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    Book Club in a Bag

    Off the Shelf: Maya's Notebook by Isabelle Allende

    by Sonya - 0 Comment(s)

    At first the dual settings of Maya’s Notebook seem to engender culture clash. Maya, recovering drug addict, has been sent to remote Chiloé, the southern island area of Chile from Los Vegas, the place of her willful captivity in the drug culture. Gradually, author Isabel Allende draws out the nuances of the two societies, showing us the modern world’s cultural symbiosis.

    Maya’s grandparents are her bedrock. Emotionally and often physically abandoned by her parents, she grows up spoiled (as she admits) by her eccentric Chilean grandmother and her warmly loving American grandfather. Rules are loose, when they exist, in favour of creativity and spontaneity. The family is so passionate that they collapse when struck with tragedy.

    Sent to Chile in a protective exile by her grandmother, Maya has been instructed to keep a notebook of everything she does, thinks and feels. In exile, her home is made with a friend of her grandmother, a taciturn professor who is writing a book about the myths and anthropology of Chiloé. Modern Maya, banned from using the internet and without most of her electronics, drops into an eighteenth century village. After she learns to stop chattering and rebelling, she begins to appreciate the genuine strength and friendship of a self-sufficient community.

    Maya’s Notebook moves ahead and backwards in a well-modulated rhythm. The joy of her early life helps her make friends in the village. Her knowledge of the wider world helps her see that the village is not so very isolated. Committed to sobriety, she takes full responsibility for her rehabilitation, while recognizing that she needs the emotional support of others. As she becomes sensitive to the troubles of other people in the community, she begins to assess her own period of self-destruction and sheer danger. Her evident healing encourages her friends and neighbours to include her in their traditions and beliefs.

    With great skill, Isabel Allende offers the reader the opportunity to join Maya on a journey of self discovery and cultural exploration.

    Judith Umbach

    Calgary: Between the Pages

    by Sonya - 0 Comment(s)

    Did you know we are in the middle of National Novel Writing Month? For the non-writers out there, myself included, we can still participate as readers--this presents the perfect opportunity to "read local"! There is a splendid array of writing across all genres that takes place, either physically or fictionally, in Calgary.

    Novels:

    Venous Hum by Suzette Mayr

    A few years ago I read this truly unique and hilarious novel set in our fair city, and I still remember some of the highlights: a 20-year high school reunion; friendship and infidelity; picky eaters with very particular appetites... From our catalogue summary:

    "A satire on race, gender, sexual preference and vegetarianism, this is a magic-realist novel that will throw your assumptions of the world and the people who inhabit it out the window. It's the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence that announces the end of literary fiction as we know it and the beginning of something entirely new."

    The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

    "The bestselling author of the Blood Books delivers a masterful new urban fantasy. Alysha Gale is a member of a family capable of changing the world with the charms they cast. Then she receives word that she's inherited her grandmother's junk shop in Calgary, only to discover upon arriving that she'll be serving the fey community. And when Alysha learns just how much trouble is brewing in Calgary, even calling in the family to help may not be enough to save the day."

    Foxed: a Detective Lane mystery by Garry Ryan

    This sixth title in the Detective Lane series has just been released, and it sounds like a page-turner!

    "After a long series of professional and personal upheavals, Detective Lane begins his latest adventure happy, at peace, and enjoying life with his partner Arthur, their children Christine and Matt, and his able new partner, RCMP officer Keely Saliba. But when the body of a young boy is unearthed ten years after he was reported missing, Lane's investigation into the crime puts him in conflict with a powerful and charismatic Calgary real estate developer and restaurateur-a cunning sociopath whose desire to suppress any threat to his empire will endanger the safety of Lane's own family."

    Poetry:

    Tender Cracks: poems & other writings by Dieu Dinh

    This volume of poetry by Calgary poet Dieu Dinh is hot off the press! If a novel is not your speed just now, spend some quality time with Dinh's poems. At times tender, melancholy and open-hearted, these are poems to enjoy in the quiet spaces between the rush of daily life.

    More from Calgary poets:

    Whirr and Click by Micheline Maylor

    Yes: poems by Rosemary Griebel

    Young love: poems for the young in love by Amir Hassanali

    Staff Picks: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

    by Sonya - 2 Comment(s)

    Halloween has come and gone, and for many, that means it will be a whole year before you have to think about witches or vampires again. If you enjoy reading historical fiction, though, let the season last a little longer by immersing yourself if this richly detailed debut novel by historian Deborah Harkness.

    Although populated by witches, vampires and other supernatural beings, this novel is not a typical fantasy tale. The vivid historical detail and complex plot, part fantasy, part romance, sets this novel (part of a trilogy) apart.

    Diana Bishop is a young historian who has rejected her magical inheritance and always tried to distance herself and her scholarly life from the Bishop family legacy. While studying in Oxford, Diana stumbles across a manuscript that seems to have magic imbued in it. Scholarship and research is her calling, and she wants nothing to do with magic, so of course she examines the manuscript, takes notes, and returns it to the archives. But unknown to Diana, her contact with the manuscript has caused wide ripples in the supernatural world. With mysterious events set in motion, she will no longer be able to avoid her magical heritage. From our catalogue summary: "Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense."

    A word of warning: once you start, you won't want to put this down! And while the second book of the trilogy, Shadow of Night, was published in 2012, the third book is yet to come, so you may be waiting in suspense until the third volume appears. And if you start reading and wonder when the "historical" part will begin... just keep reading! You won't be disappointed.