Gwendy’s Button Box, by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar (2017)

Mystery
15-Adult
Gwendy's Button Box, by Stephen King and Richard ChizmarI approach Stephen King with great trepidation. As a teen I devoured Carrie and moved rapidly through his backlist, until Salem’s Lot, which so terrified me I made my younger brother accompany me upstairs at bedtime. No lie. Didn’t touch King again for years! But this one, co-written with his longtime friend Richard Chizmar, looked so intriguing I gave it to my spouse to read. He passed it back, assuring me it was in the vein of King novels I’ve loved like Hearts in Atlantis and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. It’s 1974, and we are back in Castle Rock, a favourite King setting. Gwendy is 12, about to enter middle school in the fall. Determined to shed her detested nickname Goodyear, she spends the summer pounding up Suicide Stairs, ignoring the stranger in a hat reading on a bench. Probably a perv, she figures. Read more of this post

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The Expansion, by Christoph Martin (2017)

Thriller
Adult
The Expansion, by Christoph MartinPutting in a bid to engineer the expansion of the Panama Canal is an opportunity hydrogeologist and engineer Max Burns simply cannot pass up. If they win, it will be an amazing career achievement. Even the bid is a lengthy commitment, so when Max jumps on board, his fiancée calls off the engagement. But there’s plenty of positives for the good-looking engineer, including catch-up time with his boarding school buddy Godfredo Roco, who, along with his father Paco Roco, is heading the bid submission. Fredo hasn’t changed much – sure, he’s a smart-ass womanizer who lives the high life, but he is fiercely loyal, including to the father whom he hates. Paco is an astute and unscrupulous businessman, determined to beat the competition at any cost. Read more of this post

Transit Street Design Guide, by NACTO (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Transit Street Design Guide, by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)I recently left Vancouver after living in the city more than 16 years. Half that time was without a car, and except for 5 years commuting to work in a suburb, I used buses exclusively for getting to school and then work. Now that I’m in “rural” British Columbia, I still walk to the shops, post office, library and trails. Though I don’t use our local bus (there’s one, with no regular route as it’s “door to door” and must be arranged in advance), I am still a huge supporter of public transit. It just makes sense. In the introduction, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) makes the very important point that transit is the most efficient way to move “tremendous numbers” of people from one place to another. Read more of this post

Artemis, by Andy Weir (2017)

Science Fiction
Adult
Artemis, by Andy WeirOh how we have been waiting for this book! Weir won international fame for his first novel, The Martian, which (as I, ahem, predicted) then blew us away as a blockbuster movie. Sophomore efforts often pale after such a success, and Weir makes a pretty good effort here. Set in the not-too-distant future, Artemis is a small colony of about 2000 on the moon. Jazz Bashara has lived there for two decades, since she was six years old. A non-practising Muslim, she makes a living as a deliveryperson with a profitable side gig as a small-time smuggler. Despite the constant hussle, her bank balance is dismally low, a problem as she has a debt to pay, and wants a better place to live where she doesn’t have to pad down the hall to a communal bathroom. Read more of this post

The Best Medicine, by Christine Hamill (2016, 2017)

Humour
10-14
The Best Medicine by Christine HamillPhilip Wright dreams of becoming a comedian like his real-life hero Harry Hill. Philip is dealing with typical middle school problems – too much homework, a demanding bully Philip calls The Yeti, and the heartbreak of unrequited love for a classmate. But Philip relies on getting laughs from his close friend Ang and his mum, known as his biggest fan. So when she cries instead of laughing, Philip knows something is wrong. It turns out she has cancer. And it’s an embarrassing one too. Humour abounds, sprinkled with honest tender moments that strike just the right note for young readers. it’s also full of information about cancer, delivered in a way that feels natural and will inform young readers whether or not they are dealing with this themselves. Read more of this post

Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery, by Scott Kelly (2017)

Biography
15-Adult
Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery, by Scott KellyScott Kelly has spent more time on the International Space Station than any other American astronaut – 340 continuous days. That record is likely to stand for a while, since his honesty and candour in describing the experience could give other candidates second thought! Kelly returned from the ISS in March 2016, along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail “Misha” Kornienko, there for the same length of time. Along with other astronauts on shorter missions, Kelly and Kornienko face mind-blowing challenges as they maintain the ISS and conduct numerous science experiments, including on their own bodies. It’s all part of the global effort to sustain human life off our planet, with the goal of perhaps, one day, sending astronauts on a mission to Mars. Read more of this post

Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind, by Darlene Foster (2017)

Mystery
8-11
Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind, by Darlene FosterTwelve-year-old Amanda and her new friend Cleo are headed to New Mexico with several Grade 6 classmates from Calgary. An artistic bunch, they will be exploring the history and culture of the area, taking time to document the trip through drawings, photographs, and words. Amanda doesn’t believe in ghosts, and neither does her photographer buddy Caleb. But when strange occurrences start happening to Cleo, and then to others in the group, Amanda finds herself wondering if ghosts really do exist. I commend Foster for the meticulous research; readers will learn a great deal about the history and culture of the Ancient Puebloans, early settlers, and modern American natives in the area. Read more of this post

Murderous Mistral, by Cay Rademacher (2015, 2017)

Mystery
Adult
Murderous Mistral, by Cay RademacherParisian gendarme Capitaine Roger Blanc has just completed a sweeping corruption investigation that resulted in several high-profile arrests, but also led to his being banished to Provence. It’s a punishment for being a bit too successful in a society where political lives are built on back-scratching and favours. To make matters worse for our hero, his wife announces she is staying in Paris. With her lover. Newly single, Roger heads to Sainte-Françoise-la-Vallée, nearly 1000 kms south of Paris. His new commandant is a rising star who is not happy to have a corruption expert sent to his stable of officers, and he assigns the Capitaine to a corner space with an ancient computer and a lethargic partner who enjoys long lunches with bottles of rosé. Read more of this post

Baseball Bats for Christmas, by Michael Kusugak (1990, 2017)

Children’s Fiction
5-9
Baseball Bats for Christmas by Michael KusugakWhat fun it is to discover a classic for the first time! The 2017 reissue of this popular children’s picture book gave me the chance to finally read this award-winning Inuit story, based on the author’s own lived experience. When the bush pilot Rocky Parsons delivers a load of Christmas trees in 1955, the children of Repulse Bay are intrigued. Only Peter knows what they are. “Standing ups,” he declares, having seen them in pictures shown him by Father Didier. Asked what they are for, he simply shrugs. But when someone gets a ball for Christmas, the purpose of these standing ups becomes clear to the children – standing ups are ideal for making baseball bats! Read more of this post

Invisible Dead, by Sam Wiebe (2017)

Mystery
Adult
Invisible Dead, by Sam WiebeVancouver is known for its sky-high real estate, spectacular setting, multicultural population and a generally laid-back and accepting attitude. Also pretty good soccer team, a football team that would be better if they hadn’t traded Andrew Harris, and a hockey team that is quite likely, to be kind, in a rebuilding year. It also has a significant drug problem, homeless numbers that are climbing every year, and a shameful history of an uncaring attitude toward missing and murdered prostitutes who are often Indigenous women. So it’s a real story that fuels the plot of this mystery that is the first in a new series starring the flawed but deeply principled private investigator Dave Wakeland. Read more of this post

Aerial Geology, by Mary Caperton Morton (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Aerial Geology by Mary Caperton MortonI think it was the great Allan Fotheringham who wrote the Rockies are always a spectacular sight, no matter how many times one sees them. Ain’t it the truth, Dr. Foth. Geologist and science writer Mary Caperton Morton takes us on an aerial tour of our continent, serving as a guide to the spectacular formations that, Rockies aside, likely mystify us as we look out the window on our cross-country flights. What is that canyon/lake/river? Morton expertly guides us through what she calls 100 geological wonders, using photos and satellite images to show us, as the subtitle promises, “A High-Altitude Tour of North America’s Spectacular Volcanoes, Canyons, Glaciers, Lakes, Craters, and Peaks.” Read more of this post

Zero Repeat Forever, by G.S. Prendergast (2017)

Science Fiction
14-18
Zero Repeat Forever, by G.S. PrendergastCalgary teens Raven, her boyfriend Tucker, and Tucker’s twin Topher are all sent to do community service as camp counsellors in the Alberta foothills of the Canadian Rockies. While they are in training, aliens called Nahx invade Earth, and the teen campers are left to fend for themselves. Their only hope is to hunker down, “sheltering in place” and wait for a rescue, but weeks pass and no one comes. When a Nahx kills Tucker while he is on a hunt for food, Raven and Topher swear revenge. But are all the Nahx killers? Eighth is a Nahx who struggles against the directives to “Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall.” When Eighth uncovers Raven’s hiding place, he chooses to not dart her, but instead protects her from the other Nahx. Read more of this post

The Massacre of Mankind, by Stephen Baxter (2017)

Science Fiction
13-Adult
Massacre of Mankind by Stephen BaxterWhat if the Martians came back? That is the premise of this sci-fi novel by Stephen Baxter, billed as an ‘authorised’ sequel to H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The story opens 13 years after the end of Wells’ classic tale. I do recommend reading the original story prior to starting this one, if you haven’t done so recently. It really helps with understanding the relationships between people in this book, as Baxter’s story revives the same characters. While the narrator in War of the Worlds was never named, he appears here as Walter Jenkins, and it is his former sister-in-law, Julie Elphinstone, a journalist who was one of the two women Walter’s brother “rescued” in his 1907 escape from the Martians, who serves as the narrator in this one. Read more of this post

War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells (1898, 1979)

Science Fiction
13-Adult
War of the Worlds, by H.G. WellsThis is the first of two reviews being published today; the second is a sequel to this classic H.G. Wells story. In preparation for reading the newly published Massacre of Mankind, authorised by the H.G. Wells estate, I decided to read this sci-fi classic. I read lots of sci-fi as a teen but I don’t think this one made my list; at least, I don’t remember it, despite having seen a couple of movie versions and of course listened to the equally classic radio play. So I checked my own bookshelves and found a copy of the novel within an anthology of Wells’ work. It included an undated preface by the author himself, who died in 1946. In the preface, Wells describes his classic story as an “assault on human self-satisfaction,” a criticism of the Western world view. Read more of this post

Tales from the Back Bumper: A Century of BC Licence Plates (2013)

Nonfiction
13-Adult
Tales from the Back Bumper by Christopher GarrishWhat is it about licence plates that is so fascinating? I still play the childhood game of checking off as many provinces and states whenever we are on a road trip. (Tip – go to national parks and scour the parking lots.) Garrish’s interest has been lifelong, but the book is a project that emerged from his tendency to take a break from his master’s thesis research to explore licence plates in various archives. He launched a website and that led to the book, which includes a foreword by former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell, whose government provided the pretty veteran’s plates and the controversial Olympic plates preceding the 2010 Olympic Games hosted in Vancouver. Read more of this post