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)

Borrow now from Surrey Libraries! Book, Audiobook on CD, Downloadable Audiobook, Movie (DVD)

Advertisements

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

cottingley-secret

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)

Borrow an ebook or a book from Surrey Libraries!

The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami

hero-walkAnita 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)

Borrow an eBook or a book from Surrey Libraries!

Stargazing Dog by Takashi Murakami

stargazing dog

This short graphic novel was written in 2008.  It is hard to believe the beginning of the Great Recession is almost 10 years old.  For most Millennials this is a forgotten period.  Stargazing Dog, written at the start of the economic crises, takes us on a journey about two lives caught up in the economic uncertain time.  One is a divorced middle aged man and the other a middle aged Shiba Inu. We usually think of the economic crises of the last decade as effecting mainly North America but this story is set in Japan.  As the author states it was written to challenge the theory of “adapt or die”.  No doubt this is the saddest graphic novel I have read and is a must read for anyone who has loved a dog.  It is a short, but extremely powerful story which although can be read in a few minutes the impact it leaves will remain for some time. (Submitted by Shane)

Borrow this book now from Surrey Libraries!

Mink River by Brian Doyle

mink-river

Sadly, I only learned of author Brian Doyle, when reading his obituary recently. A writer of adult and young adult fiction, of novels, short stories, poetry and essays, Doyle lived in Portland, Oregon, where he was also the editor of Portland Magazine. Finding out that Surrey Libraries owns a number of his books, I checked out the novel Mink River.

I loved his writing style – he brings the lyricism of a poet to his fiction. His trademark is long flowing sentences without punctuation. This takes some getting used to at first, but I came to love the style and his use of words.

Normally the magic realism genre is associated with Latin American writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and many others, but Doyle’s style is a kind of magic realism set in the Pacific Northwest. There are many great characters that you fall in love with, from a crow who talks (and philosophizes), to two old guys who make up the local Department of Public Works (which doesn’t limit itself to roads and drains, but haircuts and counting insects and generally watching out for the welfare of everyone in their little community). Doyle weaves in aboriginal lore, as well as Irish language and myth (one character is a transplanted Irishman). While Mink River has a large assortment of fascinating characters, really the main character of this book is the town of Neawanaka, with Doyle weaving various storylines together in his portrayal of this fictional town on the Oregon coast.

The affection and off-beat humour of Doyle’s writing reminds me of classic writers that I’ve enjoyed such as Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, and Tom Robbins. I’d recommend reading this book, and other fiction, essays and writing from this author. (Submitted by David)

Borrow this book now from Surrey Libraries!

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Book Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks : A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence

dear-fahrenheit451Loving books should never been seen as a competition; but, if it was, Annie Spence would win gold. This book is made up of two great parts: letters to her favourite (or not so favourite) books, and book lists that include a wide range of topics and familiar titles from part one thrown in the mix, like any awesome librarian would do if they wrote a book about books. It’s a short read (like The Book of Awesome), but deeply engrossing. Each letter feels like a mini book club, with Spence’s heart and humour leading the discussion. As someone who works in a library, this almost seems like the easiest book to write a review on. It has many of my favourite things: books, library stories, humour. But as an avid reader, I feel like I’ve met a new friend, who gives pretty awesome recommendations for what to read next! Give this book a try, even if you aren’t sure about reading a book about books. (Submitted by Mara)

Borrow this book now from Surrey Libraries!

 

A Liaden Universe series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

liaden-universe

A new pleasure I have recently discovered is reading books by different gender life partners writing together.  I’ve explored books in Speculative Fiction, which includes Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Writing soft Sci-Fi are my new all-time favourites, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.  Having discovered their Liaden Universe stories last spring, I’m on my third read of my favourites of their books now, and most of my Christmas presents were their books! The intricate world building adds layers to stories which are coming of age stories, romances, space operas, and adventures. Fledgling, Necessity’s Child, Dragon in Exile, and Alliance of Equals are books available at Surrey Libraries which you can use to enter the series. The first book they wrote begins The Agent Gambit, which is available through Inter Library Loan.

On the Urban Fantasy side, Ilona Andrews is a pseudonym for another female-male writing partnership. Kate Daniels is a hard core merc with magic in her blood and a past to run from. World-building and adventure are again fantastic, and the romance is balanced with self-discovery and an appealing cast of secondary characters. Magic Bites is the first book in this series. (Submitted by Rebecca O.)