5 Cool Books to Order Right Now

Turn off that weird-ass tiger show, guys. Books are still happening. Order these titles from your local indie, as e-books or audio-books, from the library, or from online retailers. You will be happy you did.

*****

Stay Where I Can See You, by Katrina Onstad

About the book: Does good fortune always change things for the better?

The Kaplan family has just won 10 million dollars in the lottery. But haven’t they always been lucky? Gwen thought so. She’s carefully curated a perfect suburban existence with a loving husband and two children. For over a decade, she’s been a stay-at-home mom, devoted to giving her kids the quiet, protected adolescence she didn’t have. But the surprise windfall suddenly upends the family, allowing them all to dream a little bigger and catapulting them back to the city that Gwen fled years ago.

As the Kaplans navigate the notoriety that the lottery brings and try to adjust to their new lives in the upper class—Seth launches a dubious start-up, Maddie falls headfirst in love at her elite prep school—a tightly held secret is unlocked. Along with the truth come long-buried memories from Gwen’s troubled youth, forcing her to confront her painful past and threatening to unravel the incredibly tight bond between her and Maddie. Her meticulously constructed identity as the good wife and mother begins to crack. And when their changed circumstances place her family under threat, Gwen must wake up from her domestic slumber.

Why we're taking notice: Onstad brings the same keen eye and gorgeous prose we know from her journalism, and this gripping novel is a wondrous distraction from what's going on around us.

*

The Union of Smokers, by Paddy Scott

About the book: Kaspar Pine begins his day with a simple task: replace a pet canary. By day’s end, as Kaspar is being loaded into an ambulance, he delivers one hell of a "theme essay," covering such subjects as his ability to source and catalogue the cigarette butts he harvests; information on maintaining the social order of chickens, along with general and historic farming details that run from Saskatchewan to Ontario; insinuating himself between other kids and people who wish to do them harm; fire marshalling; and his inability to maintain an essayist’s cool detachment in the face of unrequited first love. The Union of Smokers details the heartfelt and heroic last day in the life of a reluctant, irreverent, and oddly wise hero.

Why we're taking notice: Because you've never read a narrator like Kaspar Pine before. This novel is something completely different, heartbreaking and uplifting at once.

*

Misconduct of the Heart, by Cordelia Strube

About the book: Toronto Book Award Winner Cordelia Strube is back with another caustic, subversive, and darkly humorous book

Stevie, a recovering alcoholic and kitchen manager of Chappy’s, a small chain restaurant, is frantically trying to prevent the people around her from going supernova: her PTSD-suffering veteran son, her uproariously demented parents, the polyglot eccentrics who work in her kitchen, the blind geriatric dog she inherits, and a damaged five-year-old who landed on her doorstep and might just be her granddaughter.

In the tight grip of new corporate owners, Stevie battles corporate’s “restructuring” to save her kitchen, while trying to learn to forgive herself and maybe allow some love back into her life. Stevie’s biting, hilarious take on her own and others’ foibles will make you cheer and will have you loving Misconduct of the Heart (in the immortal words of Stevie’s best line cook) “like never tomorrow.”

Why we're taking notice: Be careful—Cordelia Stube could break your heart. But if you're feeling a bit vulnerable these days, let us assure that she doesn't, that she holds it instead with her remarkable narrative that will rekindle your faith in the world.

*

How to Pronounce Knife, by Souvankham Thammavongsa

About the book: A young man painting nails at the local salon. A woman plucking feathers at a chicken processing plant. A father who packs furniture to move into homes he'll never afford. A housewife learning English from daytime soap operas. In her stunning debut book of fiction, O. Henry Award winner Souvankham Thammavongsa focuses on characters struggling to make a living, illuminating their hopes, disappointments, love affairs, acts of defiance, and above all their pursuit of a place to belong. In spare, intimate prose charged with emotional power and a sly wit, she paints an indelible portrait of watchful children, wounded men, and restless women caught between cultures, languages, and values. As one of Thammavongsa's characters says, "All we wanted was to live." And in these stories, they do--brightly, ferociously, unforgettably.

A daughter becomes an unwilling accomplice in her mother's growing infatuation with country singer Randy Travis. A boxer finds an unexpected chance at redemption while working at his sister's nail salon. An older woman finds her assumptions about the limits of love unravelling when she begins a relationship with her much younger neighbour. A school bus driver must grapple with how much he's willing to give up in order to belong. And in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize-shortlisted title story, a young girl's unconditional love for her father transcends language.

Unsentimental yet tender, and fiercely alive, How to Pronounce Knife announces Souvankham Thammavongsa as one of the most striking voices of her generation.

Why we're taking notice: If recommendations from Vogue and The New York Times have not convinced you to read one of the most buzzed about books of the season, take it from us: this fiction debut is fantastic.

*

A Match Made for Murder, by Iona Whishaw

About the book: It’s November, and Lane and Darling have escaped the chilly autumn in the Kootenays for a honeymoon at the posh and romantic Santa Cruz Inn in sunny Tucson, Arizona. But despite her very best intentions to relax, soon after their arrival Lane’s plans to spend the holiday poolside with a good mystery are interrupted by gunfire. One of the hotel’s wealthy guests has been shot point blank and Lane is second on the scene.

Though Lane and Darling attempt to distance themselves from the investigation, the longer they stay at the Santa Cruz Inn, the deeper they are drawn into a web of suspects and bystanders, and a collection of seemingly perfect marriages fraught with jealousy and violence. The situation threatens first their honeymoon and then their lives when Lane puts herself directly in the sights of local criminals who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Back in Nelson, Sergeant Ames has been left in charge of the department during Darling’s absence. As he investigates a case of vandalism at the Van Eyck garage, it seems to lead directly to the death of the suspected vandal himself. Working with Constable Terrell, the new recruit, to piece together what happened in this strange and unsettling murder, Ames finds his romantic interest in mechanic Tina Van Eyck creates complications that are more than awkward; they could be deadly.

Fans of Maisie Dobbs and the Kopp sisters will delight in the latest Lane Winslow, a study of matrimony and mirage in the American Southwest.

Why we're taking notice: FULL DISCLOSURE: we have not read this book yet. This is because the only thing BETTER than the latest Lane Winslow novel is ANTICIPATING the new Lane Winslow novel, and these are difficult times, so we're take our pleasure where we can find it. But we also know that when we do pick up the book (soon!), that it's going to be terrific, because this is a series that just gets better and better.

April 23, 2020
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