Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

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Life After Life – Does the course of your life depend on fate or do you have control based on the choices you make?  Ursula Todd is born on a snowy winter day in 1910 .. and then dies before she can take a breath.  Or does she? The very same day, she is born, the doctor arrives in time, and Ursula lives.  We follow Ursula’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood as Kate Atkinson weaves in key historical events from the early to mid 20th century – World War I, the Spanish influenza epidemic, and then World War II, both in London during the Blitz and Germany in the ‘30s and ‘40s.  We witness Ursula’s birth and death over and over again — in each timeline she makes different decisions that lead to wildly different life paths. Or is it fate acting upon her?  A highly enjoyable read for fans of British historical fiction and alternative histories. The audiobook, read by Fenella Woolgar, brings the characters to life. (Submitted by Beth)

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Annabel by Kathleen Winter

annabelThis book was hauntingly beautiful. It tells the story of a child, born in a remote Labradorean town in 1968, who is not quite male and not quite female. Winter’s storytelling is luminous and poignant as we grow up alongside Wayne (Annabel) in the cold, Canadian climate, privy to one family’s secrets. I’m still reeling from this story and it’s been years since I read it–time for a re-read! (Submitted by Meghan)

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Force of Nature by Jane Harper

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Jane Harper’s first book, The Dry, took us into the punishingly hot Australian outback. Now, Detective Aaron Falk and his new partner, Carmen, are sent into the heavy, close, jungle-like Giralang Mountain Ranges.

Alice Russell, one of five women on a corporate team-building trail retreat, has disappeared. Tensions between the returning survivors are high, and Aaron and Carmen must get to the bottom of what happened – as well as hope to find Alice in a race against time and nature.

I can’t convey how excellent Harper is at creating tension and atmosphere, and I can’t convey how masterfully she balances the mystery with a sense of simmering tension. I should also mention that each of her mysteries is impressively real. The situation and characters (and detectives!) all feel natural and organic – nothing far-fetched to be found.

Engaging, human mystery with a real sense of pervasive danger set against nature’s stunning (and vicious) backdrop – this should be on your reading list. (Submitted by Veronica)

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The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

homeforunwantedgirlsI just finished reading The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman for my book club and it was a real page-turner. It’s a fictitious novel based on actual events that occurred in the early 1950’s in Quebec. At the time, many babies born out of wedlock were handed over to orphanages run by Catholic nuns. The province’s Premier of the time, Duplessis signed an order-in-council to turn orphanages into hospitals, thus allowing them to collect federal subsidies. As a result, many of the children in the orphanages were told that they were now mentally deficient, often kept drugged, and made to provide labour in support of the institutions. The children were not schooled, nor were they made available for adoption.

This story follows a 15 year old who finds herself pregnant as well as the story of the child she gives up to one of these orphanages turned hospitals. Mother and daughter never lose hope of reuniting while facing many challenges in their respective lives.

The novel was very well written and I believe it depicted the issues surrounding the times accurately. While it was sometimes difficult to read, it was also eye-opening and engaging. One of the few novels where I’ve shed tears while reading. I highly recommend it. (Submitted by Seline)

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

big-little-liesI feel like I’m a bit late to the party with this popular book, but it’s amazing! It’s one where you know something really bad has happened, but not to whom or who did it, so there’s a sense of foreboding throughout.  It follows 3 mothers whose children have just entered Kindergarten and unravels the tragic events at a school function. There’s suspense, sadness, friendship, and a surprising amount of humour. It particularly resonated with me, as my child entered Kindergarten this fall – I hope nothing so dramatic happens to me! I can’t wait to see the HBO series and see how Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman tackle the characters of Madeline and Celeste. (Submitted by Gayle)

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The Dead Zone by Stephen King

deadzoneI came across Stephen King’s 1979 book The Dead Zone by happy accident when I had nothing to read. Though I have read many King novels, I somehow hadn’t heard of this one before, and the story piqued my interest: young Johnny Smith awakens from a five year long coma to find the world a changed place. His beloved fiancée has moved on to another man and now has two children; his ultra-religious mother has lost her mind; and his body needs extensive surgical repair if he ever wants to walk again. Johnny’s once promising teaching career is in question, and on top of all of this, he seems to have developed a supernatural power of precognition in connection with his brain injury. This ability is a blessing and a curse to Johnny: he is able to help loved ones avoid misfortune, but he also sees terrifying flashes into the depraved mind of an active serial killer who has been terrifying the New England area for years. Johnny’s unwanted new ability does not go unnoticed: it attracts the vulture-like attention of reporters and scammers looking to make a quick buck. While he mourns the loss of his old life and longs for solitude in rural Maine, the growing number of women falling victim to the serial killer and the strengthening connection force Johnny to use his new power for good. Johnny has another connection to a force even more sinister than the killer: a local politician with the darkest of intentions. I couldn’t put this book down. Though I had never heard of it before, it will remain one of my favorite Stephen King books from here on out. It was thrilling as well as deeply moving. I’d definitely recommend this on a chilly fall weekend! (Submitted by Mandi)

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Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

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It’s a science fiction novel depicting a time in the near future when a small number of people will be forced to essentially become refugees in space to preserve the human race because of a calamity that will make the earth uninhabitable.

This book had me riveted. The author does an amazing job of painting the picture of the events leading up to the necessity of humans having to escape to space. He develops the characters really well and includes twists and turns in the plot that are highly plausible in the given circumstances. It’s a lengthy novel at nearly 900 pages, so not for the faint of heart, but I highly recommend it. (Submitted by Seline)

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