The Woman in the Library

by Sulari Gentill

The Woman in the Library is a twisted tale of a murder that occurs in no better place than a library. Winifred Kincaid (Freddie), is a writer looking for inspiration in the wonderful setting of the Boston Library. There, she sits at a table in the Reading Room looking for inspiration. She finds said inspiration in the various individuals sitting at her table whom she dubs “Freud Girl” ‘Heroic Chin” and “Handsome Man”. Suddenly, all are startled when a bloodcurdling scream slices through the silence. 

After a quick scan of the library by security and no source of the scream is found, library patrons are allowed to leave. Freddie and those and her table having quickly bonded over the startling experience,, leave  the reading room and go for coffee. 

That evening the evening news declares that that the scream belonged to a murdered woman whose body had been discoverd by the night cleaning crew.

Soon, through a series of weirdly coincidental events, Freddie begins to suspect it may be one of her new found friends. 

Freddie’s storyline alone makes for an intriguing mystery, but the author also embeds another story. Each chapter ends with a letter to “Hannah” signed by “Leo”. In these letters, Leo critiques the plot of the chapter that precedes it. Leo’s correspondence is both helpful and condescending and soon becomes creepily familiar.  

This novel is a well written, intriguing mystery with twists and turns that make it anything but predictable.

Thank you to Netgalley and Poisoned Pen Press for the advanced copy.

The Man Who Tasted Words by Guy Leschziner

The Man Who Tasted Words

This book is a fascinating collection of stories about individuals who live with incredibly complex and unique neurological disorders. One account is of a young woman who sees colours whenever she hears music where the colours change as the style of music changes. A second is about a young man learning to live with Asymbolia, never experiencing physical pain but having to live with the repercussions of having broken every bone in his body. We also read about the Riddoch phenomenon, Ciguatera Toxicity, Synaesthesia, Aphantasia, and the terrifying Carles Bonnet syndrome. Leschziner makes the biology behind the various diagnosis very approachable for those of us who are in no way schooled in science.

The stories of each of his patients are written with empathy and compassion and truly humanizes each person’s experience. I love the way the author leads us to each story with an anecdote from his childhood or from medical school thus personalizing the material rather than presenting it as a textbook.

Admiringly, the author honours the idea that we are all intricately unique and that “essentially our brains work as guessing machines, interpreting what’s coming in through our senses in the context of our model of the world. What we perceive relates to our existing beliefs about the world…” 

This is a  fascinating book for everyone to read, not for the science behind neurology but also for the inspiring strength portrayed in each of the patients whose stories fill the pages.

Thank you to Netgalley for the free ARC. This book will be published on February 22, 2022.

Me(Moth) by Amber Mcbride

Me (Moth) by Amber McBride

(possible spoilers)

I’m finding it difficult to put into words how much I loved this novel. I don’t often gravitate to novels written in verse but honestly, the cover of this one was breathtaking so I had to take a look inside. For the entirety of my reading, I had to sit still for fear of breaking the magic in which I found myself, magic that kept me transfixed upon the spiritually intimate relationship between Moth and Sani.

It’s been two years since Moth lost her family in a car crash. Although she lives with her aunt, she feels guilty to have survived and has felt displaced and lonely ever since. Moth drifts through school friendless and alone until she meets Sani, a beautiful young man who draws, sings, and plays music. But there is something amiss with Sani, he is loving and creative one minute, and then withdrawn and isolating the next. Moth suspects it has something to do with the medication he sporadically takes.

Moth and Sani form a bond that grows beyond friendship. He too feels displaced living with his mother and abusive stepfather and soon decides to travel to Window Rock on the Navajo Nation to be with his father. Moth, having fallen in love with Sani, goes with him. On this journey, they both discover truths about themselves truths that are both disturbing yet freeing.

After reading Me(Moth) I can say it’s one of the best YA books I have ever read. I found myself consistently writing down beautiful lyrical lines such as “ why do I feel like the dust of your name is buried in my bones (71)  and “ I don’t know how to be whole anymore/whatever you need you can borrow from me. ( 134.) Aren’t they beautiful?!

I read it quickly the first time quickly because I needed to see a resolution of a multitude of thematic strings that had started to weave together, and then I needed to read again so I could pause and savour McBride’s beautiful use of language and imagery. 

If I were still teaching High school I would use this novel or portions of this novel in a literature study. Foreshadowing, imagery, voice, atmosphere, figurative language are just a few curricular links you can make using this text as support; a text that most young adults would find enchanting.

When I read I often read from the point of view of a teacher. I envision how can I use an engaging book or portions of this book in class to teach figurative language, literary devices, or Author Style. If I was still in the classroom, Me(Moth)  would be a mainstay for instruction on author style. More importantly, it is SUCH an engaging read it will definitely inspire a love of reading novels, especially novels in verse.

The novel deals with themes of identity, grief, mental illness, physical abuse, loneliness, culture, the importance of ancestors.

An interesting addition is Moth and Sani’s playlist. The lyrics of a few songs are scattered throughout a section of the text where Moth and Sani go on a road trip. McBride kindly includes this playlist at the back of the novel so if we so choose, we can listen to the same songs as the characters while the story is unfolding before us.

Amber McBride offers her book as “a gift, an iron/to smooth the wrinkles of [our] spirit” 

And it indeed does just that.

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

“His shirt was freshly laundered, a sharp crease ran down the sleeve, and Mungo took that as a sign that some woman cared for him, that he was worth something to someone.” (Douglas Stuart).

This novel sucks you in, rips your heart out, and leaves you sobbing on the floor. Seriously. I haven’t been this emotionally impacted by a novel since A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara…and it took me a summer of reading fluffy books to heal my heart.

Young Mungo is about Mungo, the youngest child of three raised (if you can call it that) by a single mother whose presence is sporadic and, more often than not, fueled by alcohol.
Mungo’s life consists of: spending time with his older sister Jodie who serves as a surrogate mother when she is not working, alone, or reluctantly vandalizing, stealing, and fighting in his brother Hamish’s gang.

Mungo is a gentle soul who seeks out friendship and affection from whomever he can. Sadly he is often abused and taken advantage of because of this. Besides the love of his sister and the mother-like attention he gets from his next-door neighbour, Mungo finds friendship and love in his neighbour James. The fact that James is both male and Catholic makes their affection for each other dangerous.

With this second book, Douglas Stuart has become one of my favourite authors. His gift at storytelling is vivid and visceral. The reader quickly becomes immersed in the life of Mungo Hamilton, and at times we are left breathless with emotion.

Young Mungo will be published April 5 2022

Trigger warning: physical, emotional, and sexual assault.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.

You’ll find my review of Stuart’s first novel Shuggie Bain here

The Midnight Killing by Sharon Dempsey

If you’re looking for an engaging, suspenseful whodunnit with interesting characters, look no further. The Midnight Killing starts with a gruesome murder presented in the first few pages. However, we soon meet Detective Inspector Danny Stowe and forensic psychologist Dr. Rose Lainey whose shoulders we peer over throughout the investigation. Having been good friends during their university years, Danny and Rose complement each other in their investigation. Each hero has an interesting backstory that the author weaves skillfully into the story of the murder without causing the momentum of suspense to falter.
The novel presents a suspenseful story with various fascinating suspects.
Mystery and Thrillers is one of my favourite genres, and Dempsey is incredible at creating suspense and incredibly engaging characters. I’m hoping she writes a series with Stowe and Lainey because she’s become, my new favourite authors.

Will be published in Feb 2022 Thank you Netgalley for the advance copy.

The Maid by Nita Prose

I have a wonderful NEWLY Published book recommendation!! Brand spankin’ new in fact. Released January 4th.

Molly is an interesting girl. Some would say quirky…some are crueler and say she is weird. You see, Molly can’t read social cues, isn’t very good at small talk, isn’t the best judge of character, and is obsessed with cleanliness. This second attribute comes in handy because Molly is a maid. One of the best maids, in fact, who works at the posh Regency Grand Hotel.

Molly loves her job. She loves to see how she can magically transform a dirty room into a shiny welcoming sanctuary. However, after her grandmother dies, life becomes more complicated. One day Molly discovers a dead man in one of the rooms, and she soon becomes entangled in a web of deception and manipulation, a web where people take advantage of her innocence.

I love the first-person narration in which this story is written. Molly’s use of proper etiquette and elocution and a penchant towards the literal makes her a sweet and funny protagonist inserted in a compelling murder mystery.

A heartwarming, suspenseful read with a memorable main character. A fantastic novel to start the new year.

Thank you Netgalley for the advance Copy

A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong

I love Kelley Armstrong. My favourite Series of her’s is the Cainsville Series.” I started the first one, Omens, and then proceeded to stay awake all night reading it. There are 5 titles in this Series if you’re interested.
Armstrong’s newest novel is A Rip Through Time which sets us up for a whole new series; this one is about serial killers and time travel. HOW FUN DOES THIS SOUND!
Mallory, our heroine, is a homicide detective from Vancouver. She is in Edinburgh, Scotland, to be with her dying grandmother. While on an evening run she hears a scream and goes to investigate just to be knocked unconscious. She then wakes up in the year 1869, inhabiting the body of a young housemaid named Catriona. Mallory soon discovers that Catriona was strangled in the same alley more than a century before Mallory was attacked.
Mallory now takes it upon herself to solve Catriona’s murder, all the while trying to figure out how to get back to her own time and place in history.
My favouite thing about Armstrong’s writing, besides the incredibly imaginative and entertaining plot, is the voice of her protagonists. The first-person narration presents Mallory as a funny best friend relaying a crazy story over a bottle of whiskey. But, of course, the more you drink the crazier the story becomes, and you laugh and laugh and laugh until your belly aches.

A Rip Through Time will not be published until June 2022 making it the perfect addition to your summer reading list.

“Shuggie Bain” a novel by Douglas Stuart

      This is a sad, frustrating, yet compassionate story. In this book, is the main villain (I was going to write "antagonist", but villain is more appropriate) is alcohol that seduces and creates monstrous behaviour sympathetic characters.
      Although Agnes seems to be the main character, this is Shuggie's story. He is our anti-hero. For most of the story, Shuggie is a child trying to survive the hardships of poverty in Glasgow without an adult's guidance to help. It is Shuggie who has to take care of his alcoholic mother once his father abandons the family for another woman.
     Agnes is both beautiful and ugly. She leaves her first husband, "The Catholic", the father of her first two children, to marry a taxi driver by the name of Hugh Bain and soon after gives birth to Shuggie.
     I felt NO sympathy for Agnes for most of the book; I thought it was her vanity more than her addiction that led to her make the stupid, selfish decisions that jeopardized her life and the life of her children…until I came across this quote "She loved [Hugh], and he had needed to break her completely to leave her for good. Agnes Bain was too rare a thing to let someone else love. It would do to leave pieces of her for another man to collect and repair later." To me, the cruelty and selfishness of Hugh outweighed Agnes's weakness.
     Like I mentioned earlier, though, this is Shuggie's story. His heartbreak over his mother, his father's treatment, and his confusion about his sexuality make him a genuinely sympathetic character.

I thought about Shuggie long after I finished reading.

Word Problems poem by Ian Williams

Word Problems poems by Ian Williams

I was really apprehensive about responding to poetry. I don’t read a lot of poetry, I’m not sure why. I guess it’s because  I don’t feel “qualified” to talk about it. That being said, one of my 2021 reading goals is to read more poetry and therefore my first choice this year had been Ian Williams Word Problem Poems.

Williams juxtaposes serious topics such as racial discrimination and mental illness against elementary school math problems and language arts “rules”. This approach leads me, as an educator, to reflect upon what is integral to my teaching;  that I should be spending more time discussing timely and impactful societal issues rather than solving for x or making sure students use proper subject-verb agreement. 

Williams’s poems offer an intimate view into the mind of a black man. Free -verse, creative and experimental, and intimidating (honestly I don’t even know what words to use to describe my response) but tremendously thought-provoking. 

Always one for experimentalism and creativity, I really enjoyed and appreciated deliberate choice in format and typography for each poem. The shapes, in and of themselves, lead to another level of interpretation of the meaning of the poem.

So, if you’re tentative about adding poetry to your reading list “Word Problems” will be an engaging addition.

D (A Tale of Two Worlds)

by Michel Faber

Apparently, this novel was written to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Charles Dickens. . As such, Michel Faber wonderfully inserts little allusions to various novels written by Dickens.  (ie. Beak House, Magwhich) If you’re looking for a good read-aloud for junior high D (A Tale of Two Worlds) is absolutely delightful and you don’t have read any novels by Charles Dickens to enjoy this novel.

Our main character,  Dhikilo, is originally from Somaliland. She does not know her birth parents and was adopted by an English couple. Dhikilo has friends, but she has never felt she belonged. It could have been because of the colour of her skin, It could have been because she was adopted, and it could have been because of the uniqueness of her name.

One day all the “ds” begin to disappear from the world. She noticed the missing Ds first from the newspaper her father is reading then next from her mother’s speech. On her way to school, she notices Ds missing from all the signs, from all the books, and from all conversation. During this confusing time of D’s disappearance, Dhikilo’s favourite teacher, Professor Dodderfield, dies and she feels compelled to go to the funeral…..but she discovers this teacher isn’t really dead! Instead, Professor Dodderfield sends her to a magical world Liminus (with his Dog Mrs Robinson who turns into a sphinx at a whim) to stop the disappearance of the Ds.

From here on in Dhikilo and Mrs. Robinson encounter a variety of interesting characters and creatures on their way to confront the Great Gamp who seems to be the one who is stealing all the Ds by using glittering dragonflies.

“one careless insect lost its grip and the shining piece fell to the ground…it was already dissolving into the snow but it stilled glowed. Dhikilo knelt down.. and touched the disintegrating D with her bare fingertips. Immediately, she had a vivid mental picture-like a film projected straight into her brain- of a camel. A camel with one hump. A dromedary. Then the D shriveled into nothing and the vision of the dromedary faded from her imagination” pg 104. 

This is a wonderful novel the teach descriptive writing (the Magwitches with long dirty straggly hair the colour of the stuff you take out of the vacuum cleaner” 107-108)

It is also a novel that can be used to discuss the themes of prejudice, strength, family, courage and friendship.

So if you are looking for a fantasy novel to read D (a Tale of Two Worlds) is a short, easily accessible and highly entertaining novel to chose.

Books That Teach Empathy

This week I felt compelled to compile a list of book titles that can be used to teach empathy. Before I share this list with librarians and teachers in my district I wanted to share my motivation for doing so…

It is challenging being a teacher when traumatic events unfold. I taught 12th grade English during  911, and I had 18-year-old students worrying they would be drafted to fight in World War III. Hamlet had to wait. We had to talk. I had to listen and try to help them make sense of the madness. It was heartbreaking. Now with the act of domestic terrorism that took place in Washington last week, I am reminded of how important a teacher’s role is when our students are abruptly faced with the repercussions of cruelty and intolerance and our need to make them feel safe.

Now, as an instructional coach, I do not have a class or my own, so I was spared the conversations and fears that could have taken place. Instead, I took to Twitter. Not only did I want to witness the events happening in real-time, but I also wanted to see how teachers were navigating the upheaval. I was getting my news minute by minute, which is both a wonder of social media and a scourge.  Soon I began noticing tweets from teachers asking others how they would approach this current event with their students the next day. The overwhelming consensus was to approach it gently but truthfully. Teachers came together to support one another by both sharing resources and offering suggestions of approach. The networking was wonderful to witness, and every educator on my feed seemed to present the hope that they could promote positive change in their classroom (online and otherwise) and that the children they teach are well on their way to being positive, responsible citizens.

We live in Canada, but I know that an undercurrent of the same hatred and intolerance exists. I can’t help but wonder if it is too late to foster a sense of empathy and tolerance in young people. What can we do as educators to help foster a sense of empathy and inclusion in young people? Well, there is one little thing we can do, it’s the simple act of reading. Read yourself. Get kids to read. Read to kids. Studies have shown that reading fiction can increase a sense of empathy because it forces the reader to live through the eyes of a narrator or a character (Hammond 2019) helping us better understand and cooperate with others (Kaplan 2016.) 

Obviously, reading cannot serve as a bandaid for systemic racism or political unrest. Still, it can be the baby step we need towards fostering kindness and acceptance in those we teach.

Here is a list of books with direct links that may help in fostering a sense of empathy in individuals whether they be our students, our children or ourselves.  At the end of this list are websites citing research supporting how reading builds empathy.

Please feel free to share any titles you have as well! 

(I’ve “guestimated” division suitability but you can professionally determine what book would suit your kiddos). 

Division 1-2- 3

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena

Those Shoes  by Maribeth Boelts and Noah Z. Jones

You, Me and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders and Sofia Cardoso

Most People by Micheal Lennah and J. E. Morris

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice 

All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Every book from Kathryn Otoshi

I am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson and Tara King

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoet

Just Feel by Mallika Chopra

Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee and Pascal Lemaitre 

How to be a Lion by Ed Vere

Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Camp[bell and Corrina Luyken 

Each Kindness  and The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis

Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBox and Stephanie Graegin

Not My Idea by Anatasia Higginbotham

The Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Nicky and Vera by Peter Sis 

Division 3-4

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga 

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

The Star Outside my Window by Onjali Q. Rauf

I Am Alfonso Jones By Tony Medina

Illegal by Eoin Colfer

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Lilit Thwaites and Antonio Iturbe

Jr/Sr High div 4

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

There There by Tommy Orange

So you Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo 

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

This is my America by Kim Johnson

You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner

So you Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Do Better by Rachel Ricketts

Tell me Who You Are by Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi 

The Removed by Brandon Hobson

Word Problems by Ian Williams


Hammond, Claudia.(2019, June 2). Does Reading Fiction Make Us Better People? BBC Future.

Kaplan, Sarah.(2016, July,22.) Does Reading Fiction Make You a Better Person? The Washington Post.

Schmidt, Megan. (2020, August, 28). How Reading Fiction Increases Empathy and Encourages Understanding. Discover Magazine.

Seifert, Christine.(2020, March 6.) The Case for Reading Fiction. Harvard Business Review.

Reflecting on 2020 and setting goals for 2021

Welcome, 2021!

Last week I reflected on my year of reading. The titles, the genres, the authors. Around March last year, I had to take the reality of my “COVID mindset” and my inability to focus into consideration and set a milestone much lower than I usually do at 50 books. As an English teacher and book blogger, this felt like a failure. This year, however, I am confident I can air higher than 50 soooooo I’m thinking 60?

So, what have I learned about myself as a reader?

  • I read more non-fiction (yay one of the goals I DID meet)
  • General fiction made up the bulk of my titles (mostly mystery and fantasy)
  • I included graphic novels.
  • A handful of audiobooks made my list (mostly non-fiction)


fiction-  Mexican Gothic (review to come) by Silvia Moreno Garcia

non-fiction- The Heart and Other Monsters by Rose Anderson

audible- Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

YA- Legendborn by Tracy Deonon

Graphic novel: Long Way Down based on the novel by Jason Reynolds artist Danica Novgorodoff 

Fantasy: The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo(review to come) 

Reading goals for 2021

  • 60 titles
  • Increase Science fiction and poetry. 

I need your help, my fellow book addicts, please send me titles of your favourite Science fiction reads and poetry books (preferably contemporary!!!

What was your favourite read of 2020? What are your goals for 2021

Happy reading!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Adaline lives in 17th century France with 17th-century societal expectations- she must marry. Now Addie doesn’t want to get married. She wants to travel and learn and meet new people. She definitely doesn’t want to keep a home and have babies. So she does the only thing she can do to get out and makes a deal with the devil. Being a master equivocator, the devil distorts the bargain, yes, she will be free to travel and learn and meet new people however she will be immortal, and tragically be immediately forgotten by anyone and everyone she meets, making it impossible to forge any relationship whatsoever. Addie truly becomes invisible and must maneuver through the centuries on her wit and with only her own company. Sure the devil pops in every year or so to bully her, and as anyone would, accepts his company because, of course, he is the only “friend” she has. 

Until …

one day she enters a book store where she is remembered. Now what? What will the devil do with these new sets of circumstances? Or is the devil himself who has placed this “person who remembers” in her path just to taunt and torture her.

I really loved this book. It reminded me of other novels where our protagonist is immortal and weaves his/her way through the centuries. Pilgrim by Timothy Findley and Orlando by Virginia Wolfe come to mind. However I found this novel much easier to consume- in fact, I read it in just over a day.

Philosophy, history, romance, fantasy, all included within the pages of this book along with several loving tributes to art and literature make this novel one of my favourites of the year. 

I was given a free copy of this novel by NetGalley and MacMillian-Tor books (thank you!) but I will most certainly be purchasing one for my bookshelf. It will be work a re-read in the future.