February’s snow has provided plenty of opportunities for reading. Once the shovelling gets done, it’s great to warm up with a book. While I know we live in Canada and we are all proud of our ability to deal with the weather, sometimes it is nice just to escape from the cold and read. Whether it’s reading at home, in a café, or in front of the fireplace somewhere (like our Fontainebleau location,) one thing can be said for sure: this is reading season. Then again, it’s always reading season if you ask me. Here’s what your library is reading this February.
Adam: Jazz by Toni Morrison
Jazz is the sixth novel by the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison. The narrative revolves around the murder of a teenage girl in 1920s Harlem, who was shot by her middle-aged lover Joe Trace. As the novel progresses, we learn about the lives of those connected to the pair’s affair, including Joe’s wife Violet. The pasts of these characters are explored, extending back generations to the mid 19th century American South.
True to the music the book is named after, the narrative flows with the energy, rhythms, and the call and response style of jazz. Mirroring the shifting rhythms and dynamics of this music, the pace of the story alternates between different characters and settings, ranging from the upbeat and celebratory to the slow and mournful. Characters provide their own stories within the main narrative, invoking the improvised solos of jazz compositions that fit together to create a whole cohesive work. Jazz is an incredible novel that tells a profound story exploring obsession, hope, fear, and the reality of black urban life.
Rob: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
To me, science fiction and fantasy stories are great. When they include dystopian futures, an infinite number of universes, and all things 1980’s – they’re even better. My goodness, where to begin. The Golden Age of Video Games, murder, mystery, action, President Cory Doctorow, and Vice President Wil Wheaton? Welcome to Ready Player One. It is simply one of the most fun books I have ever read.
Ready Player One follows Wade Watts as he quests to find the ultimate video game Easter egg. The search takes place in a digital universe that has changed the way people experience their lives. While it is chalk full of references to 80’s and geek classics like Pac Man, Monty Pyton, Rush, Family Ties, (and perhaps every other cult hit from any entertainment genre from the era,) it ends up being more than just a story about a people who love one particular decade. It is a sci-fi thriller with murder, romance, action, and it all adds up into great escapism. That said, it also offers some interesting social commentary and insightful discussion around what it means to truly live.
Rumour has it this will be a movie, and there may even be a sequel in the works. If you haven’t yet entered the game, I strongly recommend that you do it soon. (It’s also available as an ebook.)
Angela: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
What a whimsical sequel to the very delightful Garden Spells! The reader is once again transported to the enchanting town of Bascom, North Carolina, and to the Waverley family. Known for her ability to write charming magical realism stories, Sarah Addison Allen does not disappoint in her newest novel. We were first introduced to the lovely Waverley sisters Claire and Sydney in Garden Spells, and in First Frost we see yet again what a remarkable duo these two make. Now 10 years later, both women have grown-up and have their own children and very successful careers. Only Claire seems to have gotten in a little too deep with the new candy business she started. It is no surprise the public all want a bite of her magically delicious recipes. For both sisters the air in Bascom feels a little tense before the first frost of their enchanting apple tree. When a mysterious stranger appears, everything the sisters know about their family is called into question. It is a fun and light read that has all the aspects of magic, romance and great food that is sure to please many readers!
Lea: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
At its core, this is the story of a relationship between a Chinese boy and a Japanese girl, living in Seattle, WA during World War II. How their relationship is affected by the people around them and by the world events, including the interment of the Japanese Americans, is brought to life by the author. Interestingly, the story jumps ahead 40 years, to the 1980s, when a discovery of long-hidden items in the basement of a hotel gives us glimpses into how the intervening years have been spent and what the future might bring. I have borrowed this book a couple of times, but never got to read it; I am really glad that it finally made it to the top of the pile.
There’s something about having a book read from the perspective of characters that see the world differently than I do that I always enjoy. In this case, the book is written from the perspective of Christopher, a teenage boy with autism, as he grapples with things beyond his immediate comprehension. I love the way Haddon manages to flesh Christopher out and show the logic behind behaviours. There is a simple logic behind the way that Christopher chooses his foods (by colour) or sometimes “does groaning” when things stress him out, or, the way that he holds his hand up to his father’s in lieu of a hug because of how intense he finds physical contact. Christopher’s character does show some stereotypes, like his facility with math, but he never becomes a simple stereotype. I’d recommend this book for anyone looking for an interesting and challenging read or who would like to better understand the life of someone living with autism
Thanks for checking out what we are reading this month. Until next time, stay warm and well read.