Beartown, by Fredrik Backman (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
33413128I have been a big fan of Fredrik Backman since reading and being absolutely captivated by his first novel, A Man Called Ove. So I didn’t hesitate when I learned he has a new novel, Beartown. I’m happy to report this novel is as mesmerising as I could have hoped. It is, however, quite a different style of writing. Ove,  Britt-Marie and Every Day could all be described as gentle reads, albeit with often irascible protagonists. This is not a gentle read. It grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you from any smug and comfortable perch. Beartown is a hockey town. It’s dying economically, but when the junior boys’ team (there is no girls’ team) makes it to the semi-finals, the entire community rejoices and pins great hopes on their success. Read more of this post

Transphobia: Deal With It, by j. wallace skelton (2017)

Nonfiction
9-15
Transphobia: Deal With It, by J. Wallace SkeltonThis is a new release from James Lorimer Books, the latest in the “Deal With It” series which tackles discrimination issues in colourful, illustrated books aimed primarily at middle school readers. In just 32 pages, readers learn what transphobia is and how they can be “gender transcenders.” The book opens with Transphobia 101, including a quiz to help readers identify situations of transphobia, just plain sexism, or simply lack of understanding. Using age-appropriate and accessible language and cartoon-like drawings, skelton and illustrator Nick Johnson collaborate to help readers learn how to respond to various scenarios in order to create a safe and supportive space for all genders. 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

Speed of Life, by Carol Weston (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
11-15
Speed of Life, by Carol WestonHave a tween/early teen daughter? Run out and get her this book now. omg I loved it! Sofia is deeply mourning her mother’s sudden death less than a year ago. She misses her mother so much, and her presence is everywhere, from the school Sofia attends where her mother was a teacher to the New York City apartment where Sofia lives with her gynecologist Dad. They’ll have to move out soon, though, as the apartment is for faculty members only, and well, she’s gone. At 14, Sofia has a lot of questions about life, love, sex, friends, clothes and more. Even though Dad is a gynecologist, Sofia can’t talk to him about such things. When Fifteen magazine’s advice columnist Dear Kate comes to Sofia’s school, she feels a connection and begins to email her about everything from first kisses to a pimple she finds “down there.” Read more of this post

Welcome to the Farm: How-to Wisdom from the Elliott Homestead, by Shaye Elliott (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Welcome to the Farm: How-to Wisdom from the Elliott Homestead by Shaye ElliottThis isn’t the first book on homesteading I’ve reviewed, but it’s certainly one of the best. Shaye Elliott began sharing her farmgirl dream in 2010 via a blog, and has created a compilation that is beautifully illustrated with full-colour photos and hand-drawn art. It’s also comprehensive and well organised, complete with a well done table of contents and an absolutely excellent index. Elliott opens with an introduction that explains how she, the granddaughter of an orchardist, managed to convince her non-farmer husband to move across the country and take up farming. She then gets down to business, starting with gardening, focusing primarily on how to build a potager or kitchen garden that will fully meet your family’s needs. Read more of this post

The News from the End of the World, by Emily Jeanne Miller (2017)

Contemporary
Adult
The News from the End of the World, by Emily Jeanne MillerThis is a stew of a family drama, and all the ingredients are there – sibling rivalry, teenaged drama, second marriages and flirty temptations. But it’s missing a little spice, resulting in a weeknight dinner offering rather than anything special. Forty-two-year-old Vance Lake is an adjunct prof who finds himself both homeless and jobless when he does something stupid at work. With no place to go, he lands on his twin brother’s doorstep in the middle of the night, unaware that Craig and Gina are coping poorly with their own family crisis. Daughter Amanda is home unexpectedly from South America, where she was sent in some strange kind of “punishment” for being caught with a joint in her senior year. Read more of this post

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

Contemporary
11-14
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 of this post

All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai (2017)

Science Fiction
Adult
All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan MastaiWhat a lot of fun this first novel turned out to be! Tom Barren lives in Toronto in a version of 2016 that is the future as it was envisioned in the 1950s – flying cars that rely on clean and unlimited energy, food replicators, disposable clothes that fit perfectly and are recycled into new ones, robots and peace. Oh, this world isn’t without its troubles, of course. His dad is a jerk, and his beloved mother was killed by a runaway hover car. (The robot that entered the programming error was dismantled.) Tom struggles with relationships and despite being 32 and the son of one of the smartest physicists around, who happens to invent a time travel device, he has not yet found his vocation. Read more of this post

Strange Fruit: Billie Holliday and the Power of a Protest Song, by Gary Golio (2017)

Nonfiction
6-12
Strange Fruit: Billie Holliday and the Power of a Protest Song, by Gary GolioMy undergraduate degree is in history. That’s big, so my focus was on the modernist “movement” which swept across Europe and then North America, roughly 1880-1939, impacting everything from politics to literature and art. Protest songs were key to our studies of American civil rights history, of course, and one of the pieces of music we used was Strange Fruit, recorded by the incredible jazz singer Billie Holliday. I didn’t know the song, and so it was a shock to me to learn that the strange “fruit” are in fact the dead bodies of lynching victims. It is a powerful song, a lament and a call to action in its time. It became known as Billie’s signature song, and this picture book for older children introduces readers to the song and its origins, in a way that is age appropriate. Read more of this post

On Turpentine Lane, by Elinor Lipman (2017)

Romance
Adult
On Turpentine Lane by Elinor LipmanI’ve read only one other book by Elinor Lipman, The Inn at Lake Devine, years before I started this blog, but I’ve never forgotten it. That says a lot about her writing, and I happily dove into this new offering. It doesn’t quite measure up to Lake Devine, in my view, but it’s a lovely choice for a bit of escapism in a winter that is sticking around longer than it should! The book opens with 30-something Faith Frankel deciding to buy a little house on, you guessed it, Turpentine Lane. Smitten by the two-storey home complete with a delightful pineapple newel post, Faith soon negotiates the buy from the owner’s distant daughter, as the actual owner, Mrs. Lavoie, is in hospital, having tried to commit suicide. Faith then finds out the woman’s first, second, and third husbands all died in the house. Read more of this post

The Impossible Fortress, by Jason Rekulak (2017)

Historical
13-16
The Impossible Fortress by Jason RekulakFirst up, The Impossible Fortress is an old-school computer game, created on a Commodore 64, in hopes of winning a contest and the coveted top prize of an IBM PS/2. (It features a 16-bit processor!) Remember those? How about the TRS-80, fondly recalled today as the Trash 80? This young adult novel is a delightful romp through the pop culture and early home computing history of the late 1980s, featuring appearances by Bruce Hornsby and Christie Brinkley, dial-up modems and Compuserve electronic mail, video rentals and IBM Selectric. But the most coveted item in the lives of 14-year-olds Billy Marvin and his best friends Alf and Clark is the latest Playboy magazine. They are desperate to get their hands on it. It features Vanna White, and everyone’s talking about her bum and boobs. 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

In the Red Canoe, by Leslie Davidson (2016)

Picture Book
3-7
In the Red Canoe by Leslie DavidsonWhat a delight it is for me to review this book, though long overdue, I’m embarrassed to admit! Leslie Davidson is a beloved elementary teacher who lived in Grand Forks B.C., where we moved just a few weeks ago. In fact, her home is the one we now call ours. She is so well known that when people here ask where I bought, I simply say “Leslie and Lincoln’s house,” and everyone knows it. This book was published in October, and as we were busy preparing for our move I’ve only now had a chance to buy myself a copy and read it. Beautifully illustrated by Laura Bifano, In the Red Canoe describes a young girl and her grandfather sharing delights and discoveries of nature as they paddle a lake. Read more of this post

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, by Margriet Ruurs (2016)

Picture Book
3-10, with appeal for all ages
Stepping Stones by Margriet RuursWhen Canadian picture book author Margriet Ruurs first saw Nizar Ali Badr’s artwork made of river stones, she was instantly captivated. How could a handful of river rock speak so eloquently? But they do! And Orca Books’ pairing of Ruurs’ touching narrative with Badr’s art has resulted in a stunning picture book that will delight readers of all ages. The book opens with Rama and Sami enjoying childhood in Syria, a life of school and fruit and tea and family and neighbours. But when bombs start to fall, the community breaks apart. Read more of this post

Two Strikes, by Johnny Boateng (2017)

Contemporary
11-15
Two Strikes by Johnny BoatengThis realistic contemporary story tackles the related themes of racism, sexism and bullying as KalLeah (Kal), a Grade 8 girl of mixed race, struggles to fit in when her RCMP father is transferred from multicultural Halifax to the small town of Trail in British Columbia’s gorgeous Kootenays. Writer Boateng draws on his own experience in this high interest, low reading level (hi-lo) sports novel. Kal is a top-notch ballplayer and scorns the girls’ softball team in favour of the all-boys – at least for now – Trail All-Stars baseball team. Her attempts to prove herself result only in alienating the popular Valley Girls on the girls’ team, leading to cruel insults and cyberbullying. Read more of this post