S.T.A.G.S., by M.A. Bennett (2017, 2018)

Mystery
13-16
S.T.A.G.S by M.A. BennettWhat is it about boarding schools that both fascinates and horrifies? I suppose the nostalgia of stories from Enid Blyton to J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts lets us imagine them as a place of besties and grand adventure; the reality of spending every waking moment with the bullies and beasts that populated my high schol is probably more realistic! This novel definitely skews toward the nasty. The subtitle on the North American edition of this British mystery says it all: “Nine students. Three blood sports. One deadly weekend.” From the start, we learn someone dies, and that someone is Henry de Warlencourt, leader of the school’s prefects known as the Medievals. And our protagonist calls herself a murderer, or at least one of them. Read More »

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Wolves of Winter, by Tyrell Johnson (2018)

Dystopian Fiction
Adult
The Wolves of Winter, by Tyrell Johnson“Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive.” When a nuclear war and flu pandemic ravage the world they once knew, Lynn McBride and her small family find refuge in the Yukon Territory. Seven years have passed since Lynn’s father died of the flu and her Uncle Jeryl convinced his sister-in-law to trek from Alaska to the Yukon’s Blackstone Valley. Isolated from whatever remains of the world, the small band of survivors builds cabins and grows a meagre lot of vegetables in springs that never turn to summers. Days are spent gathering firewood and melting snow for water. In a nod to Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games, Lynn is a skilled hunter, setting traplines and using her crossbow to feed the family. Read More »

The Bookshop on the Corner, by Jenny Colgan (2017)

Romance
Adult
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny ColganNina Redmond is a 29-year-old librarian in Birmingham – she has watched life pass by over the top edge of whatever book she is reading. And she is always reading. Her raison d’être is to find the right book for each person at the very moment they need it, and she’s super good at this. So when her library closes and she loses her job, she is devastated. Only two staff members will be re-hired as “knowledge facilitators” at the multimedia hub the city is opening in town, and though she interviews for it, she’s clearly not going to get the job. Librarians, she realizes, are going the way of typewriter repairers. “She felt, at twenty-nine, oddly surplus to life’s requirements.” But at a workshop offered by the library for the reeling staff, Nina finds the courage to voice her dream of opening a bookshop. Given her limited resources, she decides to buy a used van and make it mobile. Read More »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »