Staff Pick: Irene on The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble

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We meet Fran Stubbs, a seventy something woman who is “…already too old to die young and too old to avoid bunions and arthritis, moles and blebs, weakening writs, incipient but not yet treatable cataracts, and encroaching weariness.” This novel is a very skilled mediation on old age but Fran is feisty and continues to enjoy her job with a charitable trust that involves driving to various sites of sheltered housing for the elderly throughout England.

This low-key story with well-drawn characters has its share of tragedy and humour, with a few surprises along the way. The book title was drawn from a D.H. Lawrence poem - “Love on the Farm”.

Staff Pick: Sue on Galore by Michael Crummey

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This novel is part multi-generational saga, part historical fiction, part magical realism. It is set in 18th century Newfoundland and follows two families over the course of two centuries.

Crummey has an amazing facility in capturing the language and atmosphere of the world in the fictional outport of Paradise Deep. From the outset, when a man emerges alive from inside a beached whale the tale only gets more intriguing, compelling and fantastical.

Staff Pick: Kristi on Jade City by Fonda Lee

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The Godfather meets Asia meets magic. Jade City takes us to Kekon, a small island nation struggling to make its way into the 21st century and take its place in the world after years of war and invasion. Run by powerful Green Bone families, Kekon has one thing everyone wants: Jade and the ability to wield its magic. With a new drug making the rounds that allows anyone, even foreigners, to use jade magic and political strife between the Kaul and Ayt families, Kekon is about to be shaken to its very core.

Fonda Lee makes her debut into adult fantasy fiction with this fresh and exciting new world. And don’t forget to watch for book 2 of the Green Bones Saga: Jade War out in hardcover May 2019!

Staff Pick: Sarah on The Power by Naomi Alderman

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How often does a book thrill you? I mean electrify, frighten, excite, and confuse you from the sole of your feet to the top of your head?

Imagine a genetic mutation suddenly activated in every woman and girl, giving them the kind of physical primacy over men that men have always had over women? How would that change the world?

currently available in hardcover. The paperback edition is available for pre-order now, available in stores January 2019.

Staff Pick: Tina on Precious Cargo by Craig Davidson

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Tina says:

In this wonderful memoir, Craig Davidson is a writer who has reached rock bottom. After a brief glimpse of what life could have held for him as a successful novelist, his book bombs and he falls into self-pity and doubt.

Eventually he runs out of money and, in desperation, takes a job driving a school bus: a 'short bus', at that. What begins as an impulsive decision, a way simply to make some money, ends up being an experience that will help Davidson grown, like none other. Davidson becomes these kids' driver, their defender and champion; however, it is these kids that are the true heroes. This book will keep you laughing, grinning, crying and growing. Without ever being condescending, or sappy, without being depressing, despite its sometimes serious subject matter, Davidson has hit every mark right with his wonderful book.

Craig Davidson's latest novel, Cataract City was short-listed for the Giller Prize and Trillium Book Prize, while his book of stories, Rust and Bone, became a Golden Globe-nominated film. Precious Cargo was short-listed for Canada Reads 2018. He also writes thrillers under the pseudonym Nick Cutter.

Reserve your copy of Precious Cargo here.

Staff Pick: Michelle on Woolly by Ben Mezrich

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Michelle says:

A fascinating look at the world of cutting-edge geneticist George Church and his team of Harvard researchers.

Known for their work on the Human Genome Project, the Church lab is at the forefront of genetics research and technology. The Woolly Project is just one of the many. In this case, the Woolly Project seeks to clone and reintroduce the Woolly Mammoth into the world (kind of like Jurassic Park, but without the man-eating parts). It is hoped that the mammoths can help stabilize the melting of the polar ice caps and reduce the effects of global warming.

A very readable modern science book that raises lots of great discussion questions. A perfect non-fiction read for book clubs.

Reserve your copy here.

Staff Pick: Sarah on Autumn by Ali Smith

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Sarah says:

In the UK's first post-Brexit novel, Ali Smith conjures a literary stream of consciousness through Elizabeth Demand, a thirty-something sessional college instructor struggling with economic, emotional, and existential insecurity in an England very different from that of her childhood. The story hinges on her relationship with her mother, and daily visits to Daniel Gluck, an elderly gentleman sleeping away his final days.

The first in a seasonal quartet, and finalist for the 2017 Man Booker Prize, Autumn is an exquisite study of fleeting things.

Reserve your copy here.

Book 2: Winter will be available in paperback on November 6, 2018. Preorder your copy here.

Book 3: Spring will be available in hardcover on March 12, 2019. Preorder your copy here.

Staff Pick: Celebrating Wordfest

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This week we wanted to celebrate Calgary’s largest literary festival with reviews of a couple of the books by authors speaking at this years event. Tina has graciously provided commentary on some of her favorites this year:

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

This is an excellent book! I liked it even more than Half Blood Blues by this author.

Washington Black is born a slave on a plantation in Barbados. Mistreated and only ever knowing a life of work and fear, Wash is even more terrified when two brothers come to take over the plantation. He is moved away from the fields and all he’s known and put into the home of Christopher Wilde, the younger brother. To his surprise, he has been given to a scientist. He is taught to read, write, measure, and look at the world in a way that makes him the perfect assistant to Wilde. Wash also discovers a talent he has for drawing and it is through their shared passion for the natural world that the two form a bond. However, these were terrible times, and when a white man ends up dead with Wash as a witness, the two have to decide how far they are willing to run for each other. It indeed takes them to the very ends of the earth, pulling them together and wrenching them apart. This novel explores ideas of freedom, intention, systemic racism, and of the lengths we will go to try to rebuild broken lives.

Washington Black has been shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize (to be awarded October 16th) and shortlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize (to be awarded November 19th).

Flawed by Andrea Dorfmann

This is a great memoir in an appealing, easy to digest, graphic novel style. It is ultimately an adorable love story: a love story between the author and her husband and also the author and herself. Andrea one day meets and falls in love with a plastic surgeon. This sends her back to her teenage self and the all of the insecurities she has over her large nose. She struggles with loving him and not loving the message that she feels his profession gives to women everywhere. She revisits her own experiences in adolescence of being teased for her appearance and her battle between wanting to change how she looks and accepting herself as she is. The ultimate lesson is that often what makes us stand out is what makes us unique.

Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding

In this mystery book, two women, who don’t really fit in to the community of their sons’ private school, become the best of friends very quickly. However, both of them harbor terrible secrets about their pasts. What can be forgiven and what is completely unforgivable?

 This book was a quick, easy read with an interesting enough story line that kept me trying to piece together who was going to be who in the end. The chapters flipped from the point-of-view of one of the women, to the other woman’s daughter, to a character just named “DJ” who seemed, at first, to have nothing to do with the story taking place, but added to you trying to guess things about each woman. Anyone interested in the Karla Holmolka story would probably be interested in this.

Staff Pick / Local Author Launch: Murder by the Book by Lauren Elliott

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Judith says:

A few months ago, Owl’s Nest received an advertisement postcard and bookmark in the mail, along with a letter.  It was from the Calgary-based author, Lauren Elliott, letting us know of her forthcoming cozy mystery.  Since Owl’s Nest specializes in mysteries, I immediately emailed asking if we could host the launch and I was so pleased when the author not only said yes, but offered to get me an advanced copy.  

(Owl’s Nest will have the pleasure of hosting the hometown launch of Murder by the Book. Join us on Tuesday, October 30th, 2018 at 7pm and/or reserve your copies in advance.)   

I finally got a chance to dip into Murder by the Book over the last few weeks and found myself always eager to go back.  

It feels like a long time since I was able read a true cozy mystery.  So much of the mystery genre these days is dark and violent.  It was lovely to sit down with the characters of Murder by the Book.  Of course, being a bookseller, the fact that the setting involved a second-hand book store only added to my pleasure.  

Murder by the Book centers around Addison “Addie” Greyborne, who has just moved into her inherited family house in a cozy New England town and opened her second-hand book shop.  She is holding back the trauma of the recent deaths of her fiancé and father (ruled an unsolved burglary-turned-wrong and an accident respectively) but her emotions still break through every now and then.  

The day her shop opens, Addie make a friend of one business-neighbour and an enemy of another.  When a prominent businessman is killed and Addie’s new friend is accused of the murder, Addie is determined to use her sleuthing skills (honed from tracking the provenance of rare books) to solve the mystery.  

With Murder by the Book, you get exactly what it says on the tin.  A cozy small town with its usual small town politics, an intriguing puzzle that keeps you guessing, and the bonus of just a little romantic tension with the local police chief.  When I got to the end, I immediately read the blurb for the second book in the series, something I rarely take the time to do.

I’m looking forward to recommending Murder by the Book as one of my staff picks, and I might have to see if I can pull strings for a peek at the sequel, Prologue to Murder.  

Staff Pick: Judith on The Game of Hope by Sandra Gulland

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Judith says:

The author of the fabulous Josephine Bonaparte trilogy returns to Revolutionary France and the Bonaparte family with her first book for teen readers.

Hortense de Beauharnais struggles to understand why her mother would choose for a second husband the boorish General Bonaparte. At the same time, she is riddled with guild, believing that her innocent actions may have contributed to her father's death during the final days of the Terror.

Reserve your copy here.

Staff Pick: Kristi on The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

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Kristi says:

It's a good time to be a thief. Locke Lamora, thief, confidence man, and all-around scoundrel very much loves his life, working with his crew, the Gentleman Bastards, and robbing the rich of Camorr. Dubbed the Thorn of Camorr, Locke is not the unbeatable swordsman or friend to the poor the tales make him out to be, though he does have his own ethical code that he lives by (which mostly involves making lots of money...).

But the life of a scoundrel comes with risks, and when a new player steps onto the board Locke and his crew find themselves fighting for their lives in a clandestine war they never saw coming. Making deals with the unlikeliest of allies, Locke will do whatever it takes to protect himself and those he cares for the most.

Reserve your copy here.

SCOTT'S BACK! For fans of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence, Book 4: The Thorn of Emberlain is due out November 12, 2018. Reserve your copy now! 

Staff Pick: Judith on Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

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Judith says:

Roxane Gay has written an open and gut-wrenching memoir looking back over her childhood and teens, including a brutal act of violence that was a turning point in her life.

In a world where the last acceptable prejudice falls onto the overweight and obese, Dr. Gay shows us what it is like to live large in a shrinking world, in a body she describes as "wildly undisciplined".

Reserve your copy here.

Staff Picks: Sandy on I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa De Los Santos

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Sandy says:

On the morning of her wedding day, Clare has a chance encounter with an old woman who gives her some very good advice.

After her wedding, Clare is notified that the old woman she spoke to for just a short time has left her a house. Intrigued by the mystery,  Clare visits this house and immediately falls in love with it. What follows is a fantastic story of mystery and discovery as Clare sets out to discover who this woman really was and what connection they really shared.

Reserve your copy here.

Celebrate YYCPride2108!

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Normally we would only feature one title for our blog, but we couldn't pick just one book for this week! YYCPride runs August 24th through September 3rd, and we wanted to help celebrate by bringing you some fantastic titles that are written by and/or about LGBTQ+ people.

Mean by Myriam Gurba: "True crime, memoir and ghost story, Mean is the bold and hilarious tale of Myriam Gurba's coming of age as a queer, mixed-race Chicana."

Tomboy Survival Guide by Ivan Coyote: "Tomboy Survival Guide is a funny and moving memoir told in stories, about how they learned to embrace their tomboy past while carving out a space for those of us who don't fit neatly into boxes or identities or labels."

Disoriental by Negar Djavadi: "In this high-spirited, multigenerational tale, key moments of Iranian history punctuate a story about motherhood, family, exile, rebellion, and love. At the heart of this prize-winning international bestseller is the unforgettable Kimia Sadr - queer punk-rock aficionado and storyteller extraordinaire, a woman caught between the vibrant intricacies of her origins and the modern life she's made."

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin: "Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. By Riley isn't exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection, the pressure - media and otherwise - is building up in Riley's so-called 'normal' life."

The Clothesline Swing by Ahmad Danny Ramadan: "The Clothesline Swing tells the epic story of two lovers anchored to the memory of a dying Syria. Hakawati, a storyteller, relays remembered fables to keep life going for his dying partner. Each night he waves stories of his childhood home in Damascus, of the cruelty he has endured for his sexuality, of leaving home, of war, of his fated meeting with his lover. Death himself joins the conversations, eavesdropping on the two men's secrets as he awaits their final undoing."

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel: "This is Claude. He's five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress and dreams of being a princess. When he grows up, Claude wants to be a girl. Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They're just not sure they're ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude's secret. Until one day it explodes."

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead: "'You're gonna need a rock and a whole lotta medicine' is a mantra that Jonny Appleseed, a young, Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer and NDN glitter princess, repeats to himself in this vivid and utterly compelling debut novel by Joshua Whitehead."

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: "Dante can swim. Ari can't. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison....Against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, the develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of the lives, and help define the people they want to be."

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender: "Being born during a hurricane is unlucky, and twelve-year-old Caroline has had her share of bad luck lately...But when a new student named Kalinda arrives, Caroline's luck begins to turn around. Kalinda...becomes Caroline's first and only friend - and the person for whom Caroline has begun to develop a crush. Now Caroline must find the strength to confront her feelings for Kalinda, brave the spirit stalking her through the islands, and face the reason her mother abandoned her."

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang: "Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride - or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia - the hottest fashion  icon in the world capital of fashion! Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art and family. A fairy tale for any age." 

Staff Pick: Irene on Life on the Ground Floor by James Maskalyk

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Irene says:

Winner of the Hilary Weston Prize for Non-Fiction.

On first examination, this book is a medical memoir by an emergency room physician about his work at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, as well as the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa. Despite the obvoous differences in resources that are available to him and his colleagues at each location, what draws us into his high-adrenaline world are the needs and humanity of the people who come, or are brought, to the emergency room to be mended, have their suffering eased, and live longer. Using a chapter for each letter of the alphabet to structure his memoir (A for Airway, B for Breathing) Maskalyk begins and ends with his grandfather who lives in Northern Alberta. On the whole, a very personal story of idealism and passion, and so incredibly well written.

Currently this title is available in hardcover, which can be reserved here. The paperback is due out August 28th, and can be reserved in advance here.

Staff Pick: Judith on Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

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Judith says:

A teen novel involving Tolstoy?  Sign me up! 

Natasha ("Tash") and her friends have been making an amateur web adaptation of her favourite novel, Anna Karenina, which they've called "Unhappy Families".  When a famous vlogger gives them a shout out, their popularity explodes.  Tash suddenly must deal with both fans and haters as she and her colleagues try to finish filming the last episodes, despite one of the key actors quitting.  

At the same time, Tash begins to correspond with another vlogger, Thom. When "Unhappy Families" is nominated for an award, Tash might finally get to meet him IRL.  The only hitch is Thom's been getting flirty over texts and Tash is asexual.  

A fun teen romance that gently explores sexual orientation and gender identities, Tash Hearts Tolstoy also contains questions for readers about the price of fame and the danger of thinking our heroes are perfect.  

Reserve your copy of Tash Hearts Tolstoy here.

Staff Pick: Tina on We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

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It is Penelope Rex’s first day of school and imagine her excitement when she finds her class is full of human children, and children are so delicious! However, Penelope finds it is very hard to make friends when you keep eating them. Luckily, her teacher is on top of things, so no one gets hurt, however it takes the classroom goldfish to truly get the message across to this silly little dinosaur.

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We Don’t Eat Our Classmates is my favourite new book – of any genre. The illustrations are perfect, with the children looking like cute, little humans, and Penelope herself being an adorably drawn, giant-headed, little T-Rex in pink overalls. The expressions on the faces of the characters draw you right in; making you feel what they are feeling. Both boys and girls will enjoy this book, and truly, anyone of any age will have fun reading it and seeing the giggles it brings about. The message of this book is hidden in humour and is one children will remember, and will have enjoyed learning. 

Reserve your copy of We Don't Eat Our Classmates here.