, address book filled with wondrous places all over Paris. Places where one should take a late night stroll, grab a home cooked meal or shop for vintage treasures. I enjoyed this light read but I have to admit I may still be lacking that certain "je ne sais quoi."

Sunday 31 May 2015

A God in Ruins

A God in Ruins
by Kate Atkinson

I have loved every book that I have read by Kate Atkinson and A God in Ruins is no exception. Her latest work is the companion novel to Life After Life - which features Ursula Todd as she lives her life over and over again, trying to get things right.

A God in Ruins turns its attention to the much-loved Teddy, Ursula's younger brother. Teddy is recruited as an RAF bomber pilot in the second world war and as such has accepted he will die during the war. However, when the war is over, and Teddy is still alive, he must adjust to a life he never thought he would live.

Friday 22 May 2015

And Then There Were None

By Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None is one of our Book Club Favourites. As some of you already know I am a fan of a good mystery and this is a classic. I remember watching the movie when I was little and listening to the BBC radio version as a teen; so now I have decided to re-read this time-honoured classic and share my thoughts with you. I enjoyed stepping back in time to a place where there are no cell phones. Agatha Christie's award winning mysteries are time honoured for a reason. This tale is filled with twists and turns and is sure to keep you interested until the end.
Ten strangers have been invited, for the weekend, to be guests at a private estate on a private island by a mysterious host. This sounds like a lovely and exciting getaway but these ten strangers are in for a terrible surprise. As the guests arrive they are led to their rooms but the host is nowhere to be found. On the wall of each room is a nursery rhyme, "Ten Little Soldier Boys." On the dinning table are ten strange figurines of soldiers. The guests settle in for the first evening when a voice, seemingly coming from nowhere, begins to tell of the secret pasts of the guests. It turns out that these guests all have a terrible, murderous secret in their pasts. As the story unfolds our guests begin to die, the soldier figures begin to disappear and our murderer remains a mystery. Is there anyone else on the island? Does the nursery rhyme hold a clue? Who is the host of this morbid party, U.N. Owen?
"Ten little soldier boys went out to dine, one went and choked himself and then there were nine ..."

Friday 8 May 2015

Richmond, Child of the Fraser: 1979-1989

By Leslie J. Ross

I enjoy looking into the past, reading about times gone by, looking at pictures of historical events, I have spent time volunteering at both the City of Vancouver and the City of Richmond Archives, flipping through historical documents and scanning images. I especially love learning about places that I have lived. I have lived in Richmond for most of my life and Child of the Fraser is a treasure that all Richmond-ites should check out.
First published to mark Richmond's Centennial, it is filled with a collection of photographs, letters, and primary documents. For those who have ever done or ever need to do a project about Richmond or want to research Richmond, this is a wonderful resource. This book is a fun blast from the past and lets readers see how much Richmond has changed in such a short time. My favourite image is on page 12; an aerial of Steveston Harbour, my my my how things have changed. After you take the time you enjoy this short read you may also want to venture over to the City of Richmond Archives, make an appointment today!

Thursday 30 April 2015

The Good Girl

The good girl
by Mary Kubica

Mia Dennett is kidnapped and held at a remote location in Minnesota. Her captor, Colin Thatcher, did not want to kidnap her, and now doesn't know what to do with her. The longer Colin waits though, the tougher it becomes to let Mia go. As Colin and Mia get to know each other their relationship slowly starts to change, but things aren't quite what they seem.

The story is written in three points of view - each view is written either during the kidnapping, or after. Having the story told this way makes for an interesting read. You know what happened, but you don’t know everything. Each viewpoint slowly fills in the blanks until the shocking ending reveals all.

The Museum at Purgatory

By Nick Bantock

Want to try something a little different? Want to try something that is part narrative story and part wonderful collection of art? Then may I reccomend picking up one of Nick Bantock’s books. Nick Bantock is probably best known for the Griffin & Sabine series. His books are filled with his collage style artwork; he combines art mediums to produce beautiful pieces that help to tell the tale. In The Museum at Purgatory Bantock takes the reader into a curious museum currated by the mysterious Non. Non will take us through various rooms of the museum filled with art, curriousities, objects and stories. While readers learn about the curriosities housed within this museum Non learns many things about his own forgotten past. So if you want to try something different please pick up one of Nick Bantock’s books today.

Friday 10 April 2015

Small Plates

By Katherine Hall Page

Here is another collection of short stories for you, Small Plates. All mysteries and a little on the creepy side. I have read a few of Katherine Hall Pages novels but I had not tried her short stories. I am really glad that I picked this one up. I love a creepy little short story and Katherine Hall Page did not disapoint. There is one story in particular that I just loved; a husband is tired of his wife and wants to get rid of her. He is plotting to murder her. He plots and plots and all along readers are feeling like his innocent wife is oblivious and in love, well lets just say I laughed so hard at the surprise ending of this short tale.
I really like Katherine's style and humour. I also like her plot twists and surprise endings. She is also not afraid of a cliff hanger. She has won many awards including the Agatha award for her mysteries.

Saturday 4 April 2015

A Fire Upon the Deep

A Fire Upon the DeepThe Hugo Awards shortlist were recently announced so I thought I'd go back and read a previous winner.  A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge was the co-winner in 1993.

The Galaxy is inhabited with thousands of civilizations.  The farther from the core, the more advanced the technology and the intelligence of each species.  This isn't coincidence: the physical laws of the universe cause this.  So out on the edge of one of the zones in the galaxy a group of humans try to transcend to the next level and become a Power.  Instead, they awaken an ancient evil that destroy all but a few refugees.  These remaining few land on a medieval-level planet that is dominated by wolf-like aliens embroiled in their own intrigue.  And they aren't very friendly.

Meanwhile, others in the galaxy realize that the refugees may hold the key from preventing the evil from spreading.  The race is on to catch them before the evil does.

Thursday 2 April 2015

H is for Hawk

H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald

I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but when I read a review about how fantastic this book was I decided to give it a try - and I'm so glad I did! First of all, the writing is phenomenal. The author Helen Macdonald definitely has a way with words (the back cover notes she is also a poet and it shows). Her description of her goshawk and country surroundings make it all so real (even the gross parts where the hawk is tearing into wee little animals!).

However, even though the book is slotted into the bird subject area of the library, it is about much more than a hawk and how to train it. Macdonald wrote this book after the passing of her father which hit her really hard. Training the goshawk helped her deal with her loss and the devastating grief that gripped her when her father died. Loss happens at the most unexpected times and Macdonald's book reminds us to make the most of the time you have with loved ones. Always an important reminder and one easily forgotten.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

End Zones and Border Wars

End Zones and Border Wars
by Ed Willes

I'll start off by mentioning the fact that I'm not a big football fan.  At all.  That said, I am interested in Canadian culture and things that are meaningful to us as a nation.  After all, the Grey Cup (the Canadian Football League's bug prize) is, along with the Stanley Cup, featured in the Canadian passport.  So it is with interest that I read this, a book about an attempt to export a uniquely Canadian sport to a new market. For a brief time in the 1990s, the CFL attempted to expand the league by adding teams in the US.  It didn't work.  Hilariously.

A team based in Las Vegas practiced in a parking garage and featured a signer who sang O Canada to the melody of O Christmas Tree.  A team in Memphis had the players sleep in a barn.  The team in Baltimore had three different names, including the brilliant "CFLers".

It didn't last.

Even if you don't much care for football, the story of the CFL's expansion into the US is worth a look if only to see how different we really are from our neighbours to the south.

Thursday 5 March 2015

Fragile Things

By Neil Gaiman

Here is a collection of short stories and poems by award winning author, Neil Gaiman. This book is filled with some fun and quick reads. I found this book after Neil Gaiman showed up on my YouTube feed reading one of his stories. I was drawn in by the fact that the author wrote in so many different styles within this one book. Gaiman has a wonderful sense of humour and has a way of creating a whole and complete story in just a few pages. Gaiman ensures that readers have an understanding of all of the characters simply by ensuring the characters are relatable. One story in particular that really hooked me is  “How to talk to Girls at Parties,” an interesting tale of two friends. Our main character and his friend Vic are typical highschool boys obsesed with girls and hooking up. Vic has found out about a party and the two head off to crash it. Unfortunatally Vic does not know the exact address. The two head in the general direction and when they hear party sounds coming from a house in the right neighbourhood they feel they must have the right party, or do they. The party is filled with friendly, pretty girls and the two feel they have hit the jackpot. Alcohol is flowing and conversation is going well but readers will soon realize that the boys may have wandered into the wrong party.
If you are looking for something a little different, some variety in your reading, then I recommend you pick up FragileThings today.

Friday 27 February 2015

Blood Work, a take of medicine and murder in the Scientific Revolution

By Holly Tucker

Here is a dark little bit of human history. In Blood Work the facts about bloodletting and vivisection are brought to life. Holly Tucker brings the world of medicine practices in the 1600's to light. You might be asking yourself why did I pick up this book to begin with? Well I had just read Megan Shepherd's "The Madman's Daughter" and I was curious to know about real medical practices of the past, in particular blood transfusions and vivisection. Blood Work tells the facts about early blood transfusions, blood letting, vivisection and more. This educational look at the evolution of medical science sheds light on a time when anyone could call themselves a doctor, where morality and experimentation still haunt the medical science community to this day.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

The Blade Itself

The Blade Itselfby Joe Abercrombie

There are plenty of epic fantasy series out there, but this is one of the best I've ever read. Set in a world with magic, magic is nevertheless set aside for handy swords and shields and pure brute strength.  As is often the case, there are no real "good guys". There are people who are trying not to be bad, but only because they are tired of killing and being hunted in revenge.

The leads are varied, and seemingly unrelated: You have the tired barbarian Logen Ninefingers, who is tired of all the killing he's done only to create more enemies.  There's Glokta the Inquisitor, a torturer who has lost all compassion for having been tortured himself.  Finally, there's the young nobleman Jezal who wants nothing more than wine, women, and song plus a little fencing in between.

How does a mysterious old wizard tie it all together?

Joe Abercrombie is a British author who comes at it from a pretty fresh approach. No fancy dialogue in this one: when people are angry or frustrated they talk pretty much like you or me, but maybe with a little more colourful language.

This is the first in a trilogy, plus there are 3 more set in the same world with some recurring characters.

Monday 16 February 2015


by Frances Itani

Deseronto, Ontario in 1919 is a town coming to terms with its past.  World War I is over and the boys are coming home.  Hopeful, yes.   But Kenan, once an outgoing and happy young man has been disfigured in the war.  His suffering is obvious and goes far deeper than physical scars.   He and his wife Tress must rediscover each other as both have lost their carefree pre-war selves. 

Maggie and Am, Kenan and Tress’s aunt and uncle, have secret scars of their own – scars which are consuming them.  Maggie tries to find a way out with music as she trains to be the solo soprano in the upcoming New Year’s Eve concert.  

Throughout the story there is the happy presence of the ice rink, erected every winter on the lake.  This is a place that has seen much joy for the two couples, and the place where the men try to release some of the pain that they are not given leave to express.

Despite the sadness, there is also friendship, family, love and loyalty.  Everything in the novel culminates in a joyous burst of song at the concert.  At this point, the characters must choose new paths.

Itani is a subtle writer who builds her characters carefully.  Readers come to genuinely care about them.  As in her novel Requiem, Itani has a clear sense of history that is revealed through character and plot.   This is a beautiful novel about secrets kept and revealed, and the hope that comes at the end of war.