Still Life, by Louise Penny (2005, 2015)

Mystery
Adult
Still Life by Louise PennyMy good friend John has been recommending this series for two years. When I spotted Still Life, the first entry in the Inspector Gamache series, on the shelves at my local Grand Forks Public Library, I decided to give it a try. This is an anniversary edition, and included a foreword by the author and an informative profile of the author and this debut mystery by James Kidd as an afterword. There are now 12 titles in the series, I believe,and each has won several awards. Still Life introduces Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete de Quebec. He is a thoughtful, kind, and astute homicide investigator who mentors his team and has earned the high respect of underlings, colleagues and boss, though we learn he seems to be stuck career-wise. Read more of this post

The Physics of Everyday Things, by James Kakalios (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Physics of Everyday Things, by James KakaliosI seem to be tripping over nonfiction books this season, and this is the second tome on physics in just a few weeks! Given how much I enjoyed Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I looked forward to delving into this new “pop science” title on the science behind the objects we use every day. Physics prof Kakalios, author of The Physics of Superheroes, takes the reader through a typical North American’s day to examine how physics impacts our modern lives. This hypothetical day includes a visit to the doctor, a flight, and a public presentation, giving Kakalios a chance to explain everything from electric toothbrushes, fitbits and hybrid cars to touchscreens, x-rays and those electronic keys in a hotel room. Read more of this post

How to Brew, 4th ed., by John J. Palmer (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
How to Brew, 4th ed., by John J. PalmerWowzers! This is a massive resource for anyone interested in brewing their own beer, whether novice or expert. This is the fourth edition, updated and revised to include coverage of the many improvements in brewing technology and techniques in the past decade since the last edition was published. In the preface, author Palmer notes when the book was first published in 2001, people entered the field in hopes of brewing better beer than what could be found on store shelves. Since then, of course, craft brewing has exploded, and you can find tasty beer on shelves and in pubs. So why brew then? For the sheer love of creating a great beer, natch! Read more of this post

Cold Girl, by R. M. Greenaway (2016)

Mystery
Adult
Cold Girl, by R.M. GreenawayI feel a bit ashamed that my interest in this debut Canadian mystery was first piqued by the fact its plot is loosely based on the real-life tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women on the Yellowhead Highway west of Prince George known as the Highway of Tears. Additionally, the author is from Nelson, a nearby West Kootenay town, which is still in B.C. but a good 1500 kms from where she has set this mystery. (That’s how big our gorgeous province is.) Anyway, the “local” setting intrigued me and I picked up a copy from my library. This is the first in a series, and number 2 has just been issued, under the title Undertow. In the series debut, several very different cops are investigating the disappearance of a popular singer, Kiera Rilkoff. Read more of this post

Super Sikh, No. 1, by Eileen K. Alden, Supreet S. Manchanda, and Amit Tayal (2015)

Adventure/Thriller (comic book)
15 to Adult
Super Sikh, No. 1Hey superhero fans – aren’t we long overdue for a badass hero with a turban? Supreet Singh Manchanda and Eileen Kaur Alden launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring their idea to life, and reached their target in just 27 hours! With the help of illustrator Amit Tayal, they launched the first issue in 2015, and have now released the fourth issue. First, it’s not a full-length graphic novel, but rather your traditional comic book, a la Superman and Spiderman. It’s 24 pages of full-colour panels, and issue one, Takeoff and Landing, introduces readers to Deep Singh, our hero, who works for the United Nations Global Unified Defense Force protecting the world on secret agent missions. Read more of this post

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse TysonOne of my roles while working at UBC involved sitting on the Science faculty curriculum committee, where we reviewed proposals for new and changes to courses, programs and degree requirements. As many of you know, my degrees are in history and information studies. So it became a half-serious joke between me and my colleagues that to get a BSc you should know more about pretty much every kind of science, from botany and ecology to physics and math, than I do. Not a high bar, I grant ya. I did complete Grade 12 studies of all the sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics) but as it’s been more than 30 years, my recall is weak at best. Thus I consider myself an excellent judge of the accessibility of this little book, Read more of this post

Beartown, by Fredrik Backman (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
33413128I have been a big fan of Fredrik Backman since reading and being absolutely captivated by his first novel, A Man Called Ove. So I didn’t hesitate when I learned he has a new novel, Beartown. I’m happy to report this novel is as mesmerising as I could have hoped. It is, however, quite a different style of writing. Ove,  Britt-Marie and Every Day could all be described as gentle reads, albeit with often irascible protagonists. This is not a gentle read. It grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you from any smug and comfortable perch. Beartown is a hockey town. It’s dying economically, but when the junior boys’ team (there is no girls’ team) makes it to the semi-finals, the entire community rejoices and pins great hopes on their success. Read more of this post

The Great Outdoors: A User’s Guide, by Brendan Leonard (2017)

Nonfiction
13-Adult
This is the perfect introduction to all things outdoorsy for that person on your list (or yourself) who wants to “get out more” but has no clue how to go about doing it. Think of this sizable tome (300+ pages) like a benevolent uncle sharing wisdom to make sure you will not only survive in the wild but will have a great time out there. The book is organized into six sections, and each one includes discussion of basic safety, techniques, gear, and some helpful tips on everything from how to drive in the snow to having sex in a tent. Not being a Canadian, of course he doesn’t touch the topic of making love in a canoe. Some things are better left to the experts. Read more of this post

Welcome to the Farm: How-to Wisdom from the Elliott Homestead, by Shaye Elliott (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Welcome to the Farm: How-to Wisdom from the Elliott Homestead by Shaye ElliottThis isn’t the first book on homesteading I’ve reviewed, but it’s certainly one of the best. Shaye Elliott began sharing her farmgirl dream in 2010 via a blog, and has created a compilation that is beautifully illustrated with full-colour photos and hand-drawn art. It’s also comprehensive and well organised, complete with a well done table of contents and an absolutely excellent index. Elliott opens with an introduction that explains how she, the granddaughter of an orchardist, managed to convince her non-farmer husband to move across the country and take up farming. She then gets down to business, starting with gardening, focusing primarily on how to build a potager or kitchen garden that will fully meet your family’s needs. Read more of this post

The News from the End of the World, by Emily Jeanne Miller (2017)

Contemporary
Adult
The News from the End of the World, by Emily Jeanne MillerThis is a stew of a family drama, and all the ingredients are there – sibling rivalry, teenaged drama, second marriages and flirty temptations. But it’s missing a little spice, resulting in a weeknight dinner offering rather than anything special. Forty-two-year-old Vance Lake is an adjunct prof who finds himself both homeless and jobless when he does something stupid at work. With no place to go, he lands on his twin brother’s doorstep in the middle of the night, unaware that Craig and Gina are coping poorly with their own family crisis. Daughter Amanda is home unexpectedly from South America, where she was sent in some strange kind of “punishment” for being caught with a joint in her senior year. Read more of this post

All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai (2017)

Science Fiction
Adult
All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan MastaiWhat a lot of fun this first novel turned out to be! Tom Barren lives in Toronto in a version of 2016 that is the future as it was envisioned in the 1950s – flying cars that rely on clean and unlimited energy, food replicators, disposable clothes that fit perfectly and are recycled into new ones, robots and peace. Oh, this world isn’t without its troubles, of course. His dad is a jerk, and his beloved mother was killed by a runaway hover car. (The robot that entered the programming error was dismantled.) Tom struggles with relationships and despite being 32 and the son of one of the smartest physicists around, who happens to invent a time travel device, he has not yet found his vocation. Read more of this post

On Turpentine Lane, by Elinor Lipman (2017)

Romance
Adult
On Turpentine Lane by Elinor LipmanI’ve read only one other book by Elinor Lipman, The Inn at Lake Devine, years before I started this blog, but I’ve never forgotten it. That says a lot about her writing, and I happily dove into this new offering. It doesn’t quite measure up to Lake Devine, in my view, but it’s a lovely choice for a bit of escapism in a winter that is sticking around longer than it should! The book opens with 30-something Faith Frankel deciding to buy a little house on, you guessed it, Turpentine Lane. Smitten by the two-storey home complete with a delightful pineapple newel post, Faith soon negotiates the buy from the owner’s distant daughter, as the actual owner, Mrs. Lavoie, is in hospital, having tried to commit suicide. Faith then finds out the woman’s first, second, and third husbands all died in the house. Read more of this post

The Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas Preston (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas PrestonSet in a jungle teeming with deadly snakes, dengue fever, and drug traffickers, this is the story of an expedition to find a mythological and cursed “lost” city known as Ciudad Blanca (White City) or City of the Monkey God. Jungles, legends, snakes and curses – it’s exactly up Preston’s alley! In his always readable and riveting writing style, Preston describes the history of the legend and how it caught the attention of an American filmmaker, despite many failed efforts to find the fabled city. This time, technology boosts the odds. Using “lidar” (light detection and ranging), a team of scientists, with Preston aboard the rickety plane, conducts a series of flyovers of a portion of the Mosquitia region of Honduras, generating lidar images of the landscape hidden below the thick jungle canopy. Read more of this post

Best. State. Ever. by Dave Barry (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Best. State. Ever. by Dave BarryIt’s getting harder to find humour in what’s happening across the line, so I turned to an old stand-by who delivers exactly what I needed in his latest offering, subtitled A Florida Man Defends his Homeland. Humourist Barry, formerly known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columns, now publishes a series of children’s novels, as well as continuing to write books for adults like this one. In Best. State. Ever., Barry rejects the idea that Floridians are dumb, but accepts that it’s definitely the state of weird, starting with, natch, the 2000 election and its hanging chads. Read more of this post

The River at Night, by Erica Ferencik (2017)

Adventure
Adult
The River at Night, by Erica FerencikLooking for a scary read for a long winter’s evening? Sad from the recent loss of her brother and her marriage, timid Wini sets aside her many misgivings to join her three girlfriends in their annual week-long get-together led by the fearless Pia. This year, Pia has chosen a river rafting trip in the wilds of Maine. Along with emergency room nurse Rachel and teacher Sandra, the four women embark on a 30-mile rafting trip, led by handsome 20-year-old Rory, dreadlocked and muscled, with eyes “the exact green of an asparagus mousse” graphic designer Wini had featured in spring. He’s certainly irresistible to Pia, leading to a noisy hook-up that sets the friends squabbling. Read more of this post