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

Advertisements

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

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

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

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

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

Install Your Own Solar Panels, by Joseph Burdick and Philip Schmidt (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Install Your Own Solar Panels, by Joseph Burdick and Philip SchmidtWe have been using solar to power our little campervan for several years now, with spectacular success, keeping the wee fridge going strong and powering up batteries for all our devices! Now that we have moved away from the Wet Coast to a sun-drenched clime, we are looking into the challenges of going solar at home. Our librarian knows of my interest and bought this title (so awesome! right?!!) from Storey Publishing, known for its well-designed how-to titles with a “simple living” and environmental focus. Anyway, this book is intended for homeowners who, like me, don’t know much about the science of solar, but can handle basic tools and follow instructions. Read more of this post

Chemistry, by Weike Wang (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
Chemistry, by Weike WangMy work at UBC included time advising graduate students, a small number of whom were pursuing PhDs. I can attest they are (obvs) brilliant, thoughtful, and dedicated to their research. Frequently they are also full of self-doubt, exhausted, and terrified of what the future will bring (or not, in the case of tenured job prospects). This book is a tragi-comedie about the struggle and breakdown of one PhD student at a Boston university. You’d think humour would be scarce in a story of a mental breakdown, but Wang finds plenty of ways to make the reader burst out laughing. Told in the first person, the story has only one named character – Eric, who like our protagonist, is completing a PhD in chemistry. Read more of this post

The Animators, by Kayla Rae Whitaker (2016)

Contemporary
Adult
The Animators by Kayla Rae WhitakerIn The Animators, two young women meet in a drawing class at a posh upper New York college and discover a shared background of what one character calls their “white trashiness.” Mel Vaught is outgoing, brash, and fearless, and wants to be a cartoonist. Sharon Kisses is quiet and talented, but oh so full of doubt. But both are fiercely ambitious, and by graduation they are not only best friends but business partners in creating animation. They also share troubled childhoods; Mel draws to understand her past, and Sharon draws to escape it. Ten years later, now living in New York City, Mel and Sharon find critical success with their first full-length feature, based on Mel’s difficult childhood with a hooker mother and a series of misbehaving “stepdads.” Read more of this post

Base Camp Las Vegas, 2nd ed., by Deborah Wall (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Base Camp Las Vegas by Deborah WallI cheerfully admit that I really like going to Las Vegas. I love exploring the streets to check out the architecture and decor, from the miniature Brooklyn Bridge at New York New York to the stunning Dale Chihuly glass sculptures and the water fountain performance at the Bellagio. But after a day or so of dodging fellow tourists while exploring the Strip and the even-better Freemont Street, I am ready for some day hiking in Valley of Fire or Red Rock Canyon. This is just the book to make sure you have a great time exploring local wild spaces while enjoying evenings in the City that Never Sleeps. This is a revised edition of the 2010 publication, adding 40 more hikes all within a reasonable drive of Vegas. Read more of this post

The Lauras, by Sara Taylor (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
16-Adult
The Lauras by Sara TaylorAlex’s mother hits the road in the middle of the night after a final fight with her husband. It’s not the first time she has taken off, but this time it’s with pubescent Alex, who struggles with Ma’s decision to leave without telling Dad where they are going. It is the start of a years-long journey crisscrossing the United States as Ma reconnects with significant people and places from her past, settling debts and scores and fulfilling long-ago promises. The title refers to the Lauras Ma has known throughout her life, giving Taylor a useful device for slowly revealing key events in Ma’s own story. The book is narrated in the first person by Alex, some 30 years hence, though it is set in this century. Read more of this post