Saturday, September 20, 2014

Recent Paranormal Fiction

Paranormal fiction is a type of speculative fiction that explores themes and ideas that lie outside scientific explanations. The unexplained adds a splash to any genre and will appeal to fans of fantasy, horror, romance and so much more. Here are some examples of recently published paranormal fiction.

Getting Mama Out of Hell by Laurie Moore

"When British visitors Elle Winthrop and her daughter Elizabeth die near DFW Airport, they learn there's life after death, and that Elle's mother is living in eternal damnation. In order to redeem a Get Out of Hell Free card, they must return to Fort Worth and convince five people to do an extraordinarily good deed in Mama's name within thirty days." publisher

Season of the Dragonflies by Sarah Creech

"For generations, the Lenore women have manufactured a perfume unlike any other, and guarded the unique and mysterious ingredients. Their perfumery, hidden in the quiet rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, creates one special elixir that secretly sells for millions of dollars to the world’s most powerful—movie stars, politicians, artists, and CEOs. The Lenore’s signature perfume is actually the key to their success. Willow, the coolly elegant Lenore family matriarch, is the brains behind the company. Her gorgeous, golden-haired daughter Mya is its heart. Like her foremothers, she can “read” scents and envision their power. Willow’s younger daughter, dark-haired, soulful Lucia, claims no magical touch, nor does she want any part of the family business. She left the mountains years ago to make her own way. But trouble is brewing." publisher

Under the Final Moon by Hannah Jayne

"Sophie Lawson may be a mere human with no special abilities except a strong immunity to magic. But the havoc she's wreaked on the supernaturals who come up against the Underworld Detection Agency have earned her plenty of enemies. Still, a girl can't freak out every time a horribly barbecued corpse is found with her business card in its hand. Or see a sudden glut of earthquakes, wildfires and three-headed dogs as just another day in California. But Alex Grace, her favorite fallen angel, is concerned--or saying he is to see more of her. Getting Sophie to see all the signs of the Apocalypse is an interesting way to heat things up." publisher

The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost

"In a world of shadows, anything is possible. Except escaping your fate. Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been gripped by visions of strange realms just beyond her own. But when her sister goes missing, Ivy discovers the truth is far worse--her hallucinations are real, and her sister is trapped in a parallel realm. And the one person who believes her is the dangerously attractive guy who's bound by an ancient legacy to betray her."publisher

The Chandelier Ballroom by Elizabeth Lord

"On receipt of an unexpected inheritance, small-time crook Horace Butterfield splashes the cash on a large house in rural Essex, and sets about turning it into his dream home. Buying an enormous antique chandelier in order to enhance his brand-new ballroom, he is intrigued by the dealer’s story behind its provenance: a young woman who lost all her money in the Wall Street Crash and was forsaken by her lover is said to have hanged herself from it. For the next five years, Horace enjoys telling the story at every party he hosts. But tragedy is set to strike." publisher

Friday, September 19, 2014

Let me introduce you to "A man called Ove"

"A man called Ove" by Fredrik BackmanIn my latest reading adventure I traveled to Sweden where I met “A man called Ove“.  

Ove is a loveable curmudgeon in late middle-age.   He is ever so slightly OCD and has a problem with the machinations of society.   Ove is very set in his ways and is disdainful of almost everyone he meets.  He has a fondness for rules and thinks that anyone who doesn’t  follow them is a harbinger of chaos.   He has always driven a Saab car and thinks that what car a person drives tells a lot about a person.

Ove's story is told in a series of flashbacks which makes the reader cognizant of all the loss and sadness that Ove has encountered in his life along with all the many talents he possesses.

In the present, over the course of of several months, Ove, with a little help from his friends, gets a new lease on life.

Poignant and hysterically funny in equal measure, “A man called Ove” is a heartwarming novel of life, loss, and our intrinsic need to be needed.  Skillfully written with charm and wit, this debut novel is a fast read – and one you will remember for a long time.   You know you’ve read a good book when after the last page is turned you are already missing the characters…  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed “The storied life of A.J. Fikry” or “The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry“.

Fredrik Backman
A man called Ove” came about as a result of a blog post from Swedish author Fredrik Backman.   His readers took to the character and requested more and more.  The result was this novel.   Like Frederik Backman’s blog readers, this reader believes that the world would be a better place with more people like “A man called Ove“.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Staff Pick - A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

A few years ago, while having lunch with a friend, I made a comment along the lines of, “Yum, this sandwich tastes really yellow; I love it!” I realized with a bit of a shock what I had just said out loud. My friend, on the other hand, happily said, “Oh, you’re a synesthete!” At the time I had never heard that word, and I had no concept that there was a normal word describing my freakiness.
Now, I know that I am, in fact, a synesthete, which in my case basically means that I taste food as colours. More interesting to me is that I also feel numbers, letters, and some people as colours. For example, the number ‘7’ is orange, the letter ‘a’ is pink, and my husband is white.
I was recently guided to a book called A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. In it, Mia (whose name I think is brown with pink stripes, but she thinks is “candy apple red with a hint of light green”) is a synesthete who sees and hears things as colours and shapes. She thinks she’s a freak. This book is totally changing my world! It’s amazing to read about this strange little quirk that I have: to recognize things about myself through a character. Yes, I could have taken the new term given to me by my friend and done some research, but it’s been so much more rewarding and exciting to have Mia talk about something, and realize that I know exactly what she means, bizarre as it sounds! (It’s also nice to potentially have an excuse for being so unbelievably crummy at math!)
I wonder if other people have books to which they’ve had strong emotional reactions – characters in whom they unexpectedly see themselves or plotted situations which are uncannily similar to their own. Care to share?                     vintage post 2009

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist

Always very exciting news! The 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist has been announced and with this year's nominees comes that announcement that the prize award has been doubled making it the largest prize that the Giller has ever awarded.

The launch of The Giller Prize coincided with a growing recognition of Canadian authors and literature both at home and abroad. Acclaimed writers such as Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and Mordecai Richler were winning honours and accolades around the world. The time seemed ripe to celebrate the success of these and other homegrown writers within these borders, with a bold statement of support and recognition. The Giller Prize, along with many other awards that came before and after, is in large part responsible for the continued growth of Canadian literary talent. The prize has so far endowed more than three-quarters of a million dollars to Canadian writers from coast to coast.

Waiting for the Man by Arjun Basu
The Betrayers by David Bezmogis
American Innovations by Rivka Galchen

Tell by Frances Itani
Watch How We Walk by Jennifer LoveGrove
Us Conductors by Sean Michaels

Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab by Shani Mootoo
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O'Neill
Paradise and Elsewhere by Kathy Page

My October by Claire Holden Rothman
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
The Ever After of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Staff Pick - Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam

Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam was the recipient of the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize, an amazing accomplishment considering it's this Ontario doctor's fiction debut. It is a collection of interconnected short stories that read very much like a novel. Ming, Fitz, Chen and Sri are medical school students coping with family expectations, the worries of admission, the pressures of medical school and the intensity of the emergency room.

It's difficult to classify these short stories. Really, there is a bit of everything. There are stories about human relationships and the difficulty forging and maintaining them while engaged in such high pressure work. There is a bit of a thriller with the story of the paranoid patient and the doctor who becomes unsure of his own reality. It is an adventure story with the air rescue of a dangerously ill tourist. Throughout it all there is humour laced with sadness and exhaustion.

On the surface it would seem that medicine and fiction writing would not be a great combination. Both take considerable time. On the other hand emergency room physicians can have very personal encounters with strangers who will tell them things they would never tell another soul. Surely the ideal situation to gain keen insight into human nature.

Anton Chekhov , considered to be one of the world's best short story writers, qualified to be doctor in 1884 and treated the poor for free earning money from his writing. Arthur Conan Doyle, a one-time ship's doctor and a private practitioner of lesser success, began writing short stories in-between patient visits. Later in life he set up as an ophthalmologist in London.

In more modern times there is Jed Mercurio who has created medical television dramas for the BBC, but whose fiction, so far, is not medically themed. Kevin Patterson is another Canadian doctor has written about tuberculosis patients in Canada's arctic.
Abraham Verghese is an Ethiopian doctor, currently at Stanford University's School of Medicine. Verghese, like Sri of Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, is a compassionate man who always bears the patients' suffering in mind. His latest book Cutting for Stone is a family saga set in India, Ethiopia and the United States concerning a family of doctors and one son's quest for find his missing father and resolve their troubled past.

vintage post 2009

Monday, September 15, 2014

Staff Pick - The Carpenter by Matt Lennox

The Carpenter by Matt Lennox immediately reminded me of another book that I recently read and wrote about - Caught by Lisa Moore. The Carpenter is also set in the 1980s and features a likable, yet morally ambiguous protagonist, who has recently been released from prison. This time around newly released convict Leland King (paroled in this instance, not an escapee) negotiates his way back into society.

Lee returns to his hometown after serving a long prison sentence for a crime which, though obviously violent, is initially concealed to the reader. During his time in prison he learns carpentry, dries up, and appears to be resolved to help his dying mother and lead a quiet life. Lee has done his time and made an effort towards rehabilitation, however his decision to return to his hometown, while laudable in his effort to support his family, leaves him vulnerable to the past.

We also meet Stan Maitland, a retired police officer who was involved with Lee at the time of his crime. He has recently, despite being retired, found a young woman's body in a car whose death, although others deem a suicide, he finds suspicious and he can't help but to get involved. Stan knows the secrets of Lee's past and it's those secrets which will come once again to hurt Lee and the family with whom he is attempting to build a new relationship.

The suspense grows as the initially sympathetic

Leland appears to be falling back on old habits and hints about his past and long buried family secrets are revealed. I found this novel to be a bit slow at first, but soon the pace picked up and this turned into an engaging and suspenseful story with numerous complex characters.

Two other suspenseful novels which feature former convicts and family secrets:

The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill

"Wolf Hadda's life has been a fairytale. From humble origins as a woodcutter's son, he has risen to become a hugely successful entrepreneur, happily married to the girl of his dreams. But knock on the door one morning ends it all. Universally reviled, thrown into prison while protesting his innocence, abandoned by friends and family, Wolf retreats into silence. Seven years later prison psychiatrist Alva Ozigbo makes the breakthrough. Wolf begins to talk and under her guidance gets parole, returning to his rundown family home in rural Cumbria. But there's a mysterious period in Wolf's youth when he disappeared from home and was known to his employers as the Woodcutter. And now the Woodcutter is back, looking for the truth — and with the truth, revenge. Can Alva intervene before his pursuit of vengeance takes him to a place from which he can never come back . . . ?" publisher

A Fistful of Rain by Greg Rucka

"Mim Bracca is riding the fast lane straight off the end of the world. Now she's coming home without a job, without a future, and without a prayer--and only one last chance to get her feet under her, or go down forever. But home has its own terrors, including a past Mim has done everything possible to leave behind. Now that past is coming back with the shocking speed and deadly intent of a sniper's bullet, aimed to destroy her once and for all. When Mim suffers her first blackout, waking up dazed and bloodied, she's certain she's hit rock bottom. She's wrong. She's only just begun to fall. The photos are invasive, obscene, and all over the Internet for anyone to see. How they got there, where and when they were shot, and by whom, Mim has no idea. And before the investigation into the matter even begins, a brutal murder makes it clear that whatever Mim thinks her life has been up to now, she's about to learn it's all a lie. The kind of lie that will kill." publisher

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Nextreads - Thrillers!

Are you looking for a few good books to read? Sign up for our e-newsletters and get great book suggestions by email. We'll deliver reading lists right to your inbox along with new gems, bestsellers, and related titles. Select from your favourites (Biography and Memoir, Mystery, Romance and more), or choose them all!

This month we feature Thrillers and Suspense novels. For more information about these titles check out the September 2014 NextReads Newsletter.

Ice Shear by M.P. Cooley

A Colder War by Charles Cumming

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Drop by Dennis Lehane

A special "By the Numbers" feature!

61 Hours by Lee Child

Six Years by Harlan Coben

419 by Will Ferguson

The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag

Three Seconds by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey