Krista Kim-bap, by Angela Ahn (2018)

Contemporary Fiction
Krista Kim-bap, by Angela AhnLibrarians and writers often share the same circles, but it might surprise you to learn how many writers ARE librarians. Lewis Carroll, Sarah Ellis, Kit Pearson, Bill Richardson, Beverly Cleary, to name just a few. And now Angela Ahn joins this fine group. As she and I went to library school together at UBC, I was both delighted and secretly a bit apprehensive when her publisher, Second Story Press, agreed to provide me with a digital copy for review. What if I don’t like it? But I’m happy to report this is a truly enjoyable story that celebrates culture, friendship, and family. Krista Kim is almost 12 years old and lives with her Korean-Canadian mum, dad, and sister Tori in Vancouver. Read More »


Women in Sunlight, by Frances Mayes (2018)

Women in Sunlight, by Frances MayesFrances Mayes is the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, a nonfiction memoir of her move to an Italian villa brought to the big screen featuring Diane Lane and the inimitable Canadian Sandra Oh. It was a huge seller, capitalizing on the North American longing for days of wine, good food and roses, sunlight and Italian lovers. I bet the pull of Italia, la dolce vita, is stronger today than ever. This is a fictional take on the story, featuring three American women, from “the South,” who decide to leap before looking (check out the cover again) and surprise everyone they know by renting an Italian villa, sight unseen, for a year. The three met at an open house for a retirement village, a move none of them wants to make despite its being the most rational step at their age. Read More »

Murder on Brittany Shores, by Jean-Luc Bannalec (2016)

Murder on Brittany Shores, by Jean-Luc BannalecThree bodies wash ashore on a remote and uninhabited island off the French shore in Brittany after a storm. Despite the fact this is almost certainly an accident, Commissaire Georges Dupin is obliged to abandoned his beloved morning coffee and croissant at the local cafe in order to investigate. The islands fall within his area of responsibility. And to make matters worse, his boss, the hated Prefect, is using the helicopter, and so Dupin must travel by speedboat. He, a man who does not swim, who loves being AT the sea but not being ON the sea. It’s an important distinction. Robbed of his morning caffeine, Dupin heads off in full-blown cranky mode, and sure enough, gets thoroughly wet. Read More »

Cry, Heart, But Never Break, by Glenn Ringtved (2001, 2016)

Illustrated Book
Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn RingtvedThis is the second of two books I’m reviewing today on grief and death. They are challenging issues for any of us, and when children are involved, books can offer a way for adults to help kids grasp an understanding of death and accept the pain of loss. This tender and sensitive book offers an honest and gentle approach to an impending loss. Four children are sharing a kitchen table with Death, who has come for their beloved grandmother. Death is presented as a visitor, a kind one, whose heart is surprisingly full of a love for life. The children naturally try to deter Death from his task. Read More »

Baseball Bats for Christmas, by Michael Kusugak (1990, 2017)

Children’s Fiction
Baseball Bats for Christmas by Michael KusugakWhat fun it is to discover a classic for the first time! The 2017 reissue of this popular children’s picture book gave me the chance to finally read this award-winning Inuit story, based on the author’s own lived experience. When the bush pilot Rocky Parsons delivers a load of Christmas trees in 1955, the children of Repulse Bay are intrigued. Only Peter knows what they are. “Standing ups,” he declares, having seen them in pictures shown him by Father Didier. Asked what they are for, he simply shrugs. But when someone gets a ball for Christmas, the purpose of these standing ups becomes clear to the children – standing ups are ideal for making baseball bats! Read More »

Zero Repeat Forever, by G.S. Prendergast (2017)

Science Fiction
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 »

Chemistry, by Weike Wang (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
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 »