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    Book Club in a Bag

    Graphic Novel Roundup

    by Sonya - 0 Comment(s)

    I occasionally pick up a graphic novel, often memoirs or biographical fiction, and I am rarely disappointed! Here's a brief roundup of some newer releases that I've got my eye on, as well as a few older gems that you might enjoy.

    If you liked Persepolis:

    Unterzakhn by Leela Corman

    It didn't take more than looking at the cover to get this title on my reading list, but a few words from the catalogue's summary just make it sound that much more interesting:

    "A mesmerizing, heartbreaking graphic novel of immigrant life on New York's Lower East Side at the turn of the 20th century, as seen through the eyes of twin sisters whose lives take radically and tragically different paths."

    A friend who's just read it raved about the novel, and the characters that were so real that she read up on the author and the novel to learn about their lives (only to confirm that it's fiction).

    Susceptible by Geneviève Castrée

    This latest release by a young Canadian graphic novelist reads like a memoir, intimate and thoughtful. Read the summary (from our catalogue):

    "Geneviève Castrée has long been beloved for her mini-comics, comics, visual art, and music. There is a unique quality to all of her artistic endeavors: quiet, serene, depressing. Castree's keen eye for detail and her fearless ability to probe the depths of her troubled past make Susceptible a stirring portrait of an artist coming into her own.

    Susceptible is the story of Goglu, a daydreamer growing up in Quebec in the '80s and '90s with a single mother. From a skillful artist comes a moving, beautiful story about families, loss, and growing up. Whether she's discussing nature versus nurture or the story of her birth, Castree imbues her storytelling with a quiet power and a confidence in the strength of imagery."

    A slice of life:

    Building Stories by Chris Ware

    This wonderful assortment of pamphlets, mini-comics in paperback form, posters, hardcover graphic novels and other media comes in a big box. Among all the items included in the box, we learn the life stories, woes and preoccupations of the tenants in one apartment building. A truly unique format that enlivens the stories it contains!

    Aya: Love in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet

    I can't wait to read this next installment in the series about Aya. Set in Ivory Coast in the 1970s, the tone is light and easy, telling the stories of the daily lives of Aya and her circle of friends, neighbours and acquaintances. If you're new to this series, you should read them in order: start with Aya, then Aya of Yop City, then Aya: the secrets come out.

    From the catalogue summary:

    "Aya: Love in Yop City comprises the final three chapters of the Aya story, episodes never before seen in English. Aya is a lighthearted story about life in the Ivory Coast during the 1970s, a particularly thriving and wealthy time in the country's history. While the stories found in Aya: Love in Yop City maintain their familiar tone, quick pace, and joyfulness, we see Aya and her friends beginning to make serious decisions about their future.

    This second volume of the complete Aya includes unique appendices & recipes, guides to understanding Ivorian slang, street sketches, and concluding remarks from Marguerite Abouet explaining history and social milieu. Inspired by Abouet's childhood, the series has received praise for offering relief from the disaster-struck focus of most stories set in Africa."


    Fantastical fiction:

    Habibi by Craig Thompson

    This epic story reads like a timeless fairy tale, and the sumptuous visuals will mesmerize and enchant you! I've previously posted a review, here, but since I was so taken with the book, I couldn't resist adding it to this list. For me, this easily takes a place in my "must reads."

    Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

    This author is one of my favourites, although my first encounter with his work was The Arrival, a gorgeous, wordless tale of moving to a new land. Tales from Outer Suburbia, on the other side of the "words-versus-pictures" graphic novel continuum, is more like a collection of quirky, illustrated short stories. The stories and illustrations are charming and eccentric, perfect for a rainy afternoon spent in a cozy spot.

    From our catalogue summary:

    "Breathtakingly illustrated and hauntingly written, Tales from Outer Suburbia is by turns hilarious and poignant, perceptive and goofy. Through a series of captivating and sophisticated illustrated stories, Tan explores the precious strangeness of our existence. He gives us a portrait of modern suburban existence filtered through a wickedly Monty Pythonesque lens. Whether it's discovering that the world really does stop at the end of the city's map book, or a family's lesson in tolerance through an alien cultural exchange student, Tan's deft, sweet social satire brings us face-to-face with the humor and absurdity of modern life."

    Royal Doom

    by Jasna - 0 Comment(s)

    What did Empress Wang, Anula and Brunhilda have in common?

    Never heard of them?

    Let’s try this: What did Anne Boleyn, Marie Antoinette and Jane Grey have in common?

    Aha, you got it…

    The first three queens were burned to death; the last three were beheaded. The common denominator for all six of them, and a few more dozens throughout history – their deaths were as premature as they were violent.

    In her book Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, from Cleopatra to Princess Di, Kris Waldherr presents about fifty too-brief lives of queens across the ages, from the ancient times of Athaliah, a biblical queen and the daughter of King Ahad and Queen Jesabel, and Olimpias, Alexander the Great’s mother, through the Dark and Middle ages and Tudor times, when the position of the queen to Henry WIII, as we know, carried a significant risk, to the French Revolution and its famous royal victims, to the doomed queens of our days…

    Some quotes attributed to the above mentioned beheaded queens:

    “A queen who is not regent ought, under these circumstances, to remain passive and prepare to die.” ~Marie Antoinette

    “The executioner shall not have much trouble, for I have a little neck.” ~Anne Boleyn

    “I assure you, the time hath been so odious to me that I long for nothing so much as death.” ~Jane Grey

    Staff Picks: Guilty Pleasures

    by Sonya - 0 Comment(s)

    We’ve featured ‘guilty pleasure’ reads before in the Readers’ Nook and with summer approaching, now is the perfect time for another installment! Don't be fooled by the nickname, there's nothing to feel guilty about if you like your fictional escapes light, steamy, and a little bit trashy. We’re so pleased to have another new contributor in the Readers’ Nook today, so read on and start planning your vacation (or staycation) reading list.

    The Power Trip by Jackie Collins

    The Power Trip was one of the best books I have read this year. I waited for its release since reading last year’s Goddess of Vengeance, which I liked but did not feel Ms. Collins was at the top of her game. This review is for all my trailer park friends who, like me, enjoy a bit of trash and a vacation while reading….

    Well, ladies and gents (both terms used loosely as always), it is finally here: the new Jackie Collins came out February 12th. I cannot seem to get one particular review out of my head or think of a better quick description:

    “Jackie Collins has created a quintessential page-turning adventure of sex, money, and murder that feels like taking a trip away from the winter climes and into the absolute glamour of summertime.” (Casee Marie, reviewer, Literary Inklings blog)

    Now really, who in this trailer park wouldn’t want to read it mid-February or anytime of the year, for that matter…

    This was a new setting for Ms. Collins. As always we had many glitzy locations but most of the story takes place on a luxurious yacht in the Sea of Cortez. This is new but most welcome. I discovered I, too, enjoy a wonderful yacht ride. This book does not disappoint with the glitz and Hollywood factor. We meet Interesting Hollywood types such as Cliff Baxter, a ringer for George Clooney, a Russian mobster, a model, a movie star, a footballer, a singer, writer, a senator and his perfect wife, and investigative reporters. If that isn’t quite enough for you, she throws in some Somalian pirates and a Mexican drug and arms dealer. As the glitzy and powerful unite for the maiden voyage, we are privy to the power plays aboard, and those coming to join them. Ending in a struggle: who will live? Who will become a hero? Who will end up with all the power? This is a wonderful mid-steamy read that takes you on a wild high sea adventure. This book does bring some heat but, as I said, mid; don’t worry--its fast-paced adventure keeps you flipping pages.

    Take the phone off the hook, put your feet up and make yourself a Kraft mac and cheese. Pour a large glass of Kool-aid. Plug in the fan and begin the adventure. You may want to lock the double wide’s door as you won’t want anyone popping in to stop your fun. Go ahead and soak those teeth; you won’t be needing them for a few hours….

    Thank you, Jackie, for bringing back the writer we all knew you were…..

    Happy Reading!

    -Kathy

    More guilty pleasures:

    The Explorer's Code by Kitty Pilgrim

    Crystal Gardens by Amanda Quick

    A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare

    Born to Darkness by Suzanne Brockmann

    Low Pressure by Sandra Brown

    Staff Picks: Literary

    by Sonya - 0 Comment(s)

    We’re again pleased to have new contributors in the Readers’ Nook to help you find a literary gem! Whether your book club meets throughout the year or takes a break until fall, it’s never the wrong time to find that next great literary read that will lead to interesting discussions in your book club. And if you need more suggestions, have a look at our Book Club Bag collection.

    419 by Will Ferguson

    In the novel 419 four storylines with four main characters make up the story.

    The first has its setting in Calgary when a retired teacher, Henry Curtis, drives his truck off an embankment and dies. It proves to be a suicide and upon further investigation it is learned that he has lost all his life savings to a scammer from Nigeria, thus the title: 419 refers to a section of the Nigerian criminal code that states that anyone who obtains goods or money through false pretenses with intent to defraud will be sentenced to a term of not less than 5 years.

    Laura, the daughter of the deceased, makes it her mission to trace the emails and meet the person she believes is responsible for her father’s death.

    Winston, the scammer, is an educated young Nigerian with few prospects for the future. He spends his time in internet cafes scanning the internet for possible e-mail recipients whom he never expects to meet.

    Amina is the younger wife of a northern cattle herder who escapes to the South to find a better life for herself and her unborn child.

    Nnamdi is the son of a fisherman who sees his village’s way of life being destroyed by oil companies. The water is polluted and the forests clear-cut. He works for a time for oil companies but when this employment ends he finds work in the black market.

    All the characters will come in contact in Lagos with many harsh and surprising consequences.

    This novel gives insight into the techniques of 419ers and why Nigeria is such a dangerous country.

    - Juanita

    The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

    It is never too late to right a wrong! That is what Harold Fry attempts to do when one morning he goes to post a letter and keeps on walking. He is going to walk from one part of England to the other in the hopes to heal a long lost friend who is dying from cancer. He has no equipment, not even proper shoes, and it is completely a spur of the moment decision. He feels that by walking to his friend’s beside, he is atoning for how he mistreated her in the past and for oh so many other regrets.

    Along the way the kindness of strangers impacts him and propels him on this journey. He meets a young woman who gives him hospitality and reveals that she is waiting for her lover to return—a year ago. And a young boy who probably has nowhere else to go, and travels with Harold for a while. Many characters latch on and are affected by Harold. He even becomes a little bit of a celebrity when the BBC gets a hold of his story and they follow him as he gets closer to the end.

    Meanwhile, Harold’s wife, who is wondering what happened to him, is befriended by the widower neighbour. Their 40-year long marriage had become a silent and distant relationship until Harold embarks on his pilgrimage. What is fascinating about this story is that Harold takes this journey to heal someone, to give someone who is dying some hope, and the journey really becomes an amazing healing in his own life.

    - Joanne

    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

    Cutting for Stone is an easy book to read, but not an easy book to describe. For example, how do you summarize a story about conjoined twins, born in Ethiopia, to a nun (who dies) and a British surgeon (who runs away)? The boys are raised by two Indian doctors and have a relatively peaceful childhood, but when political troubles with neighbouring Eritrea erupt, one twin is forced to escape to America.

    And that’s only the first half of the book!

    The story summary may be confusing. To begin with, the plot is set up around the main premise that life is a contradiction of terms. And so, Verghese presents a nun who gives birth, doctors who don’t have verifiable credentials, first-rate medical care in a third-world country. The contradictions are set inside the opening framework of the novel – the idea of conjoinment. The boys, Marion and Shiva, are born attached at the head. They are easily separated in a physical sense, but they stay conjoined emotionally throughout the story in many ways. As the tale progresses, we see all kinds of things (love, politics, medicine, family) that are united at first, but then break apart. If, and when, they come back together, there is always a significant difference.

    The novel’s characters are exceptionally well drawn and balance themselves out in terms of the many themes. Starting with the boys, Marion and Shiva are mirror images of the same person. One embodies emotion, the other, logic. One feels, the other computes. Yet they think of themselves as a single unit and call themselves “ShivaMarion.” This becomes true of the many other parallel ideas that Verghese puts on the page.

    - Alvina