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

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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‚Äôs 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

The Chalk Pit, by Elly Griffiths (2017)

Mystery
Adult
The Chalk Pit by Elly GriffithsThis is the ninth installment in this mystery series set in Norfolk England, in which archaeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway teams up with Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson to solve crimes, quite similar to Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan series. When bones are found in an ancient tunnel by a restaurateur planning to open an upscale underground eatery, Galloway attends and soon determines the bones are not as ancient as first thought. Additionally, she finds evidence the bones were boiled, suggesting a possible crime. Meanwhile, Nelson’s team is also investigating a missing homeless woman (“rough sleeper in England-speak), and the urgency of the matter intensifies when someone stabs and kills the person who reported her missing. Read more of this post

The Little French Bistro, by Nina George (2010, 2017)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
The Little French Bistro by Nina GeorgeHere is another story of life and love found at last by middle-aged characters from the German writer who gave us The Little Paris Bookshop. Originally published in German in 2010, this English translation, again by Simon Pare, comes on the heels of George’s success with Bookshop. Living in a loveless marriage to a truly horrid man, Marianne decides to end her life by jumping off a bridge over the Seine in Paris. The attempt fails and she is hospitalized. Following a visit by her furious husband, she walks out after stealing a lovely hand-painted tile depicting a seaside town in Brittany. Enchanted by the sea she has never seen, Marianne decides to go there and complete her suicide by walking into the sea. Read more of this post

My Life with Bob, by Pamela Paul (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
My Life with Bob, by Pamela PaulThe title is a pun, it’s a book about reading books, and my spouse is nicknamed Bob. How could I resist??! And what a great premise. Our reading choices say so much about us. Imagine how well a stranger would understand you if she could only browse through all the books you’d read. Well, Paul has essentially opened herself up to us in just this way. Currently the editor of The New York Times Book Review, Paul is also the author of three other works of nonfiction, The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony; Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families ; and Parenting, Inc.: How the Billion-Dollar Baby Business Has Changed the Way We Raise Our Children. By those titles alone I think she’d make a fascinating dinner guest. But wait, there’s more! Read more of this post

Fiery Ferments, by Kirsten Shockey and Christopher Shockey (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Fiery Ferments, by Kirsten Shockey and Christopher ShockeyIf you follow food blogs, you’ll know that fermented foods are gaining new interest, beyond sauerkraut. Turns out you can ferment almost any vegetable, though obviously some lend themselves better to the pickle-y flavour than others. Having made my own sauerkraut with surprising success, I am interested in furthering my forays into fermentation (sorry – I simply cannot resist a powerful alliteration). In this follow-up to their first book, Fermented Vegetables, the Oregon couple has put together an excellent recipe and instruction book for creating “hot sauces, spicy chutneys, kimchis with kick, and other blazing fermented condiments,” according to the lengthy sub-title. Read more of this post

150 Years of Stats Canada! A Guide to Canada’s Greatest Country, by Andrew Bondy, et al (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
150 Years of Stats Canada! A Guide to Canada's Greatest CountryHappiest birthday wishes to the best country on our planet, imho, celebrating just 150 years of giving the world lumberjack shirts, playoff beards, top curlers and hockey for both men AND women, timbits and a hungry market for cheese from all over the world, to name just a few things. I’m so grateful to live here, and wish the rest of the world could adopt a bit more Canadian outlook, including a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour. Which brings me to today’s timely review, from the brilliant satirical team behind the Canadian Twitter sensation @stats_canada, whose hilarious tweets have ill-informed thousands of followers for some five years now. Read more of this post