Unreconciled

by Jesse Wente


A must-read.

Wente “argues that ‘reconciliation’ is a flawed concept; peace between First Nations and the state of Canada can’t be recovered through reconciliation because no such relationship ever existed”. Wente’s writing is powerful; he conveys his message clearly, using his experiences growing up as an Indigenous person in Canada.

I would use this book in my classroom, and should be in every school library.

An important author,

an important book,

an important message.

The Cloisters

by Katy Hays

I love novels set in museums, libraries and universities. Is “Dark Academia” a genre? A sub-genre?
This novel is set in New York, more specifically, The Cloisters. Google it; it looks absolutely beautiful.
Our protagonist Ann Stillwell is brilliant. She has mastered several languages (several of them dead) and is gifted at translating. These skills have taken her to New York, where she, by sheer coincidence (or is it?), gets a job researching and acquiring rare tarot cards.
At first, Ann begins to notice strange events and behaviour happening around her, but when a dead body is found in the library, she realizes that the job she has so gratefully been offered isn’t everything that it seems.
The novel had me invested enough that I quickly devoted an entire day to finishing it. The characters were interesting (especially Ann and her backstory). Still, it was the various settings that I found particularly intriguing, and I found myself wanting to visit New York to find rare book stores and antique shops.
The Cloisters is Kay Hays’s debut novel, which is a good one. I will keep my eye out for more of her writing in the future!

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon and Shuster, and Atria Books for the free copy. You’ll be able to find The Cloisters on the shelf on November 1st.

Ghost Wall

By Sarah Moss

This is Silvie’s story.
The novel starts with the tale of ancient Britons sacrificing a young girl to the bog. It doesn’t tell you why but I assume it is because…well, she’s young and a girl (always targets for ritualistic sacrifice).
The rest of the novel is about Silvie. Silvie’s father is a bus driver who is more than consumed with what life was like for the ancient Brits and believes that life was better when people lived off the land and held to strict rituals.
Silvie’s father takes his family to join a group of anthropology students and their professor in recreating what life was like thousands of years ago. While those from the university are participating, for the most part, for the sake of research and academia, Silvie’s father sees his role as an ancient patriarch of his clan far too seriously. Soon Silvie begins to feel as though she, too, will end up in the bog.
This short novel (a mere 130 pages) is written in what I feel is stream of consciousness. Sentence fragments, run-on sentences and the absence of quotation marks all contribute to the chaotic nature of Silvie’s ordeal.
A good book and definitely worth a re-read AND discussion with others.

Unsettled Ground

by Claire Fuller


I can’t remember how I heard of this novel, but I was searching the book list in my notes and looking for it. As soon as I saw the beautiful cover, I knew it would be good (not that one should judge a book by its cover, but let’s be honest, we all do to some degree).
The novel starts with the death of Dot. Dot dies suddenly from a stroke, leaving her twins Jeanie and Julius to fend for themselves. Jeanie and Julius, however, should have no problem living without their mother because they are, after all, 51 years old.
Following the death of their mother, the twins discover their mother had been keeping certain truths from them, truths that would lead to evictions, resentments, and potentially murder.
Claire Fuller writes beautifully with every descriptive phrase and piece of dialogue purposefully chosen to tell her story most effectively. I will be reading more of her writing in the future!

Little Eve

By Catriona Ward

Ever read a book that was so enthralling it was difficult to start another because nothing reads as good? This is the problem I’m having after reading Catriona Ward’s Little Eve. Dark, atmospheric and filled with the most fascinating of characters.

Ward weaves together a plot about psychological manipulation and survival. Evelyn or “little Eve”, is an adolescent girl who lives at Altnahara, a castle on an island a small distance from the coast of Scotland. Evelyn’s family is an unusual one. Two women and three other children. The head of the family is a man referred to as “uncle”, or at times, he is terrifyingly referred to as The Adder. When a man from the mainland arrives to deliver meat, he discovers the dead bodies of several inhabitants, each wrapped in white shrouds and missing an eye. All are dead except for 16-year-old Dinah, who accuses the missing Eve of the murders.

The author writes alternating chapters in the voices of both Dinah and Eve. Hence, we, the readers, get a telling of events and consequences that is satisfying at the end.

This is my first encounter with Catriona Ward’s writing, and I am so excited to have found a new favourite author.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for the free copy.

Mad Woman

by Louisa Treger

Mad Woman is a psychological drama based on the intriguing life of feminist heroine Nellie Bly. Nellie, as you know, is the courageous newspaper woman who, in 1817, posed as a madwoman to expose the atrocities taking place in the “insane” asylum on Blackwell’s Island, New York.
Treger begins her novel in Nellie’s childhood where Nellie, a precocious, brave young girl, wants to be a lawyer just like her father. Sadly, due to various tragic events in her life, Nellie soon becomes consumed by the plight of the poor, especially the plight of women in society. Nellie soon changes her ambition from law to journalism and eventually finds herself in New York. Desperate for work, Nellie forces her way into the offices of the World and finds herself talking to the managing editor John Cockerill and millionaire Joseph Pulitzer where she presents her ‘insane’ idea of a story.
Without giving away any more plot, I can say that the portion of the novel that takes place at Blackwell’s is incredibly riveting. In fact, after I had read the novel, I fell down a rabbit hole of Googling more information on Bly just to discover more about her incredible life.
Mad Woman is a novel that is a fast-paced, incredibly compelling story of a real-life heroine.

You will be able to read Mad Woman August 23,

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for the free copy.

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Megan Goldin is one of my new favourite mystery writers. My introduction to her was the novel  Night Swim and I absolutely loved it. I was privileged enough to receive, through NetGalley and  St. Martin’s Press, a copy of her newest novel Awake. Goldin does not disappoint. 

This novel is in the vein of the movie Memento and the book Before I go to Sleep where sleep is the enemy.

Our protagonist Liv suffers a trauma so severe she cannot remember it. Every time she wakes up she suffers short term memory loss. When we first meet Liv (present day) she finds herself in a cab with no ID and in possession of a bloody knife. Liv  doesn’t remember the last two years of her life let alone how she got into that cab. The only clues to help her are written on her hands and arms. “ Stay awake” and “trust no one” are two such ominous clues. 

The story moves effortlessly between two time periods; present day and a time set two years in the past.

For most of the novel we live in media res with an unreliable narrator. Alternate chapters do give us some sense of logic because we meet Darcy Halliday, a homicide detective who is trying to take her place in a department where women are  few and far between. Darcy is first on the scene of a murder where “stay awake” is written on the window of the crime scene with the victims blood. This phrase will obviously thrust the two women together to seek the truth.

Stay Awake forces the reader to literally stay awake themselves with its rapid plot and overpowering suspense until the end of the novel is reached. 

Haven by Emma Donoghue

Father Artt had a dream. A dream of an island far off the coast of Ireland where he and two other men will build a monastery. Artt recruits old Cormac and young Train to come with him. Each monk possess skills that will be important for the successful manifestation of Artt’s dream.

Using Skellig Michael as the setting for most of the story, Donoghue weaves a tale filled with external and internal conflict. On top of fighting the elements, tension also arises between the men. But what I found particularly interesting is the inner conflict each man experiences with a crisis of faith towards God and humanity.

This novel isn’t heavy on plot. Instead, it serves as more of a character study. Each of the three main characters are incredibly intriguing however,  Donoghue only gives us glimmers of their backstories making Haven a fascinating read. (I especially love Cormac, I want to know more about his life before his holy vows).

Haven would make for a compelling novel study. Students could learn more about: Elements of allegory, characterization, beautiful detail, and a variety of themes (blind faith, disillusionment, adversity, resiliency, conformity, guilt, environmentalism, just to name a few). 

This novel is both sophisticated yet accessible and rich enough to serve as a class novel study and/or a mentor text. 

Haven will be published August 23. Thank you to NetGalley and Little Brown and Company for the advanced copy.

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 Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood


I love old fashioned murder mysteries, murder mysteries along the lines of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot or Ms Marple.
The Maslow Murder Club is one such novel. Our protagonist is a charming septarian, Judith, Who loves to skinny dip in the river behind her old mansion. On one such excursion, Judith witnesses the murder of her neighbour. So when the police doubt her story, she takes it upon herself to find out who committed the crime. Not because she was especially close to the victim, but because she loves a good puzzle. In fact, she creates cryptic crosswords for the newspaper. Judith has a way of finding the tiniest details and piecing them together to form a solution. Judith is joined by a free-spirited dog walker named Suzie and a prim and proper vicar’s wife named Becks. These three ladies find themselves in all sorts of predicaments on their way to solve the crime some of them deathly dangerous.
Thorogood’s novel is a sophisticated “whodunnit” that is charming and funny and thoroughly engaging. A great read to put on your summer reading list!

The Book Eaters

by Sunyi Dean

Devon is not human, she is a book eater. She does not get her nourishment from food but rather from eating the written word. With each text she consumes, Devon absorbs the knowledge each text possesses. And her blood runs black like ink.

The chapters in this novel alternate between the past and present. We learn about Devon and the Fairweather family one of Six families of book eaters where few females are born. Although this makes Devon a princess it also makes her a prime commodity for marriage for the explicit purpose of propagating their species. Love is irrelevant. 

Next, we are thrown into the present where we learn Devon has escaped the family with her son and is living life on the run, hiding from not only her own family but from the “knights and dragons” whose mission it is to preserve the secrecy and sanctity of the Families.  Escaping hasn’t been easy for Devon, having her five your old son with her makes it difficult, especially if the child is a mind eater. Devon must find the drug “ Redemption” in order to control her son’s need for consuming the brains of others.

Fast-paced, viscerally gripping, and descriptive beyond measure. You’ll spend all night reading until its resolution.

Alone

by Megan E. Freeman

Twelve-year-old Maddie is a normal teenager who just wants to do normal things like having a party at her grandmother’s vacant house without her parents knowing.

Maddie has it all arranged: she will tell her mother she is staying with her father and tell her father she is staying at her mother’s. Having succeeded in this ploy she then buys junk food and awaits the arrival of her two best friends. Unfortunately, her friends cannot come so Maddie spends the night alone with her junk food and old black and white movies. 

Now, everything would be fine and dandy if the political situation hadn’t been precarious. With curfews and military vehicles a common sight, life for Maddie and her family has been different, to say the least. Tragically, the evening Maddie decides to trick her parents and stay at her grandmother’s, the state is evacuated and Maddie is left all alone with nary a human around to help her. Soon the power is cut off and food becomes scarce and Emma is forced to use her imagination and grit to survive both the physical and mental hardship she encounters. 

This novel is written in verse, and in being so adds a wonderfully melancholy tone to the writing. It reads like a stream of consciousness, therefore, making Emma’s experience more emotionally impactful. 

How does Emma spend her days? Will Emma survive? Will her parents ever come to realize she has been left behind?

A great book to have in a classroom library or middle school book club.

Escape from Chernobyl by Andy Marino

Escape from Chernobyl is a fictional account of the Chernobyl disaster, a global incident that most young people know nothing about. 

16-year-old Yuri Formichev is an intern at the Chernobyl power plant in Pripyat Ukraine on the border of what was then the Soviet Union. Yuri’s dream is to be an engineer at the nuclear reactor but in the meantime, he is assigned as a custodian hoping to impress his superiors so that he can work his way up to intern as an engineer. Yuri lives with his Aunt, Uncle, and his two cousins Alina and Lev. 

The story immediately throws us into the action of the story. Yuri has just arrived for his shift at the reactor when he feels a shaking of the walls. Soon the walls crack and other workers are covered by debris. In the meantime a man is knocking at the door of Yuri’s family telling them they must leave the city for their safety. If they leave they will be abandoning Yuri.

Will Yuri survive? Will Alina and Lev escape the radiation that is beginning to permeate the area?

Escape from Chernobyl is a perfect read for reluctant readers. It is short, engaging, and accessible to people of all reading levels.