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Staff Reviews

Looking for your next great read? We've reviewed some of our favourites to help you find 'the one.' To see these and more like them, check out our Staff Picks table in-store, or visit our Instagram page for more great book recommendations!
Courtney recommends Alex Gino's George

Everyone thinks George is a boy, but she knows she is not- she is a girl! When her best friend gets the part of Charlotte in the school's production of Charlotte’s Web, they hatch a plan to let George have her time on stage and show the world who she really is. Your heart will break for George, then cheer for her as she bravely takes the steps to come out with the support of her best friend. Written by queer author, Alex Gino, who gracefully intertwines George’s narrative with advice on how to be a good ally and friend for transgender individuals. While this is written for a younger audience, it’s a must read for everyone! 

Syd recommends Craig Davidson's Saturday Night Ghost Club

This book pays homage, in many ways, to the classic coming of age novel but propels itself beyond that format's traditional scope. Follow along as a young boy unearths ghosts both supernatural and hereditary. This cozy novel blends together the innocence of an influenceable boy on the cusp of young manhood, learning how to navigate the moments where his faith and trust in adults begins to waver. This sudden shift to a world where suddenly he is able, and actively questioning those he looks up to, is explored through a scaffolding with his grown self, a neurosurgeon. Both tender and challenging, Craig Davidson's new book is an excellent read for a broad range of readers.

Madeline recommends George Saunders' Fox 8

Hands down the cutest book I've ever read. Written entirely in phonetics, see the world through the eyes of Fox 8: a fox who has taught himself to speak 'Yuman'.  Hilarious and heartwarming, this short story does an excellent job outlining the negative impact that humans are inflicting on the environment. If you loved Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox, this book is for you!

Joanne recommends Sabahattin Ali's Madonna in a Fur Coat
Finally published in English, it's a shame that we've waited almost 70 years to read this exceptional book by bestselling Turkish author Sabahattin Ali.
The story begins in the 1930’s in Turkey when work was scarce. The narrator, unemployed and struggling to survive, meets an old friend who arranges a clerking job for him. It is here that he shares an office with Raif Efendi, a frail man who rarely speaks. On his deathbed, Raif gives the narrator a leather-bound notebook. It is this notebook, set in 1920’s Turkey and Germany, that makes up the majority of this brilliant novel. It tells Raif’s hauntingly beautiful story of missed opportunities, a changing world and love lost.
Exceptionally well written, mesmerizing and poignant. It is a classic masterpiece that I highly recommend.


Samantha (owner of Bolen Books) recommends Sarah Winman's Tin Man

Tin Man is one of the most beautifully written books I have read so far this year. Half way through it changes perspective and tone, and I fell so deeply in love with the characters and their stories that I slowed down the pace of my reading so it wouldn't end.


Syd recommends Dionne Brand's Blue Clerk

Brand's new work of poetry comes, it seems, at just the right moment. The text is presented as a dialogue between the author's character and the clerk's. Brand's collection begins with our addiction to solipsism and challenges it by attempting to derail the train from its colonially established tracks. The author threatens the archive by bringing it to its logical conclusion in an instance where an entire poem is repeated on the following page. Brand writes of the discomfort of a dialogue, the discomfort of coming from somewhere, the discomfort of that starting place, and even the discomfort of poetry. By representing what is at stake so clearly, the Blue Clerk pushes us into its open spaces. Perhaps in hopes that we can learn to (un)follow...

Olivia recommends Madeline Miller's Circe

Whether you're a Greek mythology buff or a beginner like I am, this beautifully written, expressive novel won't disappoint. Circe is a story of love, heartbreak, and acceptance, with amazing character development. It will make you think, and sow's how lonely immortality would be.


Madeline recommends Nicola Griffith's So Lucky

A quick, compelling read; you’ll finish it in a day or two. The main character, 
Mara, and her wife separate, and shortly after Mara is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Though this is fiction, it's an important read, as it lets the reader glimpse into the life and mind of someone who feels invisible and helpless, and should really be required reading. If you've ever
 felt uncomfortable when face to face with another person’s physical disability, this book is for you.


Madeline recommends John Boyne's The Heart's Invisible Furies

This is a story of love, loss, friendship, pain, politics, prejudice and religion, yet still managed to make me laugh (and cry).

One of my favourite books of all time.


Peter recommends Stephen Greenblatt's Tyrant

"Tyrants are the enemies of the future."

You can skip all the other political potboilers of the season. This titillating exegesis on eh blight of tyranny packs a punch not even the strongest comb over could withstand.

From the distant past to here, this morning, there have always been tyrants. And although tech and the social media have added a page or two to their playbooks, the narcissism, the indifference to others, indeed to the globe, have always been part and parcel. Shakespeare knew this centuries ago and made an intimate study of it.

From Richard III to Lear to Coriolanus, Greenblatt walks us through Shakespeare's understanding so that now, standing inside the mind of creation like Macbeth even for a moment is doubly disturbing in this highly entertaining tutorial of tyranny.


Samantha (owner of Bolen Books) recommends Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life

It takes a special reader to consider picking up a book that is as long as this one. Now consider that this book has violence and abuse and torturous scenes in it and the audience for this book becomes even narrower. Still, I urge you to try this book. Yes, it is dark and has subject matter that may be disturbing, but the language and writing and characters in this book are so strong you will end up being grateful it is 720 pages long, because you won’t want it to end. Although the book’s cover flap will tell you that the book is about four friends and their lives and relationships, it is really about Jude. I wish he was real. I feel like I know him and his whole life’s painful story. This book isn’t for everyone but if you think it might be for you, if you are open to reading about a kind of pain you don’t find in books very often, then pick this up, take it home, and turn off your phone. This book is going to take over your life for a little while but it is very much worth it all.


Olivia recommends Rhiannon Navin's Only Child

This fresh, novel perspective on a topical matter occurring, sadly, with increasing magnitude. Through the eyes of 6-year-old Zach, whose brother has been killed in a school shooting, you'll see Zach's ability to stay hopeful while helping himself and his family and watch his parents mourn the loss of a son. It is a powerful, heartbreaking and healing story. A must read.


Colin recommends Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash

Snow Crash is one of the defining novels of the cyberpunk genre and a perfect introduction for the curious. Set in a near future North America, Snow Crash features a memorable cast of characters dealing with a viral outbreak that is equal parts computer based and organic. Sword fighting, virtual reality, brain hacking, and pizza delivery, there is something for every reader in this fast paced classic of Science Fiction.


Catherine recommends The Shoe on the Roof by Will Ferguson

Anytime I’m able to try a new Canadian author I jump at the chance, and Ferguson has quickly become a new favourite. This book combines great writing and unique subject matter with really clever humor. It’s definitely full of little twists, nothing that knocks your socks off but the kind that keeps you saying “just one more chapter” and before you know it, it’s 1:00am.
The Shoe on the Roof is an easy but very engaging read and wraps up in a tidy bow at the end, if maybe a bit too quickly. This is a memorable book, the story and characters in it will stay with me and I will definitely be checking out Ferguson’s other titles!


Samantha (owner of Bolen Books) recommends Jann Arden's Feeding My Mother

Jann Arden has put together the most beautiful tribute to her mother with this book. The package itself is gorgeous to hold and the photos s throughout are thoughtful, kind and real. The recipes are an unexpected gift which allows us as readers to be part of her world, her home, her family; what a treasure.

But by far the best part of the book for me is the insight into her family coping with Alzheimer's disease. There are incredible truths and insights page after page. I cried along with her too many times to count. Her pain and guilt and humour are exactly what we would all expect to feel going through this. I have not read another book on this topic that has moved me this much. Jann's determination to ensure her mother's humanity, her humour, doesn't get lost int he story is steadfast throughout the book. She manages to achieve it by giving us the gift of her mother's sly joes and her determination to maintain her independence even at her most vulnerable moments.

If you don't have someone in your life with Alzheimer's or Dementia, this books unflinching look at this family dealing with it every day in every way is something we should read: and if you do have someone in your life, buy some Kleenex before you sit down with this book. By the end, you are going to love Jann Arden more than you already do.


Samantha (owner of Bolen Books) recommends Benjamin Ludwig's Ginny Moon

Ginny Moon is one of those books that gets a lot of hype from a publisher before it is published. Rarely does such a book live up to the hype.

Ginny Moon is one of the rare ones.

Ginny's voice is so honest and so earnest I immediately fell for her, and I was on team Ginny. I wanted this 14-year-old autistic young woman to be happy in her new adopted home. I wanted her parents to help their family be a whole.

In some ways, this book reminded me of  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Maybe it is because of the obvious similarities in the voice of the protagonist, maybe it is the autism angle, maybe it is the frustration I felt due to some of the communication misfires that happen.

No matter what the reason is, Benjamin Ludwig has written a book that is engaging, heartbreaking, realistic and a true must-read of the year. Take Ginny Moon home with you today; she needs to be loved by you.


Madeline recommends Fredrik Backman's And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer 
Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, this beautiful novella is a look at an old man's descent into Alzheimer's disease. As the narrative jumps from one point of view to another; see the grandson, wife, and son interact with 'Grandpa' as he repeats himself and confuses his son for his grandson, desperately trying to share his lasting memories. A great choice for anyone (children included), who knows or has known someone with Dementia. Have tissues ready!


Jennifer recommends Anita Shreve's The Stars are Fire
With all the fires that raged across North America this summer, this book shares a timely theme.
Anita Shreve touches upon what happens when disaster strikes a community, a family, and a woman left to rebuild her life while coping with loss.
Rebuilding takes time. And out of the ashes surprises come to light in relationships and love.
But there is a difference between recovery and healing; things we don't want oi face must ultimately be dealt with because fire burns away everything but the truth.
And as the embers cool, what remains is what we take home with us. And what we leave behind.

Mitchell recommends Anthony Marra's The Tsar of Love and Techno

When this book was suggested to me, the title and jacket blurb had me genuinely worried. It didn't seem like a book that I would usually be interested in reading. But The Tsar of Love and Techno has ended up being one of the most beautiful and well executed books I have ever had the pleasure of picking up. Rich with metaphors and imagery, complex characters, diverse interactions, and vivid landscapes, this book has thoroughly impressed me. For those who are afraid of short stories, fear not! Each of the segments are connected, Marra has interwoven them so naturally that by the time you finish this book, it will feel like one complete journey. Anthony Marra has written something deeply moving and profound. I will continue to suggest it to anyone I am able to when given the chance.


Liam recommends Brian McClellan's Promise of Blood

Brian McClellan has built a great debut in this dark fantasy world. Gunpowder-attuned mages and terrifying wizards; he has blended flintlock firearms with a more traditional fantasy flavour. Dropped straight into the plot with plenty of action, readers who find themselves frustrated at a myriad of viewpoints will appreciate having a select few characters whose actions and storylines intertwine for a focused and exciting tale.