1. Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper
2. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
3. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
4. The Cockroach by Ian McEwan
5. Agent Jack by Robert Hutton
6. Dog Man: Fetch-22 by Dav Pilkey
7. Not Mentioned in Dispatches by RHOMA
8. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
9. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
10. The Innocents by Michael Crummey
Greetings Book Lovers!
Happy Valentine’s Day! It might still be cold and wintry outside, but we’re toasty warm in the store here, surrounded by the love of our lives – books! We may have said this once or twice before, but one of the things we love most about books is that they can take you to any place and any time. That’s especially useful this time of year when the winter seems interminable and current world issues are getting a little overwhelming. So, why not take a little break from reality by delving into some of the great new reads that have landed on our shelves over the last few weeks?
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of some of 2020’s greatest books so far, we wanted to remind you about our first Titles@Table40 event of the season. Some of you may have seen our notice go out a week and a bit ago, but for those who didn’t, we’re going to be kicking off our ever-popular dinner series on Sunday, February 23 with former CBC reporter Carol Bishop-Gwyn. She has written a wonderful (unauthorized) biography of two of our country’s most esteemed artists, who were also, at one time, a couple. Art and Rivalry details the marriage of Mary and Christopher Pratt, the highs and lows of their life together, their respective art careers, and the eventual implosion of their marriage. Filled with fascinating details, heart-breaking realities, and the beautiful art that came out of what was a very emotionally-fraught situation makes for an undeniably compelling read. Armed with a photograph-filled power-point presentation, Carol Bishop-Gwyn will be giving us not only a glimpse into the lives of two very talented people, but will also be dazzling us with some of our country’s most well-known pieces of art.
For those of you who have never been to one of our Titles@Table40 events at Fraser Cafe, or who need a little refresher on what’s what, here’s how it all works. The evening starts at 5:30pm with dinner, followed by the author presentation and book signing. Tickets must be purchased in advance at the bookstore. The non-refundable cost is $70.00 which includes the cost of the meal (a set menu of three courses with a vegetarian option), tax, and tip. All beverages are extra and will be charged at the end of the evening. Fraser Cafe can accommodate all special dietary needs if we are informed at the bookstore in advance. Tickets are on sale at the bookstore now, so be sure to get yours soon. This evening of timeless Canadian art, wonderful food, and fascinating stories is not to be missed!
Since this is the day that’s been chosen to celebrate love, what better moment than now to dive into our book picks from the last few weeks – all of which, coincidentally, we can safely say that we love! For anyone who’s been in the store anytime over the last year and a bit, we’re sure you’ve heard someone here talking about how much they loved Madeline Miller‘s 2018 novel, Circe. A sweeping historical novel that takes readers into the ancient world of Greek deities, nymphs, monsters, heroes, and demi-gods, it introduces us to the formidable character Circe, a daughter of Helios who is recognized as the first ever witch. If you haven’t read it, you definitely should, but if you have, we would highly recommend you pick up The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave next. Set in the furthest reaches of Norway in the early 17th century, this heart-stopping novel opens with a tragic reminder of the power of the sea and the fragility of human life. When the menfolk in the small town of Vardo are wiped out in an incredible, almost otherworldly storm, twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter and her fellow wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers must adapt to their harsh new reality and learn to fend for themselves. Left to their own devices for a few seasons, the appointment and arrival of a new commissioner for their tiny town, a Scottish-born witch hunter named Absolom Cornet, is welcomed by some and spells doom for others. Inspired by true events, this is a story filled with love, stoicism, fanaticism, and heart-break – a novel to be read, absorbed, and placed among other favourites in your collection.
Though the title implies a historical setting, Andrew David MacDonald‘s When We Were Vikings has its feet firmly planted in the present. Zelda is twenty-one-years-old and lives with her older brother Gert. She loves vikings and knows everything there is to know about Valhalla, Beowulf, and how a viking warrior can become the hero of their own legend. She also likes to have sets of rules in place so she can keep the things around her in order, has trouble dealing with conflict, and suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. So, when she finds out that her brother has acted dishonourably by dropping out of college, lying to her about it, and falling in with some very bad people, she’s determined to help him by setting out on her very own viking quest to defeat the grendels that are plaguing their family. Things get serious quickly though, and Zelda soon finds herself in a situation where saving the people she loves means being stronger than she’s ever been before. Touching, inspiring, and built around a core of sibling love, this sweet, funny story will touch your heart and keep you engaged long after you’ve closed the cover for the final time. Eoin Colfer has long delighted us with his wonderfully funny, ever delightful Artemis Fowl series and now he’s gifted us an equally lovable book for adults. Highfire is, in a word, unparalleled. Hilarious, ridiculous, action-packed, and piloted by two very unlikely heroes, be prepared to read this one in a single sitting! The last of his kind, Vern lives in the Louisiana bayou, swigging vodka, smoking Marlboros, and spending the majority of his time in his Lay-Z-Boy recliner decked out in his favourite Flashdance t-shirt. The thing is, Vern used to be known as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie, and is the world’s last dragon. Enter a crooked cop and a young swamp rat playing an epic game of cat and mouse, and Vern is not only forced out of his comfy recliner, but he’s set on a path that just might lead him back to his glory days…or it could see the extinction of his species. Told in trademark Colfer style, you will laugh yourself silly from beginning to end!
Our undying love of books and stories is matched only by our love of language and writing, so we always get pretty excited when a new book about words arrives in the store. Don’t Believe a Word by David Shariatmadari is just that kind of book. Delving into the science of language, this book challenges us to forget everything we thought we knew about words, their true meanings, and how they evolve. Prepare to have your mind blown as Shariatmadari shatters nine commonly held beliefs about language and introduces us to some new ground-breaking ideas about one of humanity’s greatest (and most changeable) inventions. Understanding the wheres and whys of language is one thing, but learning how to use it properly can be a very different matter. Long-time teacher and writer, Roy Peter Clark brings his writing knowledge to the masses in his new book Murder Your Darlings. Along with his own know-how, this book also contains some of the top writing tips from masters of the genre such as Anne Lamott, Stephen King, and even Aristotle! No longer will aspiring writers have to stand in front of the “Language and Linguistics” section of their local bookstore wondering which writing guide to choose. Instead they can simply pick up Clark‘s book and receive not only his own advice, but the top 100 tips from fifty of the top writing books of all time! After all, who could argue with an essential guide born of essential guides?
Here in the store, our children’s section gets just as much (if not more) love from our staff than the rest of the store does. There’s just something about a good coming-of-age story that still appeals to us all. Much like Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy did a few years ago, Jo Cotterill‘s new book, Jelly, has completely captured our hearts. At school, Angelica puts on a good show – she’s great at impressions, makes everyone laugh, and doesn’t mind throwing her weight around – but the truth is, that’s not the real her. Lacking the confidence to be herself, Jelly saves all her innermost thoughts and feelings for her special notebook. It’s not until her mother’s new boyfriend comes on the scene and recognizes Jelly’s behaviour as an act that this shy young girl realizes that sometimes putting yourself out there and trusting others to accept you as you really are is where real confidence comes from! There are moments in life when people can surprise you and true friendships can come from some pretty unexpected places. These are lessons that Norris Kaplan has yet to learn in The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Phillippe. As a Black French Canadian, the prospect of moving to Austin, Texas doesn’t strike Norris as a very good idea – he can tell that much just from watching American sitcoms. This leads him to believe that keeping his new high school classmates at a safe distance by compartmentalizing them seems like the perfect plan. Fortunately for him, life rarely abides by our plans and before he knows it, his safely-labeled peers are causing cracks to appear in his armour and proving that they might actually make for good, trustworthy friends. It all goes pear-shaped on prom night though, and Norris must decide whether to come out from behind the walls he’s built between himself and the world, or stay in the safety and comfort of his own self-imposed isolation. Funny, realistic, and full of all the joys of adolescence, this novel for teens is at once charming and heart-warming.
While we could stay here forever talking about all the books we’ve loved over the last few weeks, time is not infinite, so here are a few other recently released and forthcoming titles that we’re excited to bring to your attention: Martin McLean, Middle School Queen by Alyssa Zaczek, Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes, St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets by Annie England Noblin, Bloom by Kenneth Oppel, The Second Midnight by Andrew Taylor, A Divided Loyalty by Charles Todd, Alone in the Wild by Kelley Armstrong, A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers, The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson (February 25), Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore (February 25), Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson (March 3), Actress by Anne Enright (March 3), Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare (March 3), Awkword Moments by Ross and Kathryn Petras (March 10).
Love is a funny thing – we can feel it for other people, inanimate objects, animals, and ourselves and it can sometimes be subtle, overwhelming, unpredictable, epic, and electric…ideally not all at the same time. Like any great love affair, the love of books will take you on a journey – there will be highs and lows, danger and adventure, sadness and loss, and you never know where your journey will take you until you get there. Books are really the ultimate companions – steadfast, dedicated, comforting – and the best part is, they’ll never yell at you for putting your feet up on the coffee table!
Lots of love from us to you on this Valentine’s Day weekend!
— The Staff of Books on Beechwood
We will be CLOSED on Monday, February 17 for Family Day. Regular store hours will resume on Tuesday, February 18.
Titles@Table40 with Carol Bishop-Gwyn
Date: Sunday, February 23
Place: Table40 Restaurant, 7 Springfield Road
Tickets for this event are on sale now. Be sure to pop by the store, call or e-mail us to get yours today!
What I’m Reading: Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
“Victorian London seems to have a strange sort of appeal to me, as I find myself reading yet another book that’s set there. Starring a lady detective named Bridie Devine, this book has taken me through the sooty streets of London in search of a kidnapped girl rumoured to have the kind of powers that make her appealing to some collection-obsessed Victorians. Also featuring an enamoured ghostly sidekick, I can’t wait to see what awaits me around the next cobblestone corner!”