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    Book Club in a Bag

    And the Oscar winners are...

    by Suzen - 1 Comment(s)

    For the first time in my movie-watching life I went to an Oscar party to celebrate the 84th Annual Academy Awards. We all gathered around the television with snacks and sparkling beverages, weighing in on who we thought should win and who was inevitably going to win. One of the cool things we did was fill out a ballot beforehand, an informal competition to see who in our group of friends had the best Oscar insight. Unfortunately, unlike like many of my friends, I haven’t seen any of the nominated films so I did rather poorly.

    Now that the Oscars are over, I have a big queue of movies to see. And, because I’m an avid reader, I thought it would be fun to find their literary counterparts. Listed below are novels inspired by the 84th Annual Academy Award winners. I like to think of these books as supplementary material for when I find myself in the 89745901st position on the waitlist for the Oscar favourites available on DVD.

    the line of beautyBest Actress in a Leading Role – Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”

    The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

    In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens: conservative Member of Parliament Gerald, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their two children, Toby-whom Nick had idolized at Oxford-and Catherine, highly critical of her family's assumptions and ambitions. As the boom years of the eighties unfold, Nick, an innocent in the world of politics and money, finds his life altered by the rising fortunes of this glamorous family. His two vividly contrasting love affairs, one with a young black clerk and one with a Lebanese millionaire, dramatize the dangers and rewards of his own private pursuit of beauty, a pursuit as compelling to Nick as the desire for power and riches among his friends. Richly textured, emotionally charged, disarmingly comic, this U.K. bestseller is a major work by one of our finest writers.

    the sky belowBest Actor in a Supporting Role – Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”

    The Sky Below by Stacey D'Erasmo

    At thirty-seven, Gabriel Collins works halfheartedly as an obituary writer at a fading newspaper in lower Manhattan, which, since 9/11, feels like a city of the dead. This once dreamy and appealing boy has turned from a rebellious adolescent to an adult who trades in petty crimes.His wealthy, older boyfriend is indulgent of him-to a point. But after a brush with his own mortality, Gabriel must flee to Mexico in order to put himself back together. By novel's end, we know all of Gabriel's ratty little secrets, but by dint of D'Erasmo's spectacular writing, we exult in the story of an imperfect man who-tested by a world that is often too much for him-rises to meet the challenge.

    we are all welcome hereBest Actress in a Supporting Role – Octavia Spencer, “The Help”

    We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg

    Having contracted polio at 22 while pregnant, Paige Dunn delivers her baby from an iron lung, and ends up raising her daughter, Diana, alone after her husband divorces her. Able to move only her head, Paige requires round-the-clock nursing care that social services barely cover. Now 13, Diana has taken over the night shift to save them money, sharing her mother's care with no-nonsense African-American day worker Peacie, who is protective of Paige and unforgiving of Diana's adolescent yearning for freedom. Paige is a paragon of kindness and wisdom, even in the face of less-than-charitable charity by petty small-town residents, while Diana and Peacie consistently lock horns. But when Peacie's boyfriend, LaRue, ventures down the perilous path of helping register black voters during this Freedom Summer and trouble follows him, Diana will gain compassion thanks to her mother's selfless aid to LaRue and Peacie. As the novel (based on a true story) is set in Tupelo, the specter of Elvis Presley naturally intrudes, for an over-the-top, heartrending finale.

    censoring an iranian love storyBest Foreign Language Film – Iran, “A Separation”

    Censoring an Iranian love story by Sharhriar Mandanipour

    The novel entwines two equally powerful narratives. A writer named Shahriar--the author's fictional alter ego--has struggled for years against the all-powerful censor at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Now, on the threshold of fifty, tired of writing dark and bitter stories, he has come to realize that the "world around us has enough death and destruction and sorrow." He sets out instead to write a bewitching love story, one set in present-day Iran. It may be his greatest challenge yet. Beautiful black-haired Sara and fiercely proud Dara fall in love in the dusty stacks of the library, where they pass secret messages to each other encoded in the pages of their favorite books. But Iran's Campaign Against Social Corruption forbids their being alone together. Defying the state and their disapproving parents, they meet in secret amid the bustling streets, Internet cafés, and lush private gardens of Tehran. Yet writing freely of Sara and Dara's encounters, their desires, would put Shahriar in as much peril as his lovers. Thus we read not just the scenes Shahriar has written but also the sentences and words he's crossed out or merely imagined, knowing they can never be published. Laced with surprising humor and irony, at once provocative and deeply moving, Censoring an Iranian Love Story takes us unforgettably to the heart of one of the world's most alluring yet least understood cultures

    sunnysideBest Actor in a Leading Role – Jean Dujardin, “The Artist” & Best Film – “The Artist”

    Sunnyside by Glen David Gold

    With the brilliantly realized figure of Charlie Chaplin at its center, “Sunnyside” is novel at once cinematic and intimate, heartrending and darkly comic, that captures the moment when American capitalism, a world at war, and the emerging mecca of Hollywood intersect to spawn an enduring culture of celebrity. The narrative is as rich and expansive as the ground it covers, and it is cast with a dazzling roster of both real and fictional characters: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Adolph Zukor, Chaplin's (first) child bride, a thieving Girl Scout, the secretary of the treasury, a lovesick film theorist, three Russian princesses (gracious, nervous, and nihilist), a crew of fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants moviemakers, legions of starstruck fans, and Rin Tin Tin. By turns lighthearted and profound, Sunnyside is an altogether spellbinding novel about dreams, ambition, and the dawn of the modern age.

    The 2012 Prix Aurora Awards

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    Calling Canadian science fiction writers and fans!!!

    The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association (CSFFA) invites you to nominate your favourite science fiction, fantasy or horror books, short stories, poems, songs, CDs, plays, magazines or articles by a Canadian author or editor.

    The 2012 Prix Aurora Awards will recognize the best Canadian professional works and amateur achievements in 2011.

    Participants must be members of CSFFA. Visit their web site at http://www.prixaurorawards.ca/ and learn more about the membership and nomination process.

    Nominations must be received by midnight PST, March 31, 2012.

    The Aurora Awards will be presented at the When the Words Collide event (www.whenwordscollide.org) on the weekend of August 10-12, 2012 in Calgary.

    In the meantime, browse our science fiction collection to find brand new books like the ones below:

    Vortex by Robert Charles Wilson

    Vortex tells the story of Turk Findley, the protagonist introduced in Axis, who is transported ten thousand years into the future by the mysterious entities called "the Hypotheticals." In this future humanity exists on a chain of planets connected by Hypothetical gateways; but Earth itself is a dying world, effectively quarantined.

    Turk and his young friend Isaac Dvali are taken up by a community of fanatics who use them to enable a passage to the dying Earth, where they believe a prophecy of human/Hypothetical contact will be fulfilled. The prophecy is only partly true, however, and Turk must unravel the truth about the nature and purpose of the Hypotheticals before they carry him on a journey through warped time to the end of the universe itself.

    When the Saints by Dave Duncan

    When we left the Brothers Magnus, they had assembled in Cardice to help Anton Magnus defend the castle from attack by a neighboring state with a significant military advantage and several officers who at any moment could request help from saints - or, depending on your perspective, from the devil.

    But Cardice has a secret weapon in the form of young Wulfgang Magnus, who can ask a few favors of his own from these devil-saints. The only problem is that Wulf is in love with Madlenka, the countess from Cardice who was forcibly married to Anton to explain why he's suddenly leading the country.

    Even Wulf is unsure if family and political loyalty should override love. He's also beginning to realize that the magical battle he's stepped into has some serious rules that he doesn't know, and has no way to learn. And when several wild cards in every battle can tap into nearly limitless sources of magic, who knows how far and wide the battle might range?

    This stunning continuation of the story begun in Speak to the Devil amps up the romance and intrigue, while letting readers spend more time with master fantasist Dave Duncan's unique, complex, and ornery-but-delightful characters.

    You can also read last year's winner in the Best English Novel category:

    Watch by Robert J. Sawyer

    Born blind, 16-year-old Caitlin Decter is able to see thanks to a computerized retinal implant that also makes her able to "see" the data streams that flow along the Internet. Her gift enables her to awaken a conscious entity that calls itself Webmind. Even as her bond with her new friend strengthens, government agencies seek to eliminate what they perceive as a security threat. The sequel to WWW: Wake contrasts the innocence of developing friendship with the cynical approach of governments and corporate technology even as it develops the Decter family and their human (and digital) friends. VERDICT This page-turning thriller by the author of Flashforward and the "Neanderthal Parallax" trilogy is a top-notch choice for sf fans and AI fiction in particular. - Library Journal Review

    And others from the 2011 novel category short-list:

    Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

    Inspired by the glory of Tang Dynasty China in the eighth century, Guy Gavriel Kay melds history and the fantastic into something both powerful and emotionally compelling. Under Heaven is a novel on the grandest narrative scale, encompassing the intimate details of individual lives in an unforgettable time and place. Shen Tai is the son of a general who led the forces of imperial Kitai in that empire's last war against their western enemies from Tagur, twenty years before. Forty thousand men on both sides were slain beside a remote mountain lake. General Shen Gao himself has died recently. To honour his father's memory, Tai has spent two years of official mourning alone at the battle site among the ghosts of the dead, laying to rest their unburied bones. One spring morning, he learns that others have taken note of his vigil. The White Jade Princess in Tagur is pleased to present him with two hundred and fifty Sardian horses, given, she writes, in recognition of his courage, and honour done to the dead. You gave a man one of the famed Sardians to reward him greatly. You gave him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor. Tai starts east towards the glittering, dangerous imperial capital and gathers his wits for a return from solitude by a mountain lake to his own forever-altered life.

    Black Bottle Man by Craig Russell

    Forced to move every twelve days, what would happen to your life? Rembrandt is the only child in the tiny community of Three Farms. Soon his two aunts grow desperate for babies of their own. A man wearing a black top-coat and a glad-ta-meet-ya? smile arrives with a magic bottle and a deadly deal is made. Determined to undo the wager, Rembrandt, Pa, and Uncle Thompson embark on the journey of their lives, for if they stay in one place for more than twelve days terrible things happen. But where and when will they find a champion capable of defeating the Black Bottle Man? Time ticks. Lives change. Every twelve days...

    Calling all book clubs: new titles!

    - 0 Comment(s)

    You may already know about the Book Club Bag collection... but if not, it's time to check it out! Each Book Club Bag includes 10 copies of a popular title and a Book Notes duotang with reviews and sample discussion questions. There are over 100 titles in this collection, and we've just added three new titles:

    The Midwife of Venice

    Roberta Rich

    The Midwife of Venice... successfully captures the seedy side of 16th-century Venice-the Jewish ghetto, the plague, the confluence of religious and legal authority-but stumbles with unevenly rendered main characters. Hannah, a midwife, and Isaac Levi are Venetian Jews. Isaac, a trader, is captured at sea and held for ransom in Malta by the Knights of St. John. Hannah is legally forbidden to treat Christians, but as a healer-and a woman suddenly in need of money-she cannot refuse the request of a high-born Venetian to help his wife give birth. Though she delivers the baby safely, the infant faces mortal danger and Hannah's involvement deepens, leaving her susceptible to charges of murder and witchcraft. To evade authorities, she must rely on her estranged sister, a courtesan. Meanwhile, Isaac languishes on Malta. His kidnappers sell him as a slave to a nun, who in turn sells him to a brutish peasant. Using his wits to survive (selling his writing skills and helping woo a beautiful woman), he escapes captivity, but his and Hannah's harrowing efforts to reunite are stymied at every turn. Both characters demonstrate intelligence, but only Isaac comes to full life: his thoughts, feelings, humor, and behavior leap off the page.

    Half-Blood Blues

    Esi Edugyan

    Paris, 1940. A brilliant jazz musician, Hiero, is arrested by the Nazis and never heard from again. He is twenty years old. He is a German citizen. And he is black.

    Fifty years later, his friend and fellow musician, Sid, must relive that unforgettable time, revealing the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that sealed Hiero’s fate. From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris – where the legendary Louis Armstrong makes an appearance – Sid, with his distinctive and rhythmic German-American slang, leads the reader through a fascinating world alive with passion, music and the spirit of resistance.

    Half-Blood Blues, the second novel by an exceptionally talented young writer, is an entrancing, electric story about jazz, race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art.

    The Tiger's Wife

    Téa Obreht

    In the torn-up Balkans, as medic Natalia is preparing to cross what was once not a border to help vaccinate orphans, she learns that her distinguished physician grandfather has died in an obscure clinic not far from where she's going. No one knows what he was doing there, though Natalia does know he was seriously ill. This incident opens up Obreht's dizzyingly nuanced yet crisp, muscularly written narrative by allowing Natalia to introduce two stories (fables? truth?) that her grandfather related to her. One concerns the "deathless man" her grandfather sometimes encountered, who collected the souls of the dead. The other concerns a tiger that escaped from the zoo during World War II and made its way to the village where her grandfather lived as a boy. Attempts to kill the tiger fail, but the butcher's abused, deaf-mute wife seems mystically connected to the great beast, rousing the villagers' fear and anger. That tiger-and others seen later at the zoo-looms here as a symbol of defiant, struggling hope as the deathless man continues his task. Demanding one's full attention, this complex, humbling, and beautifully crafted debut from one of The New Yorker's 20 Under 40 is highly recommended for anyone seriously interested in contemporary fiction.

    If you like "Downton Abbey"

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    Downton Abbey, the critically acclaimed British costume drama, follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in early 20th century England. This world of strictly divided social classes holds a fascination for many of us; despite the rules which keep the classes apart, there's always more to be found beneath the surface. If you're a fan of the show, waiting for the next installment to be broadcast in September 2012, maybe some of these great reads will help the time pass:

    The Glass Virgin

    Catherine Cookson

    What differentiates a true lady from a common woman? Is it blood, environment, education or simply hauteur? The late, prolific Cookson deftly explores these questions in this dizzying upstairs-downstairs "romance of adversity" set in rural Edwardian England. Annabella Lagrange is a lovely 17-year-old lady-to-be... or not to be, whose aristocratic childhood comes to a crashing halt when her womanizing papa, who has just bankrupted his wife Rosina's glass factory, reveals that Annabella is actually the daughter of a local whorehouse madam. Manuel Mendoza, a predictably dark and handsome self-made workman, helps Annabella begin a new, humble life as a farmhouse maid with an invented past. Cookson liberally heaps mental anguish and cruel twists of fate upon her heroine as Annabella tentatively navigates "life as lived by the majority of people." Over the course of a trying year, Annabella keeps her ladylike dignity-and virginity-as she entangles herself in the bonds of love. Is it truly possible for "the upper class to come down and the working class to come up and meet in the middle" in the realms of love and business? Despite some heavy-handed foreshadowing and spell-breaking asides about the social limitations of the Edwardian era, Cookson proves herself a seasoned storyteller, whose plentiful list of titles keeps historical women's fiction fans in the hardcover aisle years after the author's death.

    Finding Emilie

    Laurel Corona

    Corona's second historical novel (after Penelope's Daughter) offers an excellent introduction to Emilie du Chatelet (1706-49), whose wealth could still not overcome the discrimination she faced as a female intellectual in 18th-century France. A talented mathematician, she glimpsed the relationship between energy and matter two centuries before Einstein, and her translation of Newton's Principia Mathematica remains the standard French version. Emilie died at age 42 after bearing a daughter, who died 18 months later. Drawing from these historical facts, Corona has the daughter, Lili, survive and taken in by a kindly and thoughtful family that encourages her to use her mind. As Lily tries to find her place in the glittering and decadent prerevolutionary France, she gradually learns about her brilliant and notorious mother and eventually meets her mother's former lover, Voltaire, now a very old man tending his garden. Although readers are aware times are darkening, the depictions of intellectual salons and the passionate pursuit of the sciences lighten the book. Verdict Corona's marvelous scenes of the French Enlightenment in progress will appeal to readers who long for times when anyone of any intellectual claim could dabble in new ideas.

    Flirting with Destiny

    Sarah Hylton

    Flirting with Destiny is a First World War saga from a much-loved author. Summer, 1914. As the storm clouds gather over Europe, four privileged young women prepare to leave school and embark on adult life. But for Louise, Imogen, Cora and Miranda, the outbreak of war will change everything. Instead of foreign holidays and glamorous parties, leading to marriage and babies, they must learn to adjust to a new and very different world. The difficult years ahead test their characters to the full, and strain their once-strong friendship.

    Daughters of Fortune

    Tara Hyland

    Elizabeth and Amber are the daughters of London fashion dynasty magnate William Melville and his wife; Caitlyn, who grew up in Ireland, is Meville's daughter by another woman. She hasn't even known who her father is until her mother dies when she is 15 and she joins the Melville family in London. Hyland's sweeping debut follows the three sisters from privileged but rocky adolescence to the beginnings of their careers and relationships. Elizabeth has her eye on running the business, Caitlyn goes to Paris to learn design, and Amber becomes a model. Halfway through the novel, Hyland introduces a suspense element that lends complexity to the role of the family business in the story line, but she also throws in an unsavory plot twist. Verdict: lots of sex, fashion, and drama add glitter to this family saga, which will appeal to fans of Jackie Collins, Judith Krantz, and Judith Michael.

    Love is in the air

    by Sonya Guha-Thakurta - 0 Comment(s)

    Cupid

    Well, it's that time of year again... cupid (or Hallmark) strikes, and romance, chocolate, or heartbreak ensues. In honour of LOVE, lovers, romance, and heartbreak, we'd like to recommend a few timely reads for Valentine's Day. Whether you're in the mood for sweet romance, bitter heartbreak, or steamy erotica, you can find something new to read from our list!

    April and Oliver

    Tess Callahan

    The sexual tension between April and Oliver, the best friends since childhood, has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but the wildly different paths of their lives cross once again with the sudden death of April's brother. Oliver, the responsible, newly engaged law student finds himself drawn more than ever to the reckless, mystifying April - and cracks begin to appear in his carefully constructed life. Even as Oliver attempts to "save" his childhood friend from her grief, her menacing boyfriend and herself, it soon becomes apparent that Oliver has some secrets of his own--secrets he hasn't shared with anyone, even his fianc . But April knows, and her reappearance in his life derails him. Is it really April's life that is unraveling, or is it his own? The answer awaits at the end of a downward spiral... towards salvation.

    The Forbidden Rose

    Joanna Bourne

    Falling in love is the last thing an English spy and a French aristocrat who heads up a covert network helping guillotine-bound victims escape should do. But when William Doyle discovers Marguerite de Fleurignac hiding in her burned-out chateau and realizes she is key to his goal, they head for Paris and are swept into a whirlwind of violence, treachery, and revolutionary fanaticism that threatens their missions and their lives, as well as their impossible but unavoidable love. Verdict With exceptional characters, brilliant plotting, a poignant love story, and clear, realistic descriptions, this engrossing, provocative romantic adventure could easily make revolutionary France a more popular setting than it has been recently. Intriguing, refreshing, and rewarding. Bourne (My Lord and Spymaster) lives in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia.

    Beauty

    Susan Wilson

    Revisionist fairy tales with a message are definitely a '90s thing, and Wilson's lightweight but strained debut is a retelling of the classic story of Beauty and the Beast. The latter is Leland Crompton, a rich recluse who lives on a remote estate in New Hampshire's White Mountains, writing mysteries under the nom de plume of Harris Bellefleur and hiding his grotesquely deformed face. Yet family tradition dictates that his portrait must be painted, and Alix Miller, aka Beauty, is the latest of her family of artists to accept the commission. Of course, Alix, who narrates, has an unworthy boyfriend-oblivious and selfish photojournalist Mark. And, of course, she is ready for true love. Wilson spins her tale with some skill, but her stilted dialogue is clunky with platitudes ("You know that the friends of adversity are friends forever"). Leland is an appealing character, however. With his generosity and his gracefulness as he skates, he demonstrates that real beauty is active, found in movement and deed, not in the static medium of a portrait. His self-effacing humor is refreshing: When posing for Alix, he quips, "As you can see, I have no bad side." In opting for a weeper of an ending, however, Wilson pushes her love story over the brink into the kind of bathos that only romance addicts will embrace.

    Dangerous Pleasure

    Lora Leigh

    Abram Mustafa faces the test of his life and his heart when his terrorist father kidnaps Paige Galbraithe, the one woman who has always been able to touch Abram's soul. With Paige's life now in danger, Abram knows that his plans for escape from the only home he has ever known have suddenly become more imperative than ever.

    Paige has always wondered if the dark, cool and mysterious Abram el Hamid Mustafa is hiding a wicked side. . . . a wicked side that will allow her to explore the kind of pleasure she has dreamed of. But when she is kidnapped by his father, she finds that she must trust Abram with more than her fantasies. Paige must trust him with her life... and her heart.

    Secret, dangerous desires will bind Abram and Paige together as the forces surrounding them try to tear them apart.

    What I Did for Love

    Susan Elizabeth Phillips

    How did this happen? Georgie York, once the costar of America's favorite television sitcom, has been publicly abandoned by her famous husband, her film career has tanked, her father is driving her crazy, and her public image as a spunky heroine is taking a serious beating.

    What should a down-on-her-luck actress do? Not go to Vegas . . . not run into her detestable former costar, dreamboat-from-hell Bramwell Shepard . . . and not get caught up in an ugly incident that leads to a calamitous elopement. Before she knows it, Georgie has a fake marriage, a fake husband, and maybe (or not) a fake sex life.

    It's a paparazzi free-for-all, and Georgie's nonsupporting cast doesn't help. There's Bram's punk-nightmare housekeeper, Georgie's own pushy parent, a suck-up agent, an icy studio head with a private agenda, and her ex-husband's new wife, who can't get enough of doing good deeds and saving the world-the bitch. As for Georgie's leading man, Bram's giving the performance of his life, but he's never cared about anyone except himself, and it's not exactly clear why.

    Two enemies find themselves working without a script in a town where the spotlight shines bright . . . and where the strongest emotions can wear startling disguises.

    Happy Valentine's!

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    Staff Picks - Pat, Sonya and Patti

    by Jasna - 0 Comment(s)

    Who doesn't like to get a personal recommendation? Whether you're picking a movie, trying a new wine, going to a restaurant, or looking for a good book to read, it's always nice to try something that someone else really loves... Our staff members are always reading, so here are three great picks that come personally recommended:

    Mist Over Water

    Alys Clare

    The son of William the Conqueror is building an impressive cathedral on Ely Island. While fishing for eels, Morcar, cousin of apprentice healer Lassair, is horribly injured, and Lassair goes to tend him. What appeared to be an accident turns out to be an attempt on Morcar's life. In this second entry in her Aelf Fen Norman series (after Out of the Dawn Light), Clare doles out enticing clues to keep the reader turning the pages. She also knows her medieval medicine, which should delight all fans of Ellis Peters and Susanna Gregory.

    The Dog Who Knew Too Much

    Spencer Quinn

    The fourth entry in the irresistible New York Times bestselling mystery series featuring canine narrator Chet and his human companion Bernie—“the coolest human/pooch duo this side of Wallace and Gromit.”

    Combining suspense and intrigue with a wonderfully humorous take on the link between man and beast, Spencer Quinn’s exceptional mystery series has captured widespread praise since its New York Times bestselling debut, Dog on It. The Dog Who Knew Too Much marks the duo’s triumphant return in a tale that’s full of surprises.

    Bernie is invited to give the keynote speech at the Great Western Private Eye Convention, but it’s Chet that the bigshot P.I. in charge has secret plans for. Meanwhile Chet and Bernie are hired to find a kid who has gone missing from a wilderness camp in the high country. The boy’s mother thinks the boy’s father—her ex—has snatched the boy, but Chet makes a find that sends the case in a new and dangerous direction. As if that weren’t enough, matters get complicated at home when a stray puppy that looks suspiciously like Chet shows up. Affairs of the heart collide with a job that’s never been tougher, requiring our two intrepid sleuths to depend on each other as never before. The Dog Who Knew Too Much is classic Spencer Quinn, offering page-turning entertainment that’s not just for dog-lovers.

    The Namesake

    Jhumpa Lahiri

    Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies established this young writer as one the most brilliant of her generation. Her stories are one of the very few debut works -- and only a handful of collections -- to have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Among the many other awards and honors it received were the New Yorker Debut of the Year award, the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the highest critical praise for its grace, acuity, and compassion in detailing lives transported from India to America. In The Namesake, Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations. Here again Lahiri displays her deft touch for the perfect detail -- the fleeting moment, the turn of phrase -- that opens whole worlds of emotion.
    The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves. The New York Times has praised Lahiri as "a writer of uncommon elegance and poise." The Namesake is a fine-tuned, intimate, and deeply felt novel of identity.

    What should we read next? Leave your recommendations in the comments!

    Discover a Publisher - New York Review Books

    - 1 Comment(s)

    If you enjoy reading The New York Review of Books*, why not try a book published by the same publishing house? The wide variety of books from New York Review Books includes fiction and nonfiction, which they describe as "exploratory and eclectic," and most include an introduction by a writer or literary critic. Check out their website for more about the books!

    The Mountain Lion

    Jean Stafford

    Eight-year-old Molly and her ten-year-old brother Ralph are inseparable, in league with each other against the stodgy and stupid routines of school and daily life; against their prim mother and prissy older sisters; against the world of authority and perhaps the world itself. One summer they are sent from the genteel Los Angeles suburb that is their home to backcountry Colorado, where their uncle Claude has a ranch. There the children encounter an enchanting new world-savage, direct, beautiful, untamed-to which, over the next few years, they will return regularly, enjoying a delicious double life. And yet at the same time this other sphere, about which they are both so passionate, threatens to come between their passionate attachment to each other. Molly dreams of growing up to be a writer, yet clings ever more fiercely to the special world of childhood. Ralph for his part feels the growing challenge, and appeal, of impending manhood. Youth and innocence are hurtling toward a devastating end.

    Everything Flows

    Vasily Grossman

    Everything Flows is Vasily Grossman’s final testament, written after the Soviet authorities suppressed his masterpiece, Life and Fate. The main story is simple: released after thirty years in the Soviet camps, Ivan Grigoryevich must struggle to find a place for himself in an unfamiliar world. But in a novel that seeks to take in the whole tragedy of Soviet history, Ivan’s story is only one among many. Thus we also hear about Ivan’s cousin, Nikolay, a scientist who never let his conscience interfere with his career, and Pinegin, the informer who got Ivan sent to the camps. Then a brilliant short play interrupts the narrative: a series of informers steps forward, each making excuses for the inexcusable things that he did—inexcusable and yet, the informers plead, in Stalinist Russia understandable, almost unavoidable. And at the core of the book, we find the story of Anna Sergeyevna, Ivan’s lover, who tells about her eager involvement as an activist in the Terror famine of 1932–33, which led to the deaths of three to five million Ukrainian peasants. Here Everything Flows attains an unbearable lucidity comparable to the last cantos of Dante’s Inferno.

    Stoner

    John Williams

    William Stoner is born at the end of the nineteenth century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar's life, so different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage into a "proper" family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude. John Williams's luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world.

    Pedigree

    George Simenon

    Pedigree is Georges Simenon’s longest, most unlikely, and most adventurous novel, the book that is increasingly seen to lie at the heart of his outsize achievement as a chronicler of modern self and society. In the early 1940s, Simenon began work on a memoir of his Belgian childhood. He showed the initial pages to André Gide, who urged him to turn them into a novel. The result was, Simenon later quipped, a book in which everything is true but nothing is accurate. Spanning the years from the beginning of the century, with its political instability and terrorist threats, to the end of the First World War in 1918, Pedigree is an epic of everyday existence in all its messy unfinished intensity and density, a story about the coming-of-age of a precocious and curious boy and the coming to be of the modern world.

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    Judge a book by its cover!

    by Jasna - 0 Comment(s)

    We've all heard the warning: don't judge a book by its cover. But I find I've often grabbed a book because of something eye-catching, intriguing, or mysterious on the cover... Today we are giving you permission: judge a book by its cover! And if you come across a book you just had to read based on the cover, leave a comment to share it with us! Here are a few that caught our attention:

    The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

    "That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along once a generation. He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist."

    And so begins the rise of Hassan Haji, the unlikely gourmand who recounts his life’s journey in Richard Morais’s charming novel,The Hundred-Foot Journey. Lively and brimming with the colors, flavors, and scents of the kitchen,The Hundred-Foot Journeyis a succulent treat about family, nationality, and the mysteries of good taste.

    Hello Kitty Must Die by Angela S. Choi

    Look to the blatantly homicidal intent in the title, not the hot pink cover, to get a sense of this debut novel, which combines the violence and nihilism of a Chuck Palahniuk or Brett Easton Ellis novel with chick-lit label-dropping. The shock-value plot should provoke plenty of hype, but it’s Choi’s furious, laugh-out-loud social commentary that is most noteworthy.

    Angela S. Choi lives in San Francisco, California. Born in Hong Kong, Angela practiced law until she took up writing. Hello Kitty Must Die is her debut novel.

    Them or Us by David Moody

    The war that has torn the human race apart is finally nearing its end. With most towns and cities now uninhabitable, and with the country in the grip of a savage nuclear winter, both Hater and Unchanged alike struggle to survive.
    Hundreds of Hater fighters have settled on the East Coast in the abandoned remains of a relatively undamaged town under the command of Hinchcliffe - -who'll stop at nothing to eradicate the last few Unchanged and consolidate his position at the top of this new world order.

    Apples by Richard Milward

    This unassuming debut novel plucked from the imagination of a remarkable new 21-year-old talent is an affecting, ingeniously crafted coming-of age novel that has critics calling Milward the voice of the MySpace generation.

    Boomsday by Christopher Buckley

    Outraged over the mounting Social Security debt, Cassandra Devine, a charismatic 29-year-old blogger and member of Generation Whatever, incites massive cultural warfare when she politely suggests that Baby Boomers be given government incentives to kill themselves by age 75. Her modest proposal catches fire with millions of citizens, chief among them "an ambitious senator seeking the presidency." With the help of Washington's greatest spin doctor, the blogger and the politician try to ride the issue of euthanasia for Boomers (called "transitioning") all the way to the White House, over the objections of the Religious Right, and of course, the Baby Boomers, who are deeply offended by demonstrations on the golf courses of their retirement resorts.