Recommended Reading List
Canadian Book Recommendations
Download list
Please login or register to use this feature.

Canadian Book Recommendations

By pagesandpawscafe
0 ratings
rated!
rated!
tagged:
A curated selection of books we recommend at Pages & Paws.
The Nest

The Nest

by Kenneth Oppel
illustrated by Jon Klassen
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover Audiobook eBook

A New York Times Editor’s Choice and a Best Book of the Year in the Globe and Mail, Publishers Weekly, Horn Book, School Library Journal and The Wall Street Journal, called “a masterpiece” (Globe and Mail) and now in paperback

She was very blurry, not at all human looking. There were huge dark eyes, and a kind of mane made of light, and when she spoke, I couldn’t see a mouth moving, but I felt her words, like a breeze against my face, and I understood her completely.

”We’ve come becaus …

More Info
The Centaur's Wife

The Centaur's Wife

edition:Paperback

Amanda Leduc's brilliant new novel, woven with fairy tales of her own devising and replete with both catastrophe and magic, is a vision of what happens when we ignore the natural world and the darker parts of our own natures.

Heather is sleeping peacefully after the birth of her twin daughters when the sound of the world ending jolts her awake. Stumbling outside with her babies and her new husband, Brendan, she finds that their city has been destroyed by falling meteors and that her little family …

More Info
Excerpt

PROLOGUE

In the beginning, a horse fell in love with a woman. Because magic was strong in the ground there, the horse dug himself a grave on his mountain and slept in it, buried in the dirt, on the one night a year when the stars are at their brightest. In the morning, he climbed out of the dirt as a man and made his way down the mountain. He stole clothes from a line when no one was looking and learned human language by watching men and women in the market square. The mountain’s magic was still with him, so he learned quickly, and by the time he reached the woman’s village you would never have guessed that he still had the heart of a stallion.

He’d been beautiful as a horse—black-maned and black-skinned, a white star in the centre of his forehead—and he was beautiful as a man, black-skinned and tall, a shock of white in his dark hair. The woman fell in love with him almost right away. He seemed wild to her but also familiar—she sensed a power in him that she wanted for herself, a different set of eyes with which to view the world. They courted and were married before the moon changed. The entire village came out to the wedding. After the music and the dancing were over, the villagers left them in the wedding tent—bright-eyed and flushed, two very-nearly strangers who were surprised to find themselves alone.

The woman was so beautiful he was afraid to touch her. She had lilies in her soft blonde hair and designs painted up and down her arms. The designs asked for happiness, health, children, an ever-loving husband—all of the good things anyone might wish a bride. The husband felt the symbols reach out and touch his stallion’s heart for the smallest of instants—felt them know, and pull away. A draft blew through the room, then the air cleared again.

In less than a month, the woman was pregnant. The pregnancy was hard but not unbearable, and the husband was so besotted with his wife, so fearful for her safety, that he carried her almost everywhere they went. In time she grew so big the villagers began to prepare for triplets. A neighbour fashioned a cart like a rickshaw, so when his wife became too big for him to carry, the husband could pull her around like a queen. Sometimes he gave the village children rides when they asked. Sometimes, when his wife was in pain, he did not.

She was pregnant for longer than usual. As her belly grew enormous, the rest of her became a shadow. When her time finally came, the panic in her blue eyes made the village midwives nervous, and so the elders sent for one of the doctors who travelled the countryside. Sometimes women left when children came into the world, and they weren’t about to let that happen. The doctor was also a woman. She was kind and gentle, with hands that were as strong as those of any man in the village, except perhaps the wife’s own husband.

The wife had gone into labour in the morning and struggled all that day and into the next. You could see the babies in her belly, trying to break through this last membrane, their sharp little fists and heels making bumps beneath her skin. But try as she might, she couldn’t push them out. After the second morning, the doctor placed a hand inside the wife and felt legs where a baby’s head needed to be.

“The first is breech,” she said, “and I can’t turn it. I’ll have to operate.”

No one in the village had ever seen an operation of any kind, and people crowded around the door and the windows. Everyone was worried. Would the babies survive? Would the wife? No one could bear to look at the anguish in the husband’s face.

But the doctor was the best, or so they’d been told, and she did not seem worried. She numbed the wife with drugs as best she could, then took her scalpel and made the first incision, quick and clean. Blood beaded up and ran down the wife’s belly.

As she worked, the doctor hummed a wordless song to calm the wife. “Three cuts,” she said, and smiled. “Three doors into the world for three special babies.” Her second incision pierced the fascia. The crowd had gone quiet, the only noise the doctor’s humming and the soft sounds of tissue giving way.

At the third cut, her scalpel gently slit the uterine wall. She did not stop humming. She set down her knife, pressed down and pushed in and scooped out the first baby.

The house went still for the smallest of moments. And then the screaming started.

The babies—and there were three of them—were red and squalling, one darker, two pale, all with the wife’s blue eyes and a perfect, plump little torso atop the body of a tiny horse. Each leg, slick with mucus, ended in a dark little hoof. A tiny girl, two tiny boys. The midwives all ran for the door. Monsters! they cried as they fell outside. They are monsters! Heaven help us. Get them away! When the villagers tried to rush inside, the husband roared with fury and blocked the way.

The doctor—whose hands didn’t shake, even now—laid each baby on the table, one by one. Then she turned back to the wife, still humming, and stitched up her wound as though nothing had happened. The wife, whose eyes were wide with terror, looked from the doctor to the babies and back, over and over. She didn’t look at her husband, who stood silent by the closed door. When she tried to speak, the doctor hushed her.

“You’ve been through so much,” the doctor said. She paused in her stitching and laid a hand against the wife’s cheek. “I think you should sleep now.” Perhaps the words were magic, perhaps it was the touch of her hand, but the wife fell asleep almost right away. When her breathing was untroubled and her stitches were done and the wound bandaged, the doctor moved to the crying babies and checked them over. They had strong lungs, she saw, and two hearts—one above, and one below—beating in sync.

“Lies will always come out,” the doctor said. “Even lies with the best of intentions.” She didn’t look up from the babies.

The husband didn’t say a word.

“You’ll have to leave,” the doctor said, “with the children. They won’t let you stay here.”

The husband swallowed hard. The doctor raised her head and watched him as the things he couldn’t say caught in his throat. “You aren’t from here,” she said. “You should take the children back to your old life.”

“My wife,” he said, finally. “What about my wife?”

The doctor, whose own mother had once been called a witch, knew of ground magic and could guess what had happened. She checked the babies over a last time—they’d all fallen silent—and considered a moment before she spoke. “Your wife won’t come.”

The husband shook his head. “No, she will come.” She loved him. Wasn’t he still a man, despite his stallion’s heart?

The doctor looked at the babies again—they were beautiful, in their strange, ungodly way—and sighed. Life and death went everywhere with her in her travels, hand in bloody hand. “If you do not leave tonight,” she said, “the villagers will kill them.” She’d seen enough of this to know—a deformed limb, a child born without a face. A child with no arms who’d been left outside to die in the snow. “They will kill you, too, if you fight them. If you love your children, you need to take them away.”

She could hear the pounding of his heart now, like a drum announcing its own end. He said, “I won’t leave without her.”

But when the wife woke up and saw the babies, she screamed with rage and hit the husband with her fists. “Kill them,” she told the doctor. “What monsters are these?” Who was he, this man she’d called her husband? He looked like a man but he wasn’t. She’d been deceived. Everything she’d
known was a lie. She had no husband now. “Get them away from me,” she said, and she covered her eyes in terror and disgust. “Get them away.”

When they heard her scream, the villagers began to pummel the house with shovels and sticks. The doctor swaddled the children as best she could, and when she placed them in the husband’s arms, he gathered each child numbly to his chest. He could barely understand what was happening. The doctor put goat’s milk in a couple of bottles, tucked them in her own satchel along with her provisions, and slung it over his shoulder. “It’s not a lot of food,” she said, “enough for a day, maybe two. Protect their heads,” she added, and then she swung open the door and stepped outside.

Such was her power—even now, after delivering these monster children—that the villagers fell quiet.

“They are leaving,” the doctor said, pitching her voice to reach all of the crowd. “They will not bother you anymore. Let them go.”

“They’re monsters!” someone cried. Inside the house, the wife began to wail. “We don’t want them here!”

“They are going and will not come back,” the doctor said, and the husband slipped out into the space that her words made. The villagers looked at the bundles in his arms and shrank back, and they let him walk past them and vanish into the darkness beyond their fires.

The man headed back to the mountain from which he’d come, grief and anger struggling in his heart. He fed the children the goat’s milk and soothed them when they cried, then found and milked more goats. When they reached his mountain, he climbed as far as he could, to where the magic of the mountain was the strongest, and he dug them a grave there, in the reddish-brown dirt beneath three weeping willows. It was not a night bright with stars, but he hoped the magic would still save them. The mountain—his home for so long—would save them. The magic of the trees around them, the roots that they pressed into the soil—all of these things had brought him to his love once, and they would do so again. They would make his children whole and human.

When the night deepened, he lowered the babies into the grave and, when they began to wail, settled himself in beside them and held them close. He pulled enough dirt over them to bury them almost but not quite. The babies, comforted by the closeness of his heartbeat, went silent. When he slept, they slept too. In his dreams, he stood beneath the sky and begged the mountain and the ground: Make them like me. Give them what you gave to me. In the dream he saw them all, two-legged and free, running in the village with the other girls and boys. Their mother smiled at them
as they played—everyone whole now, everyone happy.

In the morning, though, when the father pushed aside some of the dirt, he saw that the babies were unchanged. And when he stood up and looked down at himself, he saw his old black stallion chest and legs, though his arms were still the arms of a man and his human head still ached with
grief. Because, as the mountain knew, he had a stallion’s heart but a man’s love and longing. Like the babies, he belonged neither to one world nor the other, but somewhere in between. He wept then, for the first time. When he was done weeping, he woke the children, who’d grown bigger
overnight, and they crawled out of the hole to him. They stood on spindly legs and looked around at the morning, as though they had new eyes.

So it came to pass that the father and his children spent the rest of their days on the mountain. After a while the father stopped dreaming about his two-legged children running in the village, and eventually—long years later—he dreamed less of his wife. His children grew happy and strong; they’d known no other life. Though sometimes a rage would break in them and the father would be reminded of his wife, his human love, whose anger had erupted like a volcano, whose rage still burned bright at his betrayal. Other times, the fierceness of their anger would remind the father of himself, and the dark things he harboured, the grief that never went away. He tried to be gentle with them when they raged, but the children grew wary of their own anger, the same way they grew wary of their father’s love for them and the way he so jealously guarded their home.

When their father died, after many more years, they buried him beneath the three willows and wept over his grave, then slept there, sprawled beneath the stars. The next morning, when the sun came up, new beings pulled themselves out of the dirt where their father had been, beings that also had
the heads and arms of humans and the strong bodies of horses. When the children looked at all of these new siblings, they saw the mountain’s own glimmering anger in their deep and darkened eyes, and understood that though the mountain had taken their father back and given the children
companions so that they would not be alone, it had also not forgotten their father’s betrayal in leaving the mountain so long ago. It had given them a gift, but also a warning.

And that is how the centaurs came to be.

close this panel
Bunny

Bunny

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

The Vegetarian meets Heathers in this darkly funny, seductively strange novel from the acclaimed author of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

Samantha Heather Mackey couldn't be more different from the other members of her master's program at New England's elite Warren University. A self-conscious scholarship student who prefers the company of her imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort--a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call ea …

More Info
Excerpt

 1.

We call them Bunnies because that is what they call each other. Seriously. Bunny.

Example:
Hi, Bunny!
Hi, Bunny!
What did you do last night, Bunny?
I hung out with you, Bunny. Remember, Bunny?
That’s right, Bunny, you hung out with me and it was the best time I ever had.
Bunny, I love you. I love you, Bunny.

And then they hug each other so hard I think their chests are going to implode. I would even secretly hope for it from where I sat, stood, leaned, in the opposite corner of the lecture hall, department lounge, auditorium, bearing witness to four grown women—my academic peers—cooingly strangle each other hello. Or good-bye. Or just because you’re so amazing, Bunny.  How  fiercely  they  gripped  each  other’s  pink-and-white  bodies, forming a hot little circle of such rib-crushing love and understanding it took my breath away. And then the nuzzling of ski-jump noses, peach fuzzy cheeks. Temples pressed against temples in a way that made me think of the labial rubbing of the bonobo or the telepathy of beautiful, murderous children in horror films. All eight of their eyes shut tight as if this collective asphyxiation were a kind of religious bliss. All four of their glossy mouths making squealing sounds of monstrous love that hurt my face.

I love you, Bunny.

I quietly prayed for the hug implosion all year last year. That their ardent squeezing might cause the flesh to ooze from the sleeves, neckholes, and A-line hems of their cupcake dresses like so much inane frosting. That they would get tangled in each other’s Game of Thrones hair, choked by the ornate braids they were forever braiding into each other’s heart-shaped little heads. That they would choke on each other’s blandly grassy perfume. Never happened. Not once.

They always came apart from these embraces intact and unwounded despite the ill will that poured forth from my staring eyes like so much comic-book-villain venom. Smiling at one another. Swinging clasped hands. Skins aglow with affection and belonging as though they’d just been hydrated by the purest of mountain streams.

Bunny, I love you.

Completely immune to the disdain of their fellow graduate student. Me. Samantha Heather Mackey. Who is not a Bunny. Who will never be a Bunny.

I pour myself and Ava more free champagne in the far corner of the tented green, where I lean against a white Doric pillar bedecked with billowing tulle. September. Warren University. The Narrative Arts department’s annual welcome back Demitasse, because this school is too Ivy and New England to call a party a party. Behold the tigerlily-heavy centerpieces. Behold the Christmas-lit white gauze floating everywhere like so many ghosts. Behold the pewter trays of salmon pinwheels, duck-liver crostini topped with little sugared orchids. Behold the white people in black discussing grants they earned to translate poets no one reads from the French. Behold the lavish tent under which the overeducated mingle, well versed in every art but the one of conversation. Smilingly oblivious to the fact that they are in the mouth of hell. Or as Ava and I call it, the Lair of Cthulhu. Cthulhu is a giant squid monster invented by a horror writer who went insane and died here. And you know what, it makes sense. Because you can feel it when you’re walking down the streets beyond the Warren Bubble that this town is a wrong town. Something not quite right about the houses, the trees, the light. Bring this up and most people just look at you. But not Ava. Ava says, My god, yes. The town, the houses, the trees, the light—it’s all fucked.
 

I stand here, I sway here, full of tepid sparkling and animal livers and whatever hard alcohol Ava keeps pouring from her Drink Me flask into my plastic cup. “What’s in this again?” I ask.

“Just drink it,” she says.

I observe from behind borrowed sunglasses as the women whom I must call my colleagues reunite after a summer spent apart in various trying locales such as remote tropical islands, the south of France, the Hamptons. I watch their fervent little bodies lunge for each other in something like rapture. Nails the color of natural poisons digging into each other’s forearms with the force of what I keep telling myself is feigned, surely feigned, affection. Shiny lips parting to call each other by their communal pet name.

“Jesus, are they for real?” Ava whispers in my ear now. She has never seen them up close. Didn’t believe me when I first told her about them last year. Said, There is no way grown women act like that. You’re making this up, Smackie. Over the summer, I started to think I had too. It is a relief in some ways to see them now, if only to confirm I am not insane.
“Yes,” I say. “Too real.”

I watch her survey them through her fishnet veil, her David Bowie eyes filled with horror and boredom, her mouth an unimpressed red line.

“Can we go now?”

“I can’t leave yet,” I say, my eyes still on them. They’ve pulled apart from one another at last, their twee dresses not even rumpled. Their shiny heads of hair not even disturbed. Their skins glowing with health insurance as they all crouch down in unison to collectively coo at a professor’s ever jumping shih tzu.

Why?”

“I told you, I have to make an appearance.”

Ava looks at me, slipping drunkenly down the pillar. I have said hello to no one. Not the poets who are their own fresh, grunty hell. Not the new incoming fiction writers who are laughing awkwardly by the shrimp tower. Not even Benjamin, the friendly administrator to whom I usually cling at these sorts of functions, helping him dollop quivering offal onto dried bits of toast. Not my Workshop leader from last spring, Fosco, or any other member of the esteemed faculty. And how was your summer, Sarah? And how’s the thesis coming, Sasha? Asked with polite indifference. Getting my name wrong always. Whatever response I offer—an earnest confession of my own imminent failure, a bald-faced lie that sets my face aflame—will elicit the same knowing nod, the same world-weary smile, a delivery of platitudes about the Process being elusive, the Work being a difficult mistress. Trust, Sasha. Patience, Sarah. Sometimes you have to walk  away, Serena. Sometimes, Stephanie, you have to seize the bull by the horns. This will  be followed by the recounting of a similar creative crisis/breakthrough they experienced while on a now-defunct residency in remote Greece, Brittany, Estonia. During which I will nod and dig my fingernails into my upper-arm flesh.

And obviously I haven’t talked to the Lion. Even though he’s here, of course. Somewhere. I saw him earlier out of the corner of my eye, more maned and tattooed than ever, pouring himself a glass of red wine at the open bar. Though he didn’t look up, I felt him see me. And then I felt him see me see him see me and keep pouring. I haven’t seen him since then so much as sensed him in my nape hair. When we first arrived, Ava felt he must be nearby because look, the sky just darkened out of nowhere.

This evening, all I have done in terms of socializing is half smile at the one the Bunnies call Psycho Jonah, my social equivalent among the poets, who is standing alone by the punch, smiling beatifically in his own antidepressant-fueled fever dream.

Ava sighs and lights a cigarette with one of the many tea lights that dot our table. She looks back at the Bunnies, who are now stroking each other’s arms with their small, small hands. “I miss you, Bunny,” they say to each other in their fake little girl voices, even though they are standing right fucking next to each other, and I can taste the hate in their hearts like iron on my tongue.

“I miss you, Bunny. This summer was so hard without you. I barely wrote a word, I was so, so sad. Let’s never ever part again, please?”

Ava laughs out loud at this. Actually laughs. Throws her feathery head back. Doesn’t bother to cover her mouth with her gloved hand. It’s a delicious, raucous sound. Ringing in the air like the evening’s missing music.

Shhhhh,” I hiss at her. But it’s already done.

The laughter causes the one I call the Duchess to turn her head of long, silver faery-witch locks in our direction. She looks at us. First at Ava. Then at me. Then at Ava again. She is surprised, perhaps, to see that for once I’m not alone, that I have a friend. Ava meets her look with wide-open eyes the way I do in my dream stares. Ava’s gaze is formidable and European. She continues to smoke and sip my champagne without breaking eye contact. She once told me about a staring contest she had with a gypsy she met on a metro in Paris. The woman was staring at her, so Ava stared back—the two of them aiming their gazes at each other like guns—all the way across the City of Lights. Just looking at each other from opposite shores of the rattling train. Eventually Ava took off her earrings, still not taking her eyes off the woman. Why? Because her assumption at that point, of course, was that the two of them would fight to the death. But when the train pulled into the last stop on the line, the woman just stood to exit, and when she did so, she even held back the sliding doors politely, so Ava could go first.

What’s the lesson here, Smackie? Don’t jump to conclusions?
Never lower your gaze first.
 
The Duchess, in turning toward us, causes a ripple effect of turning among the other Bunnies. First Cupcake looks over. Then Creepy Doll with her tiger eyes. Then Vignette with her lovely Victorian skull face, her stoner mouth wide open. They each look at Ava, then at me, in turn, scanning down from our heads to our feet, their eyes taking us in like little mouths sipping strange drinks. As they do, their noses twitch, their eight eyes do not blink, but stare and stare. Then they look back at the Duchess and lean in to each other, their lip-glossed mouths forming whispery words.

Ava squeezes my arm, hard.

The Duchess turns and arches an eyebrow at us. She raises a hand up. Is there an invisible gun in it? No. It’s an empty, open hand. With which she then waves. At me. With something like a smile on her face. Hi, her mouth says.

My hand shoots up of its own accord before I can even stop myself. I’m waving and waving and waving. Hi, I’m saying with my mouth, even though no sound comes out.

Then the rest of the Bunnies hold up a hand and wave too.

We’re all waving at one another from across the great shores of the tented green.

Except Ava. She continues to smoke and stare at them like they’re a four-headed beast. When at last I lower my hand, I turn to her. She’s looking at me like I’m something worse than a stranger.

close this panel
Gods of Jade and Shadow

Gods of Jade and Shadow

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

A spellbinding fairy tale rooted in Mexican mythology . . . Gods of Jade and Shadow is a magical fairy tale about identity, freedom, and love, and it's like nothing you've read before.”—Bustle

NEBULA AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR • Tordotcom • The New York Public Library • BookRiot

The Jazz Age is in fu …

More Info
Excerpt

Chapter 1

Some people are born under a lucky star, while others have their misfortune telegraphed by the position of the planets. Casiopea Tun, named after a constellation, was born under the most rotten star imaginable in the firmament. She was eighteen, penniless, and had grown up in Uukumil, a drab town where mule-­drawn railcars stopped twice a week and the sun scorched out dreams. She was reasonable enough to recognize that many other young women lived in equally drab, equally small towns. However, she doubted that many other young women had to endure the living hell that was her daily life in grandfather Cirilo Leyva’s house.

Cirilo was a bitter man, with more poison in his shriveled body than was in the stinger of a white scorpion. Casiopea tended to him. She served his meals, ironed his clothes, and combed his sparse hair. When the old brute, who still had enough strength to beat her over the head with his cane when it pleased him, was not yelling for his grandchild to fetch him a glass of water or his slippers, her aunts and cousins were telling Casiopea to do the laundry, scrub the floors, and dust the living room.

“Do as they ask; we wouldn’t want them to say we are spongers,” Casiopea’s mother told her. Casiopea swallowed her angry reply because it made no sense to discuss her mistreatment with Mother, whose solution to every problem was to pray to God.

Casiopea, who had prayed at the age of ten for her cousin Martín to go off and live in another town, far from her, understood by now that God, if he existed, did not give a damn about her. What had God done for Casiopea, aside from taking her father from her? That quiet, patient clerk with a love for poetry, a fascination with Mayan and Greek mythology, a knack for bedtime stories. A man whose heart gave up one morning, like a poorly wound clock. His death sent Casiopea and her mother packing back to Grandfather’s house. Mother’s family had been charitable, if one’s definition of charity is that they were put immediately to work while their idle relatives twiddled their thumbs.

Had Casiopea possessed her father’s pronounced romantic leanings, perhaps she might have seen herself as a Cinderella-­like figure. But although she treasured his old books, the skeletal remains of his collection—­especially the sonnets by Quevedo, wells of sentiment for a young heart—­she had decided it would be nonsense to configure herself into a tragic heroine. Instead, she chose to focus on more pragmatic issues, mainly that her horrible grandfather, despite his constant yelling, had promised that upon his passing Casiopea would be the beneficiary of a modest sum of money, enough that it might allow her to move to Mérida.

The atlas showed her the distance from the town to the city. She measured it with the tips of her fingers. One day.

In the meantime, Casiopea lived in Cirilo’s house. She rose early and committed to her chores, tight-­lipped, like a soldier on a campaign.

That afternoon she had been entrusted with the scrubbing of the hallway floor. She did not mind, because it allowed her to keep abreast of her grandfather’s condition. Cirilo was doing poorly; they did not think he’d make it past the autumn. The doctor had come to pay him a visit and was talking to her aunts. Their voices drifted into the hall from the nearby living room, the clinking of dainty china cups punctuating one word here and another there. Casiopea moved her brush against the red tiles, attempting to follow the conversation—­expecting to be informed of anything that went on in the house in any other way was ridiculous; they never bothered talking to her except to bark orders—­until two shiny boots stopped in front of her bucket. She did not have to look up to know it was Martín. She recognized his shoes.

Martín was a youthful copy of their grandfather. He was square-­shouldered, robust, with thick, strong hands that delivered a massive blow. She delighted in thinking that when he grew old, he would also become an ugly, liver-­spotted wretch without teeth, like Cirilo.

“There you are. My mother is going crazy looking for you,” he said. He looked away when he spoke.

“What is it?” she asked, resting her hands against her skirt.

“She says you are to go to the butcher. The silly codger demands a good cut of beef for supper. While you’re out, get me my cigarettes.”

Casiopea stood up. “I’ll go change.”

Casiopea wore no shoes and no stockings and a frayed brown skirt. Her mother emphasized neatness in person and dress, but Casiopea didn’t believe there was much point in fretting about the hem of her clothes when she was waxing floors or dusting rooms. Still, she must don a clean skirt if she was heading out.

“Change? Why? It’ll be a waste of time. Go right away.”

“Martín, I can’t go out—­”

“Go as you are, I said,” he replied.

Casiopea eyed Martín and considered defying him, but she was practical. If she insisted on changing, then Martín would give her a good smack and she would accomplish nothing except wasting her time. Sometimes Martín could be reasoned with, or at least tricked into changing his mind, but she could tell by his sanguine expression that he’d had a row with someone and was taking it out on her.

“Fine,” she said.

He looked disappointed. He’d wanted a scuffle. She smiled when he handed her the money she needed to run the errands. He looked so put off by that smile, she thought for a moment he was going to slap her for no reason. Casiopea left the house in her dirty skirt, without even bothering to wrap a shawl around her head.

In 1922 Governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto had said women could now vote, but by 1924 he’d faced a firing squad—­which is exactly what you’d expect to happen to governors who go around delivering speeches in Mayan and then don’t align themselves with the correct people in power—­and they’d revoked that privilege. Not that this ever mattered in Uukumil. It was 1927, but it might as well have been 1807. The revolution passed through it, yet it remained what it had been. A town with nothing of note, except for a modest sascab quarry; the white powder shoveled out was used for dirt roads. Oh, there had been a henequen plantation nearby once upon a time, but she knew little about it; her grandfather was no hacendado. His money, as far as Casiopea could tell, came from the buildings he owned in Mérida. He also muttered about gold, although that was likely more talk than anything else.

So, while women in other parts of the world cut their hair daringly short and danced the Charleston, Uukumil was the kind of place where Casiopea might be chided if she walked around town without her shawl wrapping her head.

The country was supposed to be secularist after the revolution, something that sounded fine when it was printed as a decree, but was harder to enforce once push came to shove. Cristero rebellions bubbled down the center of Mexico whenever the government tried to restrict religious activity. That February in Jalisco and Guanjuato all priests had been detained for inciting people to rise against the anti-­Catholic measures promoted by the president. Yet Yucatán was tolerant of the Cristeros, and it had not flamed up like other states. Yucatán had always been a world apart, an island, even if the atlas assured Casiopea she lived on a verdant peninsula.

No wonder in lazy Uukumil everyone held to the old ways. No wonder, either, that their priest grew more overzealous, intent on preserving morality and the Catholic faith. He eyed every woman in town with suspicion. Each diminutive infraction to decency and virtue was catalogued. Women were meant to bear the brunt of inquiries because they descended from Eve, who had been weak and sinned, eating from the juicy, forbidden apple.

If the priest saw Casiopea he would drag her back to her house, but if he did, what of it? It was not as if the priest would strike her any harder than Martín would, and her stupid cousin had given her no chance to tidy herself.

Casiopea slowly walked to the town square, which was dominated by the church. She must follow Martín’s orders, but she would take her time doing so. She glanced at the businesses bunched under the square’s high arcades. They had a druggist, a haberdasher, a physician. She realized this was more than other towns could claim, and still she couldn’t help but feel dissatisfied. Her father had been from Mérida and had whisked her mother off to the city, where Casiopea was born. She thought she belonged there. Or, anywhere else, for that matter. Her hands were hard and ugly from beating the laundry against the stone lavadero, but her mind had the worst of it. She yearned for a sliver of freedom.

Somewhere, far from the bothersome grandfather and impertinent coterie of relatives, there would be sleek automobiles (she wished to drive one), daring pretty dresses (which she’d spotted in newspapers), dances (the faster, the better), and a view of the Pacific sea at night (she knew it courtesy of a stolen postcard). She had cut out photos of all these items and placed them under her pillow, and when she dreamed, she dreamed of night swimming, of dresses with sequins, and a clear, starlit sky.

close this panel
Mexican Gothic

Mexican Gothic

edition:Hardcover

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “It’s Lovecraft meets the Brontës in Latin America, and after a slow-burn start Mexican Gothic gets seriously weird.”—The Guardian
 
IN DEVELOPMENT AS A HULU ORIGINAL LIMITED SERIES PRODUCED BY KELLY RIPA AND MARK CONSUELOS • FINALIST FOR THE LOCUS AWARD •  NOMINATED FOR THE BRAM STOKER AWARD • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New Yorker • Vanity Fair • NPR • The Washington Post Tordotcom Marie Claire VoxMashable  …

More Info
Excerpt

1

The parties at the Tuñóns’ house always ended unquestionably late, and since the hosts enjoyed costume parties in particular, it was not unusual to see Chinas Poblanas with their folkloric skirts and ribbons in their hair arrive in the company of a harlequin or a cowboy. Their chauffeurs, rather than waiting outside the Tuñóns’ house in vain, had systematized the nights. They would head off to eat tacos at a street stand or even visit a maid who worked in one of the nearby homes, a courtship as delicate as a Victorian melodrama. Some of the chauffeurs would cluster together, sharing cigarettes and stories. A couple took naps. After all, they knew full well that no one was going to abandon that party until after one a.m.

So the couple stepping out of the party at ten p.m. therefore broke convention. What’s worse, the man’s driver had left to fetch himself dinner and could not be found. The young man looked distressed, trying to determine how to proceed. He had worn a papier-­mâché horse’s head, a choice that now came back to haunt him as they’d have to make the journey through the city with this cumbersome prop. Noemí had warned him she wanted to win the costume contest, placing ahead of Laura Quezada and her beau, and thus he’d made an effort that now seemed misplaced, since his companion did not dress as she had said she would.

Noemí Taboada had promised she’d rent a jockey outfit, complete with a riding crop. It was supposed to be a clever and slightly scandalous choice, since she’d heard Laura was going to attend as Eve, with a snake wrapped around her neck. In the end, Noemí changed her mind. The jockey costume was ugly and scratched her skin. So instead she wore a green gown with white appliqué flowers and didn’t bother to tell her date about the switch.

“What now?”

“Three blocks from here there’s a big avenue. We can find a taxi there,” she told Hugo. “Say, do you have a cigarette?”

“Cigarette? I don’t even know where I put my wallet,” Hugo replied, palming his jacket with one hand. “Besides, don’t you always carry cigarettes in your purse? I would think you’re cheap and can’t buy your own if I didn’t know any better.”

“It’s so much more fun when a gentleman offers a lady a cigarette.”

“I can’t even offer you a mint tonight. Do you think I might have left my wallet back at the house?”

She did not reply. Hugo was having a difficult time carrying the horse’s head under his arm. He almost dropped it when they reached the avenue. Noemí raised a slender arm and hailed a taxi. Once they were inside the car, Hugo was able to put the horse’s head down on the seat.

“You could have told me I didn’t have to bring this thing after all,” he muttered, noticing the smile on the driver’s face and assuming he was having fun at his expense.

“You look adorable when you’re irritated,” she replied, opening her handbag and finding her cigarettes.

Hugo also looked like a younger Pedro Infante, which was a great deal of his appeal. As for the rest—­personality, social status, and intelligence—­Noemí had not paused to think too much about all of that. When she wanted something she simply wanted it, and lately she had wanted Hugo, though now that his attention had been procured she was likely to dismiss him.

When they arrived at her house, Hugo reached out to her, grasping her hand.

“Give me a kiss good night.”

“I’ve got to run, but you can still have a bit of my lipstick,” she replied, taking her cigarette and putting it in his mouth.

Hugo leaned out the window and frowned while Noemí hurried into her home, crossing the inner courtyard and going directly to her father’s office. Like the rest of the house, his office was decorated in a modern style, which seemed to echo the newness of the occupants’ money. Noemí’s father had never been poor, but he had turned a small chemical dye business into a fortune. He knew what he liked and he wasn’t afraid to show it: bold colors and clean lines. His chairs were upholstered in a vibrant red, and luxuriant plants added splashes of green to every room.

The door to the office was open, and Noemí did not bother knocking, breezily walking in, her high heels clacking on the hardwood floor. She brushed one of the orchids in her hair with her fingertips and sat down in the chair in front of her father’s desk with a loud sigh, tossing her little handbag on the floor. She also knew what she liked, and she did not like being summoned home early.

Her father had waved her in—­those high heels of hers were loud, signaling her arrival as surely as any greeting—­but had not looked at her, as he was too busy examining a document.

“I cannot believe you telephoned me at the Tuñóns’,” she said, tugging at her white gloves. “I know you weren’t exactly happy that Hugo—­”

“This is not about Hugo,” her father replied, cutting her short.

Noemí frowned. She held one of the gloves in her right hand. “It’s not?”

She had asked for permission to attend the party, but she had not specified she’d go with Hugo Duarte, and she knew how her father felt about him. Father was concerned that Hugo might propose marriage and she’d accept. Noemí did not intend to marry Hugo and had told her parents so, but Father did not believe her.

Noemí, like any good socialite, shopped at the Palacio de ­Hierro, painted her lips with Elizabeth Arden lipstick, owned a couple of very fine furs, spoke English with remarkable ease, courtesy of the nuns at the Monserrat—­a private school, of course—­and was expected to devote her time to the twin pursuits of leisure and husband hunting. Therefore, to her father, any pleasant activity must also involve the acquisition of a spouse. That is, she should never have fun for the sake of having fun, but only as a way to obtain a husband. Which would have been fine and well if Father had actually liked Hugo, but Hugo was a mere junior architect, and Noemí was expected to aspire higher.

“No, although we’ll have a talk about that later,” he said, leaving Noemí confused.

She had been slow dancing when a servant had tapped her on the shoulder and asked if she’d take a call from Mr. Taboada in the studio, disrupting her entire evening. She had assumed Father had found out she was out with Hugo and meant to rip him from her arms and deliver an admonishment. If that was not his intent, then what was all the fuss about?

“It’s nothing bad, is it?” she asked, her tone changing. When she was cross, her voice was higher-­pitched, more girlish, rather than the modulated tone she had in recent years perfected.

“I don’t know. You can’t repeat what I’m about to tell you. Not to your mother, not to your brother, not to any friends, understood?” her father said, staring at her until Noemí nodded.

He leaned back in his chair, pressing his hands together in front of his face, and nodded back.

“A few weeks ago I received a letter from your cousin Catalina. In it she made wild statements about her husband. I wrote to Virgil in an attempt to get to the root of the matter.

“Virgil wrote to say that Catalina had been behaving in odd and distressing ways, but he believed she was improving. We wrote back and forth, me insisting that if Catalina was indeed as distressed as she seemed to be, it might be best to bring her to Mexico City to speak to a professional. He countered that it was not necessary.”

Noemí took off her other glove and set it on her lap.

“We were at an impasse. I did not think he would budge, but tonight I received a telegram. Here, you can read it.”

Her father grabbed the slip of paper on his desk and handed it to Noemí. It was an invitation for her to visit Catalina. The train didn’t run every day through their town, but it did run on Mondays, and a driver would be sent to the station at a certain time to pick her up.

“I want you to go, Noemí. Virgil says she’s been asking for you. Besides, I think this is a matter that may be best handled by a woman. It might turn out that this is nothing but exaggerations and marital trouble. It’s not as if your cousin hasn’t had a tendency toward the melodramatic. It might be a ploy for attention.”

“In that case, why would Catalina’s marital troubles or her melodrama concern us?” she asked, though she didn’t think it was fair that her father label Catalina as melodramatic. She’d lost both of her parents at a young age. One could expect a certain amount of turmoil after that.

“Catalina’s letter was very odd. She claimed her husband was poisoning her, she wrote that she’d had visions. I am not saying I am a medical expert, but it was enough to get me asking about good psychiatrists around town.”

“Do you have the letter?”

close this panel
Like Home

Like Home

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

A poignant and incandescent debut that explores the bonds of community and what it really means to change

Chinelo—or Nelo, as her best friend, Kate, calls her—is all about her neighbourhood, Ginger East. She loves its chill vibe, its ride-or-die sense of community and the memories she has of growing up there. Ginger East isn’t what it used to be, though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, most of Nelo’s friends, except for Kate, have moved away. But as long as the two girls have …

More Info
Curse of the Divine

Curse of the Divine

edition:Hardcover
tagged : dark fantasy

Return to the world of inklings, tattoo magic, and evil deities as Celia uncovers the secrets of the ink in order to stop Diavala once and for all. This eagerly anticipated sequel toInk in the Blood is perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo andWicked Saints.

Celia Sand faced Diavala and won, using ink magic to destroy the corrupt religion of Profeta that tormented her for a decade. But winning came with a cost. Now Celia is plagued with guilt over her role in the death of her best friend. When she di …

More Info
Bruised

Bruised

edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover

Whip It meets We Are Okay in this vibrant coming-of-age story about a teen girl navigating first love, identity, and grief as she immerses herself in the colorful, brutal, beautiful world of roller derby—from the acclaimed author of Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens.

To Daya Wijesinghe, a bruise is a mixture of comfort and control. Since her parents died in an accident she survived, bruises have become a way to keep her pain on the surface of her skin so she doesn’t need to deal with the ache d …

More Info
comments powered by Disqus

There are two ways to make a reading list

This way:

  1. Click the "Create a New List" button just above this panel.
  2. Add as many books as you wish using the built-in search on the list edit page.

Or that way:

  1. Go to any book page.
  2. In the right-hand column, click on "Add to List." A drop-down menu will appear.
  3. From the drop-down menu, either add your book to a list you have already created or create a new list.
  4. View and edit your lists anytime on your profile page.
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...