Category Archives: Book Reviews

Seeking book recommendations

My bookclub meets in a couple of weeks to select books for the coming year. This particular group gets a little competitive ~ at the August meeting we each give a pitch for the one or two titles we’d like to see on that year’s list.  Then we vote and a list is compiled.

We each try to pitch outstanding books because at the June meeting we then vote for our favourite book of that year.  The winner’s name and book title go into the illustrious ‘Bookclub Winners’ book.  It’s quite an honour. 😉

Past favourites have included A Good House (Bonnie Burnard), A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles), Plainsong (Kent Haruf), The Hearts Invisible Furies (John Boyne) and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith).

So, I’d like to pitch a winner. Any recommendations?  We’re a group of men and women. All genres are considered and they can be fiction or non-fiction. Thank you!

I Read Canadian

 

Tomorrow, February 19, 2020 is the first I Read Canadian Day.  Every time we choose to read a Canadian published book we know there was a MADE IN CANADA team of editors, graphic designers, layout artists, publicists, printers, warehouse staff, delivery drivers and book sellers behind it.  The Canadian book industry pumps money into the Canadian economy which creates jobs and pays taxes.

So on February 19, show your love for Canada and Canadian books by choosing a Canadian-authored title. Fiction, non-fiction, children’s, young adult, biography, memoir, new, classic, it doesn’t matter which. Check out some books by Canadian authors you have not yet read or read another book by one of your favourites.

And send me a note to tell me what you’re reading! 🙂

One of my favourite Canadian authors, Brian Mulligan, with his book, Drinkin’ Thinkin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drinkin’ Thinkin’

Write What You Know? Maybe not…

I’m often asked if I have a favourite author and the answer always changes depending on what books I’ve recently read. If asked today I’d say it was John Boyne. The three titles of his that I’ve read (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, My Brother’s Name is Jessica) are each completely different, yet so brilliant in their own way. He has a talent for creating humour out of desperately difficult circumstances but without making light of that situation. Continue reading

Drinkin’ Thinkin’

 

A Canadian Cyclist’s View Atop An American Barstool

I am so proud of my friend, Brian Mulligan, who followed through on his dream to publish a book chronicling his solo cycling adventures. It’s a beautiful book and a great read.

Brian is no ordinary guy. Although he is well-loved by a large circle of friends, he’s also a bit of a loner, and likes to cycle long distances alone which gives him extended stretches of time to ponder life.  At the end of the day he’ll find a bar in whatever small town he’s reached, grab a bite and a beer, and talk with the locals. They share their stories with him because he’s a good listener.

In his book, Drinkin’ Thinking‘ we meet a few of these characters while also reading about some of Brian’s many cycling adventures. In short, it’s a book you can gobble up in one sitting or stretch out  by reading one chapter (read: adventure) at at time.

Following is the Foreward that Brian asked me to write for the book. I was honoured to do so.

Shortly after I met Brian I approached him at a noisy social gathering. Debbie, his wife, had told me about his biking trips, how he was cycling from Canada to Mexico and from the Atlantic to the Pacific by riding for two weeks every year. The whole idea of it fascinated me and I wanted to know more. 

“What do you think about when you’re pedalling along those endless highways?” I asked as a way of jumping in. Continue reading

Faster Than Truth

Once again I’ve become the great auntie to a new book. Kim Denman, member of my beloved writing critique group has just launched her Y/A novel, Faster Than Truth.  As the great auntie I’m extremely attached to this story. I’ve watched it grow from infancy (Kim pondering the idea of a Y/A story about ‘fake news’) to suffering along with her through the growing pains (edits, revisions, seeking a publisher) and now I’m delighted to join in the celebration of its release. And what a story it is. Kim always creates loveable, complicated, and unique characters. Her stories are full of humour but always seek out deeper meaning, and she succeeded beautifully with this one. It is a timely story and the reader will struggle along with the protagonist as he tries to understand the nature of truth in journalism.

From the cover: Sixteen-year-old Declan dreams of becoming a professional reporter, an international correspondent who flies around the globe covering big stories. But Declan is still in high school, and as the editor of his school paper, he covers schools dances – not exactly “news”.

Declan gets his chance for a big scoop when another student shows him part of an email written by the principal that discusses an outrageous plot to track the students. Declan publishes the story without checking the source. The story goes viral. Unfortunately, it’s also wrong. Will Declan find a way to make it right?

It is funny, poignant, there’s a hint of romance, and the reader will be left thinking about ‘the news’, what is real, what is fake, and how to dig deeper to find the truth.

A most enjoyable, thoughtful story and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to follow along on its journey to published book.

 

 

Favourite books of 2018

It was a good reading year. I read 37 books for personal pleasure, research, or for one of my 3 bookclubs. I ‘assessed’ (which mostly means ‘read’) another 137 books as a committee member for the Governor General Literary Award for Young People’s Literature.

There were a lot of excellent books, but, looking back, the most memorable books of the year for me are these seven books for young people and one novel for adults.

Young People:

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster by Jonathan Auxier. This is a stand-out book for readers of all ages and the winner of this year’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Young People. Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster.  These two outcasts carve out a life together – saving one another in the process.  A multi-layered masterpiece.

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis. This story has huge heart, is funny and painful. Curtis is a master storyteller.

Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith. Told in free verse, this is a poignant story of healing for a troubled young boy and his eccentric Grandmother. Stunningly beautiful.

Dodger Boy by Sarah Ellis. This story of a Vancouver Quaker family in 1970 covers a vast number of themes from draft-dodging, coming of age, friendship and censorship. Ellis has a gentle hand and nothing comes across didactic or preachy. The conversations between the various characters are lovely and insightful. It’s a smart novel without being pretentious.

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen. This story also has huge heart. It explores homelessness in Vancouver. Mom and Felix live in a van. Things go from bad to worse because of Mom’s behaviour. The story is funny and poignant. The pacing and writing are excellent.

Louisianna’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo. DiCamillo is truly a master of the genre. As with her other books, in this one she puts her young protagonist in a very difficult situation but the story is told sensitively with a light hand and humour.

Miles to Go by Beryl Young. This tender story is compulsively readable. Set in the ’40’s two prairie girls have very different lives but they cling to their friendship despite the obstacles. I was moved to tears by the loss one of the girls endured. Heartwarming.

Adult:

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. Witty and wise, this is a big-hearted novel about a family with a transgender child. Sensitively written and often funny.

 

Fan Mail

Sometimes a book comes along and you simply need to reach out to the author and tell them what their story meant to you. I did that today.Gracefully Grayson

I’ve been doing a lot of research on transgender issues for a writing project I’m working on. I’ve read dozens of books – memoirs, novels, picture books, non-fiction. All of them have helped me better understand the transgender experience.

And then I read a review of Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky. I was surprised to find a novel for young people on this subject that I hadn’t yet stumbled across. It wasn’t in my library (they need to get a copy!) so I had to request an interlink loan. (The book was shipped to my library from another city.)

I gobbled up the story in one sitting. As I told the author in an email, the best word to describe this story is ‘tender’. And brave, just like the protagonist, who, baby step after baby step blossoms into the person she was meant to be.

In a way, this is the book I was hoping to write, but I couldn’t find my way, so I changed directions. I’m so glad Polonsky pulled it off, and so beautifully.