New Release: The Finishing School

Seventeen years ago, Kersti Kuusk graduated from a boarding school in Switzerland, called Lycee. Now, she’s an author living in Toronto. She receives a letter from one of her classmates, who has just passed away from breast cancer. In the letter, her friend Lille tells her that she suspects the incident that happened at the end of their school year wasn’t an accident. In the final days of their senior year, Kersti’s best friend, Cressida, fell from her balcony. Meanwhile, Kersti is having marital problems due to the fact that she can’t get pregnant. She decides to investigate Cressida’s accident to distract her, and to give her inspiration for her next novel. 

The story alternates between Kersti’s life in the present and her life at the Lycee in high school. I often find this kind of narrative confusing but each chapter was marked by the place and date so I could remember where we were. 

I loved this book! I was so excited to read it when I saw the description and it didn’t disappoint. There were many twists and turns throughout the book that made the story unpredictable. The story was very moving. It won’t be long before The Finishing School is a bestseller!

New Release: Gutenberg’s Fingerprint

My favourite nonfiction subject is publishing. I love reading about the history of books and how they are printed. I was so excited to have the opportunity to get an ARC of Gutenberg’s Fingerprint from ECW Press.

Merilyn Simonds writes about the process of publishing her book The Paradise Project, a collection of flash-fiction stories. She chose to have this book printed by Thee Hellbox Press, a small press in Kingston run by Hugh Barclay. Hugh is very particular about his printing, so he took good care of Merilyn’s book. He involved her in the whole process, from setting the type, mixing the ink, and printing the proofs. The endpapers were even created using the flowers from her garden!

Throughout her story of the creation of her book, Merilyn gives some history on how ink and paper are made. These stories made me smile, reminding me of my book history course in university.

The irony that I was reading a book about the history of printing on an ereader was not lost on me. Merilyn created a digital edition of The Paradise Project with her son, Erik. She discusses how ebooks have changed the publishing industry, but print books aren’t going anywhere soon. Printing has evolved from scribes writing on vellum to machines stamping ink on paper to pixels appearing on a screen. Technology is still evolving the way books are delivered to the reader, but it couldn’t be done without Gutenberg’s press.

Fifteen Dogs

Fifteen Dogs has been a huge award winner. Not only did it win the Giller Prize last year, but it just won Canada Reads 2017 last week!

There are many reasons this has been a bestseller. First of all, it’s a short book that is easy to read.

It also has an intriguing plot that tries to answer the question of what makes humans happy. The ancient Greek gods Apollo and Hermes meet in a bar in Toronto and make a bet to see if animals will be happy if they are given human cognition and language. They put a spell on fifteen dogs, giving them the ability to speak and think like humans. These dogs make their own packs, with hierarchies. They each have distinct personalities, like humans. They even create their own language, though they still have the basic instincts of dogs (i.e. sniffing each others’ butts). Apollo and Hermes observe how the dogs interact and progress to determine the winner of their bet.

As a dog lover, I really liked this book. Now this may be a bit of a spoiler, but not all of the dogs make it to the end of the book. Nevertheless it is an excellent book that you should definitely read!

Station Eleven

It took me a while to read this book because the original printing had deckle edges, which I can’t stand! Now I wish I had read it sooner.

It’s about a virus that kills 99% of the population. It takes place in Toronto, Southern Ontario and the Northern U.S. An actor has a heart attack on stage on the night that the virus is brought to Canada from Russia. The story follows people related to the actor, from a girl who witnessed his death on stage to the paramedic who attempted to revive him to his ex-wives and friends.

Though the time and setting jump around between chapters, St. John Mandel weaves it together beautifully. The premise of a virus taking the lives of most of the world was very disturbing to think about. It was especially scary for me since the majority of the story happens in my hometown of Toronto. When the virus first breaks, it is compared to SARS, a virus that affected the city many years ago. However SARS didn’t have the repercussions that the virus in this story had.

The only part of the story that I thought was unnecessary was the subplot involving the paramedic. He was the only character on the outer edges of the main story. I think his part could be completely removed without changing the rest of the plot, making.

I loved this story and I’m so proud that it’s Canadian!