Weddings: read all about them

Each week the CBC Toronto afternoon drive show does a feature where they pick a topic and request that listeners call in to suggest songs along that theme.  Gill Deacon – the host – reads an email or plays a listener voicemail that introduces the song and it is one of the highlights of my week each day as I drive home from the library.  It’s called “Gill’s Jukebox” and they post complete song lists on Spotify.

Recently the Jukebox theme was “Songs That You Would Play at a Wedding” and it got me thinking about the fabulous weddings I have attended and the endless great books we have at WPL about weddings.  We have so many as they come out every year at this time to take advantage of our passion for the wedding season.  I like to read wedding books throughout the year, just as I will read a Christmas-themed murder mystery on a blazing hot summer afternoon, but if you have a wedding in your future then I have some glorious books to help get you in the mood for a spin around the dance floor.

downloadGrant Ginder’s 2017 novel, The People We Hate at the Wedding, could have been a little bit more like that scene from Steel Magnolias where one character says to the other, “If you don’t have anything nice to say about anyone then come sit by me.” but other than that small criticism I loved this book.  It was a solid drama with several members of one family traveling to London to attend the wedding of perfect, elegant, well-educated Eloise in a small town in the southwest of England.  Memories of Four Weddings and a Funeral were flooding into my mind as I read some of the scenes of the pre-wedding preparations.  The actual wedding day is filled with extravagant touches which is so much fun to read about but members of Eloise’s extended family have some longstanding grudges to work out before they can make their way to the celebration.  It’s a bit of an outrageous journey, certainly, but one that works for a book with this title and cover.  You pick up this book expecting some chaos and can’t help but be pleased when things work out.

If you would like your wedding reading to seem like it was lifted directly from a movie you might see on the W Network then you have got to read The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. This book was pure entertainment reading – great for a dock or hammock.  Alexa meets Drew in a hotel elevator when she goes to LA to celebrate her sister’s promotion.  Of course the elevator gets stuck and they are forced into a lengthy conversation while they share snacks from Alexa’s stylish purse.  Naturally they are attracted to each other and Drew (you must suspend disbelief here) asks her to come with him to the wedding of his ex-girlfriend the very next day because he just can’t imagine walking into the room alone.  Their single date turns into a second date and they find themselves carving out time to be together in the following weekends.  He is a pediatric surgeon and she is the chief of staff for the Mayor of Berkley so it isn’t easy to find moments that match up in their busy schedules.  They make it work.  This is a fake romance that turns into something real and it all began in a stalled elevator – an overused romance novel trope but author makes it fresh and believable.

Maggie Shipstead’s Seating Arrangements is a wonderful summer read with a wedding at the centre – bonus points.  Right from the start you feel like you are on a vacation because you are traveling to a gorgeous family retreat on a fictional New England island called Waskeke.  You feel the sunshine, smell the breeze, almost want to dip your toes into the water and also feel a tiny bit smug that you aren’t involved in the kind of shenanigans that some of these people are dealing with or considering that they might become involved in.  Family patriarch Winn Van Meter has a good marriage, wonderful children, and a life of privilege. Although he should be enjoying the wedding of one of his daughters, he is obsessed with outward shows of status (like being accepted in a country club) and what people think of him.  His wife – Biddy! – has the wedding weekend planned down to the last minute. Daughters Daphne and Livia don’t really seem like they deserve the kind of devotion their mother shows them.  If the author didn’t have such a way of making the situation funny it might be impossible to like many of the characters in this novel but it is enjoyable to watch them all – talking about their Ivy League educations and wearing their preppy clothes – until this unique celebratory weekend comes to an end.

There are scads of wonderful YA books where weddings are featured so please come to the desk and we will tell you about some of our favourites.  Come to think of it there are a several solid junior titles as well, I can suggest the Penderwicks series and dear Richard Peck’s The Best Man.  Weddings are such an integral part of life that they feature prominently in many novels and are a natural fit for any list of favourite books.  One of my top teen titles, Always and Forever Lara Jean, by the incredible Jenny Han, is actually the third in her series which features three sisters – Margo, Kitty and Lara Jean – and their widowed father.  He has decided that he can start to consider a romantic future with someone again and finds love with their wonderful neighbour Ms. Rothschild.  This book is a window into Lara Jean’s senior year as she makes decisions about where she wants to go to college and what her future will bring but the strength of these books has always been their family unit.  It’s the lure of the sisters and how they relate to their father that sets this series apart from others on the YA bookshelves.  Jenny Han’s first book has just been made into a film for Netflex (you can see all kinds of behind-the-scenes details on Twitter @jennyhan) and I’m excited to see it. I just really hope that they stay true to the wonderful family scenes that Han depicts in her books.  That is part of what made the wedding in this book so meaningful as the sisters have worked hard to be kind to each other, to take care of their father after the death of their mother, and welcoming Ms. Rothschild into their lives is a big step. This YA book is worth a read and includes a sweet wedding that will make you cry.

And finally, if you are in the market for a wedding shower gift then you must have a look at the latest offering from the editors of Martha Stewart Living.  They have pulled together valuable tips and tricks and gorgeously photographed recipes in Martha Stewart’s Newlywed Kitchen and it is a superb resource.  The book is divided into three stellar sections.  The first one helps the new couple get organized by sorting out their pantry, buying supplies, and choosing spiffy new tools.  The second section includes recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two people, and then the third section is all about entertaining.  That final section is called “Gather Round” and is divided into events that a couple might find themselves hosting, including the dreaded Thanksgiving meal.  Really, this could be considered a welcome resource for any cookbook shelf and not just those recently wed.  You could give it a try first for three weeks – just borrow it from your friendly neighbourhood library.

As for Gill’s Jukebox, I didn’t get a chance to call in and make a request but in case you wondered, the song that I always choose at weddings is Jim Croce’s Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.  A classic since 1973 – just try not to dance when you hear it.

— Penny M.

 

 

Circe : Is It A “Must Read”?

You know how friends get together and participate in those fantasy sports leagues by choosing their favourite players in a particular sport, each person putting in a wager, tracking the statistics throughout a season, and then determining the winner at the end based on who amassed the greatest number of points? I’ve known people to do this for hockey, baseball, and basketball. Even for a period of time the TV show The League was very popular at our house with six Chicago high school friends who ran an incredibly competitive – and completely absurd – fantasy football league.

It’s fun. I get it. I can see how the thrill of trash talking about your favourite sports and players is a blast but it has always left me feeling cold. I watch sports, have played on a few adult rec teams, and certainly drive my kids to arenas and fields all year long but participating in one of these fantasy leagues has just never held any thrill for me.

Until recently when I was thinking that it could be possible to set something similar up for a publishing season. A group of friends could choose 5-10 authors who are publishing books that season and see how their books do in a set period of time with the markers for success being agreed upon ahead of time (as we wouldn’t be able to use the typical scoring stats available through runs, points scored or touchdowns). We could say that a starred review in Publishers Weekly or Kirkus was worth one point and a front page review in the New York Times Book Review with a colour illustration would be worth two points. If the author was interviewed on a major television network they would get three points and if they got a radio interview it would be two and on from there. The wager would be, of course, each person putting a gift certificate from Words Worth Books into the pot. At the end of the season we would tally up how well authors did and the first place winner would get all of the gift certificates. I think it would be so much fun to predict how well a book would do and take a risk on a debut author. Don’t you think?

51eaZ1mO9ML._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_I was musing over this because I recently read a book that I had refused to read – stubbornly – because every reviewer said that I had to read it. It was a ‘must read’ on every possible list. Madeleine Miller’s Circe was lauded by Kirkus, Library Journal and Publishers Weekly with starred reviews and glowing words of praise. NPR, Esquire, Cosmopolitan (!), The Boston Globe, The Millions and Book Riot all said it was on their list of books that you had to read for this year and The Guardian said it was “…unmissable culture for 2018.” I felt that every time I heard or read another thing about this witch’s tale I was more unlikely to read it. I felt like a toddler being led to steamed vegetables. No can do.

And then I heard an interview with author Madeline Miller where she read aloud from her book and shared a moment from the character’s first days as a new mother. She is walking with her infant and says that her son doesn’t like the sun, doesn’t like the wind, is unhappy on his back, is unhappy when placed on his stomach and doesn’t even cease to cry when she carries him but at least when he cries she has the consolation that he is still alive. I’m just remembering the bare bones of the words she used to share these feelings but it was so moving that it took me back to those early days when you have your first child and you hover outside the door after the baby is asleep – relieved that they are asleep but terrified that the silence means that they might have stopped breathing instead. I knew that this Madeleine Miller was someone I wanted to get to know through her writing.

Circe’s story is one you might have heard before as she is the daughter of the Greek sun-god Helios who grows into the powerful witch who can turn passing sailors into pigs. A useful skill. The author has given us a chance to meet Circe as a young girl who is unloved by her parents, shunned by everyone in the golden court and banished to live alone on an island where she starts to develop her skills with herbs and witchcraft. Her determined spirit and uncompromising nature make her a character to love and when she starts to finds her footing on the island you are completely won over. Through the book Circe meets Daedallus, the Minotaur, Athena, Medea, Odysseus, Zeus, turns so many men into pigs, performs an emergency C-section, casts spells, welcomes thieves and worse into her home, finds love and has her own beautiful son.

Sure, it’s a lot to fit into a lifetime, even for a goddess like Circe, but the moments in the book that seemed most beautiful were the ones where she seemed like someone we all know right now. In 2018. A powerful, thoughtful woman who is struggling to do what is right. At the end of the novel it really did seem like she would fit in with other wonderful female characters I’d read lately – as if she were from An American Marriage or That Kind of Mother. Her friends and lovers were just as real and present for me. All of those reviewers were right this time. I’m adding my voice to their chorus. This is the book that you have to read.

So, I’m just letting you know that in the fantasy authors league that I’m thinking of running, Madeleine Miller will be my first draft pick.

— Penny M.

The Map of Salt & Stars

According to the United Nations’ website, every single minute 20 people have to leave everything behind to escape war, persecution, or terror. The United Nations Refugee Agency approximates that at least 65.6 million people have been “forcibly displaced” from their homes worldwide. In 2001, the UN established June 20th as World Refugee Day, to “commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees”.

Syria currently remains the world’s largest source of refugees (United Nations). The United Nations Refugee Agency states that there are approximately 13 million people in Syria that are in need, another 6 million internally displaced, and an additional 3 million in hard-to-reach and besieged areas. Over 5.6 million Syrians have found asylum in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt and are registered as refugees.

The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar follows the plight of Nour, a young Syrian girl and her family.  Nour’s family was living in New York City but after the death of her father (Baba), Nour’s Mama decides to move the family back to Syria. The family isn’t back in Syria long before they are touched by war. Nour tries to take comfort in the stories her Baba told her of Rawiya, a legendary girl who disguised herself as a boy in order to travel with a mapmaker charting the Mediterranean for the first time.  Nour’s mother also makes maps, and, as her family flees Syria for Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Ceuta, they end up mirroring the journey of Rawiya.

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked the parallels the author drew not only between maps of the past and present, but also the maps we contain within ourselves, as we journey through our lives. There are many instances where you get a real sense of the danger, suffering, and loss that refugees must feel as they try to find food, safety, and someone who will give them a new “home.”

Nour has synesthesia, a condition that allows her to see colours and shapes for smells, sounds and letters. For example, Nour sees her mother’s angry voice as red, almost white; her sister’s laugh as pink-and-purple; and, when oil and fat sizzle in a pan, it pops like yellow and black bursts in her ears. The fact that Nour experiences multiple senses in colours and shapes also reminds me of the colours and shapes on a map.

I also like that there were strong female characters in this book: all of them had to make hard choices and sacrifices. I continue to be amazed about civilization’s ability to be humane and inhumane in times of crises.

However, I found the transitions between the Nour and Rawiya’s stories very confusing. Three asterisks were all that separated one timeline from another within the chapters, and sometimes there was extra spacing between paragraphs making me think the storyline was switching when it wasn’t. I also had to flip back through the book at times to remember where one girl’s story had ended off before it went to the other girl’s story. I feel the poor transitioning prevented me from truly engaging with either storyline, and turned what could have been a great book into just a good book.

— Sandy W.

Eat A Little Better

When a book promises a behind-the-scenes look at something I find it irresistible. If the author is telling me that the secrets they will provide will be about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue then I never miss reading that book. It’s a tempting mix – the White House and secrets. One of my favourite cozy mysteries is top of this list partially due to the way that the author made her series seem authentically set in an atmosphere that is notoriously hard to get any information about. It’s just too good.

The White House Chef series by Julie Hyzy is one of the most enjoyable cozy mysteries on our shelves. Her books are action-packed, funny, with a supporting cast of sous chefs, fussy West Wing staffers, and gruff secret service agents who make the White House feel like a real community you want to return to in each book, despite constant murders and kitchen chaos. Hyzy includes recipes for a “complete Presidential menu” at the end of each book and the details about the high pressure life serving the First Family make this one of my favourite choices to read or recommend.

However, I was truly thrilled when I read that a real White House chef for the Obamas, Sam Kass, was publishing his own cookbook. A chance to really learn about the daily work life of one of the White House chefs? Sign me up!

This cookbook, Eat a Little Better, is more than just recipes – it is inspirational. Sam Kass is gently encouraging us to try and eat better, adjust the way we shop for food, arrange our pantry and think about how this will change our world. And the very best part of his message is that he writes the whole book without using guilt or making it seem like his suggestions are easy to accomplish. I was relieved that Kass acknowledges that very few families can quit eating brownies altogether and that he, as a former advisor to the First Family, couldn’t make that happen. Even Michelle Obama wasn’t able to make her kids listen to her so how can we be expected to make magic happen when people walk into the house after school and work, claiming that they are ‘starving’? Instead Kass suggests that there be a balance between the healthy choices and less healthy choices for everyone and outlines how that can happen in his book. It’s the idea that we can all eat a little better that is so appealing.

t1larg.elmoThe recipes in the book vary in difficulty but there weren’t many that seemed overly daunting. Kass is realistic in his expectations of us. I like Sam Kass. He even spent time with the gang from Sesame Street – you can look this up. He did forget to include a chapter on desserts in Eat a Little Better which I found disappointing. He mentioned that Barack Obama was a fan of pie but neglected to include many stellar recipes for that favoured choice. Do you remember how Barack’s performance in the first presidential debate in 2012 was a little lackluster but in the second he seemed to turn up the heat on Mitt Romney? It seems that it wasn’t the days of reported prep work in Virginia that gave him the extra fire. According to the story in this book, Kass asked Obama what he wanted to eat (and he was ready for anything, having packed a variety of ingredients to take along and cook in a tiny kitchen on Air Force One) and made him exactly the right meal for crushing the competition. He liked it so much that he cooked it for him again on election night making it “lucky pasta”. If there is one recipe you try from this cookbook it has to be this one – not to mention it is chock-a-block full of wonderful stuff – garlic, spinach, basil, pine nuts, chicken – and then it will be your family’s lucky pasta. It also makes a tasty leftover so you can take it to work the next day and impress your friends by saying you are eating President Obama’s favourite pasta.

The real highlight of the recipes for me was the last grouping, where he organized beans and grains into different seasons in an attempt to encourage families to add them into every meal of the year. His inventive suggestions for using up pantry staples will make so many busy weeknight meals (and lunches!) easier. I know that I am going to be checking this practical cookbook out so many times over the next few months and will love it even more when September hits.

Sam Kass began cooking for the Obama family long before they moved into the White House. It’s really hard to say which is a more challenging meal to cook – one for a family with a parent who is the leader of the free world or a meal for one who is working 24-7 trying to get that job. This cookbook is actually an opportunity to learn a bit about how the food that they ate and how they connected over meals was a part of what kept that family strong during challenging times. He started on the journey of being more conscious of the impact of food when he worked as a senior policy advisor for nutrition in the White House and as the executive director of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative and he includes that journey in this book making it a little bit like an autobiography.

Kass was an important part of the work that Michelle Obama did when she created a kitchen garden on the South Lawn. This was a controversial decision at the time but it allowed them to invite thousands of children and adults into the space and let them see how food is grown instead of seeing it come in glossy packages from the local supermarket. They chose to go even further by using that produce in state dinners, advancing to add honey production to the garden and eventually creating more than one White House beer while they were in office. Since leaving the White House Kass has continued to work on initiatives with Michelle and Barack Obama. If you wanted to fall into an inspiring Internet rabbit hole you could check out what he is up to now – he is hard to keep up with.

We might not all have kitchens with the same accoutrements as Sam Kass, have the opportunity to entertain heads of state (or Elmo) but we can all try some of his recipes, learn from his research, and enjoy reading about the real life of a White House Chef.

— Penny M.

The Winnowing

The trickiest questions I’m asked at WPL’s Information Desk often come from vivacious teen dystopian readers. They have already read all the popular titles. They were captivated by The Hunger Games long before it was popular. They were engrossed in Divergent long before it was made into a movie. They devoured Lois Lowry’s books before they even got to high school. So what’s left to recommend? Thankfully, Canadian author Vikki VanSickle has come to the rescue with her latest title, The Winnowing.

The Winnowing offers a retelling of history, mixed with conspiracy and science fiction. After World War II the world faces a spreading infertility crisis. No children have been born since the end of the war and the human race faces extinction. Fast forward to 1989 – the small town of Darby, New Mexico is home to a group of scientists who have miraculously found a way to reverse the crisis. The cure is now administered to all children.

The book begins with a young woman, Marivic, having vivid nightmares of running through burning lava. The dream seems so real that it feels as though her feet are truly being scorched. This is the first sign of ACES (Adolescent Chromosomniatic Episodes), the side effect of the cure that all teenagers experience during the onset of puberty. Next, they will develop extraordinary abilities that stretch beyond human limitations. If they do not undergo a procedure called The Winnowing, they become a danger to themselves and those around them. Those who complete the winnowing are left with hazy memories, unable to recall any specific details of the procedure.

Like all teenagers in Darby, Marivic is sent to a medical centre to be treated for her ACES. Her best friend Saren is already there, having started treatment sometime earlier. Together they encounter a suspicious young man who claims to have information linking The Winnowing to more sinister events.

Science fiction enthusiasts will notice various references to famous sci-fi creators sprinkled throughout the novel, the most notable being the character of Dr. Roddenbury (a nod to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenbury).

The Winnowing, which is a Red Maple Fiction Award nominee, will appeal to vivacious dystopian fans, as well as those who enjoy a good conspiracy theory.

— Lesley L.

The Genius That Is Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer has been tearing up the bestseller list as well as the airwaves this spring with the release of her newest book, The Female Persuasion. Just listen to her interview on Q .

meg_wolitzer_and_Emma_Straub._040418I read The Interestings last year and I enjoyed it, however it was not until I read her latest novel that I truly understood the genius that is Meg Wolitzer and why another of my favourite authors, Emma Straub, felt the need to make herself a t-shirt with Meg’s name on it. I would wear a t-shirt with either of their names on it any day of the week!

This is a big novel, the kind you get muscles from because for the week you are reading it, you never put it down. The novel tells the story of Greer Kadetsky, a college student who left home to get away from her pothead, negligent parents to make something of herself. Greer knows she has something to offer the world and that when she can get over being so shy and figure out what it is, she is going to be amazing.

One night at a party, she is groped by a stranger who ends up being someone who has assaulted numerous women on campus. Greer begins to get her voice and speak up with her friend, Zoe (they make t-shirts too!) only to fall short when the male is given a mere slap on the wrist. One night, she and Zoe attend a speaking event featuring the very famous feminist, Faith Frank, think Gloria Steinem with awesome boots. After the talk, Greer meets Faith in the washroom and this meeting is the jumping off point for the rest of Greer’s life.

The novel tells the story of these women over the years, as well as Cory, Greer’s high school boyfriend. He may end up being the strongest demonstrator of equal rights when he is forced to give up his career and take care of his family. His feminism is quiet and shows it doesn’t need to be in the spotlight. His story is heart wrenching and beautifully written, perfectly juxtaposed with the fame Greer gains as she grows into herself as a writer and activist. The evolution of their relationship was real and never felt manipulated.

Wolitzer has written a story of relationships within the story of Greer’s coming of age. She writes of female triumphs and the roadblocks and setbacks often caused by men. She shows the ways women can lift each other up – the theme of mentoring is a dominant one – but also how badly they can hurt each other. This book is a new favourite of mine for sure and I will definitely be reading the rest the Wolitzer’s backlist.

— Sarah C.

Every Note Played

With a PHD in Neuroscience, bestselling author Lisa Genova knows a little bit about the neurological diseases that she incorporates into her novels. Her previous topics have included Alzheimers, Autism, Huntingtons and Left Neglect (Unilateral or Hemispatial Neglect). Genova’s latest foray is into Amyotrophic Lateral Scerlosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. She does not rely on her vast education to provide the research required to demonstrate the horrifying layers of this disease’s progression. Instead, Genova walked with people who are on the ALS journey themselves. Through interviews with many patients and their families, she has developed a solid understanding of what the ALS journey means to those affected by the affliction.

In her latest novel, Every Note Played, we find ourselves following the devastation the disease has wreaked on world-renowned concert pianist Richard Evans. From diagnosis to the drawing of his last breath, Genova artfully puts the reader in a position to feel each loss that Richard suffers.

Initially, Richard doesn’t believe that the physical havoc he has been warned about will affect him but slowly and surely, he faces his new reality. For all intents and purposes, Richard is alone in the world. Estranged from his ex-wife and daughter, he tries to come to terms with how he is going to manage as the disease continues to strip him of the ability to physically handle simple day to day tasks such as eating, bathing and playing his beloved piano. Karina, his divorced spouse, learns of Richard’s fate from mutual friends but struggles with raging resentment toward her former lover which keeps her initially from reaching out to him. Eventually though, she does swallow her pride and reaches out. What she finds is far worse than she can imagine and she knows in an instant what role she must take on during this terrible journey.

The history of their marriage and the real life disappointments and heartbreaks they both endured and suffered come crashing down upon them as they find themselves unhappily bound to each other as Richard’s ALS continues its devastating dismantling of his physical abilities. Both of them are magnificent musicians, albeit with different passions. Richard is a master of the classical genre while Karina discovered after her classical training that jazz gave her the freedom to ‘be the music’. One thrived in their craft… one did not.

The sacrifices and resentments each hold onto are the seasoning for the musical interludes that Genova peppers throughout the unfolding drama. One can feel the intense passion and internal release that both Richard and Karina have felt when they are in their musical moment.

This story is beautifully layered and artfully told. Lisa Genova is a master at bringing the science of neurological disease to her readers with humour, empathy and grace.

— Nancy C.

 

The Royal We

Guilty pleasures – we all have them. We all need them. A harmless indulgence to turn to when the evening’s pile of dishes is too high or it seems like you simply cannot fill the day’s school and work lunch bags one more time.

WPL has been helping to feed mine for years with the subscriptions to the simply magical Royalty-watching magazines Majesty and Hello! Canada. Occasionally I augment my magazine reading with something from the non-fiction shelves by Penny Junor or Sally Bedell Smith. And, in the early spring of 2015, I was thrilled to read that two fashion bloggers were writing a fictionalized tell-all based on the romance of Will and Kate. After being captivated by this splendid romance I regularly turn to the website from authors Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan often as they publish a weekly “Royals Round Up” with a collection of royalty news from around the world and share sweet little nuggets of silliness about the families they cover. I highly recommend it. They make me smile every weekend with their comments about sweet Royal babies, tiaras and glamorous dresses and have added a tagline to their website that says “Will the Prince marry an American? We wrote the book on that.” because they did and it is spot on.

The idea behind the novel The Royal We is that they have used the facts of Will and Kate’s love story and written a novel entirely about them, just slightly adjusting their names, and adding in some fun details where they couldn’t dig up the facts. Their Kate is ‘Bex’ and Will is ‘Nick’ and his brother is a rakish red-haired ‘Freddie’ but the timelines match and you can perfectly imagine every step that they are taking if you have seen the photographs of Will and Kate on the campus of St. Andrews. Conveniently for these two bloggers they added a twist that their future queen is actually an American who comes to England to spend a year studying and meets her future husband/prince. She didn’t even come with the idea of romance in mind – she just wanted to sketch and paint. It’s always that way in the best romance novels, isn’t it?

In their swoon-worthy story Nick/Will is prime royalty so there are glitzy parties and museum openings with paparazzi chases but the real connection begins with a friendship built over binge watching American vampire TV shows in their dorm rooms. His brother Freddie is everything you would want him to be – charming, hilarious, a new girl on his arm every night – adding a light touch to balance the tension of Bex getting to know Nick’s very formal extended family. Poor Bex faces British tabloids, critical society snobs and personal demons in the years before Nick proposes (it’s based on their life story, you know how it ends, so I am not spoiling anything for anyone here) and I enjoyed reading it the first time and have recently re-read in my excitement over Harry’s (or Freddie’s?) wedding. The supporting cast of minor royals and friends who attend university with Nick and Bex do a wonderful job of hanging about and it ends perfectly but with enough suspense that it keeps you turning the pages. It’s just delightful reading for anyone wrapped up in the excitement of watching Harry and Meghan’s wedding unfold.

I know that any book written by two American fashion bloggers will be more of a vacation read – perfect for the beach or the airplane – for many and, because it is written with the young royal family as the main focus there is more of an emphasis on the fun side of things than the historical beauty of St. George’s Chapel, but it ends with Bex/Kate trying on endless wedding dresses and isn’t that what we look forward to in a romance novel? This is a book you read for diversion or entertainment – not so that you can bring it up at the next party you attend, unless it is a party to celebrate the Royal Wedding. And, did you know you can even download it from Overdrive and read it on your eReader so your family doesn’t have to know that you are enjoying it a second time? Perfection!

If you want to relive the formal thrills of Kate and Will’s April 2011 wedding or look forward to the casual beauty of Harry and Meghan’s May 2018 wedding you really cannot go wrong with The Royal We. You should brew a whole pot of tea for this one.

— Penny M.

Judging By The Cover

I admit it, I judged this book by its cover … and I was not disappointed. In fact, The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins is now one of my favourite novels.

As anyone who reads a lot will know, it is hard to be surprised by a story. Tropes are everywhere, and while they can certainly be enjoyable they can also make stories and characters a bit predictable. This book had me wondering what could possibly be happening, and surprised by whatever came next. It has been a while since a story kept me on my toes the way that this one did and made for a very exhilarating read!

Carolyn and her adopted siblings have been raised by a man they call Father for almost as long as they can remember. He teaches each child to be an expert in a subsection of his library, with teaching methods that are often quite cruel.

As the children master their library catalogues they gain fantastical abilities that relate to their area of study. The story opens when they are adults, then the narrative jumps around in time.

The storytelling is masterfully done. Scott Hawkins keeps his readers on the edge of their seat by revealing things in bits and pieces. While you start off accumulating only more questions, by the end of the book you have a complete picture of everything that has come together like the final image of a jigsaw puzzle. Characters are discovered the same way and the revelations can completely change your opinion of who they are. I found myself empathizing with characters I never thought I could.

This is a story about revenge and the bonds that tie people together, but it is so different from your average story. There is some dark and disturbing content, however it is all essential to the narrative. Hawkins has written an amazingly creative book and it is hard to believe it is his debut novel.

The Library at Mount Char is a beautiful, twisted, and layered story. I absolutely loved this book and I can’t wait to read more from Scott Hawkins.

— Ashley T.