Fall Featured Titles

Our WPL Collections Department staff have waded through reviews, catalogues and blogs, searching out the next must-read titles to share with you. You can browse through their latest selections on the Featured Titles Fall 2018 list.

For fall 2018 we have put together a list full of quick reads, emotionally charged experiences, inspiring stories, and books filled with information you never knew you wanted to know. So sit back, relax, and enjoy discovering the books we think you will be excited to read this autumn.

Psst! Don’t forget to also check out WPL staff’s picks and pans on our More Books Please blog.

Final FT Fall 2018

Hold It!

If WPL customers were going to pick one book that they most want to read right now (let’s assume that the book with the highest number of holds is that book) then The President is Missing  written by a former U.S. president and the world’s best-selling author is a good choice.

It’s a safe bet that many readers would be able to find something interesting about a thriller that has espionage, a killer computer virus, gripping suspense and the guarantee that it will have behind-the-scene information that we have not seen before.  Truly excellent details.

When Bill Clinton is the co-writer on a novel and the character is sneaking away from his Secret Service minders you think he has either successfully done this before or knows exactly how it could be done when necessary.  All of the elements have come together in this book for a great beach read – it’s like they manufactured this book to satisfy as many people as possible and waited until the right time to get it on the shelves.  Clever.  Their publishers must be happy with the success of this book as it has outsold much of the competition in the busy summer season and reports say that they have sold the TV rights for their book. TV shows set in the White House do tend to be popular and with the added weight of Bill Clinton behind it – whoa.  I know that I’ll be watching.

So, what should you read once you have finished the Clinton-Patterson team up?  It’s a quick read because you can’t wait to find out how it ends so you will need to have a second book at the ready.  James Patterson is a successful author because he knows how to craft a plot and deliver a surprise at the end – teaming up with Bill Clinton did not change that pattern in the least – this book will go by quickly.  Despite them coming up with 513 pages of White House-related suspense I would suggest that you take a second book with you to the cottage or download something else because you will finish this one and be ready for another faster than you think.  Here are a few suggestions of what you could read next.

If presidential stories have caught your fancy and you are willing to try something new you really should try this one from Quirk Book’s Andrew Shaffer.  He has set Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the roles of Holmes and Watson in what I really hope will be a successful series.  The story of Hope Never Dies begins with our lonely hero Amtrak Joe learning that one of his favourite train conductors has been killed in a train accident.  In fact, Barack comes to tell him the news and Joe is relieved to see him again.  Joe has been feeling a bit left out lately.  After years of spending time together he has watched and wondered about where their friendship is going post-White House and too many nights looking at Barack’s photos online with famous actors and politicians have left him a bit melancholy.  As Joe digs deeper into the circumstances surrounding his conductor friend’s death some of the details look fishy so he turns to Barack for assistance and their bromance heats up again.  This fabulous story allows them to put on their shades, get back in the saddle, and drive a car for themselves instead of having the Secret Service do it for them.  This isn’t a hard-boiled crime novel at all so if that is what you are hoping for you should probably take a pass on Joe and Barack but there is a solid mystery to be solved and a chance to laugh a bit as you wonder if this version of their personalities is at all like the one we imagine them to have.  It’s not all sharing ice cream cones and going to basketball games you know, there are car chases, they wear disguises and Barack carries a weapon when they storm into a warehouse.  It sounds pretty good, right?

Joe and Barack were once powerful men with the full force of the White House behind them when they are trying to solve their mystery but Michael Tanner is just an average guy on the way home from a business trip when he makes the mistake of picking up the wrong briefcase and stepping into a mess that is almost too terrifying to contemplate.  I love the idea of mixed up briefcases.  It sounds like something that might happen in a Disney movie but in this book it all turns dark so very quickly. In The Switch he picks up a case belonging to a U.S. senator who has top secret information on her laptop.  Once she knows he has, there is a target on his back and the clock is ticking to get the contents back from Michael.  He strongly believes they want him dead to hide the evidence which just adds to the feeling of desperation.  The narrative goes back and forth between Michael’s story and that of the Senator’s Chief of Staff who will do anything to solve this problem for his boss.  It’s a gripping tale and has the added bonus of being written by a journalist who specializes in covering espionage and international affairs for the New York Times and The Washington Post.  The terrifying authenticity in books like this will make you think twice when you pick up your personal items from the security line at any airport.

Really, any of these thriller/suspense/murder-mystery type stories can be so much fun to read but you don’t want them to happen to anyone in the real world.  A mystery about the President of the United States is safely set far from your own experience but when you read something like The Switch it is much more personal.  This is exactly the case with the novels of Clare Mackintosh.  Her debut novel, I Let You Go, about a hit and run accident involving a 5-year old boy caught readers by the throat, partially for her beautiful writing, and partially because it seemed like something that could happen to any one of us.

With Let Me Lie the main character is a young mother coping with the double suicide of her mother and father when she receives a note that causes her to rethink the circumstances of their deaths.  She convinces a local retired detective to help her in her investigation and then starts receiving threats on her life and that of her child.  There are plot twists that will cause you to gasp out loud while you read this book, you might even say things to the characters – questioning their decisions – but it’s a book that keeps you turning pages long into the afternoon or evening.  There are no spies and not a single member of the Secret Service but this is a truly satisfying thriller.  If you haven’t had a chance to enjoy her two previous novels, oh, so much good reading is ahead for you.

Thrillers are the perfect choice for late summer reading, whether they are written by a man who Forbes once said is second only to J. K. Rowling in total earnings or one who is known for writing a guide to surviving a sharknado – there really is so much time for a great book.

— Penny M.

 

Back to Reading

A List of Classics You May Have Missed from your Childhood

Ever since I finished my formal education, September has been an odd month. Gone are the days that September connotated a new beginning with new timetables, assignments, and renewed optimism. Now that I’m out of school, I find myself with plenty of free time after work, time that I can finally devote to reading what I want to read rather than what I need to study. It’s liberating, but it can be a bit overwhelming. When I try to determine what I feel like reading, I am left asking myself: Where do I start?

I did what any diligent bookworm would do. I went on Goodreads and consulted my TBR (To Be Read) list. I saw books of all genres from fiction to non-fiction, mystery to historical fiction, but what I noticed at the beginning of my list were children’s books. And then I remembered why I started this TBR list in the first place. I wanted to record a list of children’s classics that I missed during my childhood. Some titles included Inkheart, Maniac Magee, Julie of the Wolves, and Stuart Little. The list was long, and I thought to myself, why not start with these books?

There’s something to be said for reading a children’s story as an adult. Children’s stories can remind us of our youthful wonder, a freeness to experience the fullness of our vulnerability and innocence while asking life’s greatest questions. It’s never too late to read a children’s book. It shouldn’t be taboo either.

WPL’s children’s collection offers a variety of old and new favourites to revisit or discover. Here are a few books that I’ve revisited and enjoyed as an adult recently:

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Twelve-year-old Jonas is living in a seemingly ideal world until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memories. During his training, he begins to understand the dark secrets behind his fragile community. Lowry has continued this series with three other books: Gathering Blue, Messenger and Son.

2. Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
After Cole’s anger erupts into violence, he agrees to participate in a sentencing alternative that is based on the Native American Circle of Justice to avoid going to juvenile prison. Cole is sent to a remote Alaskan island where an encounter with a huge Spirit Bear changes his life. This gripping and graphic survival story offers a poignant testimony to the power of pain that can destroy and may also heal.

3. Holes by Louis Sacchar
What begins as a family curse becomes an inevitability for Stanley Yelnats the Fourth as he is unjustly sent to Camp Green Lake where the Warden makes boys “build character” by spending all day, every day, digging a five-foot-wide by five-foot-deep hole. Holes is a deceptively complex mystery that questions fate, luck, and redemption all while being rolled into a multi-generational fairy tale.

4. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
When 10-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles upon the Tuck family’s secret, she learns that drinking from a magic spring could doom or bless her with eternal life. The Tuck family takes Winnie away for a couple days to explain why living forever is less a blessing then it may seem. This slim novel packed with vivid imagery will leave you asking: would you want to live forever?

5. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
This thirteen-book series follows the turbulent lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire in the aftermath of their parent’s death in a fire. The Baudelaire’s are placed in the care of Count Olaf, a relative, who orchestrates numerous disasters that they must flee from. While the books offer a dark and mysterious tone, they are both clever and full of literary allusions, dark humour, and sarcastic storytelling that would be an excellent revisit or introduction for adults.

There are countless more classic children’s books that can be enjoyed by readers of any age. Are there any books from your childhood that you always wanted to read but never got around to? Check out the WPL Catalogue and/or the shelves at your local branch. You’ll never know what magical wonder you may find.

— Eleni Z.

Catching #FerranteFever

As long as I’ve been a reader, I’ve never had a favourite author. Sure, I’ve loved a variety of books and book series and even went on to study literature in university, but any time someone asked me who my favourite author was, I’d draw a blank. There were too many stories to read, and I never found an author’s biography I wanted to read from start to finish.

Until now.

You may have heard of this author. Her name is Elena Ferrante, and she is the pseudonymous Italian novelist most notable for a four-volume series beginning with My Brilliant Friend. It is a rich and intense story of two friends, Elena and Lila, who grow up in a working-class neighbourhood in Naples after the second world war. The subsequent volumes The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child continue their story from childhood to maturity while witnessing a city and country that is transforming in ways that transform their friendship.

Ever since I caught #FerranteFever, I’ve wondered what makes Ferrante different from all of the other authors I’ve read.  I’ve discovered that falling in love with a book requires a special kinship with its author. The author knows nothing about you, and yet you feel like your most intimate self is understood. That is precisely how I feel when reading Ferrante’s books. The intimate self that I understood in My Brilliant Friend is shown through the interdependence of Elena and Lila’s friendship. Not only does Elena, the narrator, tell us how interdependent she is to Lila, but we simultaneously see how this interdependence is rendered. There lies the truth about the complex and contradictory emotional nature of female friendships.

Make no mistake, these books are addicting. Once I turned the first page, I was lost, and was practically unreachable in our world. I didn’t want to stop. By the third volume, I smartened up and cleared my schedule for a few days to ensure I had no distractions that would take me away from the book. There’s something about Ferrante’s writing that involves you with the action of the story, and I felt affected by Elena and Lila’s experiences.

My Brilliant Friend has been translated and published in 48 countries making it a literary phenomenon. It has become so popular that HBO is partnering with an Italian film company to adapt the 4-volume story into a 32-episode series. It is set to premier at the Venice Film Festival this month, and the first season will premiere on HBO in October. I’ve never been so excited for an adaptation, subtitles and all!

I highly implore everyone to lose and find themselves in Ferrante’s novels. It’s a turbulent and affecting experience that leaves you with a satisfying ache of finishing a story you don’t want to leave, yet you can’t stop thinking about. But if you’re like me, you may just find your new favourite author.

— Eleni Z.

The Romanov Empress

If you like historical fiction, The Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner is a great read! Narrated by Maria Feodorovna, the mother of the last Tsar of Russia, it follows her life from her idyllic childhood as a Danish Princess through to her role as Dowager Empress of Russia during the Bolshevik revolution.

Minnie, as she is known by friends and family, is betrothed to Nicholas Romanov, the heir to the throne of Tsar Alexander Romanov II. Falling terminally ill unexpectedly, Nicky begs Minnie, upon his death, to marry his brother Alexander III. At the age of 19, Minnie feels that she has no option but to accede to her late fiancee’s request and marries the new heir apparent, a bullish and brooding man, quite unlike his gentle and refined brother. With time though, Minnie, now officially Maria Feodorovna, develops a deep love and respect for this besotted man and bears him six children.

Covering the time period from 1862 to 1918, the story illustrates the dynastic entitlement that accompanies those born of royal blood. We are witness to the opulence and extravagance of the wildly wealthy while at the same time observing the tremendous pressure borne by those fettered by the traditions and behavioural mandates of the Royal family.

As we watch the lives of the Romanovs unfold over the years, we are also witness to the fomenting of rebellion within Russia. While the Royals live lives of extraordinary excess, extreme poverty for many Russians affords them a life of hopelessness and hunger. Dissent runs rampant in the country with many assassination threats and attempts on the Tsar’s life. After one group, the Nihilists, are eventually hung or banished, their cause is picked up by Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks. We all know the story does not end well for Maria’s son, Tsar Nicholas and his family. Facing utter contempt from his citizenry, in part due to the reliance the Royals have put on a ‘sorcerer’, Grigori Rasputin, the Romanovs are without support from the masses and the country rings out with calls of death to the Tsar.

0425286169This novel was well-researched and gives the reader plenty of opportunity to observe the excesses and trials of the Russian monarchy. It also gives additional information on the fate of the surviving Romanovs after their escape from Russia. There are two family trees in the front of the book, one for the Royal Family of Denmark and one for the Imperial Romanovs of Russia.

I would strongly suggest that readers avail themselves of these familial road maps as the interweaving of the families makes it hard to keep straight who the characters are and from which bloodline they descend.

— Nancy C.

The countdown is on

Is there anything more exciting than the first day of school? Perhaps there is an argument to be made that the last day of school has some charm but I think that all of the wonderful routines that you learn when you are in your first days in the classroom – having a cubby, sitting down for circle time, having a snack together, painting with poster paints – are so precious and I am feeling a bit nostalgic. I’m overly sentimental about my own first day of school and for the days when it happened to our kids. I can fix this feeling. I’ll fix it with a quick trip out for some fancy pencils and a dashing new pencil case.

What can you do if your little person isn’t so keen on the first day of school? You should come to the library, of course! The library is your perfect resource for helping to make a child feel a bit more comfortable about going to school for the first time. Attending our free programs could help them get used to being with other children, learn all about sharing and taking turns, having the chance to try sitting quietly (well, the level of sound depends on the program, some of our children’s programs are vibrant and filled with movement and music) and listen to an adult who is not their parent or caregiver.  With so many different programs being offered each season you will be sure to find something that catches your interest and you can pick up some books for your children and yourself while you are here. Bonus.

And while we talk books, well, the books are lovely any time of year but the little books that publishers start sending out in advance of the beginning of the school year are particularly beautiful. Filled with images of classrooms, smiling faces, yellow school buses and vibrant lunch bags – these are just the cream of the crop in picture books. And then they get those kids busy making crafts out of shiny apples and construction paper or have them sitting in a circle while they learn to read or count? It’s like all of the best things in one book with gorgeous illustrations included. Just have a look at the new back-to-school books on our shelves and see if you aren’t tempted to take two or three home with you the next time you visit.  Here are a few of my recent favourites from this year’s ‘crop’.

Rhyming books are so much fun and All Are Welcome is both the title and the refrain of this colourful book from Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman.  The endpapers of the book begin and end with families dropping off and picking up their kids from school (it even includes a yellow cab which is perfect for what looks like it might be a school in New York – as if this book might have been set right on Sesame Street) and the children busily create art, whisper, share school supplies, and build friendships. Children are dressed in every possible pattern and their heads are covered in baseball caps, with one boy wearing a kippah and a girl in a hijab, others sporting braids and bright ribbons so each page is a rainbow of colour with smiling faces (some children are accurately missing front teeth). It’s fabulously true to a real JK/SK classroom. Each page illustrates one verse of the poem: “In our classroom, safe and sound./Fears are lost and hope is found./Raise your hand, we’ll go round./ All are welcome here.” The children are charming but I think the best page of all is their little science fair where they display a dinosaur project, sticky green slime, the classic volcano and a bug collection with some of the insects on the loose! There is so much to see on every page.  This is a book worth checking out more than once and the page featuring their potluck celebration will make your mouth water. Everyone will want to attend their friendly school.

Hello School! should be required reading for anyone who wants to remember what it is like to be in school or is just about to be in a busy classroom. From the moment that these kids step onto the pages they are bright and authentic – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such sweet expressions in a picture book and the things that they say in their little speech bubbles? Oh, it is so sweet. Their teacher is aptly named Mrs. Friend and these kids are ready to be friends right away with an enthusiasm to share and express their feelings, saying things like “Kevin is hibernating TOO LOUD” on the page about Quiet time. I know that I have heard kids talk like this in a classroom and I could picture that scene happening. The book goes step by step through the children visiting their new cubbies, sitting in a circle, snacking, counting and talking about the seasons but the strength of this book is in how the author makes it seem like this is a real little classroom filled with kids who love their school. It’s a welcoming book that should make kids feel like a classroom is the place to be.

The Secret Life of Squirrels: Back to School! is the story of Mr. Peanut’s good friend Miss Rosie and her very busy time in getting the classroom all ready for school. Nancy Rose has done another top-notch job at getting her backyard squirrels to look like they are participating in the activities she then writes about on each page. It’s a darling concept every time she publishes a new book and this one has Rosie hanging a welcome banner for her little students, placing name tags on desks, setting out sports equipment for gym class and visiting other squirrel teachers as they get ready for their new school year.  Squirrel teachers.  It is so good. The miniature calculators, school bags, paint brushes and desks are adorable and it’s wonderful to know that the author, Nancy Rose, sets up the vignettes and just waits for the little squirrels to come visit. This book is one of those treasures that could be looked at over and over while you plan your first day of school or think back to school days of the past.

When you finish looking at our newest back-to-school books remember that you will find many encouraging titles from seasons of the past on our shelves. Don’t forget that favourite characters like Franklin, Spot, and Clifford have featured in classic stories that will help to prompt conversations about what happens in a classroom. Library staff have so many suggestions about their personal favourites on the shelves and can lead you to resources that are designed specifically for parents so everyone will go home happy from a visit to the library.  We won’t be able to give you a new pencil case but we can do almost everything else to get you ready for the first day of school.

-Penny M.

 

 

Unforgettable Ontario

I’m having a bit of a problem. But a good one, a fun one.

Shortly I will be entertaining a visitor from England for a few days. So where to take him, what sites to show him?

Help has arrived in the shape of a great new library book, Unforgettable Ontario: 100 Destinations by Noel Hudson. He previously wrote Unforgettable Canada: 100 Destinations in case you are looking for destinations farther afield.

I guess I’m a bit of a blase Ontarian. I tend to take my home province for granted. But flipping through this book, and looking at the gorgeous photos, it’s like, wow, there are a lot of amazing places to visit in Ontario, so much to see and do.

Unforgettable Ontario, with destinations arranged by region, is a wonderfully eclectic mix of big city/small town/rural destinations; well-known and lesser known sites; indoor stuff and outdoor stuff, as well as festivals galore.

A couple of selections grabbed my attention. For instance, the Bonnechere Caves in eastern Ontario look mighty intriguing. Or for a cheesy option, the nearby Oxford County cheese trail (with artisanal cheese producers listed) looks like a fun day trip. Apparently Oxford County has a long tradition of cheese-making. I did not know that. Or here’s something I’m all shook up about: the world’s largest Elvis festival held annually in Collingwood. Oh, yeah!

So borrowing heavily from this book I’ve come up with a tentative itinerary for my English visitor. I think we will head east, first to Prince Edward County to visit Sandbanks Provincial Park and maybe sample a few (?) local wines. Then on to Kingston and area to visit Fort Henry and do a Thousand Islands boat cruise. Problem solved.

-Penny D.

Unsung Heroes

Have you ever watched a deleted scene from a movie and felt that there was something missing? Chances are that scene didn’t have any music. Soundtracks often go unnoticed by people when they are present, but without them movies would be lacking a vital element to make the stories truly come alive.

Music plays many roles in the things we watch. It can identify a character, a setting, or a significant event. Throughout the film, that music will remind the audience of whatever has been associated with that theme. This can be useful in subtle ways, like when the protagonist is thinking about their love interest. We don’t need them to say who they are thinking about if the score for the love interest starts playing. Whether we pay attention or not, we will pick up on the auditory clues and intuitively know what is happening.

Another crucial aspect of movie scores is giving the viewers emotional cues. The music tells us how we are supposed to be feeling and plays a huge part in setting the mood. Can you imagine if fanfare was playing during a death scene? Or if a sweeping ballad was underscoring a series of prat falls? They just don’t work. Those scenes would become jarring and unappealing. The emotions that we feel while watching a movie are significantly enhanced with the right kind of music. Even scenes like in the Lord of the Rings movies when they are journeying across the mountains. The music makes us feel the excitement of adventure and the epic importance of the journey. Without the score to provide us with that emotional boost, watching people hike would not be nearly as exciting.

It’s not just scores that bring a movie to life, but soundtracks as well. What’s the difference, you ask? A score is orchestral music composed for the movie that is usually meant to exist subtly under the dialogue and action. Soundtracks are pieces of music chosen to be in the movie that are usually contemporary with lyrics. While they can be used under dialogue and action, they are more typically for montages and transitions.

The right choice of a popular song can perfectly encapsulate a moment or call forth an emotion for the audience. A lot of the music I enjoy, I first discovered from watching a movie or TV show. I would fall in love with the soundtrack music and have to look up what the songs were so I could buy them or borrow from the library!

Many movies use both scores and soundtracks to round out the storytelling of the movie. Take Guardians of the Galaxy as an example. We have an excellent score that is full of sweeping heroic pieces, tense escape music, and more poignant emotional pieces. Then there is the amazing soundtrack based on the main character’s cassette tape. These are all songs from the 1970s that are not only great songs, but are significant to the character. The audience knows that he has been listening to these songs all his life, and we are able to further identify with him through the soundtrack.

Movies just wouldn’t be the same without music. Scores and soundtracks are integral to the characters, story, and overall emotional depth. Movie music is one of my favourite things to listen to and fortunately the library helps keep me supplied with excellent score and soundtrack options. If you are interested in listening to some, just check out WPL’s collection!

— Ashley T.

Is the RomCom Alive & Well?

One of our daughters told me that she read an article online that the RomCom is dead and the author was blaming Tom Hanks. I was so horrified that I couldn’t even look it up. I mean, really? Did this person even watch You’ve Got Mail? How about Sleepless in Seattle? Romance galore. Then our daughter wondered if she was mistaken and it might have been Hugh Grant and I gasped out loud. Not the floppy haired star of Notting Hill? What about his wonderful role in Four Weddings and a Funeral? Hugh Grant? A killer of romantic movies? Never. I loved those movies. How could Hugh or Tom be to blame for the end of one of the most delightful genres of film ever? The absolute pinnacle of meet cute occurs in Notting Hill because Anna Scott casually enters Will Thacker’s travel bookshop and then meets him later – collides with him – and he invites her to his house with “the blue door” to clean up. Oh my. Can this glorious style of film truly be finished?

And then I thought about it and realized that I’ve never really been able to convince myself that showing these movies to my own daughters is a fabulous idea. They are very sweet movies and I love them nostalgically but they don’t show a version of romance or life that I want them to aspire to. We need more than a meet cute. Falling in love because you both like school supplies and bagels is not enough even if you do have the on-screen chemistry of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. The great news is that these cheerful films are still being made but in a more thoughtful way. Kumail Nanjani and Zoe Kazan wrote a semi-autobiographical film about their relationship that was so funny that I think we could call it a ComRom and I was just 100% swept away by their romance. It was beautiful, despite the fact that much of it was spent in a hospital, with Zoe’s character in a coma. We watched The Big Sick and loved it so wholeheartedly that we had to sit through all of the extra features because we didn’t want the magic to end. Okay, I was the driving force on that but it was a splendid film.

Fabulous news for fans of romantic comedies is that Kevin Kwan’s wonderful novel Crazy Rich Asians has been made into a film and will be in theatres to charm us all. It should meet the needs of both romantic and comedy perfectly but will be an updated take on this genre of film.

Main character Rachel Chu is an accomplished Economics professor who has been dating history professor Nicholas Young for a substantial amount of time when he asks her to go with him to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding (there is no meet cute in the book because they are set up by a mutual friend but in the book they are eating at Tea & Sympathy in an early scene so that is a lovely, romantic touch – maybe their delicious scones will feature in the movie?) and they pack their bags and fly together like a calm, normal couple. It’s the last average thing that they do together because Rachel is absolutely astounded to find that when she visits his grandmother for the first time she is living in a palatial home surrounded by what looks like acres of forest in the middle of a busy city. This where the comedy and the romance start to mix together in the most enjoyable way with fantastic pacing throughout the novel. I laughed and laughed and hope to do the same in the theatre.

Kwan wrote an outlandish but charming fish-out-of-water story with Rachel meeting the in-laws, going to Singapore for the first time, learning that Nick is from one of the wealthiest families in the country and participating in an almost daily battle with women who want to marry this most sought after bachelor and facing the knowledge that Nick’s own mother doesn’t approve of her. Honestly, if she weren’t perfectly sure that Nick was the first person she had ever considered spending her life with, I think she might have made a hopped on the next flight back to New York. See? New York, the home of the RomCom. Her awareness that she is the one making the decisions here, that Nick isn’t her only option for happiness, is what puts Kwan’s novel squarely in this decade and will make the screenplay a different animal from Romantic films of the past.

The first book in this trilogy (it is followed by China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems) was so instantly likable that Kwan was approached to sell the film rights before it was even published. It has been reported that he turned down one of the first offers because they requested that he change Rachel Chu’s character to a non-Asian woman so that they could more easily cast the role. By taking on the role of executive producer on this film he was able to play a part in guiding the choices made in the casting of the parts and they are absolute perfection.

Constance Wu – of ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat – has the part of Rachel and she will be a force to reckon with, exactly what is required to carry this film. She will play opposite a new actor, Henry Golding, as Nick. The director of the film, John M. Chu, wanted to be sure that the film had an outstanding all-Asian cast to match this incredible book so after they announced that they had signed Constance Wu for the main role he posted a video with an international open casting call. Who could resist this guy?

They received thousands of two minute videos with the hashtag #CrazyRichAsiansCasting and combed through them to find exactly the right actors to fill their cast. The social media accounts of author Kevin Kwan, the director, the principal actors and many of the creative leads were filled with colourful tidbits of news during the months leading up to the filming and once they were on set it was thrilling to see them post photographs of the actors together on location and in their glorious couture costumes. It’s really been a treat to watch everything come together. Check out this photo from one of their cast parties – so glamorous.

crazy rich

True to Kevin Kwan’s vision, the sets, flowers, food, cars, and dresses were opulent and vibrant. According to everything I have been reading even the soundtrack and orchestration will match his vision for the story – everything is absolutely over the top. Give yourself the treat of watching the trailer. Have you already seen it? Watch it again. Watch it for Ken Jeong, Awkwafina, Nico Santos, Gemma Chan and Michelle Yeoh – and that’s just in a two and a half minute trailer. That is just a fraction of what you will see in the theatre. Can you believe it? It’s stellar.

So, are Tom Hanks or Hugh Grant to blame for the death of the romantic comedy? I really don’t know because I was too much of an ostrich to look it up. I know that I wouldn’t read it even if I found the article. I do know that I look forward to seeing this film succeed and hearing all about how Constance Wu saved the romantic comedy. Long live the meet cute!

– – Penny M.

The Great Believers

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai is getting major press in the US but for some sad reason, not so much here at home. So! That’s where I’ll step in because this is a novel I wish everyone would read. It’s a big one but it’s gripping, keeping you turning page after page after page. You know those books you can’t wait to get back to when you’re not reading it? This is one of those books.

The story moves between two time periods: 1985 where we follow and love a group of young men living in Chicago during the AIDS crisis and 2015, the story of a woman searching for her lost adult daughter in Paris. I love this sort of book! Reading and waiting to see just how and when the stories will intersect.

The subject of The Great Believers is serious but somehow never gets too heavy or too sad. There are funny moments and it is definitely not a slow read. Ultimately, The Great Believers is about the family we choose.  It’s a heartbreaking story, of course it is. So many young men die for no reason with no help except from each other. We don’t know how bad it was, how many people died, how many families were torn apart.

Makkai’s other books are gems as well. I remember falling completely in love with The Borrower when it came out. It tells the story of a young librarian who helps a young boy through major struggles in his life and it also is amazing.

The Great Believers will surely be on many awards lists next fall and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins. I’ve read in reviews that it is going to be this new book that will make Makkai a household name.

If my raving review of this book doesn’t draw your interest than read something from the author herself. This was a recent post she put on Facebook about writing a novel during such trying times.

This is a weird time to be releasing a novel, and I have a lot of other things on my mind.

Something that’s been hammered home for me in five years of work on this book: genocide does not always announce itself as genocide. It doesn’t always come in swinging machetes. It can be slow. It can be built of neglect. A lot of the time, it looks like bureaucracy. It’s going to happen again and again, in our lifetime: People in power are going to kill the people with the least power. Most often, they’re going to do it slowly and silently.

But here’s the other thing I’ve learned by writing a book about AIDS, and listening to survivors: You can fight harder than you think. You can fight when you’re sick, you can fight when you’re despondent, you can fight when you have nothing to lose, you can fight when you have everything to lose.

We don’t always choose the battles we’re conscripted into. I’m proud and honored to be in the trenches with all of you.

Yes, yes and yes! This leaves me jumping and fist pumping the air.

When I finished this book I just sat on my couch, holding it, not ready to let it go. This book, to me, is a heart that I want to hang on to and protect, but I would love to share it with you.

— Sarah C.