Install Your Own Solar Panels, by Joseph Burdick and Philip Schmidt (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Install Your Own Solar Panels, by Joseph Burdick and Philip SchmidtWe have been using solar to power our little campervan for several years now, with spectacular success, keeping the wee fridge going strong and powering up batteries for all our devices! Now that we have moved away from the Wet Coast to a sun-drenched clime, we are looking into the challenges of going solar at home. Our librarian knows of my interest and bought this title (so awesome! right?!!) from Storey Publishing, known for its well-designed how-to titles with a “simple living” and environmental focus. Anyway, this book is intended for homeowners who, like me, don’t know much about the science of solar, but can handle basic tools and follow instructions. Read more of this post

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Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver, by Lorri Horn (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
9-12
Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver, by Lorri HornWherever there are parents, there will be problems for their kids. Bedtime too early; overprotective mums, embarrassing dads – whatever the issue, Dewey Fairchild can help. When Dewey finds success solving his friend Seraphina’s problem, he opens a business helping his Grade 5 classmates with a gamut of grown-up griefs. Things get so busy he recruits his neighbour and long-time (really, really long-time!) family friend Clara to help as an assistant. She is organized and bakes the best cookies, which she shares generously with clients and staff alike. Young readers will laugh out loud at the problems Dewey gets to solve, and enjoy his research-intensive approach to figuring out how to resolve matters for his friends. 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

Base Camp Las Vegas, 2nd ed., by Deborah Wall (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Base Camp Las Vegas by Deborah WallI cheerfully admit that I really like going to Las Vegas. I love exploring the streets to check out the architecture and decor, from the miniature Brooklyn Bridge at New York New York to the stunning Dale Chihuly glass sculptures and the water fountain performance at the Bellagio. But after a day or so of dodging fellow tourists while exploring the Strip and the even-better Freemont Street, I am ready for some day hiking in Valley of Fire or Red Rock Canyon. This is just the book to make sure you have a great time exploring local wild spaces while enjoying evenings in the City that Never Sleeps. This is a revised edition of the 2010 publication, adding 40 more hikes all within a reasonable drive of Vegas. Read more of this post

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 Chalk Pit, by Elly Griffiths (2017)

Mystery
Adult
The Chalk Pit by Elly GriffithsThis is the ninth installment in this mystery series set in Norfolk England, in which archaeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway teams up with Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson to solve crimes, quite similar to Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan series. When bones are found in an ancient tunnel by a restaurateur planning to open an upscale underground eatery, Galloway attends and soon determines the bones are not as ancient as first thought. Additionally, she finds evidence the bones were boiled, suggesting a possible crime. Meanwhile, Nelson’s team is also investigating a missing homeless woman (“rough sleeper in England-speak), and the urgency of the matter intensifies when someone stabs and kills the person who reported her missing. 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

My Life with Bob, by Pamela Paul (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
My Life with Bob, by Pamela PaulThe title is a pun, it’s a book about reading books, and my spouse is nicknamed Bob. How could I resist??! And what a great premise. Our reading choices say so much about us. Imagine how well a stranger would understand you if she could only browse through all the books you’d read. Well, Paul has essentially opened herself up to us in just this way. Currently the editor of The New York Times Book Review, Paul is also the author of three other works of nonfiction, The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony; Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families ; and Parenting, Inc.: How the Billion-Dollar Baby Business Has Changed the Way We Raise Our Children. By those titles alone I think she’d make a fascinating dinner guest. But wait, there’s more! Read more of this post

Lucky Broken Girl, by Ruth Behar (2017)

Historical
9-12
Lucky Broken Girl, by Ruth BeharIt’s so much fun to read “historical” novels set in a time you can almost call your own childhood! Alas, I’m a little too young to remember go go boots, which is what 11-year-old Ruthie has her heart set on. But life is challenging for a Jewish-Cuban immigrant family in 1960s New York City, and Papa already works hard to feed and care for his family. Mami misses Cuba terribly, but tries to hide it as lamenting her homeland only annoys her husband who deeply values the freedom of life in America after Castro’s Communist takeover of the family’s business. Ruthie understands both points of view, but like her mum, cherishes her memories of Cuba, though they are fading more quickly than she’d like. Read more of this post

Fiery Ferments, by Kirsten Shockey and Christopher Shockey (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Fiery Ferments, by Kirsten Shockey and Christopher ShockeyIf you follow food blogs, you’ll know that fermented foods are gaining new interest, beyond sauerkraut. Turns out you can ferment almost any vegetable, though obviously some lend themselves better to the pickle-y flavour than others. Having made my own sauerkraut with surprising success, I am interested in furthering my forays into fermentation (sorry – I simply cannot resist a powerful alliteration). In this follow-up to their first book, Fermented Vegetables, the Oregon couple has put together an excellent recipe and instruction book for creating “hot sauces, spicy chutneys, kimchis with kick, and other blazing fermented condiments,” according to the lengthy sub-title. Read more of this post

150 Years of Stats Canada! A Guide to Canada’s Greatest Country, by Andrew Bondy, et al (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
150 Years of Stats Canada! A Guide to Canada's Greatest CountryHappiest birthday wishes to the best country on our planet, imho, celebrating just 150 years of giving the world lumberjack shirts, playoff beards, top curlers and hockey for both men AND women, timbits and a hungry market for cheese from all over the world, to name just a few things. I’m so grateful to live here, and wish the rest of the world could adopt a bit more Canadian outlook, including a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour. Which brings me to today’s timely review, from the brilliant satirical team behind the Canadian Twitter sensation @stats_canada, whose hilarious tweets have ill-informed thousands of followers for some five years now. Read more of this post

The Big Bad Fox, by Benjamin Renner (2015, 2017)

Animal Fiction
3-11
The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin RennerInitially thinking this was a picture book and attracted by the cover, I obtained a digital galley from the publisher. Much to my delight, it turned out to be a graphic novel, numbering about 200 pages. Our protagonist is a hapless fox who is seen as no threat at all by either hens or a lazy guard dog. Frustrated and hungry the fox joins forces with a wolf, agreeing to steal eggs and raise the chicks to a tasty size. But the chicks imprint on the fox and he becomes quite attached while they in turn come to believe they are foxes. Given how evil those hens are, this isn’t a bad thing. The plot is enjoyable as the fox struggles to resolve the situation, and schemes his way to a solution. Read more of this post

Still Life, by Louise Penny (2005, 2015)

Mystery
Adult
Still Life by Louise PennyMy good friend John has been recommending this series for two years. When I spotted Still Life, the first entry in the Inspector Gamache series, on the shelves at my local Grand Forks Public Library, I decided to give it a try. This is an anniversary edition, and included a foreword by the author and an informative profile of the author and this debut mystery by James Kidd as an afterword. There are now 12 titles in the series, I believe,and each has won several awards. Still Life introduces Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete de Quebec. He is a thoughtful, kind, and astute homicide investigator who mentors his team and has earned the high respect of underlings, colleagues and boss, though we learn he seems to be stuck career-wise. Read more of this post

The Goat, by Anne Fleming (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
9-12
The Goat, by Anne FlemingEleven-year-old Kid moves from Toronto to New York City for a six-month stay while her actor/screenwriter mother works on an off-Broadway production. Teacher Dad is going to work on his own play while homeschooling Kid, which includes daily visits to various NYC museums. They are staying in cousin Doug’s apartment just off Central Park, looking after his dog Cat while Doug is in Europe. When Kid discovers the rumour of a good-luck goat on top of the building, she teams up with new friend Will to find out the truth. Along the way, Fleming switches voices so the diverse residents in the building get to share their stories, including the goat himself! Read more of this post