Posts Tagged with ‘Adult’

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
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distant1 photoA long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WWII. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.
Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.
Morton once again enthralls readers with an atmospheric story featuring unforgettable characters beset by love and circumstance and haunted by memory, that reminds us of the rich power of storytelling.

The description really doesn’t do this book justice. Part historical fiction, part gothic suspense, The Distant Hours takes the reader on countless twists and turns, and really keeps you guessing right until the very end.  At 562 pages, it’s a long one, but every single sentence is meaningful and integral to the story. I couldn’t read it fast enough. Kate Morton does a wonderful job creating a rich and eerie astmosphere that pulls together so many stories from different people, places and time periods. From past to present and back again, what a journey!

Love stories that explore secrets of the past that reveal themselves in the present? Try…

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

sarah photo Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d’Hiv’, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.


The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

shadow photo Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

girl with photoMikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there’s always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson’s novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don’t want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.


The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

joy1 photoFour mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “saying” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. “To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.” Forty years later the stories and history continue.
With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

those who photoFor fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy’s sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.
Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother’s life.
Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.


The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
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thirteenth photoBiographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father’s antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The request takes Margaret by surprise — she doesn’t know the author, nor has she read any of Miss Winter’s dozens of novels.
Late one night while pondering whether to accept the task of recording Miss Winter’s personal story, Margaret begins to read her father’s rare copy of Miss Winter’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She is spellbound by the stories and confused when she realizes the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? Intrigued, Margaret agrees to meet Miss Winter and act as her biographer.
As Vida Winter unfolds her story, she shares with Margaret the dark family secrets that she has long kept hidden as she remembers her days at Angelfield, the now burnt-out estate that was her childhood home. Margaret carefully records Miss Winter’s account and finds herself more and more deeply immersed in the strange and troubling story. Both women will have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets… and the ghosts that haunt them still.

Read-a-likes for The Thirteenth Tale that are equally gothic and atmospheric:

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

                                             Summer 1924riverton photo
On the eve of a glittering society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.

Winter 1999

Grace Bradley, ninety-eight, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet’s suicide. Ghosts awaken and old memories – long consigned to the dark reaches of Grace’s mind -  begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge, something history has forgotten but Grace never could.
Set as the war-shattered Edwardian summer surrenders to the decadent twenties, The House at Riverton is a thrilling mystery and a compelling love story.

 Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

rebecca photoLast night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house’s current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim’s first wife the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

distant photo

 A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WWII. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.

Morton once again enthralls readers with an atmospheric story featuring unforgettable characters beset by love and circumstance and haunted by memory, that reminds us of the rich power of storytelling

 The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

historian photo

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.

Finish off summer with these travel reads
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Summer’s not over yet. Yes, it’s mid-August, but it’s not too late to get whisked away on the trip of a lifetime. Try out these travelogues for one last taste of summer.

The Lost Girls: Three Freinds. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour around the World  by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, Amanda Pressner

lost girls photo

Jen, Holly, and Amanda are at a crossroads. They’re feeling the pressure to hit certain milestones—scoring a big promotion, finding a soul mate, having 2.2 kids—before they reach their early thirties. When personal challenges force them to reevaluate their lives, they decide it’s now or never to do something daring. Unable to gain perspective in fast-paced Manhattan, the three twentysomethings quit their coveted media jobs and leave behind their friends, boyfriends, and everything familiar to travel the globe. Dubbing themselves the Lost Girls, they embark on an epic yearlong search for inspiration and direction. As they journey 60,000 miles across four continents and more than a dozen countries, Jen, Holly, and Amanda step far outside of their comfort zones, embracing every adventure and experience the world has to offer—shooting blowguns with Yagua elders in the Amazon, learning capoeira on the beaches of Brazil, volunteering with preteen girls at a school in rural Kenya, hiking with Hmong villagers in Vietnam, and driving through Australia in a psychedelic camper van. Along the way, the Lost Girls find not only themselves but also a lifelong friendship.
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Who hasn’t fantasized about chucking the job, saying goodbye to the rat race, and escaping to some exotic destination in search of sun, sand, and a different way of life? Canadians Ann Vanderhoof and her husband, Steve did just that.
In the mid 1990s, they were driven, forty-something professionals who were desperate for a break from their deadline-dominated, career-defined lives. So they quit their jobs, rented out their house, moved onto a 42-foot sailboat and set sail for the Caribbean on a two-year voyage of culinary and cultural discovery. In lavish detail that will have you packing your swimsuit and dashing for the airport, Vanderhoof describes the sun-drenched landscapes, enchanting characters and mouthwatering tastes that season their new lifestyle. Come along for the ride and be seduced by Caribbean rhythms as she and Steve sip rum with their island neighbors, hike lush rain forests, pull their supper out of the sea, and adapt to life on “island time.”
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
sunburned photo
Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door, memorable travel literature threatens to break out. His previous excursion along the Appalachian Trail resulted in the sublime national bestseller A Walk in the Woods. In A Sunburned Countryis his report on what he found in an entirely different place: Australia, the country that doubles as a continent, and a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet. The result is a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiosity.Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adores the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond that beaten tourist path. Wherever he goes he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging, and these beaming products of land with clean, safe cities, cold beer, and constant sunshine fill the pages of this wonderful book. Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide.


Dazed but not Confused: Tales of a Wilderness Wanderer by Kevin Callan

dazed cover image Kevin Callan presents his best adventures — and misadventures — in the wilderness. Entertaining, yet enlightening, the stories are full of enthusiasm and are designed to get people to explore the wilderness on their own, and it’s hoped, be inspired to protect what’s still left.
These captured moments of a life spent traveling in secluded areas and promoting their importance to all of us aren’t just for outdoorsy types. The stories relate to a much broader audience: readers who have pondered sleeping under the stars or paddling a canoe across a calm lake or down wild rapids, or even venturing into the winter woods. After reading this book, they’ll want to pack up and go the very next day.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
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mountains photoIn this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.

What a saga. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, although I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the intricacies of the plot. My mistake? Listening to the audio book. Perhaps better suited for the most talented of multi-taskers, as it tells interwoven stories of different families spanning many years, requiring a tremendous amount of focus. I did get a little lost at some points when it came to who people were and how they were connected to other stories. But regardless, Khaled Hosseini is a talented storyteller, and proves himself to create stories and characters that really stick with you.

Add yourself to the waiting list for And the Mountains Echoed.

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
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banyan photo For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus.

Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhood—the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival.
Author Vaddey Ratner was five years old when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. After four years, having endured forced labor, starvation, and near execution, she and her mother escaped while many of her family members perished. A work of fiction based on her own childhood experiences, Ratner states, “I wanted to honor the lives lost and those who made monumental sacrifices to save me. And I wanted to do so through art . . . to draw to the foreground an experience I feel we all share as human beings—our hunger for life, our desire to live even in the face of death.”

Check-out In the Shadow of the Banyan  today!

Looking for read-a-likes?

rift photo Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron

Jean Patrick Nkuba, a naturally gifted athlete, sprints over the thousand hills of Rwanda and dreams of becoming his country’s first Olympic medal winner in track. But Jean Patrick is a Tutsi in a world that has become increasingly restrictive and violent for his people. As tensions mount between the Hutu and Tutsi, he holds fast to his dream that running might deliver him, and his people, from the brutality around them.

Winner of the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, Naomi Benaron has written a stunning and gorgeous novel that through the eyes of one unforgettable boy explores a countrys unraveling, its tentative new beginning, and the love that binds its people together.

flowers photo

A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama

A powerful novel about an ordinary family facing extraordinary times at the start of the Chinese Cultural Revolution China, 1957. A year later, still missing his father desperately, Tao climbs to the top of the hundred-year-old kapok tree in front of their home, wanting to see the mountain peaks in the distance. But Tao slips and tumbles thirty feet to the courtyard below, badly breaking his leg. As Kai Ying struggles to hold her small family together in the face of this shattering reminder of her husband’s absence, other members of the household must face their own guilty secrets and strive to find peace in a world where the old sense of order is falling. Once again, Tsukiyama brings us a powerfully moving story of ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances with grace and courage.

shanghai photoShanghai Girls by Lisa See

In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, a city of great wealth and glamour, the home of millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives…until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides.

As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the Chinese countryside, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the shores of America.

In a Far Country by Linda Holeman
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holeman photoA hugely absorbing, satisfying read, beautifully crafted but thrillingly told, in the style of the far pavilions. Pree Fincastle, daughter of impoverished British missionaries in India, is left alone and destitute when tragedy strikes. Turned away by the Church, she embarks on a journey in search of Kai, the son of her mothers ayah, and the only person she can trust. But Kai is not the man Pree thought he was, and the secrets he holds will unlock the door to another world, another time and, shockingly, another life. Haunting, powerful, heartbreaking and magnificent, In a Far Country, tells of one young woman’s enthralling journey. A passage through penury and prostitution, tragedy and bloodshed, secrets and love, it is ultimately a story of hope; a story that, once read, will never be forgotten.

Holeman’s novel really left a mark on me. What an incredibly heartbreaking story. Yes, it was probably one of the most depressing books I have ever read, but reading it was just so rewarding. Taking you through time and across borders, Holeman creates such an unbelievable journey weaving history, cultures, romance and intense heartache. A page turner from start to finish.

In a far Country is the third book in Holeman’s “India Trilogy” although the novels all stand alone and do not need to be read in order, I certainly didn’t read them that way. I’m really looking forward to the first in her trilogy The Linnet Bird.

Did I mention that she’s Canadian?

Love sweeping historical dramas that fully immerse you in new and distant worlds? Try…

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

splendid photoA Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years, from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding, that puts the violence, fear, hope and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives, the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness, are inextricable from the history playing out around them.


The Sandcaslte Girls by Chris Bohjalian

sand photoElizabeth Endicott accompanies her father to Aleppo,Syria, in 1915 to bring aid to the Armenian deportees. While there, Elizabeth meets Armen Petrosian, an Armenian engineer working for the Germans and searching for his wife and child, though certain they are already dead. In spite of the loss and horror around them, they fall desperately in love. The story is told through the eyes of Laura Petrosian, Elizabeth and Armen’s great-granddaughter. After seeing an exhibit of photographs of the Armenian victims, she discovers letters and photos and begins to piece her great-grandparents’ story together. Soon “the slaughter you know next to nothing about” takes over her life, and she makes profound discoveries about her ancestors and herself. This is a powerful and moving story based on real events seldom discussed. The Sandcastle Girls will leave you reeling.

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

island photoBorn a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarité -known as Tété – is the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, it’s with powdered wigs in his baggage and dreams of financial success in his mind. But running his father’s plantation, Saint-Lazare, is neither glamorous nor easy. It will be eight years before he brings home a bride – but marriage, too, proves more difficult than he imagined. And Valmorain remains dependent on the services of his teenaged slave. Spanning four decades, Island Beneath the Sea is the moving story of the intertwined lives of Tété and Valmorain, and of one woman’s determination to find love amid loss, to offer humanity though her own has been battered, and to forge her own identity in the cruellest of circumstances.

Looking for an escape this summer? My picks for great summer reads.
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I picked up The White Mary in 2010 when it was part of VPL’s Adult Summer Short List. I didn’t think anything of it, except that it appealed to me as an adventurous read about jungle survival. What I didn’t except was to find one of my absolute favourite reads. Thus began my love for outdoor/travel/adventure/survival reads. What a prefect way to start off summer!

The White Mary by Kira Salak

the white mary photoMarika Vecera, an accomplished war reporter returning from a harrowing assignment in the Congo, learns that a man she has always admired from afar, Pulitzer-winning war correspondent Robert Lewis, has committed suicide. Stunned, she abandons her magazine work to write Lewis’s biography, settling down with Seb as their intimacy grows. But when Marika finds a curious letter from a missionary claiming to have seen Lewis in the remote jungle of Papua New Guinea, she has to wonder, What if Lewis isn’t dead?

Marika soon leaves Seb to embark on her ultimate journey in one of the world’s most exotic and unknown lands. Through her eyes we experience the harsh realities of jungle travel, embrace the mythology of native tribes, and receive the special wisdom of Tobo, a witch doctor and sage, as we follow her extraordinary quest to learn the truth about Lewis—and about herself, along the way.

I was completely enthralled with this novel, and could not put it down. Everything about it captivated me: the remote and dreamy setting, the adventure, the need to survive. I was equally fascinated by Salak’s biography. She describes herself as an adrenaline junkie, and has travelled to the world’s most dangerous and remote places as either a journalist or plain adventurist. It makes sense that The White Mary is partially autobiographical. Salak travelled across Papua New Guinea alone, and admits that many situations described in her novel were based on her personal experiences.


As one of my all time faves, I have since been tracking down read-a-likes for The White-Mary, in an attempt re-create that same feeling of awe and escape when reading.

For those who love a good adventure read and enjoy transporting yourselves to distant and exotic places, here are some reads you will really enjoy:

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

state of wonder1 photoA provocative novel of morality and miracles, science and sacrifice set in the Amazon rainforest, State of Wonder is a gripping adventure story and a profound look at the difficult choices we make in the name of discovery and love.

As Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle. Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness. Stirring and luminous, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss beneath the rain forest’s jeweled canopy.

The Sound of Butterflies by Rachael King

sound of butterflies photoIt is 1903. Thomas Edgar, a passionate collector of butterflies, is offered the chance of a lifetime: to travel to the Amazon as part of a scientific expedition. Hoping to find the mythical butterfly that will make his name and immortalise that of his wife, Sophie – for if he finds it, he will call it the “Papilo Sophia” - he eagerly accepts the invitation, and embarks on a journey that will take him to a whole new world.

On his return, Sophie greets her husband at the railway station, and is appalled by the change in him: he is thin, obviously sick, and apparently so traumatised by what he witnessed while he was away, he has been rendered mute. As Thomas struggles to find the words to describe what he’s seen, it’s unclear whether or not Sophie – and their marriage – will be able to withstand what he has to tell her, for the story that unfolds, the story behind Thomas’s silence, is one of great brutality. Like the butterflies Thomas is so obsessed by, the butterflies that he catches and kills, it’s a story of men who have been dazzled by surface splendour and wealth, and consequently refuse to acknowledge its underlying cruelty.

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

molokai photoYoung Rachel Kalama, growing up in idyllic Honolulu in the 1890s, is part of a big, loving Hawaiian family, and dreams of seeing the far-off lands that her father, a merchant seaman, often visits. But at the age of seven, Rachel and her dreams are shattered by the discovery that she has leprosy. Forcibly removed from her family, she is sent to Kalaupapa, the isolated leper colony on the island of Moloka’i.

True to historical accounts, Moloka’i is the story of an extraordinary human drama, the full scope and pathos of which has never been told before in fiction. But Rachel’s life, though shadowed by disease, isolation, and tragedy, is also one of joy, courage, and dignity. This is a story about life, not death; hope, not despair. It is not about the failings of flesh, but the strength of the human spirit.

For you non-fiction readers:

Turn Right at Machu Pichu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams

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July 24, 1911, was a day for the history books. For on that rainy morning, the young Yale professor Hiram Bingham III climbed into the Andes Mountains of Peru and encountered an ancient city in the clouds: the now famous citadel of Machu Picchu. Nearly a century later, news reports have recast the hero explorer as a villain who smuggled out priceless artifacts and stole credit for finding one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites.

Mark Adams has spent his career editing adventure and travel magazines, so his plan to investigate the allegations against Bingham by retracing the explorer’s perilous path to Machu Picchu isn’t completely far- fetched, even if it does require him to sleep in a tent for the first time. Turn Right at Machu Picchu is Adams’ fascinating and funny account of his journey through some of the world’s most majestic, historic, and remote landscapes guided only by a hard-as-nails Australian survivalist and one nagging question: Just what was Machu Picchu?

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

lost city photoA grand mystery reaching back centuries. A sensational disappearance that made headlines around the world. A quest for truth that leads to death, madness or disappearance for those who seek to solve it. The Lost City of Z is a blockbuster adventure narrative about what lies beneath the impenetrable jungle canopy of the Amazon.

After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve “the greatest exploration mystery of the 20th century”: What happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett & his quest for the Lost City of Z?

In 1925 Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, hoping to make one of the most important discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the world’s largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it, leaving many scientists convinced that the Amazon was truly inimical to humans. But Fawcett, whose daring expeditions inspired Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions round the globe, Fawcett embarked with his 21-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilisation–which he dubbed Z–existed. Then his expedition vanished.

A grand mystery reaching back centuries. A sensational disappearance that made headlines around the world. A quest for truth that leads to death, madness or disappearance for those who seek to solve it. The Lost City of Z is a blockbuster adventure narrative about what lies beneath the impenetrable jungle canopy of the Amazon.

Check out what this year’s Adult Summer Shortlist  has in store for you; perhaps you’ll also find your all-time favourite!

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
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the unit1 photoOne day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty–single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries–are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders. In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful. But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and…well, then what?

 I am not much of a science-fiction reader, but I love a good dystopia. The future world Holmqvist creates is so fascinating, and so disturbing. It leaves you with a million “what ifs?” that can never fully be grasped. I was sucked into this one right from the beginning, and really felt for Dorrit, especially in those brief moments she reminisced about the beloved dog she left behind. Overall it was an emotional and intriguing story that really had me thinking. I would definitely read it again.

Looking for something similar? Try…

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

never let me go4 photoA similar dystopian world is created in Ishiguro’s novel, which features an experimental society that has created a class of people forced to donate their bodies for the greater good.

Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it. Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.

The Island (2005 film)

Midway through the 21st century, Lincoln Six Echo lives in a confined indoor community after ongoing abuse of the Earth has rendered most of the planet uninhabitable. One of the only places in the outside world still capable of sustaining life is an idyllic island where citizens are chosen to live through a lottery. Or at least that’s whatLincolnand his fellow citizens are taught to believe; the truth is thatLincoln, like everyone he knows, is actually a clone who is kept under wraps to provide needed organs when the person who supplied his or her DNA falls ill.

A Michael Bay film, yes, but it is really more than just explosions. The slow and painful way that the characters’ fates are revealed was simply gripping.  For some reason this film bombed at the box office, but I never understood why. I haven’t heard a single negative comment about the film from people who have actually watched it; really, the story was incredible!

Check out The Island today, don’t miss out!



The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
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the light between oceans2 photoAfter four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Be patient. This one starts off a little slow, but once it gets started you’ll be hooked. The Light Between Oceans deeply explores how one family can be affected and transformed by one decision, one very bad decision. The unfolding and eventual resolution of this moral dilemma forces the reader to question their own morals and values, and in the end I was still unsure what would be the “right” thing to do, if such a thing exists.

You can read or listen to The Light Between Oceans today!

Loved The Light Between Oceans? Try…

deep end of the ocean 118x150 photoJacquelyn Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean, Oprah’s first ever selection for her Book Club, explores how the disappearance of a three-year-old child changes a family’s life. The plot similarities between the two novels are striking, however they look at the same circumstance from opposing perspectives.



Kim Edward’s The Memory Keeper’s Daughter tells thememory keeper1 122x150 photo story of a father who makes a quick decision after the birth of his twins, a decision he believes will protect his wife from unimaginable grief. The secret ultimately changes the family forever. This title offers a similar exploration of family, secrets and loss to Stedman’s work.


the sea 129x150 photoJohn Banville’s The Sea follows a man in his grief as he travels to his childhood town after the passing of his wife. Alternating between past and present, the narrator explores his personal history and meditates on feelings of loss, innocence, and coming-of-age.



You can watch the movie!

The Deep End of the Ocean and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter have both been made into very impressive films. Check them out from VPL today!

The Sea will be released on film at some time in 2013.



Down-to-Read with Daniela: Jaws by Peter Benchley
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Jaws photo

American Fiction, Horror, Suspense, Thriller

A great white shark terrorizes the small seaside community of Amity in this frightening story of nature gone awry.

When a woman’s body is found half eaten on the shore one morning by police chief Martin Brody, he must decide whether or not to close the beaches. Against his own discretion, and amidst mounting pressure from the mayor and local businesses, Brody re-opens the beaches just as the tourist season is kicking off.

Brody is quick to discover his error. He is soon entrenched in a local scandal and a fevered manhunt for the shark that threatens to destroy Amity.

My Thoughts:
I was surprised when a friend told me that Jaws was in fact a book before it was ever a movie. Written only a year before the release of Jaws the movie (1975), Peter Benchley‘s horror novel soon rose to the top of the bestseller lists, while the film became the highest grossing movie in history up to that point.

Jaws is best described as an oldie but a goody! I was skeptical at first about reading the novel. I thought I already basically knew the plot, but there’s actually a lot more to it than a man eating fish.

Benchley uses the shark as an allegory, subtly suggesting that the shark is in fact an evil, sentient creature sent to Amity to teach its citizens a lesson. Definitely creepy. I’m glad I read this book during the winter when I won’t be planning on going swimming anytime soon!

Borrow Jaws from your local Vaughan Library today!