Elevation, by Stephen King (2018)

Fantasy
Adult

Elevation, by Stephen King

Here’s an unexpected novella that meets my criteria for a holiday story as we find ourselves needing a break from the shopping and planning. It’s a wee novel, a novella actually, at just under 150 pages. And let me emphasize that while this is set in familiar King territory, it is definitely not horror fiction. Winter is approaching in Castle Rock, where Scott Carey is a web designer with a couple of problems. His new neighbours’ dogs keep pooping on his lawn as their owners, two married women, set out on their daily run. And he’s losing weight, no matter what he eats. At the outset of the book, he’s lost 28 pounds, and is losing a pound or two every day. Astonishingly, his body isn’t changing. He still looks like a middle-aged potbellied man of 240 pounds.

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Home After Dark, by David Small (2018)

Graphic Novel – Historical fiction
15 – Adult
Home After Dark, by David SmallAfter his mother leaves them, Russell and his father move to a small town in 1950s California, hoping to find a new life of sunshine and prosperity. Doesn’t quite work out that way, as anyone who has hoped to “leave it all behind and start fresh” always discovers. Dysfunction follows. They settle in Marshtown, somewhere outside of San Francisco, and his father gets a job teaching English to illiterate prisoners. Food is delivered by a Chinese neighbour, and his father descends into an alcoholic haze. Waiting for middle school to begin, Russell spends his time exploring the new neighbourhood on his bike. Read More »

Forward, by Lisa Maas (2018)

Fiction
Adult
Forward, by Lisa MaasThis raw and touching story of grief, loss and apprehension finds the perfect home in the graphic novel format. Rayanne and Ali, forty-something lesbians living in Victoria, are both alone and determined to keep it that way. Rayanne is still hurting from a bad relationship that ended, not of her choice, several years ago. She has crushes and fantasies, sure, but she ignores them, creating a brittle shell around her heart, despite the well-meaning but exhausting efforts of those around her to find her a mate. (What IS it about happy couples?) Ali is still deeply grieving the loss of her wife Liv to cancer, not quite a year ago, and is confused and slightly ashamed to find herself attracted to a young dog-walker. Read More »

People Like Us, by Dana Mele (2018)

Mystery
14-18
People Like Us, by Dana MeleSo I guess boarding school murders are a thing! This is my second review for today, as I couldn’t help bundling these together given their plot similarities. This one is set in the U.S., on the east coast. Bates Academy is a boarding school for privileged girls from elite families, with a scholarship program that gives Kay Donovan a spot, despite her humble background. As this is her big break, Kay befriends the right group and despite a habit of stocking her closet with borrowed clothes she “forgets” to return, her sharp wit and withering comments quickly earn her a coveted spot in the leadership clique. Now in fourth year, the girls put on the Skeleton costume dance for Halloween, and the book opens as the dance ends and the girls meet at the lake for the annual skinny dip. To their shock, they discover a body in the water, a student named Jessica Lane. Read More »

GIRL: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You, by Karen Rayne (2017)

Nonfiction
14-21
Girl: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You by Karen RayneImagine having an highly discreet older sister who is there every time you have a question that there’s  no WAY you’d ever ask your mum or coolest teacher or even your best friend. Questions about STIs and not getting pregnant or being bisexual or what to expect on a date or how to insert a tampon right so it doesn’t hurt or all the other things that crop up for young people who identify as girls. Written by psychologist and educator Karen Rayne, the book’s stated intent is to address what it means to be a girl, physically, emotionally, and sexually. It’s exactly the kind of book I sought out in my teens as I tried to navigate relationships with my family and friends, transitioning into adulthood while exploring my identity. Read More »

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 »

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 »