If you thought the cutthroat deep espionage of the Cold War ended when the Berlin wall came down, you would be wrong. Enter Jason Matthews’ 2013 spy novel Red Sparrow. Set in modern day Putin’s Russia, where prison camps still exist and one wrong move will sentence you to disappear to a Siberian basement and endure unending inhumane torture tactics, a world still very much entrenched in obsession with clawing back the Soviet glory days and competing with the great enemy (USA), the story follows the beautiful young Russian Dominika Egorova, a would-be ballerina who becomes a spy when her dance career is thwarted by injury. Dominika’s Uncle, a desperate-to-prove-himself ex KGB member, assigns her to train at Sparrow school, where she trains to be an expert in sexual and romantic espionage. Her eventual target: Nate Nash, an American CIA operative who is vulnerable to Russian recruitment only after making a series of career tarnishing blunders. Unbeknownst to Dominika, Nate is assigned to recruit her to be a double agent for the CIA. What transpires is a thrilling, fast paced journey through Europe and New York. Matthews really knows the spy world: he used to be a CIA operative himself. In Red Sparrow, he has created a twisting, turning, suspenseful and incredibly well written spy novel that hooked me from page 1. Though it is fiction, the subject matter taught me a lot about the current tension between the US and Russia, and helped me to understand much of the reason behind many of Russia’s decisions. The characters were fully fleshed out and interesting; the choices they make over the course of the novel kept me on the edge of my seat. It did not surprise me to see that the book has been made into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton. If this isn’t enough to sell you on it, there is a delicious traditional Russian recipe at the end of every single chapter. (Submitted by Mandi)
A beautifully, sparely written novel about a young man and his estranged father, who find themselves on a final walk together. Franklin Starlight, an Ojibway teenager, knows next to nothing about his family, or his past. Along comes (returns) Eldon, his alcoholic absentee father, who takes Franklin on a last “medicine walk” to try and reconnect and finally share Frank’s history.
This was so beautiful. There are no saccharine, overtly emotional scenes. Richard Wagamese writes with careful expertise, and we share so much with these two characters without having too much unneccesary actual dialogue. Nature plays a great and important role, calming and vast, giving the Starlight men a world to disappear into.
This is a story about making mistakes, finding forgiveness, and moving on. There are no pleading excuses from Eldon, no righteous speeches from Frank. The themes of loyalty, family, love, and finding peace within yourself are all here, and explored beautifully. I look forward to reading more of Wagamese’s titles. (Submitted by Veronica)
Do you believe in fairies? Could you? If you have ever had thoughts of garden nymphs and fairies, this is the book for you. Written in two timelines, both tell the story of hope and believing in yourself and sometimes things not everyone can see with the naked eye. There is also discussion of why we believe what we do and how does this belief in the whimsy fairies actually fill gaps? A lovely little tale, beautifully described and a delight to read. Try it! (Submitted by Jamie)
Anita Rau Badami does an excellent job depicting the modern day life in India (I literally felt like a tourist submerged into the environment except there was also a good story and I didn’t have to physically travel anywhere). It focuses on one family, but a lot is tied into that one family’s journey: neighbours, traditions, and daily routines. Another interesting twist is the switching back and forth between Canada and India – this contrast is often very vivid (actually, just like everything in Badami’s book). You will feel the heat and smell the dust, or hear the rain gushing during the monsoon period. Fans of descriptive language will be thrilled with this novel. The drawback, to some people, it may seem longer than necessary at some parts of the book – but, tastes are just a matter of opinion.
One of the main characters in the novel is a 7 year-old girl, Nandana, who loses her parents in a car accident and has to go to India to live with her estranged grandparents. Nandana’s grandparents are internally suffocating from emotions of: grief, regret, uncertainty, failure, and frustration as they try their best to build a new life for their grandchild and fix up their own ones along the way. (Submitted by Mariya)
Wow, I am so grateful that I am alive now, in a time where buzz words like truth and reconciliation and people suggesting what to read for Aboriginal History Month is occurring. However Aboriginal History Month is in June and this is something to be read now and reread often.
I just finished reading Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection. Volume 2 (after I read Vol. 1 of course) and I just can’t wait to share these amazing Graphic Novels with everyone. These must read works are all about NOW with a never before seen collaboration of top names, Buffy Saint-Marie, Richard Van Camp, Tanya Tagaq, Jeffrey Veregge, Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D, and so many more. One can just skim through and enjoy the art or a quick 2 page story. Or immerse yourself in top notch art and wordsmith, this is fun, this is challenging, you just might learn something and if you are still hungry for more the forward, introduction, afterword and biographies are eloquent and bursting with information and hints on where to find more work from all of these amazing creative minds as well as how to be an alley and support more works like this.(Submitted by Inti)
Borrow the book now from Surrey Libraries!
Set in Jamaica, this novel features several strong female characters including Thandi, a smart, beautiful, young girl whose older sister and mother have pinned their hopes on for getting them out of the slums that they live in. Thandi is set to go to college and become a high-paying doctor, but she is obsessed with becoming lighter skinned and longs to be an artist. Her older sister Margot has been paying for Thandi’s education, by working at the local hotel and by selling her body to men. Margot juggles her family obligations with her own yearnings to be in a relationship with the village outcast, an out lesbian woman who isn’t accepted by the people she grew up with. Margot and Thandi’s mother, Dolores, only wants what is best for her two daughters and will do anything to escape the life they are stuck in. Here Comes the Sun was an excellent page turner about dreams, ambitions, and the lengths that people will go to in order to achieve them. The dialogue is written in Jamaican dialect (Patois) which I had to get used to, but ultimately the story is what kept me going. (Submitted by Alan)
This book came to my attention a few years ago but I didn’t have a chance to read it until now. I really liked it and I’m torn between being sorry that it took me so long to get to it and glad that I finally did.
It fits into so many categories, historical fiction, romance (I use this one cautiously), and a mystery though it isn’t classified as one. Notice I didn’t say it was a ghost story but it is loaded with atmosphere especially as it takes place in 18th century Cambridge, England. The author shows a cloistered, mostly male, world of the academics which was political, religious and blasphemous mix, but he also offers a glimpse into the life of the people who serve that world and the Cambridge of that time. I can’t wait to read more of this author’s works. (Submitted by Renee)