The Lauras, by Sara Taylor (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
16-Adult
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 of this post

The Little French Bistro, by Nina George (2010, 2017)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
The Little French Bistro by Nina GeorgeHere is another story of life and love found at last by middle-aged characters from the German writer who gave us The Little Paris Bookshop. Originally published in German in 2010, this English translation, again by Simon Pare, comes on the heels of George’s success with Bookshop. Living in a loveless marriage to a truly horrid man, Marianne decides to end her life by jumping off a bridge over the Seine in Paris. The attempt fails and she is hospitalized. Following a visit by her furious husband, she walks out after stealing a lovely hand-painted tile depicting a seaside town in Brittany. Enchanted by the sea she has never seen, Marianne decides to go there and complete her suicide by walking into the sea. Read more of this post

The Great Outdoors: A User’s Guide, by Brendan Leonard (2017)

Nonfiction
13-Adult
This is the perfect introduction to all things outdoorsy for that person on your list (or yourself) who wants to “get out more” but has no clue how to go about doing it. Think of this sizable tome (300+ pages) like a benevolent uncle sharing wisdom to make sure you will not only survive in the wild but will have a great time out there. The book is organized into six sections, and each one includes discussion of basic safety, techniques, gear, and some helpful tips on everything from how to drive in the snow to having sex in a tent. Not being a Canadian, of course he doesn’t touch the topic of making love in a canoe. Some things are better left to the experts. Read more of this post

The Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas Preston (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas PrestonSet in a jungle teeming with deadly snakes, dengue fever, and drug traffickers, this is the story of an expedition to find a mythological and cursed “lost” city known as Ciudad Blanca (White City) or City of the Monkey God. Jungles, legends, snakes and curses – it’s exactly up Preston’s alley! In his always readable and riveting writing style, Preston describes the history of the legend and how it caught the attention of an American filmmaker, despite many failed efforts to find the fabled city. This time, technology boosts the odds. Using “lidar” (light detection and ranging), a team of scientists, with Preston aboard the rickety plane, conducts a series of flyovers of a portion of the Mosquitia region of Honduras, generating lidar images of the landscape hidden below the thick jungle canopy. Read more of this post

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

Nonfiction
Adult
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 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 Northwest Coastal Explorer, by Robert Steelquist

Nonfiction
Adult
The Northwest Coastal ExplorerFrom British Columbia to Oregon, our region offers a plethora of natural wonders that delight the eyes and years, caress (and sometimes assault) the nose, and invite wandering and exploration. It’s only natural that we have questions about these beautiful spots and the creatures that live here. Naturalist/photographer Robert Steelquist offers a handy guide for those who want to know more about our beautiful coast. Steelquist begins by providing a lesson on the northwest coast ecology and the powers that have shaped what we see today. He covers plate tectonics, ocean processes such as currents, upwelling, and tides, and the climate that gives us lush forests and moderate temperatures. 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

The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman, by Mamen Sanchez (2013, 2016)

Romance
Adult
The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus CraftsmanWhen Atticus Finchman is sent to Spain to close a literary magazine, he brings Earl Grey tea, an electric kettle and a proper British teacup. Tea, Atticus has learned, can solve nearly every problem, or at least give you the strength to deal with it. But tea is no match for the five fiery Spanish women whose livelihood is threatened, and they soon devise a scheme to distract the young Englishman from his assignment. But when no one hears from Atticus for three months, his father Marlow travels to Madrid to alert the police, and Inspector Manchego gets the case. Language barriers mis-steps, literary references, and a delightful cast of characters provide a promising start for this romantic mystery that includes an appearance by Ernest Hemingway. Read more of this post

The Elements of Pizza, by Ken Forkish (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Elements of PizzaIn my continuing search for a better pizza dough recipe, I discovered this new offering that takes homemade pizza to a new level. It opens with an exploration of the differences between the classic pizzas of Italy and its best delicious derivatives in North America. Breadmaking expert Forkish presents what I dare to call the terroir (normally referring to wine) that makes each region’s specialty unique and delectable – the geographical nuances of taste and culture. In its birthplace of Naples, Forkish tells us, the original recipe included eggs and sugar, but not tomatoes. The form we know and love today emerged about 300 years ago, Read more of this post

The Quality of Silence, by Rosamund Lupton (2016)

Mystery
Adult
The Quality of SilenceWhen Yasmin Alfredson arrives at the Fairbanks airport, she is expecting her film photographer husband Matt. Instead, the Alaska State Police tell her he is one of 24 people killed in a fire that levelled the tiny remote village where he was staying the winter. She refuses to believe it, pointing to a dropped phone call in the middle of the U.K. night just before she and daughter Ruby flew out. Ignoring police entreaties to accept the painful evidence of his wedding ring and satphone in the ashes, Yasmin sets out for Anaktue, Ruby in tow. Planes are grounded due to weather, and she finds a trucker heading north who agrees to take them partway, accepting her story of meeting a tour group. Lupton’s characters are deeply affecting. Read more of this post

Lost & Found, by Brooke Davis, 2014, 2016

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
Lost&FoundSeven-year-old Millie Bird wears red rubber boots to match her red hair. Obsessed about death, she collects her observations in The Book of Dead Things. Entry one is a spider; number 28 is her dad. The story opens as Millie’s mother tells her to wait in the “Ginormous Underwear” section of an Australian department store, walking away in gold shoes. She never returns. After a couple of adventurous days and nights of waiting, Millie escapes the clutches of the store’s security and returns to an empty house. She befriends two elderly people, 87-year-old Karl the Touch Typist, who has himself escaped a nursing home, and crazy neighbour Agatha Pantha, a widow whose method of coping with grief is to yell. Loudly. At everyone. Read more of this post

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

Romance
Adult
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

Satisfaction, by Andee Reilly

Contemporary
Adult
SatisfactionGinny Martin is 22 years old and looking for herself after she discovers her husband is having an affair. A longtime Rolling Stones fan, she buys single tickets for their North American tour and hits the road, starting in California. Along the way she meets Bree, a thirty-something waiting tables instead of caring for her teenaged daughter and her ageing mother. Bree is a wild child who flirts her way backstage and hasn’t paid for a concert ticket in years. Together they embark on the road trip of a lifetime. So let me first say I am not particularly familiar with Stones’ songs. I missed a lot the first read-through, not understanding the use of song titles like “Waiting on a Friend,” “Gimme Shelter,” or “Paint It Black.” (Told you I’m not a fan.) Read more of this post

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

Mystery
Adult
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