Visions of Sugar Plums, by Janet Evanovich

The “Stephanie Plum” series of thriller/comedy/romances has been going strong for over twenty volumes since One for the Money first introduced bounty-hunter Stephanie and her romantic entanglements with police detective Joe Morelli and ex-special forces mystery man Ranger. Back in 2002 Evanovich began a side series of shorter novels or novellas about Stephanie, with themes tied to holidays. Unlike the books in the main series, which stick strictly to the real world, these holiday novels plunge into the lighter side of the supernatural and humans with minor superpowers. They also throw a third (sexy, of course) man into Stephanie’s life, Diesel, who has the irritating habit of showing up in Stephanie’s locked apartment to disrupt her already chaotic life with missions of his own. Visions of Sugar Plums is the first of these. Stephanie’s after a toy-maker named Sandy Claws who skipped out on his bail; Diesel claims he’s been sent to bring her the spirit of Christmas, which is sadly lacking in her life, but he’s taking quite an interest in Sandy Claws and wild Grandma Mazur’s electrifying new boyfriend too, and not to bring them the spirit of Christmas. (Diesel was then spun off into his own series about cupcakes and a quest for seven magic stones …)

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Motorcycles and Sweetgrass, by Drew Hayden Taylor

 

Reviewed by Kayla Nye

Motorcycles and Sweetgrass is a fictional story based on an Anishnawbe legend. When a stranger rolls into town on his motorcycle before the death of an elder, the little Anishnawbe community becomes less settled, as drama begins to unfold. The band council purchased a piece of land and the community goes wild. The chief is bombarded with suggestions on what to do with the newly purchased land; however she is less focused on that than the new stranger on his motorcycle. The chief’s son discovers a trait about the motorcyclist who has won his mother’s heart, and he tries his best to save his mother, with the help of his uncle. This story is guaranteed to give you a chuckle.

Postscript by Library Manager – This is a real laugh-out-loud story full of vivid characters with an important message about the necessity of a bit of spontaneity and even chaos in your life to shake you up and give you a new perspective on things. Highly recommended by both of us!

Clarice Bean and Ghost Knight

At the Summer Reading Club this year we are reading two books. The younger group is listening to Lauren Child’s Clarice Bean, Don’t Look Now. The story is off to a rousing start as older sister Marcie overflows the bath. First the ceiling begins to drip on Grandpa. Then it collapses – and crushes the television. Oh no! Luckily Clarice Bean has words of wisdom from her favourite literary character, girl spy Ruby Redfort, to guide her: When you lose an important piece of equipment, improvise or seek out an alternative. Even more luckily, her best friend Betty Moody has her own tv in her bedroom. Problem solved! Except the stove was crushed too, and the family is going to have to live on toast forever.

The older group is hearing Cornelia Funke’s Ghost Knight, in which Jon, jealous of his new stepfather, makes himself so sulky and unpleasant at home that his mother sends him away to his late father’s boarding school in a famous cathedral town just dripping with history. Jon is determined to be as miserable as possible, but when the ghosts of three malevolent knights began haunting him, he finds himself drawn into a dark tragedy that unfolded around the cathedral back in the middle ages.

Europe in Autumn, by Dave Hutchinson

A spy thriller, a near-future science fiction adventure … a prophetic look at what follows the disintegration of the European Union under a rising tide of extreme nationalism and xenophobia …

Europe in Autumn is the first in a series about a fractured Europe in a world very like our own – a world after the devastation of a pandemic flu had led to a paranoid nationalism, with nations dividing and subdividing so rapidly that even citizens of a country can find it hard to keep track of just where they’re living. Recruited to a new career as spy and people-smuggler with a mysterious organization calling itself Les Coureurs des Bois, the protagonist, Rudi, a cook in eastern Europe when we first meet him, is drawn deeper and deeper into the mysteries underlying his world. Conspiracies within conspiracies, treachery, organized crime, a railway line that’s an independent state and a political power in Europe, the quest for a document that might reveal long-hidden secrets about the nature of the world, and Rudi’s increasingly desperate struggle to survive as he learns more than he should and employers and allies turn into enemies, make this a thriller hard to put down. If you enjoy Len Deighton and Alan Furst and other thrillers that combine action and suspense with intelligent stories and characters, as well as thoughtful science fiction, you should definitely pick up Europe in Autumn. We hope to have book two, Europe at Midnight, in the library soon.

Kiss of the Fur Queen, by Tomson Highway

A bestseller when it was published in 1998, Kiss of the Fur Queen follows two Cree brothers, Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis, renamed Jeremiah and Gabriel, from their early childhood, residential school and the abuse endured there, through years lost and estranged from their family and at times strangers to each other. As they grow into adulthood they struggle in different ways with their past and with the religion imposed on them, with depression and alcoholism and the impulse to self-destruction in many forms, Gabriel’s troubles having yet another layer added to them by his homosexuality in a decade more homophobic than our own, when the (first-world) AIDS crisis was at its height. Each finds his own means of survival in pursuing the passions that drive him, music and composition in Jeremiah’s case, dance in Gabriel’s. Woven through are the traditional Cree stories they learnt in their earliest years, taking on new life around and through them and the art they create, the lives they live. More than metaphor, the trickster Fur Queen moves through it all, claiming the brothers as her own. Not an easy read nor always a comfortable one, and certainly not meant to be, Kiss of the Fur Queen is beautiful and passionate, tragic, poetic, and sometimes humorous. This is a novel that reveals more on repeated readings and well deserves to be regarded as a classic of Canadian literature.