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 of this post

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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 of this post

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 of this post

Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin (2017)

Contemporary
Adult
Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle ZevinWhatever happened to Monica Lewinsky? Those of us who remember the scandal that broke exactly 20 years ago this month are likely bemoaning the fact so little has changed, as police officers, movie producers, journalists and others across every industry face allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour in the workplace. But at least now victims’ stories are being heard – 20 years ago, interviews with Lewinsky were done not to understand her side of the story but to broadcast one salacious detail after another. And that’s where this story stands out and shines. Zevin, author of the brilliant and delightful The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, has reimagined the Clinton-Lewinsky affair into a sparkling novel that explores what happens when boundaries are crossed, decisions can’t be reversed, and lives are forever impacted. Read more of this post

Bonfire, by Krysten Ritter (2017)

Mystery
Adult
Bonfire, by Krysten RitterAbby Williams is one of the few to escape her small town in Indiana and get an education. She is now an environmental lawyer in Chicago, with a great future, a sweet apartment, and a set of friends, along with a rotation of bed partners. Despite her success she has barely unpacked her belongings in her big-city apartment. This is someone who is either living a lie or can’t shake her roots and is poised to escape again. Perhaps a bit of both. The book open as Abby returns home to investigate Optimal Plastics, the town’s main employer, for allegations of water pollution. She hasn’t been back in 10 years, though her father still lives in the aptly named Barrens. Abby has just pulled into town when her old nemesis Misha Dale appears. Read more of this post

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

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 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

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

The River at Night, by Erica Ferencik (2017)

Adventure
Adult
The River at Night, by Erica FerencikLooking for a scary read for a long winter’s evening? Sad from the recent loss of her brother and her marriage, timid Wini sets aside her many misgivings to join her three girlfriends in their annual week-long get-together led by the fearless Pia. This year, Pia has chosen a river rafting trip in the wilds of Maine. Along with emergency room nurse Rachel and teacher Sandra, the four women embark on a 30-mile rafting trip, led by handsome 20-year-old Rory, dreadlocked and muscled, with eyes “the exact green of an asparagus mousse” graphic designer Wini had featured in spring. He’s certainly irresistible to Pia, leading to a noisy hook-up that sets the friends squabbling. 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 Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware (2016)

Mystery
Adult
The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth WareTravel journalist Laura Blacklock gets a great assignment that could give her the career push she needs – an inaugural cruise aboard a luxury ship – more of a yacht, really, with just 10 cabins. Just before she sets sail, a burglar breaks into her apartment, leaving Laura feeling rattled and deeply anxious. She embarks on the trip anyway, and spends the first night drinking too much. So when she hears a scream and a splash in the middle of the night, no one believes her, especially since the cabin is supposed to be empty. But Laura knows that’s not the case, having borrowed mascara from a woman in the cabin. Determined to prove her story, she persists in asking questions, though it means risking attracting the killer’s attention. If there is one. Read more of this post