“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