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 fiancĂ©e 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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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

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

Marrow Island, by Alexis W. Smith (2016)

Mystery
Adult
Marrow Island, by Alexis SmithThirty-something journalist Lucie Bowen returns to the island where her father lost his life in a fire at an oil refinery following a fictional earthquake that levelled Seattle. Twenty years have passed, and people have rebuilt the cities and their lives. Little seems to have changed. Is it a triumph of the human spirit or a foolish ignorance of the inevitable? Despite the chemical spills and contamination that followed the refinery fire, a small eco-minded colony is apparently thriving on Marrow Island. One of its residents is Lucie’s childhood friend Katie, who invites Lucie to visit and see what remarkable changes have resulted from to the Colony’s environmental efforts. Read more of this post

The Passenger, by Lisa Lutz (2016)

Thriller
Adult
The PassengerWhen Tanya Dubois discovers her husband Frank’s body at the bottom of the stairs, she panics. She had nothing to do with it, but she instantly goes on the run and assumes a new identity. Again. She can’t afford to have the police looking into her background. We don’t know why, but we know she is escaping a past that involved another person’s death. Now Amelia Keen, she ends up in Austin, TX, where she meets Blue, a woman whose own murky past means she immediately recognizes a fellow liar. Amelia has to trust Blue when circumstances force them into an unlikely criminal partnership. But in no time at all, the past appears on Amelia’s doorstep and she’s on the run again. Read more of this post

Bone Dust White, by Karin Salvalaggio (2014)

Mystery
Adult
Bone Dust WhiteEighteen-year-old Grace Adams is recovering from a heart transplant when she witnesses a murder, literally in her back yard. Equally shockingly, the victim is the mother who left her behind 11 years ago, only one in a series of damaging circumstances in her young life. Heavily pregnant detective Macy Greeley is sent to Collier from Helena, Montana, to solve the murder that re-opens the human trafficking case involving Grace’s mother more than a decade ago. Collier is a small town, and Grace can’t avoid being tarnished by her mother’s reputation, leaving her isolated and lonely, ripe for being victimized again. This is a debut novel, the first in a series, in fact. Read more of this post

Movie Game, by Michael Ebner (2016)

Mystery
Ages 16-25
Movie GameIt’s been three years since Joe’s girlfriend suddenly died on the same night he caught his mother in bed with someone not his father. His father left the family and never came back, and his mother abandoned her nearly-adult children to move in with her lover. Joe’s now 17, has regular sex with a girl who already has a boyfriend, and devotes all his time to movies. A cinephile who stalks and threatens the talkers and popcorn-chewers who disrupt his film experience, Joe lives in the family home with his sister, Loren, who fools the neighbours by regularly hanging her mother’s clothes on the line. Finishing university with no social life to speak of, Loren has a job offer in Paris but won’t walk away from her responsibilities. Read more of this post