Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto

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Sakamoto’s account of his maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother is compelling reading. Both experienced the effects of World War 2 – his grandfather in a Japanese POW camp and his grandmother the hardships of BC’s forced relocation of its Japanese residents and citizens. We get a detailed look at their upbringing and lives, giving us tremendous insight into the times and character of these people, which is thoroughly engaging.

The book changes after the first half when the author begins his own story, particularly when he focuses on his mother’s journey into alcoholism and poverty, but it still leaves a deep impression on the reader. Instead of dealing with the theme ‘forgiveness’ between two people, in fact two families, with powerful reasons to hate each other, the subject is briefly glossed over. You’re left to assume they nobly put the past behind them when their children marry but are barely mentioned in the second half. Sakamoto is definitely not a great writer, some of his historical facts are incorrect, and the book feels disjointed, but I still recommend it as worth reading. It won the CBC’s Canada Reads in 2018 which says more for its champion, Jeanne Beker, than the book itself, but again, its content holds a strong message for us all. (Submitted by Pippa)

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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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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 Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

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As a mystery reader and audiobook fan, I love it when both combine to create the perfect literary experience. The Keeper of Lost Causes, and other works by Jussi Adler-Olsen, are available in four formats but I highly recommend the audio narrated by Erik Davies. The Keeper of Lost Causes introduces Carl Morck, a crusty Danish cop who’s recovering from a brutal shootout  that has left one of his partners dead and the other paralyzed. Unpopular with his peers, Carl is assigned to lead the newly created Department Q in Copenhagen to work on cold cases. There he battles his superiors, his guilt, personal life, and the complex, years-old case involving the disappearance of a young female politician.

All the characters, from the victim to Morck and his quirky team, quickly develop into people you want to know more about. None disappoint as they lead you through a satisfying plot to a knuckle-whitening conclusion. The great news is that there are more titles in this series, all equally as enthralling. (Submitted by Pippa)

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50 Canadians Who Changed the World by Kenneth McGoogan

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If you’d like to explore Canada and Canadians who made a huge difference in our country and world-wide, then, look no further than Kenneth McGoogan’s 50 Canadians Who Changed the World. Very informative, well written, nicely balanced (there is just enough information and you feel completely satisfied – you don’t get bored and you don’t become overloaded with facts). Borrow now and brush up on your famous Canadians knowledge just in time for Canada Day 2018. There is plenty of time still! (Submitted by Mariya)

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Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

red sparrowIf 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)

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Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

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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)

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