Book picks as published in the August 21, 2019 St. Albert Gazette. For more great reads, check here.
The Seven or eight deaths of Stella Fortuna : a novel
By Juliet Grames
Stella’s childhood is full of strange, life-threatening incidents–moments where ordinary situations like cooking eggplant or feeding the pigs inexplicably take lethal turns. Even Stella’s own mother is convinced that her daughter is cursed. When the Fortunas emigrate to America on the cusp of World War II, Stella and her sister Tina must come of age in a hostile new world with strict expectations for each of them.
Travelers : a novel
By Helon Habila
A Nigerian graduate student who has made his home in America knows what it means to strike out for new shores. On a trip to Berlin, Habila’s central character finds himself thrown into contact with African immigrants and refugees whose lives previously seemed distant from his own. The walls between his privileged existence and the stories of these other Africans on the move soon crumble.
Ava is thrust into a violent and volatile situation when her good friend, Xu, the Mountain Master, asks her to settle a triad war that has broken out in Hong Kong because he is too ill to leave his bed. She is forced to work against her arch enemy Sammy Wing and his nephew Carter – the new Mountain Master of Sha Tin – as they attempt to regain control of Wanchai.
Hamilton provides a comprehensive summary of Ava’s adventures to this point, providing any new reader with enough backstory to make the events in this novel understandable. However, I always recommend that one reads a series from the beginning as there are often subtle references in previous novels that become germane to subsequent stories.
The violence is ramped up in this novel and Ava is forced to do things that she’d rather not have to. Uncle’s presence is felt more than it ever has been since he died, almost as if he is reassuring Ava that she is following the right path. Her years of working as a forensic accountant have trained her well in approaching complex problems and she falls back on the tricks of the trade that she polished to perfection with Uncle by her side.
Offsetting the violence, Hamilton provides a subplot involving Pang Fai, Ava’s friend and lover, which opens the door to some interesting potential plots. I wonder if he’ll incorporate them in his next novel, The Diamond Queen of Singapore, due out in July 2020.
What a whirl, what a world! High schooler Richard Samuels lucks into a role in a daring Broadway production of Julius Caesar. Cues, staging, rehearsals, romance, rivalries; he has a lot to learn. And the first thing to learn is never upstage Mercury Theatre’s genius director, 22-year-old Orson Welles.
Tensions abound and the music swells in the story about the famous musical team of Gilbert and Sullivan. The two men who were extremely different in size and stature were even more different in temperament and style. Yet, they still managed to create memorable theater. This is the story of the making of one of their most famous collaborations, The Mikado.
Rival theater companies compete to produce their own unique versions of Jane Austen’s childhood play, ‘Sir Charles Grandison’. George Midash buys the play’s manuscript at Sotheby’s for Pierre, the head of the avant-garde theater troupe. Another troupe, headed by the traditional Lilianna Zorska, strives to produce their own version of the play. In her first role, a young actress is manipulated by Pierre to join his company. When Lilianna decides to match wits with Pierre, events begin to mirror those that occur with the play itself.
Book picks as published in the August 14, 2019 St. Albert Gazette. For more great reads, check here.
The Flight portfolio : a novel
By Julie Orringer
In 1940, Varian Fry–a Harvard educated American journalist–traveled to Marseille carrying three thousand dollars and a list of imperiled artists and writers he hoped to rescue within a few weeks. Instead, he ended up staying in France for thirteen months, working under the veil of a legitimate relief organization to set up an underground railroad. Based on a true story.
State of the union : a marriage in ten parts
By Nick Hornby
Tom and Louise meet in a pub before their couple’s therapy appointment. Married for years, they thought they had a stable home life–until a recent incident pushed them to the brink. Unfolding in the minutes before their weekly therapy sessions, the ten-chapter conversation that ensues is witty and moving, forcing them to look at their marriage–and, for the first time in a long time, at each other.
Book picks as published in the August 7, 2019 St. Albert Gazette. For more great reads, check here.
The Last resort : a novel
By Marissa Stapley
To the guests at The Harmony Resort, Doctors Miles and Grace Markell appear to be a perfect power couple. They run a couples’ therapy retreat in a luxurious resort in the Mayan Riviera where they help spouses deal with their marriage struggles. When two couples begin Harmony’s intensive therapy program, it becomes clear that Harmony is not all that it seems – and neither are Miles and Grace.
Henry, himself : a novel
By Stewart O’Nan
Soldier, son, lover, husband, breadwinner, churchgoer, Henry Maxwell has spent his whole life trying to live with honor. A native Pittsburgher and engineer, he’s always believed in logic, sacrifice, and hard work. Now, seventy-five and retired, he feels the world has passed him by. A wry, warmhearted portrait of an American original who believes he’s reached a dead end only to discover life is full of surprises.