Hello all! Welcome to Summerland! Come on in – the reading is sublime. We have a roster of newly minted literary diversions as well as a fine selection of recent re-prints from the New York Review of Books (NYRB). So whether you just want something effortless and fun to read or something more challenging, we’ve got you covered. As always, our Newsletter selection just scratches the surface of what’s on our tables and shelves, so wander down to your local Book City and discover your own unique selection to settle down with and enjoy over the summer months. Don’t forget to check out our staff picks for inspired reading suggestions too! First up is a recent selection of titles from NYRB. Just click on the cover images to bring up a brief description of their content.
By Sybille Bedford
Sybille Bedford’s fourth and final novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 1989. As a novelist, she used “the ambiguous and inescapable stuff of her own life at the center of her fiction.” This unsentimental education focuses on her early life spanning the time spent alone with her father at a grand but decidedly impoverished chateau in the German countryside, to her return to Italy and the dark secret consuming her mother’s life, to living with and learning from Aldous and Maria Huxley on the French Riviera.
By Jean-Patrick Manchette
This was Jean-Patrick Manchette’s masterpiece of suspense and black comedy. Ivory Pearl was a child who survived the wreckage of WWII and became a multi-lingual mascot of British soldiers stationed in Berlin. There she meets an Intelligence officer who proposes to adopt her and help her become the photographer she always wanted to be. In exchange, she provides him with a solid cover. Deal struck, but by 1956 she’s sick of photographing every post war conflict from Vietnam to East Berlin. That’s when she travels to Cuba for a break. Her timing for a vacation however, doesn’t take into account that the Cuban Revolution is just about to erupt…
By Anna Seghers
Anna Seghers wrote this novel about a group of 7 German POWs who escape and struggle to avoid re-capture in 1942. It was intended to alert the world to the grim realities of living in Nazi Germany by showing how ordinary Germans adapted to life under this totalitarian regime. This ranged from actively engaging and identifying with it, attempting to ignore it without drawing undue attention to themselves, or by participating in some form of passive or active resistance. Hugely influential at the time of its publication, it remains a very suspenseful and timely story of life under totalitarian rule.
By Francois Rene De Chateaubriand
This epic biography penned over four decades by a member of the French aristocracy recounts his days as a child playing in the woods near his father’s castle in Combourg, hunting with King Louis XVI at Versailles and watching the first wave of heads being carried on pikes through Paris at the start of the revolution. After these events, throughout his lengthy exile in England and eventual return to France, he wrote his memoir. He has a unique sense of self-deprecating wit, whimsy and “memorable gloom” that influenced Baudelaire, Flaubert and Proust. As well, this memoir was touted as the first truly modern autobiography by the likes of Roland Barthes and W.G. Sebald.
By Wolfgang Herrndorf
For the NYRB’s 500th publication it chose something special. This darkly comic literary thriller by one of Germany’s finest writers was completed just before his untimely death in 2013 and is now available in North America for the first time. Set in North Africa after the Munich Olympic massacre, four people are found murdered in a hippie commune, a bag of money disappears and a pair of reluctant detectives are assigned to investigate. In the middle of all this, a man with no memory tries to evade his pursuers. Truly inspired mayhem ensues. This is a writer few know in this part of the world but whom you will certainly remember after reading this.
By Thrity Umrigar
The sequel to the Space Between Us continues the story of Bhima, the illiterate servant who faithfully served an upper-middle class Parsi family for over 20 years. After speaking out against a devastating crime targeting her family, she is quickly forced out on the street by those she most trusted. While searching for a way to fend for herself and her granddaughter, she strikes up an unlikely alliance with Parvati, a taciturn older woman. They form a tentative partnership selling fruit at a local market that slowly changes into a relationship that crosses social boundaries of class, religion, and politics. A tale of modern India that shines a light on the harsh realities of life for women born without privilege in an unforgiving class system.
By Thea Lim
More than a few new releases are being touted as appealing to readers of the amazing Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Amateurs by Liz Harmer comes to mind as does this enticing first novel from Thea Lim. In the near future a deadly flu pandemic strikes with a vengeance. Time travel has recently been discovered and capitalism, human nature and desperation coalesce to form a great little indentured slavery scheme. Polly’s boyfriend Frank has caught the virus and the only way she can pay for the treatment to save him is to sign-up for a one-way trip to the future to work as a bonded labourer. They promise to meet 12 years later in Galveston, Texas but she gets a surprise mandatory 5 year contract extension. She now attempts to find Frank in a very changed America indeed.
By Daryl Gregory
While we may not know someone personally who has clairvoyant abilities, most of us are pretty intrigued by them. Remember The Amazing Kreskin! Meet the Telemachus family, all of whom (save one) have specific gifts in these areas: astral projection, human lie-detecting, telekinesis and clairvoyance. As they become famous, they are put in the spotlight to perform. One fateful night, things go wrong and their lives are shattered. Unfortunately they can’t hide forever as the CIA, the mafia and a high-profile skeptic all come hunting for them. See how this uniquely talented family join forces to fend off these various intrusions and reclaim their lives in this comic romp perfect for a summer read.
By Fred Van Lente
If you’re looking for a light summer read that’s overtly comic, check out this homage to the Golden Age of Mystery/satire on the competitive shenanigans of the stand-up comedy biz. When nine comedians in various stages of their careers and with widely different routines are invited to the island retreat of legendary Hollywood funnyman Dustin Walker, they all show up expecting a wild weekend of comic mayhem. What they experience is something much less opulent and far more sinister as they begin to be killed-off one by one. With each suspect delivering a distinctly unique comic monologue, this hilarious whodunit has plot twists and punchlines to die for.
By Linnea Hartsuyker
This first volume of a trilogy set in ninth century Norway will appeal to readers of The Game of Thrones, Vikings and The Outlander series. A brother–sister duo, Ragnvald and Svanhild, grandchildren of kings who believe they will inherit their family’s lands, are betrayed by their stepfather shortly after the death of their father. The alliances and decisions they make early on in their struggle to win back control of their kingdom hold tremendous consequences that will shape both their destinies and all those whose lives touch them. This is a grand work of historical fiction that illuminates the world of the Vikings and the birth of Scandinavia.
By A.J. Pearce
This debut novel set in London during WWII should appeal to readers of The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. Emmeline Lake has dreams of becoming a war correspondent. When she applies for a job at The London Evening Chronicle, she thinks she’s made the first step towards reaching her goal. The job turns out to be working as a typist for the renowned, straitlaced and controlling advice columnist Mrs. Bird. Mrs. Bird is no Ann Landers and will not deal with situations involving any “Unpleasantness”. Emmeline, however, can’t help but respond to the letters from women who describe a range of heartbreaking and difficult situations. While she and her friend Bunty know they’re playing with fire in responding to these letters as “Mrs. Bird”, their remarkable ability to connect and bond with those seeking advice makes for a hilarious and heartfelt reading experience.
By Andy Weir
From the author who brought us the surprisingly funny The Martian comes another sci-fi title for people who don’t read sci-fi. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but this tale of a bold heist on the moon is released on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8 mission (the first manned orbit of the moon). Jazz Bashara is a lowly minimum wage porter on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon – a city that caters to uber wealthy space tourists. She doesn’t think of herself as a criminal, just a person who smuggles the odd piece of contraband to help make ends meet. When she sees an opportunity to commit the perfect crime…well, she just can’t help herself. Her little scheme however, places her right in the middle of a conspiracy that will decide the future of Artemis. She soon realizes her survival depends on her ability to come up fast with a way out of this…
By Eve Chase
Fans of Kate Morton and Daphne du Maurier are in for a real treat with this spooky atmospheric page-turner. 15 year-old Margot Wilde and her three sisters arrive at Applecote Manor in June 1959 expecting a quiet English country summer. What they find is their aunt and uncle still grieving from the mysterious disappearance of their cousin Audrey five years earlier. As the other sisters’ attention becomes diverted by two young neighbouring brothers, Margot focuses on solving the mystery of her cousin’s disturbing disappearance. Fifty years later, Jessie, a woman living in London, is desperate to leave the big city and move her family to the country. She is smitten with Applecote Manor, but once she settles there she finds herself increasingly isolated and troubled by local rumours of the Manor’s dark past.
By Robyn Harding
Frances Metcalfe is a struggling stay-at-home mom coping with a troubled son. When he gets accepted into an elite private school, she believes she can begin to get her life back on track. Desperate to fit into the culture of the other families, she is left reeling after an incident at the school leaves her and her son shunned. Another mom befriends her and together they form an alliance of outsiders focused on their fierce love for their sons rather than the clubby private school society. Underneath their united front, however, lies the fact that one of them is hiding a murderous secret that threatens them both.
By Dervla McTiernan
Let’s not forget that, despite Hollywood’s apparent takeover of the genre in the 40s, 50s and 60s, Noir is actually a European specialty. One doesn’t usually think of Irish literature as being a source of this kind of material but – with rigid social hierarchies across many different cultures – darkness, desperation and betrayal are things the Irish know a thing or two about. Detective Cormac Reilly has been reinvestigating a decades old case of an apparent overdose that left two orphans in its wake. When one of the orphans dies from an apparent overdose years later, the surviving sibling suspects foul play. Problem is, Reilly is being pressured to charge the surviving sibling with murder and connect the two crimes. When the law becomes a tool to bury the truth, who is going to distinguish trust from betrayal?
By Sheena Kamal
Sheena Kamal is a Canadian investigative journalist for the film and television industry and is also an expert in the study of homelessness. Her protagonist, Nora Watts, is a product of the foster-care system and is a powerful study of a life that is forged in the aftermath of childhood trauma. She first appeared in The Lost Ones (released last month). This second novel sees her travel to Detroit to find out about her father – the only parent she ever knew and a man who committed suicide. Born in the Canadian Pacific Northwest, Sam Watt was an Indigenous child who, as part of the 50s and 60s “scoop,” was adopted by an American family. Back in Vancouver, a former police investigator turned private detective discovers a dangerous connection between Nora, a high-profile overdose death and a ruthless opiate ring. Meantime, Nora discovers old connections of her father’s that, while providing clues to her own identity, adds a whole new complexity to her situation.
By Claire Holden Rothman
On the eve of her 40th birthday, Bea Rose’s life turns upside down. Searching for some semblance of stability in her life (and in spite of her total lack of theatre experience), she jumps at the chance to work for an outdoor production of King Lear. While she learns the ropes of her new job, she also gets more than a glimpse of the egos and interpersonal dramas that make life in the theatre so much darn fun. Just as she’s starting to get a feel for all the moving parts of her new position, her own aging father starts to behave erratically and her younger sister’s perfect marriage begins to crack. As the two sisters struggle under the weight of coping with their father’s dementia, the production also starts to show definite signs of life imitating art.
By Fiona Davis
The author of The Dollhouse returns with a smart double-edged historical fiction title with ties to contemporary times. Sara Smythe is a servant in 1884 who, after a brief encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of The Dakota (a renowned NYC residence), jumps at the chance to move to America and manage it. Jump 100 years later: Bailey Camden, an interior designer fresh out of rehab and grandchild of a ward of Theodore Camden, is hired to renovate an apartment at the Dakota. There she learns of Theodore’s murder by a former employee and insane asylum inmate – Sara Smythe.
By Tim Winton
It’s been awhile since we’ve been graced with a work from this Aussie storyteller extraordinaire. Two desperate characters meet up in the salt country at the edge of the desert in the West Australian outback. Jaxie is a young runaway escaping abuse while disgraced priest Fintan MacGillis and his many demons have run out of places to hide. How these two exiles come to establish a fragile sense of trust will change everything Jaxie thought he knew about himself, love, death and survival.
By Gail Bowen
It’s hard to believe that Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourne series is now in its 17th installment. As she’s settling in for a Thanksgiving weekend at the cottage along with her husband, soon to be 17 year-old daughter and a few lawyer friends from back in their law school days, life seems to be treating Kilbourne’s tight-knit little tribe pretty well. A few weeks later their collective lives are torn apart in a triple homicide that rips through their very core. One of their legal circle commits suicide in the wake of these events leading Joanne to try and understand what happened and why. Along the way she realizes many of her assumptions about some of her closest friends may have to be let go as she attempts to get to the bottom of some very difficult questions.
By Andrea Camilleri
Many of you have read Elena Ferrante’s excellent Neapolitan Quartet that traces the supremely compelling relationship between two childhood friends up through their lives as women. The backdrop of their story was the mafia dominated society of Naples in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. In this new novel, Andrea Camilleri, who’s no stranger to crime and suspense, creates a powerful work of historical fiction focusing on the story of the Sacco brothers, who openly challenged the Mafia. They lived in the province of Agrigento in the 1920s and their father’s business was robbed because he refused to pay protection money to the local mafia. This fascinating study of how civil society breaks down through collaboration, betrayal, false accusation and testimony also portrays the dynamics of generational trauma and how the steady dismantling of the rule of law unfolds. Also worth noting is a related standout from NYRB – That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana by Carlo Emilo Gadda. Considered by many to be one of great modern Italian novels, this searing mystery and scathing picture of fascist Italy shows how the forces at work during the time of the Sacco brothers took root and dominated the Mussolini era.
By Helen Thomson
Brain neuroscience has come a long way since Oliver Sacks penned his famous collection of case studies – The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat – in 1985. What hasn’t changed is the bizarre, disturbing and fascinating ways our brain can filter and enhance our experience. Award-winning science writer Helen Thomson discovers nine cases that exhibit rare brain disorders including a man who thinks he’s a tiger, a doctor who feels others’ pain just by looking at them, and a woman who hears music that’s not there. These studies of rare neurological conditions are not just one-way learning exercises, but also reveal methods to forge memories that don’t disappear, grow an alien limb, hallucinate, make yourself happier in a split-second, avoid getting lost, expand your reality and confirm you are actually alive. That last being handy at certain social events or to become aware that you may have passed on. If you’re drawn to this fascinating subject please note: Brainstorm: Detective Stories from the World of Neurology by Suzanne O’Sullivan featuring a whole different set of amazing neurological curiosities.
By Mandy Len Catron
Subtitled A Memoir in Essays, this smart, well-researched and candid cultural criticism looks at the ways we create romantic myths and explains how this limits our ability to achieve and sustain intimacy. After her parents divorce after a 28 year marriage (and her own 10 year relationship ends), Mandy Len Catron delves into what it means to love someone, be loved by someone and how we present this love to the world. While examining how her grandparents met and their relationship, she also explores her own dating life and melds in research on dopamine triggers, and discusses whether the need to love is an innate human drive. She also reports on literary theory to show why we like certain kinds of love stories and asks us to be aware of the unwritten scripts we follow in our relationships. Her experiment with 36 questions to measure intimacy that resulted in millions of people following her new relationship online will appeal to both the romantic and cynic in all of us.
By George Orwell
This anthology of Orwell’s fiction and non-fiction writings on truth ranges from the subject of personal honesty and morality to freedom of speech and political propaganda. Over his career traveling the world, being intimately involved with the Spanish Civil War and living through WWII while writing Animal Farm and 1984, he became an outspoken critic of totalitarianism and an astute spokesperson for democratic socialism. While it’s no surprise that his clarity of thought and illuminating skepticism provides valuable lessons in dealing with our post-truth world of fake news, it’s also powerfully relevant on a day-to-day basis when being constantly barraged by narrow self-serving invective and lies. In light of Trump’s constant twitter propaganda and the recent rants targeting Prime Minister Trudeau, one can frame Orwell’s quote: “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”
By Michiko Kakutani
If you think this whole assault on truth thing is somehow overblown and should be downplayed as a tempest in a teapot, think again. Pulitzer-Prize winning literary critic and former New York Times chief book critic examines the cultural forces at work in the erosion of truth in modern society. In social media, literature, television, academia and politics, she identifies trends from across the political spectrum that have combined to promote subjectivity over factuality, science and common values. While also turning to the thoughts of great critics of totalitarianism like Orwell and Hannah Arendt, her own erudition and insights make for a provocative diagnosis of our current condition that also provides a way forward in reclaiming impartiality, objectivity and the pursuit of truth as a bedrock foundation of society. Something tells us we’ll find these insights and the importance of fact checking increasingly necessary in dealing with the Ford administration here in Ontario for the next 4 years…
By Heidi McKinnon
All the way from Fitzroy, Australia, this recently released picture book for young readers ages 4-8 is a delightfully macabre little tale about the trials and tribulations of finding a new friend – especially after you’ve just eaten one! A truly inspired tale for our times and a lesson for all about decision making (or lack thereof), actions, and their – oh so interesting consequences!
By Charise Mericle Harper
This new illustrated chapter book series for young readers ages 6-9 joins the ranks of Ivy and Bean, Dory Fantasmagory and Heidi Heckelbeck. June becomes friends with her new neighbour Mae and, with the help of their game “The Wonder Wheel,” they set off on some fun-filled adventures. June also has a secret she’d like to share with Mae – but will Mae believe her?
By Kallie George and Stephanie Graegin
This new series for young readers ages 7-10 centers on the adventures of Mona the mouse and her friends at the Heartwood Hotel, a large welcoming tree in the heart of Fernwood Forest. While life in the forest at the Heartwood Hotel can be gracious and warm, it is also a place where you have to be alert to sudden unexpected danger. The series is filled with illustrated adventures steeped in friendship, courage and community. Watch for the second volume – The Greatest Gift – which is being released at the same time.
By James Nicol
For young readers ages 8-12, this tale of a young witch’s difficult education will definitely appeal to Harry Potter fans. Arianwyn has flunked her witch’s assessment and is relegated to being an apprentice in the small remote town of Lull. Departing in disgrace from her school and fearing she’ll never become a full witch, she starts her apprenticeship in a place that is full of surprises and far more interesting than what her school could ever provide. As her “education” proceeds, however, a sinister darkness begins to haunt her spells making her realize there’s far more at stake here than just her education. This could be the fate of the entire realm…
By Gordon Korman
The final installment of the Masterminds Trilogy sees the 4 young clones from Project Osiris pair and split up in order to find the truth behind the diabolical project that fronts as a utopian paradise. While Amber and Malik go one way and Eli and Tori go another, both pairs seek out a different connection that may help them in their dangerous quest. Things get more complicated when Malik and Eli get sidetracked trying to find out whose DNA they come from. The Parent Trap was never this suspenseful.
By Terry Lynn Johnson
For fans of the classic middle-grade survival story The Hatchett, this series by survival specialist Terry Lynn Johnson teaches kids how to survive in remote natural environments. This time around, 11 year-old Carter and 12 year-old Anna get hopelessly turned around on a trail in the Costa Rican jungle. Suspenseful storytelling combines with realistic survival training that also includes tips from the Canadian Red Cross on how to make your own survival kit. Great summer reading for adventurous middle-graders.
By Stephanie Garber
For young adult fantasy readers, a pair of newly minted paperbacks. All Scarlett Dragna and her sister Tella know is the small island where they live with their cruel and powerful father, but Scarlett is hungry for adventure. When she becomes aware of her father’s plans to marry her off, Scarlett decides to go and see Caraval, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Caraval is a show like no other and when Scarlett and Tella manage to sneak off and see the performance, Tella gets kidnapped by the Caraval mastermind, Legend. In order to save her sister, Scarlett must use her wits and find her courage as she steps into a world where nothing is what is seems. Heartbreak and forbidden romance are synonymous, friends are wolves in disguise, and the clock never stops ticking! Will Scarlett have what it takes to save her beloved sister, or will Tella be lost to the land of Caraval forever?
By Claire Legrand
From the author of Winterspell comes the first volume of an epic fantasy series – Emperium, featuring young women who were born centuries apart. Eliana Ferracora is a fierce and brutal warrior who will do anything to protect her people, while Rielle Dardenne is a fearless elemental queen. Rielle must undergo brutal tests to prove her worth to be the queen of the land she loves while Eilana joins forces with a rebel force to rescue the people she holds most dear. As the two young women struggle to come to terms with their fates, powers, and weaknesses, their stories intertwine, bridging over space and time. Will either one be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to fight for what she loves, or will the dark forces of the land cast long enough shadows to defeat them?