The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, by Chelsea Sedoti (2017)

Mystery
15-21
The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, by Chelsea SedotiWhen the beautiful Lizzie Lovett disappears after a reportedly happy evening of camping with her boyfriend, Hawthorn Creely’s high school is buzzing with excitement. Not much happens in Griffin Mills, and Hawthorn is quick to join the locals in speculating on the cause of Lizzie’s disappearance, even while the search parties are frantically combing the woods around the campsite where she was last seen. Hawthorn’s older brother Rush, who dated Lizzie when they were seniors in high school, is apparently devastated, which strikes Hawthorn as odd since they haven’t spoken in years. Now a senior herself, Hawthorn recalls the kindness Lizzie once showed her, followed by a mortifying snub that still hurts. 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

100 Plants to Feed the Bees, by the Xerces Society (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
100 Plants to Feed the Bees, by the Xerces SocietyAs I live in an area known for its bountiful harvests, and I am building a vegetable garden, it’s a no-brainer that my flower garden needs to include lots of pollinator attractants. For this reason, my annual garden book selection for your New Year is about attracting bees. This new title from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is aimed at gardeners and farmers in the US and most of Canada, excluding the far north. The subtitle, “Provide a Healthy Habitat to Help Pollinators Thrive,” is a bit misleading, since the focus of the book is a list of bee-friendly plants, rather than considering all aspects of a habitat. Still, the premise is simple – plant lots of flowers and don’t damage or kill the native plants. Read more of this post

The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete (1991, 2011)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New SketeIf a family puppy finds its way under your tree this year (either joining your household now, or as in our case, in spring) sprint to the store for a copy of this highly recommended classic puppy training book, recently updated and reissued for its 20th anniversary. The book was first written in 1991 by the monks of a New York state monastery with a breeding kennel. The monks’ approach is simple. Your dog is your companion, and it’s your responsibility to train your puppy.A well-behaved pooch doesn’t bark uncontrollably or jump on small children, responds to your command to leave that dead thing in the grass alone, and lies quietly even when you are eating at the table. So how do we get there? Read more of this post

Quilting Is My Therapy, by Angela Walters (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Quilting Is My Therapy, by Angela WaltersAs I embark on a new phase of my life, the prospect of quilting is both appealing and incredibly daunting. I love the idea of quilting – the time, patience, and frankly love that it takes to piece leftover scraps of fabric into a creation that is both beautiful and useful. The daunting part is that I’m worried I’ll never finish, or that it will look quite amateurish. So now you’ll understand why I picked up Walters’ book; in her introduction, she expresses a hope that the pictures will inspire rather than intimidate, and more to my point, she advises “don’t strive for perfection; strive for completion, remembering that a finished quilt is always better than a perfectly quilted [unfinished] one” (p.9, addition mine). Read more of this post

Project Apollo: The Early Years, 1961-1967, by Eugen Reichl (2016)

Nonfiction
13 to Adult
Project Apollo: The Early Years 1961-1967, by Eugen ReichlHow sadly appropriate that I’m writing this on the day American astronaut and space pioneer John Glenn passed away, Dec. 8. You don’t have to be too much of a space geek to enjoy this introduction to the unmanned Apollo missions that preceded Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s steps on the moon. This is the third book in the America in Space series (after Project Mercury and Project Gemini), all authored by Reichl, an aerospace expert who works for the European Aeronautic Defence and Space company (EADS). The book was originally written and published in German, which surprised me given the topic. Reichl writes in clear, accessible language. He touches on technical topics in enough detail to appeal to enthusiasts but doesn’t lose readers in the process. Read more of this post

Murder Underground, by Mavis Doriel Hay (1934, 2016)

Mystery
Adult
Murder Underground by Mavis Doriel HayFans of Agatha Christie may be familiar with this British author who published three mysteries in the 1930s, this being the first one. The British Library has now released all three, leaving this one till last, and perhaps that says something. It’s a classic British whodunit from the era of Miss Marple, though this lacks a central character to nose out the clues. Instead, clues are slowly unveiled by the victim’s neighbours, family, and other connections, giving it an original approach that makes for a lively if somewhat convoluted read. It all begins when Miss Pongleton is found murdered on the deserted stairs of the North London underground station, strangled with her own dog’s leash. Read more of this post

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, by Fredrik Backman (2016)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, by Fredrik BackmanGrandpa is sitting on a bench with his adored grandson Noah. They share a love of mathematics and space, as well as a wonderfully quirky sense of humour. (They exchange “unnecessary presents” – Grandpa’s favourite from Noah is the chocolate bar Noah had already eaten.) The bench is an imaginary one in Grandpa’s failing memory, scattered with the detritus of a life lived with love, passion, and some regret. Over the span of fewer than 80 pages, we learn about Grandpa’s life, how he fell in love and spent years tormenting his wife by hiding coriander plants in the garden, why the anchor by his shed sits on stones, and how mathematics has served as a pillar of comfort he now shares with Noah after raising a son who preferred words over numbers. Read more of this post

Fishbowl, by Bradley Somer (2015)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
Fishbowl, by Bradley SomerIan is a goldfish longing for adventure. Life in a fishbowl can be tedious, after all, though Ian’s very poor memory and tiny brain relieve him of the burden of knowing just how boring his life is. But when opportunity presents, he makes a great leap out of the bowl. Over the balcony railing. And down the side of a 27-storey New York City apartment building. As he plunges toward the pavement, where the flashing lights of two ambulances are silently screaming an alarm, his gills forced closed as his velocity increases, Ian flashes past the windows of his fellow residents. And thus we are introduced to eight delightful characters Read more of this post

The Bitter Side of Sweet, by Tara Sullivan (2016)

Grit Lit
13-16
The Bitter Side of Sweet, by Tara SullivanAmadou is 13 years old when he leaves home with his little brother Seydou in search of work. A lengthy drought has left the fields of Mali dry and barren, and though Seydou is only six, Amadou knows one less mouth to feed will help his father and aunt survive. The boys are “hired” to work a cacao plantation, only to discover they are somehow deeply in debt to the owners. “The bosses said we could leave when we’d earned out our purchase price,” Amadou eventually explains. “But they wouldn’t tell me how much we owed, and in all the time we worked there, I only saw boys arrive or die, never leave when they wanted to. And we never once got paid.” Read more of this post

Anatomy of a Song, by Marc Myers (2016)

Nonfiction
15-Adult
Anatomy of a SongMusic historian Marc Myers has compiled an oral history that examines the back stories of, as the subtitle tells us, “45 Iconic Hits that Changed Rock, R&B, and Pop.” Spanning approximately 40 years of late 20th century music, the collection is bookended with two songs by men in search of love. It opens in 1952 with Lloyd Price’s debut release, the sorrow-filled “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” and wraps with the 1991 surprise hit “Losing My Religion” by alternative rock band R.E.M. In between we find Elvis (“Suspicious Minds”), The Kinks (“You Really Got Me), Joni Mitchell (for “Carey”, written in a cave in Crete), and many other familiar names. Read more of this post

The Boy Who Knew Too Much, by Commander S.T. Bolivar, III (2016)

Mystery
9-13
The Boy Who Knew Too Much, Munchem Academy 1, by Commander S.T. Bolivar, IIIWhen Mattie Larimore accidentally steals a train (the only time he is caught in his entire criminal career), his father decides the 11-year-old is following too closely in his brother Carter’s footsteps, and sends him to the same reform school, Munchem Academy. As soon as he arrives, Mattie makes it his mission to get back home. He tries being good, but fails miserably when he reacts to a bully who is also his dorm-mate. Carter ignores his pleas for guidance. Mattie finds help in a pair of squabbling siblings, Caroline and Eliot. The three discover that beneath Munchem Academy is a lab that is taking the school’s reform mission to a whole new level. Read more of this post

Conversations with Maurice Sendak, edited by Peter C. Kunze (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Conversations with Maurice Sendak, edited by Peter KunzeHow does one capture the man who gave us Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and the joyful illustrations for A Hole Is to Dig? Who created stunning backdrops to modern productions of The Nutcracker and Hansel and Gretel? Who brought to life the beautiful play Brundibar and revealed its own tragic, heartbreaking story of creation? Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak ignored the conventions of the day when he emerged as an inventive illustrator whose work truly captured the capricious, joyful and rage-filled minds of children. Kunze, a doctoral student at the University of Texas, drew on an extensive set of source material in choosing the final 12 interviews that comprise this entry in the Literary Conversations series. Read more of this post

The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (2016)

Fiction
Adult
The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix SweeneyDysfunction, narcissism, and a delightful combination of ego and self-doubt are the main dishes in this literary feast; prepare to enjoy more than a bit of schadenfreude as we watch the four Plumb siblings deal with the fallout as they make one bad decision after another. Not since Arrested Development have I enjoyed getting to know such a dysfunctional family. Melody is the youngest, living in an upscale suburban home she can’t afford and using an app to keep tabs on her twin daughters. Bea is struggling to rekindle her writer’s spark, surviving on a job as a glorified publishing assistant. Jack’s antiques business is barely solvent and he’s been secretly drawing on equity in his spouse’s cottage to keep it afloat. Read more of this post

Do Humankind’s Best Days Lie Ahead? Ed. Rudyard Griffiths (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Do Humankind's Best Days Lie Ahead?The semi-annual Munk Debates bring some of the world’s biggest thinkers and personalities together to talk about big issues and ideas. Normally the focus is on current news topics, but in November 2015, Canadians Steven Pinker and Malcolm Gladwell squared off against each other, each with a European colleague, to tackle the idea of progress. In “Do Humankind’s Best Days Lie Ahead?” Pinker and British journalist Matt Ridley take the pro side, asserting that thanks to everything from cellphones to clean water, we are indeed making steady progress and we are living, collectively speaking, better lives than ever. Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton joins Gladwell in presenting the nay view, pointing to the wealth gap, natural disasters and deadly conflicts as proof that life is different but not better, and our path forward is a dark one. Read more of this post