“A Distant View of Everything” by Alexander McCall Smith

With Canada on the brink of having its first female astronaut Governor General, it seems a good time to review the new book by Alexander McCall Smith in his beloved Isabel Dalhousie series.

Called A Distant View of Everything, this novel watches Isabel’s struggle with a match-making problem while simultaneously trying to coax her first-born to accept his newborn baby brother and attempting to edit her own publication on philosophical questions – her area of expertise. She does manage thanks to her own kindness and common sense, and the help of her adoring husband, a young musician.

Alexander McCall Smith has built up a number of series of books starting with the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, as well as stand-alone books. They have been translated into more than forty languages and are best-sellers world-wide.  He makes his home in Edinburgh.

Entertainment Weekly calls him genial and wise. You put down his books feeling not only entertained, but reassured and content. This one is no exception.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

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July 2017 Newsletter

June Bestsellers

1. An ABC of Ottawa by Miriam Bloom
2. From Trudeau to Trudeau by Terry Mosher
3. No is Not Enough by Naomi Klein
4. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
5. The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
6. Nutshell by Ian McEwan
7. Faithful by Janet Uren and Glenn Lockwood
8. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
9. Exploring the Capital by Andrew Waldron
10. Court of Lions by Jane Johnson

Greetings Book Lovers!

Hopefully you all survived the torrential rain that marked this year’s Canada Day and that you managed to have a fun-filled holiday regardless of the weather. Although the official day has come and gone, the rest of the year will continue to be marked by exciting happenings and neat events celebrating our country’s past, present and future. To keep that patriotic glow going or maybe in the quest to learn something about our country that you didn’t know before, check out some of our favourite Canada-themed reads of the year so far: Exploring the Capital by Andrew WaldronYou Might Be From Canada If… by Michael de AdderI Am Canada by Heather PattersonThe Great Canadian Bucket List by Robin EsrockNow You Know Canada by Doug Lennox25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit by Jody RobbinsCanada ABC by Paul CovelloSurviving Canada by Myra TaitThis is That: Travel Guide to Canada by Peter Oldring, Chris Kelly, and Pat Kelly.

As we settle ourselves into the slower rhythms of the summer, it’s always a good idea to have a healthy stack of books to hand. That way, when you find yourself suddenly lounging in a hammock in the shade of a mighty oak or reclining with a cold one on the dock by the lake, you’ll have a quiet and willing friend to keep you company. Taylor Jenkins Reid has given us a real treat of a read in a The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Following the colourful and intriguing life story of aging and reclusive Hollywood star, Evelyn Hugo, this novel will take you completely out of yourself and transport you to a world full of lights that shine, affairs that simultaneously build and break, and ambitions that must be fed. Hot on the heels of her supremely successful novel, The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George‘s newest novel, The Little French Bistro, has just hit our shelves and is already proving to be a staff favourite. Full of the same warmth and charm as it’s predecessor, this new story takes readers to Brittany where our protagonist, Marianne, flirts with new life paths and a possible future she could never have imagined. If you enjoyed The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, keep riding that thematic train and take a chance (and another trip back in time) with The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol. When Elizabeth, a resident at The Boreal Retirement Home, discovers her late father’s journals from when he was the lighthouse keeper on Lake Superior, she decides it’s time to delve in to her own family’s past to solve one of the great mysteries of her childhood. The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner is a wonderful family saga that spans almost a century. Set on the enchanting Italian island of Castellamare, readers will be drawn into a world of love stories, family secrets, and tales of sacrifice and revenge, all while being befriended by unforgettable characters and completely mesmerized by the stunning locale.

If you want to add a little more grit to your summer, try one of these great new reads: The Force by Don Winslow – a tension-filled stunner of a story full of greed, corruption, and redemption; Be Ready for the Lightning by Grace O’Connell – this novel of psychological suspense is intriguing, fast-paced, and will really make you stop and think; The Party by Robyn Harding – at once shocking and heart-stopping, this intense novel illustrates the best and worst of human nature and what can happen to a family when tragedy strikes; Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner – this second book in the Manon Bradshaw mystery finds our determined detective five months pregnant and thrown into a murder investigation that makes her question how well she knows her own family; The Child by Fiona Barton –  a chilling mystery surrounding the discovery of a child-sized skeleton in the foundations of an upper-class London house.

Is hitting the open road on your summer agenda this year? If so, start your road trip off right with a detailed study of John Catucci‘s new book You Gotta Go Here! Featuring over 300 hidden gems and hometown favourites from across Canada, the USA, and Europe, with this book as your guide, you will never go hungry when the rubber to the road. Dion Leonard, an Australian ultra marathon runner now living in Edinburgh, Scotland, has just published the most heart-warming dog book of the year to date, hands down! Finding Gobi is his story of crossing paths with Gobi, a stray dog, while running in a 155 mile race through China’s Gobi Desert. As he ran through unforgiving mountains, isolated villages, and punishing dunes, Gobi kept pace with him, raised his spirits, and slowly melting his heart. It’s a lovely story for any dog lover in your life! From the many-faceted, multi-talented author of Once Upon a Time in Russia and The 37th Parallel, comes a brand new and slightly quirky science book perfect for anyone fascinated by DNA, ancient species, or the scientific concepts that inspired Michael Crichton‘s Jurassic ParkWoolly by Ben Mezrich is a dramatic narrative of true events pertaining to the discovery, extraction, and attempted splicing of Woolly Mammoth DNA. Long extinct, but endlessly fascinating, the Woolly Mammoth is a true giant of history. This book is extremely readable and is bound to fascinate scientists and hobbyists alike.

A new book can provide hours of entertainment for children of all ages. They’re especially useful when taking family holidays when loving siblings confined in a small space seem more interested in poking at each other than playing a civilized game of “I spy with my little eye.” So, here are a few new titles it might be good to have nearby when the sound of silence is all you want to hear from the kids in the back seat. J.D. Rinehart has just released his newest fantasy adventure novel for children called A Kingdom Rises. As the third book in the Crown of Three Series, this new novel continues the story of triplets Tarlan, Gulph, and Elodie and their quest to fulfill an ancient prophecy in a land rife with magic, danger, and deceit. The previous books in the series are Crown of Three and The Lost Realm. On a much smaller scale, but with no less heart, The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Canadian author Linda Bailey is a wonderful, whimsical story of bravery and determination. Eddie is a tiny green bug who lives behind the chalkboard in a fourth grade classroom with his parents, his 53 siblings, and his Aunt Min. When his beloved aunt goes missing on a trip to the library, Eddie sets out to find her and discovers that the substitute librarian is planning on shutting the library for good! Full of bravery and heart, this story of the little bug who loves books is a real winner!

Here are a few more recent arrivals that have already wormed their way into our hearts: Polly MacCauley’s Finest Divinest Woolliest Gift of All by Sheree Fitch – a beautifully illustrated story about knitters, weavers, and makers that will delight children and adults alike; Old Hat by Emily Gravett – this adorable story finds Harbert always one step behind the latest fashion trends in hats no matter how hard he tries until, one day, he decides to forgo hats altogether and starts a new trend of his own; The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah – a great YA book about two teens caught up in their parents’ world of judgement and prejudice who need to decide where they’re going to align themselves when the lines get drawn in the sand; Welcome to the Slipstream by Natalka Burian – just when Van starts to get settled into her new life in Las Vegas, she’s forced to pull up roots yet again in order to chase her mother to Arizona in an attempt to save her from joining a sketchy self-help cult.

The books just keep pouring in at the store, so keep your eyes peeled for some of these upcoming releases: The Land of Stories: Worlds Collide by Chris Colfer (July 11), Everything All At Once by Bill Nye (July 11), The Lying Game by Ruth Ware (July 25), Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty (July 25), I Love My Purse by Belle DeMont (July 30), A Nest of Vipers by Andrea Camilleri (August 1), and The Only Cafe by Linden MacIntyre (August 8).

Whether they’re playing the role of silent companions, peace makers, summertime teachers, or partners in crime, books are always going to be your safest bet. So, no matter where this summer takes you, be sure to make a trip (or two) to the bookstore to stock up on great reads to carry you through.

Happy Reading Everyone!

— The Staff at Books on Beechwood

Marilyn Sargeant Signing

Join us on Saturday, July 8 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm for Marilyn Sargeant‘s signing of her collection of poetry Carbon is Yellow.

Check out this review by Anna Grace:

“In her debut collection of poetry, Marilyn Sargeant, a contemplative and introspective writer, as well as light-hearted and playful in her verses, presents her readers with both narrative and lyrical poetry that is innocent and explorative, as well as dark and brooding—touching upon topics which have stood the test of time in their truth and importance for contemporary audiences.  Her narrator observes all that is around her, often in wonderment.  Her gaze at the universe as she experiences it translates directly to her pen as though her eyes were an all-seeing lens—taking everything in.

Life experiences, real or imagined, blend seamlessly with Marilyn Sargeant’s observations and more troubling accounts of society gone awry.  Ms. Sargeant asks us to question our own behaviours, beliefs, and our treatment of the environment—particularly our natural world, which she reveres in a way that is akin to some of the great Romantics.

Venturing deeper into human experience, the poet explores themes such as mortality and inner conflict, speaking plainly and simply, yet without sacrificing depth.  She asks us to look beyond the surface and to examine the layers of our understanding(s) of the way things are, and perhaps the way they could be.

Further, Ms. Sargeant’s metaphor of rooms is threaded throughout her collection.  She likens a waiting room to society’s shifts and changes—not always for the better, mind you—the rooms representing a glimpse of modern life.  She reminds us that life is an aggregation of moments, beautiful and painful, all of which make up our “rooms.”  The nostalgia of past seasons, the familiar landscapes and soft breezes of our youth, the cages in which we are trapped in our dark hours—these “rooms” are explored elegantly by Ms. Sargeant’s nimble and clever narrator.  And, there is just enough spice to keep the reader on his or her toes.

Throughout her collection, Ms. Sargeant articulates what it means to investigate our external and internal worlds—our waiting rooms.  She has created a volume of finely crafted poetry which speaks to all of us, and which extends her (his) stories into our own.  We can relate since, in so many ways, we share the same room.  Visitors may come and go, but our room remains ours to tend to, to care for, and to appreciate in all its beauty and simplicity.”

— Anna Grace, B.A.H. Eng. Lit., M.Ed.

“Carbon is Yellow” by Marilyn Sargeant

In her debut collection of poetry, Marilyn Sargeant, a contemplative and introspective writer, as well as light-hearted and playful in her verses, presents her readers with both narrative and lyrical poetry that is innocent and explorative, as well as dark and brooding—touching upon topics which have stood the test of time in their truth and importance for contemporary audiences.  Her narrator observes all that is around her, often in wonderment.  Her gaze at the universe as she experiences it translates directly to her pen as though her eyes were an all-seeing lens—taking everything in.

Life experiences, real or imagined, blend seamlessly with Marilyn Sargeant’s observations and more troubling accounts of society gone awry.  Ms. Sargeant asks us to question our own behaviours, beliefs, and our treatment of the environment—particularly our natural world, which she reveres in a way that is akin to some of the great Romantics.

Venturing deeper into human experience, the poet explores themes such as mortality and inner conflict, speaking plainly and simply, yet without sacrificing depth.  She asks us to look beyond the surface and to examine the layers of our understanding(s) of the way things are, and perhaps the way they could be.

Further, Ms. Sargeant’s metaphor of rooms is threaded throughout her collection.  She likens a waiting room to society’s shifts and changes—not always for the better, mind you—the rooms representing a glimpse of modern life.  She reminds us that life is an aggregation of moments, beautiful and painful, all of which make up our “rooms.”  The nostalgia of past seasons, the familiar landscapes and soft breezes of our youth, the cages in which we are trapped in our dark hours—these “rooms” are explored elegantly by Ms. Sargeant’s nimble and clever narrator.  And, there is just enough spice to keep the reader on his or her toes.

Throughout her collection, Ms. Sargeant articulates what it means to investigate our external and internal worlds—our waiting rooms.  She has created a volume of finely crafted poetry which speaks to all of us, and which extends her (his) stories into our own.  We can relate since, in so many ways, we share the same room.  Visitors may come and go, but our room remains ours to tend to, to care for, and to appreciate in all its beauty and simplicity.

Reviewed by Anna Grace, B.A.H. Eng. Lit., M.Ed.

“The Marriage Bureau” by Penrose Halson

This is the intriguing story of two young British women who set up the first marriage bureau in the country, and made a resounding success of it.

There were the days in the 1930’s in England where there was no such thing as looking for a mate “online” – the system had not yet been invented. The result was many lonely people without means of meeting people. In this book, one young woman, a farmer’s daughter in England, visited her uncle in India where he ran a tea plantation and employed a number of young men from England to help him. The daughter was attracted to one of these men but in the end did not marry him. She saw first hand, however, how these men and hundreds like them in Britain’s other colonies, got very lonely because there were no women for them to marry. The visiting niece listened to her uncle’s suggestion that she set up an office in London where these men could meet a wife while on leave.

She knew another girl, also living in London, who was prepared to help her. They cleared the idea with legal authorities and the rest of the book tells the touching story of London in 1939, some few months before heading into World War II. Many men and women were longing to find a happy marriage.

The author, Penrose Halston, had used the Marriage Bureau herself and made a happy marriage. Later in 1986, she became the owner of a new bureau which had in fact merged with the original one. Halston had worked as a teacher and writer and handles these cases with sensitivity. They make for amusing as well as optimistic reading. In ten years the girls who ran the original Bureau created over three thousand marriages and only heard of two that ended in divorce.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

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Miriam Bloom Signing

Local author Miriam Bloom will be here on Saturday, June 17 from 1:00-3:00pm to sign copies of her beautiful new children’s book An ABC of Ottawa. Bright, beautifully illustrated, and featuring some of our Nation’s Capital’s most iconic sites, this ABC book is sure to be enjoyed by all readers, both young and old.

To learn more about Miriam and her lovely book, check out her website: http://www.miriambloomart.ca/#1

“Earthly Remains” by Donna Leon

In this new mystery novel by Donna Leon, Commissario Guido Brunetti is taking a rare leave of absence which is rudely interrupted by the sudden death of his host.

Spending his time off in villa on Sant’Erasmo, one of the largest islands in the laguna, Brunetti is enjoying days of rowing a boat alongside the caretaker Davide Casati, who was also an excellent navigator. When a sudden and violent storm one day upset Casati’s boat at the landing, drowning its owner, Brunetti finds himself once again on the job, trying to solve a case complicated by other men’s actions at the time of the accident.

Brunetti is the starring detective in 26 stories in this beloved series by Leon. She has lived in Venice for most of her life (now dividing her time between Venice and Switzerland) and gives readers an up-close picture of the ancient city, the charm of the vaporetti rides through the lagunas, and details and rhythms of everyday life. Alongside the charm, however, lie problems from the huge influx of tourists as well as government corruption.

We have gotten to know and love Brunetti as he tracks down some of these crimes. He does it in a low-key manner, always allowing time to be with his own family, wife Paola and two children whom he loves and who become friends as we read the series. 

Earthly Remains is a powerful new addition to this celebrated series.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

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“My Italian Bulldozer” by Alexander McCall Smith

This is a new novel by the beloved Scottish author of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency and a number of other series.

In this one, he introduces Paul Stuart, a well-known food writer in London who has written some popular books on food and wine in different parts of Europe. He was starting a new one, when his girlfriend of some time left him for her personal trainer. His editor, Gloria, suggested he travel to the part of Italy he was going to write about, for inspiration and cheer. He has already had success with books such as Paul Stuart’s Provencal Table, and Bordeaux Table, as well as books on Portugal and Spain.

Tuscany turns out to be a beautiful spot, as he settles into a charming village called Montalcano. His adventures start when his car-rental could not produce a car, and he is given a bulldozer which he proceeds to drive gingerly from place to place, getting attention to his own project along the way. The village people prove fun and competitive. A young American woman has particular appeal. In the end he finds happiness close to home in one of McCall Smith’s happy ever after endings. It makes for another of his irresistible loving books.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

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June 2017 Newsletter

May Bestsellers

1. Crying for the Moon by Mary Walsh
2. The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halsom
3. Save Your Mind by Antoine Hakim
4. From Trudeau to Trudeau by Terry Mosher
5. Faithful by Glenn J. Lockwood and Janet B. Uren
6. A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
7. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
8. Bad Days in History by Michael Farquhar
9. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
10. The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

Greetings Book Lovers!

Is it March? Is it October? No, it’s June! Well, that’s what the calendar says anyway. It may not feel like summer, but we can’t let that stop us from putting together our summer reading lists. Whether you’re jetting off to warmer climes, making a trek up to the cottage, or planning on spending a quiet summer in the dappled sunshine of your own backyard, there is no better or more constant companion to have by your side than a great book!

Escaping to sunny Spain for a bit of a break sounds like an excellent idea to us. Why not make your trek without the hassle of plane travel by reading Jane Johnson‘s new novel Court of Lions? Fleeing a terrible trauma back home, Kate Fordham suddenly finds herself waiting tables in the ancient Spanish city of Granada. Surrounded by history and the dust of centuries past, the chance discovery of an ancient symbol-laced message turns Kate’s life on its head once again as she’s plunged into a historical adventure unlike any other. Closer to home, The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close is the charming story of newlywed couple, Beth and Matt, who decide to move to the political hotbed of Washington, DC in order to nurture Matt’s political aspirations. Beth immediately hates everything about their new city and doesn’t start to truly settle in until she and Matt meet and befriend another DC couple, Jimmy and Ashleigh. While the four friends begin to do everything together, it doesn’t take long for their lives to become riddled with tension, jealousy, competition, and rumours.

Tracy Chevalier, the beloved author of The Girl with a Pearl Earring, Remarkable Creatures, and The Virgin Blue, has joined the likes of Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler, Howard Jacobson, and Jeannette Winterson, as the newest author of the ongoing Hogarth Shakespeare series with her new book New Boy. As a retelling of William Shakespeare‘s Othello set in a Washington high school in the 1970s, this new novel tells the story of Osei Kokote who quickly makes friends with Dee, the most popular girl in school. However, the road to love is seldom smooth and pretty soon, in a fit of jealousy, the self-proclaimed ruler of the schoolyard sets out to destroy this beautiful, blooming friendship. Like the original tale, no character in Chevalier’s story will escape these tragic events unscathed. If reading a creepy, crawly thriller is right up your alley this summer, be sure to check out Skitter by Ezekiel Boone. As the follow up to last year’s The Hatching, this new novel continues the story of an ancient species of man-eating spider that has mysteriously awoken and begun terrorizing the human and animal populations around the globe. Not for the faint of heart, this entertaining series has been a staff pick from the moment it hit our shelves!

One of the most highly anticipated non-fiction books of the summer has finally arrived! Did you enjoy Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, and Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls? Then be sure to pick up a copy of David Sedaris‘ new book Theft By Finding: Diaries 1977-2002. This world-renowned humourist has spent the last forty years keeping diaries of everything that captures his attention – from overheard comments and passing gossip to soap opera plot twists and secrets confided by total strangers. It’s these diary entries that have formed the basis for all the books of essays that Sedaris readers have so loved over the years. It’s a real treat for diehard David Sedaris fans and anyone who enjoys quick wit and sharp observations. It’s not uncommon for everyone to go through at least one phase of childhood during which they decide they want to be an international spy. Henry Hemming can help you relive these dreams with his new book Agent M, a biography of Maxwell Knight. In addition to being perhaps the greatest spymaster in history, Knight was a devoted jazz aficionado and an eccentric exotic animal collector. Perhaps most fascinating is the fact that he’s rumoured to have been the real life inspiration for Ian Fleming‘s debonair secret agent, James Bond. Consequently, this book is best enjoyed shaken, not stirred!

Before the kids leave for camp or head off on holiday for the summer, be sure to stock up on some great reads for them to pack next to their sunscreen, flip-flops, and extra snacks. Multiple award-winning author Jason Reynolds has just released As Brave As You, a new story about family, the bond between brothers, and the true meaning of bravery. This heart-felt coming of age story is perfect for fans of The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish, The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, and The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue. With a touch of steampunk, a dash of mystery, and a lot of puzzle-solving, York by Laura Ruby is a real treat for fans of fantasy and adventure. In 1798, the mysterious Morningstarr twins arrive in New York and proceed to develop the city with a puzzle called the Old York Cypher built right into its streets and buildings. When this puzzle, which is said to lead to a treasure beyond imagining, remains unsolved into modern times, Tess, Theo, and Jaime set out on a quest to save their home and solve the world’s most mysterious puzzle. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon is a funny, romantic story about two Indian-American teens whose parents are conspiring to arrange their marriage. Dimple is looking forward to spending the summer at a web design camp and escaping her mother’s obsessive search for a nice Indian boy for her to marry. Rishi is a hopeless romantic and has no problem with his parents arranging his marriage – he’s actually pretty happy about it. When he finds out that his intended is going to be at the same camp as him, it feels like fate. But despite their initial positive reactions to each other, things don’t move forward quite as planned. Will these two teens manage to find real love despite the planning and scheming of their respective parents?

With so many more books to mention than we have space for in this medium, here are a few more recent and upcoming releases that we’re all excited to get our hands on: The Party by Robyn HardingBe Ready for the Lightning by Grace O’ConnellEveryone Brave is Forgiven by Chris CleaveNo is Not Enough by Naomi Klein (June 13)The Little French Bistro by Nina George (June 13)A Sackful of Limericks by Michael Palin (June 27), and Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips (July 4).

We had a lovely evening at Clarkstown Kitchen & Bar with Mary Walsh back in May and are glad that so many of you were able to join us. We don’t have any new dinner events coming up in the next couple of months, but we look forward to having you all join us once again when our Titles@Table40 series kicks back into high gear in the fall. In the meantime, we still have some great signings and readings coming up in the store over the next month that are worth checking out. On Saturday, June 10, be sure to come by to meet author John Kalbfleisch. He will be here from 12:00pm to 2:00pm to sign and read from his new novel A Stain Upon the Land. Local children’s author Miriam Bloom will be on hand on Saturday, June 17 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm to sign copies of her colourful new picture book An ABC of Ottawa. Full of bright photos of famous National Capital landmarks, this lovely book is more than deserving of a permanent home on your bookshelf.

It’s been hard to get into that relaxing summer feeling so far this year thanks to our very wet, cold weather, but planning your seasonal reading list is an excellent step in the right direction. With tons of new titles appearing on our shelves every day, there are an almost infinite number of book destinations to choose from.

As Neil Gaiman once said, “a book is a dream that you hold in your hand.” With those wise words in mind, we wish you all sunny days ahead and pleasant dreams to come.

Happy Reading!

— The Staff at Books on Beechwood