Movie Game, by Michael Ebner (2016)

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


The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (2013, 2016)

The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendThis is a book for booklovers. A book about books, in the vein of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or 84, Charing Cross Road. Sara Lindqvist is a self-described mousy-haired bookshop clerk from Sweden. She has been exchanging letters for some two and a half years with Amy Harris, who lives in the downtrodden and tiny town of Broken Wheel, Iowa. When the bookshop closes and Sara finds herself out of a job and with plenty of time on her hands, she accepts Amy’s offer of a place to stay, and makes the voyage with intentions of spending her days chatting about books and life with her pen pal. Alas, she arrives to discover that Amy was in fact quite ill, and has passed away. Read more of this post

A Redbird Christmas, by Fannie Flagg (2004)

A Redbird ChristmasReliable Southern fiction writer Fannie Flagg won me over on the second page as she introduced Oswald T. Campbell, a 52-year-old orphan who visits the doctor to discover he has months to live. In filling out the damn forms the doctor’s receptionist thrusts at him, he comes to a space asking him to list his complaints. He doesn’t hesitate: “The Cubs need a new second baseman.” Instead Oswald is told to abandon Chicago and its wintry weather. The good doc even fishes out a faded brochure for an inexpensive resort in Lost River, Alabama. Turns out the place burned down in 1911, but Oswald is lucky and connects with a helpful resident who picks up the phone at the community centre. She takes his number and as promised, calls back with an offer Oswald can’t refuse – a $50/week room in Betty Kitchen’s home, including meals. Read more of this post

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon (2015)

Everything, EverythingWe have all heard of babies born so allergic they live in a bubble. A sterile world designed to protect them from the perils of everyday life: germs, bacteria, and even otherwise benign things that might trigger a deadly reaction. Imagine living this life. What would it be like to spend your childhood and adolescence protected from dangers but with virtually no contact with the outside world? To have never known a car ride, the jostle of strangers in a line-up, or the earthy smell of the air after a rainstorm. This is the life Madeline Whittier lives with her mother, a physician, and Carla, her daytime nurse. Learning is by skype, with very occasional visits by tutors, who must keep a cautious distance. Read more of this post

Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Marty Wingate (2015)

Between a Rock and a Hard PlaceLooking for a quirky new cozy mystery series? How about a Texan garden historian transplanted to the U.K., where she falls for a Detective Inspector and solves murder mysteries as easily as she can reel off the Latin names of your favourite English perennial? Pru Parke is the 50-something protagonist again appearing in what is the third entry in the Potting Shed Mystery series. It can be read as a standalone, but there are enough distracting references to past events that you might want to seek out Book 1 first. This title opens not with death but with love, as Pru accepts a surprise marriage proposal from her beloved, Christopher Pearse. Read more of this post

The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George (2013, 2015)

Literary Romance
The Little Paris BookshopWhat a wonderfully multicultural novel this turns out to be! Originally written in German by Nina George and published in 2013, it has been translated into English by Simon Pare. The novel is set in France, and features mostly French characters, as well as a wonderfully earthy Italian lover and cook. Jean Perdu is our protagonist, who has been mourning the loss of his great love Manon, who left him two decades ago. Now 50, he lives in an unadorned Paris apartment and operates a book barge, The Literary Apothecary, moored on the banks of the Seine. From the barge he dispenses books as therapy for emotional ailments. Until he meets Catherine, a neighbour who is in deep emotional pain after being discarded by her husband. Read more of this post

The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules, by Catharina Ingelman Sundberg (2012, 2014)

LittleOldLadyA group of five elderly folk rebel against the restrictions and cost-cutting measures imposed on them in the retirement home, and decide to embark on a life of crime. This book opens with such promise – 79-year-old Martha Andersson grips the handles of her walker and makes her way into the bank, checking out security as she waits her turn. Much fitter than she used to be as a result of illicit time in the gym, she makes an effort to seem feeble and nonthreatening. Little does the teller know what is about to unfold. This book, an international bestseller originally published in Swedish, caught my attention on the bookshelves at a nearby store, and I patiently waited for its arrival from my public library. Read more of this post

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, by Rachel Joyce (2015, 2014)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult (middle aged and up)
Love Song of Miss Queenie HennessyRemember the amazing 600-mile trek across England we followed in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry? A letter arrives from his former colleague Queenie Hennessy letting him know she is dying. With little thought and no planning, Harold heads off to see her one last time. On foot. He writes to let her know and asks her to wait for him. In this companion novel, Queenie is in the hospice, living out her last days. She gets Harold’s first note, asking her to wait. Wait? She’s dying! Sister Mary Inconnu convinces her to make her own journey while she waits, writing out the story she wishes she had told Harold all those years ago. It’s not easy – Queenie has difficulty speaking and holding a pencil, and she is losing her words. Read more of this post

The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion (2014)

Romance (but quirky)
The Rosie EffectAs mentioned at the end of my review of The Rosie Project, author Graeme Simsion is again focusing his sharp storytelling skills on Don Tillman, the genetics professor with Asperger’s whose problem-solving approach to life has led him to marriage with Rosie, despite her clear unsuitability as a partner. This second novel opens in New York City, where the couple has moved so Rosie can pursue both PhD and MD studies at Columbia, where Don has been hired as a faculty member. They eventually settle into a lovely apartment thanks to Don’s inimitable approach to life. It has a great view, lots of space, but it’s also a rich guy’s beer cellar, and Don is the beerkeeper. Read more of this post

Landline, by Rainbow Rowell (2014)

LandlineRainbow Rowell uses the universal human lament – if only I knew then what I know now – and spins a new adult tale of true love nearly gone wrong. Georgie McCool (yup, that’s her real name – so awesome that when she marries Neal insists she keeps it) is a comedy script writer in Hollywood whose star is on the rise. The promise of a new show forces her to choose between working on four scripts to nail the offer or spending Christmas with hubby and daughters at the in-laws. She chooses wrong. When Neal takes the girls to Nebraska without her, Georgie is stunned but shakes it off and buckles down with colleagues, staying at her mother’s for the interim. Georgie insists nothing is wrong with her marriage. Read more of this post

Walking on Trampolines, by Frances Whiting (2013, 2015)

16 to Adult
Walking on TrampolinesThis book opens with an awesome premise. Lulu wakes up, remembering yesterday’s wedding: the guests, her father’s assurance everything would be okay. She looks at the groom sleeping beside her, a bit of confetti in his tousled hair. Except she is not the bride. She’s the bride’s best friend. Whammo! Quickly dubbed the Wedding Night Shagger, Lulu slinks to her parents’ home in shame. The story shifts back about 10 years, when Annabelle Andrews strides into the Australian schoolroom and chooses the empty seat next to 12-year-old Lulu: “‘Tallulah de Longland,’ she said slowly, letting all the Ls in my name loll about lazily in her mouth before passing judgement. ‘That,’ she announced, ‘is a seriously glamorgeous name.'” Read more of this post

Melt, by Selene Castrovilla (2014)

Ages 15-18
MeltSixteen-year-old Dorothy is new to town, affluent and sophisticated. She’s trying to fit in, and joins her new pal Amy at the local hangout, a doughnut and coffee shop. It’s there she locks eyes and instantly falls for Joey, bruised and damaged but equally smitten. It took all I had as a reader to keep going, especially since the book opens with a brutal description of domestic violence. Written in alternating voices, Joey’s story is written in verse form while Dorothy, the literate one, writes in full narrative prose. At first I thought the shift was also in time, revealing how hate between husband and wife originally began as love. But no, it’s the story of Joey’s family life, intended to reinforce how different the lives are for these mismatched teens. Read more of this post

The Opposite of Maybe, by Maddie Dawson (2014)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult (ovaries a must)
The Opposite of MaybeI don’t remember requesting this book, so when it arrived from the library and I read the synopsis, I sighed. More chicklit – really? Rosie is 44 years old and a single act of unprotected sex with her lover of 15 years gets her pregnant. She thinks it’s early menopause. Meanwhile, she is struggling with Soapie, her aging grandmother who is enjoying her own romance more than Rosie is with Jonathan. Soapie needs live-in care, and invites her gardener, hunky 33-year-old Tony who needs a place to stay as his marriage has disintegrated. This may be best described as a love pentangle … Predictable plot, redeemed somewhat with likeable characters and realistic dialogue. Read more of this post

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin (2014)

Romance, sorta
The Storied Life of A.J. FikryA.J. Fikry is an irascible bookstore owner eking out a living on an East Coast island, grieving the loss of his wife and dousing the pain with alcohol. He pushes everyone away, including his sister-in-law and especially publisher reps who annoy him with fall lists and advance reading copies of trashy fiction. None can compare to the perfection of the short story, he asserts, a position reinforced by his serendipitous discovery of an incredibly valuable first edition of Poe’s early short stories. One evening, he passes out with the book in hand, only to wake up and discover the book is gone. Resigned to the loss, he nonetheless reports the theft, thus initiating a friendship with the local police chief who is not much of a reader. Read more of this post

Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith (2014)

Genre: Science Fiction
Appeal: 14-21
Grasshopper JungleRemember how impressed I was by the reliable science behind The Martian? Yeah, that doesn’t happen here. This can only be described as a darkly – nay, blackly – comic end-of-the-world coming-of-age twisted tale about sexual identity. Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba is in love with both his best friend Robby and his girlfriend Shann. Still a virgin, he is “so confused” about his sexuality and what makes him horny, because pretty much everything does – a touch from Shann, a kiss from Robby, the thought of a threesome, Robby’s mother, the floor of a laundromat … at the same time, the end of the world as we know it has arrived in Eeling, Iowa, in the form of giant bugs. Read more of this post