Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind, by Darlene Foster (2017)

Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind, by Darlene FosterTwelve-year-old Amanda and her new friend Cleo are headed to New Mexico with several Grade 6 classmates from Calgary. An artistic bunch, they will be exploring the history and culture of the area, taking time to document the trip through drawings, photographs, and words. Amanda doesn’t believe in ghosts, and neither does her photographer buddy Caleb. But when strange occurrences start happening to Cleo, and then to others in the group, Amanda finds herself wondering if ghosts really do exist. I commend Foster for the meticulous research; readers will learn a great deal about the history and culture of the Ancient Puebloans, early settlers, and modern American natives in the area. Read More »


The Lauras, by Sara Taylor (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
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 »

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

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 »

Best. State. Ever. by Dave Barry (2016)

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 »

The Passenger, by Lisa Lutz (2016)

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 »

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

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 »