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

The Big Bad Fox, by Benjamin Renner (2015, 2017)

Animal Fiction
3-11
The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin RennerInitially thinking this was a picture book and attracted by the cover, I obtained a digital galley from the publisher. Much to my delight, it turned out to be a graphic novel, numbering about 200 pages. Our protagonist is a hapless fox who is seen as no threat at all by either hens or a lazy guard dog. Frustrated and hungry the fox joins forces with a wolf, agreeing to steal eggs and raise the chicks to a tasty size. But the chicks imprint on the fox and he becomes quite attached while they in turn come to believe they are foxes. Given how evil those hens are, this isn’t a bad thing. The plot is enjoyable as the fox struggles to resolve the situation, and schemes his way to a solution. Read more of this post

See You in the Cosmos, by Jack Cheng (2017)

Contemporary
11-14
See You in the Cosmos, by Jack ChengI cheerfully admit to being a low-level space geek, and I can pinpoint my interest precisely to September 1977, when Voyager II and Voyage I (yup, in that order) were launched into space in search of interstellar pals. Each spacecraft carried a Golden Record intended to introduce any intelligent life to life on Earth. Eleven-year-old Alex Petroski has decided to launch Voyager III, complete with a Golden iPod filled with his own recordings for aliens to discover. Overtly a transcript of his recordings, this creative heart-filled novel tells the story of Alex’s remarkable journey over several days, both literally and figuratively. Literally, he and his beloved pup Carl Sagan travel from his home in Colorado to the Southwest High Altitude Rocket Festival in Albuquerque where Alex will launch his homemade rocket into space. 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

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

Fishbowl, by Bradley Somer (2015)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
Fishbowl, by Bradley SomerIan is a goldfish longing for adventure. Life in a fishbowl can be tedious, after all, though Ian’s very poor memory and tiny brain relieve him of the burden of knowing just how boring his life is. But when opportunity presents, he makes a great leap out of the bowl. Over the balcony railing. And down the side of a 27-storey New York City apartment building. As he plunges toward the pavement, where the flashing lights of two ambulances are silently screaming an alarm, his gills forced closed as his velocity increases, Ian flashes past the windows of his fellow residents. And thus we are introduced to eight delightful characters Read more of this post

The Boy Who Knew Too Much, by Commander S.T. Bolivar, III (2016)

Mystery
9-13
The Boy Who Knew Too Much, Munchem Academy 1, by Commander S.T. Bolivar, IIIWhen Mattie Larimore accidentally steals a train (the only time he is caught in his entire criminal career), his father decides the 11-year-old is following too closely in his brother Carter’s footsteps, and sends him to the same reform school, Munchem Academy. As soon as he arrives, Mattie makes it his mission to get back home. He tries being good, but fails miserably when he reacts to a bully who is also his dorm-mate. Carter ignores his pleas for guidance. Mattie finds help in a pair of squabbling siblings, Caroline and Eliot. The three discover that beneath Munchem Academy is a lab that is taking the school’s reform mission to a whole new level. Read more of this post

The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (2016)

Fiction
Adult
The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix SweeneyDysfunction, narcissism, and a delightful combination of ego and self-doubt are the main dishes in this literary feast; prepare to enjoy more than a bit of schadenfreude as we watch the four Plumb siblings deal with the fallout as they make one bad decision after another. Not since Arrested Development have I enjoyed getting to know such a dysfunctional family. Melody is the youngest, living in an upscale suburban home she can’t afford and using an app to keep tabs on her twin daughters. Bea is struggling to rekindle her writer’s spark, surviving on a job as a glorified publishing assistant. Jack’s antiques business is barely solvent and he’s been secretly drawing on equity in his spouse’s cottage to keep it afloat. Read more of this post

Rum Luck, by Ryan Aldred (2016)

Mystery
Adult
Rum Luck, by Ryan AldredCanadian Ben Cooper is in Costa Rica for his honeymoon. But the wedding is off, and instead of waking up with a smile, he comes to in jail with only a fuzzy memory of what happened the night before. Lots, it turns out. In a single booze-fueled evening, Ben developed a wobbly business plan and bought a beach bar with the money he and his bride had saved for a downpayment on a home, locked himself out of his account, lost his phone, and is now charged with the murder of the owner of the bar he just bought. His pal Victoria, a high-priced Toronto lawyer, flies in to bail him out, and with best man Miguel, the three try to determine what exactly happened that night. Read more of this post

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living, by Louise Miller (2016)

Romance
Adult
The City Baker's Guide to Country LivingI love fish out of water stories, and this one has great appeal (though it is primarily a romance). When Olivia Rawlings accidentally sets fire to the swank Boston restaurant where she is both pastry chef and mistress to the married owner, she sensibly takes refuge out of town with her best friend Hannah, who now lives in small-town Guthrie, Vermont. Pregnant Hannah wants her buddy to stay and swiftly finds her a temporary job as the dessert chef at the town’s inn. It even comes with a sugar shack that Livvy can live in with her rambunctious dog Salty. It’s a big switch for Livvy, and the fit is awkward at times, given her penchant for sudden Manic Panic hair dye changes and her f-bombs in a Christian community. Fun! Read more of this post

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, by Scott Stambach (2016)

Contemporary
Ages 16-Adult
The Invisible Life of Ivan IsaenkoIvan Isaenko has lived his entire 17 years in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children, where he spends his days studying and skewering the people around him, reading the books Nurse Natalya brings him, and trying to find sense in a world that he can only watch from the sidelines. Born less than two years after the Chernobyl Reactor disaster, Ivan has never known his parents. He lacks legs, and has one arm and just three fingers on his lone hand. He also has a keen intellect, a wicked sense of humour, and agoraphobia. Other than Nurse Natalya, Ivan keeps everyone at a distance. He prides himself on identifying the “three-monthers” (those whose lives are nearing the end) before the doctors do. Read more of this post

The Loose Ends List, by Carrie Firestone (2016)

Romance
15-21
The Loose Ends List, by Carrie FirestoneHere’s another book where I seem to diverge from the collective views. Maddie is 18 years old and is looking forward to spending her post-high school summer with her best friends as they get ready for college. Her plans are upset when her beloved Gram calls the family together to announce she has cancer, and has booked them all on a world cruise, a “dying with dignity” cruise with other terminal patients and families, by the end of which all the patients will be gone. So let’s look at the good stuff first. This is a young adult novel tackling euthanasia with gusto. These patients choose when to die and a doctor on board gives them the final needle. YA lit often takes on tough topics, and this one is done really well. Read more of this post

The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman, by Mamen Sanchez (2013, 2016)

Romance
Adult
The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus CraftsmanWhen Atticus Finchman is sent to Spain to close a literary magazine, he brings Earl Grey tea, an electric kettle and a proper British teacup. Tea, Atticus has learned, can solve nearly every problem, or at least give you the strength to deal with it. But tea is no match for the five fiery Spanish women whose livelihood is threatened, and they soon devise a scheme to distract the young Englishman from his assignment. But when no one hears from Atticus for three months, his father Marlow travels to Madrid to alert the police, and Inspector Manchego gets the case. Language barriers mis-steps, literary references, and a delightful cast of characters provide a promising start for this romantic mystery that includes an appearance by Ernest Hemingway. Read more of this post

The Rejected Writers’ Book Club, by Suzanne Kelman (2014, 2016)

Romance
Adult
The Rejected Writers' Book ClubThe way to find literary gems is to take a chance on all kinds of offerings. In this case, a delightful cover initially attracted me, followed by the description. Small-town librarian Janet Jones and spouse Martin are empty-nesters living in Southlea Bay, located on a fictional island in Puget Sound off Seattle. They moved there from California, where difficult daughter Stephanie still lives. Determined to catch the rascally raccoons invading the garden, Martin turns to building a trap using duct tape and birdseed, while Janet does some research that lands her at a meeting of the Rejected Writers’ Book Club, led by the forceful Doris Newberry (a joke for children’s lit lovers). Read more of this post