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

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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

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

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

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver, by Lorri Horn (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
9-12
Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver, by Lorri HornWherever there are parents, there will be problems for their kids. Bedtime too early; overprotective mums, embarrassing dads – whatever the issue, Dewey Fairchild can help. When Dewey finds success solving his friend Seraphina’s problem, he opens a business helping his Grade 5 classmates with a gamut of grown-up griefs. Things get so busy he recruits his neighbour and long-time (really, really long-time!) family friend Clara to help as an assistant. She is organized and bakes the best cookies, which she shares generously with clients and staff alike. Young readers will laugh out loud at the problems Dewey gets to solve, and enjoy his research-intensive approach to figuring out how to resolve matters for his friends. 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

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

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 Goat, by Anne Fleming (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
9-12
The Goat, by Anne FlemingEleven-year-old Kid moves from Toronto to New York City for a six-month stay while her actor/screenwriter mother works on an off-Broadway production. Teacher Dad is going to work on his own play while homeschooling Kid, which includes daily visits to various NYC museums. They are staying in cousin Doug’s apartment just off Central Park, looking after his dog Cat while Doug is in Europe. When Kid discovers the rumour of a good-luck goat on top of the building, she teams up with new friend Will to find out the truth. Along the way, Fleming switches voices so the diverse residents in the building get to share their stories, including the goat himself! Read more of this post