Can’t keep a reader out of a bookstore

Social distancing (Pandemic shopping) for books at Victoria’s best book store.

Munro’s Books now occupies a landmark location in the heart of Victoria’s Old Town, but its origins are much more modest. In 1963, Jim Munro and his first wife, Alice — yes, that Alice Munro — set up shop in a long, narrow space on Yates Street, near Victoria’s movie theatres. Bookstores were few and far between in Victoria; Jim’s main competition in those days came from the book sections at the local department stores. But the location was convenient for younger, movie-going customers, and the staff’s interest in new trends in writing and other art forms built a loyal clientele. The store relocated to larger premises on Fort Street in 1979 and then to its current location in 1984.

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Loteria – Mario Alberto Zambrano

I was drawn to this book by the cover as the lottery cards I’ve seen in Mexico are so intriguing.

In Loteria , Zambrano  has woven the story of one family’s dysfunction through the Loteria cards. Told through the eyes of the 11 year-old daughter, the story of their ruin is all the move harrowing. Sad as it is, the reader is compelled, by the format and the writing, to finish the novel.

Blurb

In Lotería, the spellbinding literary debut by Mario Alberto Zambrano, a young girl tells the story of her family’s tragic demise using a deck of cards of the eponymous Latin American game of chance.

With her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail, eleven-year-old Luz Castillo has been taken into the custody of the state. Alone in her room, she retreats behind a wall of silence, writing in her journal and shuffling through a deck of lotería cards. Each of the cards’ colorful images—mermaids, bottles, spiders, death, and stars—sparks a random memory.

Pieced together, these snapshots bring into focus the joy and pain of the young girl’s life, and the events that led to her present situation. But just as the story becomes clear, a breathtaking twist changes everything.

Beautiful full-color images of lotería cards are featured throughout this intricate and haunting novel.

 

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The First Emma – Camille Di Maio

The First Emma

Two stories in one.

The first: Emma Koehler, the Emma of Hotel Emma in San Antonio, was the wife of a German born brewer. He had two mistresses, both named Emma. When one of the mistresses murdered him, Emma, the wife, took over the brewery just as prohibition began. She was able to keep all her employees working and Pearl was one of the brewing companies not to go out of business. She also steered the company through the depression.

The stuff of fiction, right? Nope. It’s all true. And a fascinating story it is.

The second: Emma hires a young girl, Mabel Hartley, to write her story. Mabel, a fictional addition, flees Baltimore for San Antonio when she is offered the job. Unfortunately her story  is weakened by a rather contrived love interest .

Having said that, I still recommend this book for Emma’s sake. She was an amazing woman.

Blurb:

Camille Di Maio’s fifth novel THE FIRST EMMA is the true story of Emma Koehler, whose tycoon husband Otto was killed in a crime-of-the-century murder by one of his two mistresses—both also named Emma—and her unlikely rise as CEO of a brewing empire during Prohibition. When a chance to tell her story to a young teetotaler arises, a tale unfolds of love, war, beer, and the power of women.

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Stories of the Sahara – Sanmao

Stories of the Sahara by [Sanmao,, Mike Fu]

I don’t remember how I found this book, but I’m so glad I did. Having spent time in Mali and traveled to Tombouctou, I was enthralled by Sanmao’s life and adventures in Spanish Sahara.

Read more about Sanmao here.

Blurb:

.Sanmao: author, adventurer, pioneer. Born in China in 1943, she moved from Chongqing to Taiwan, Spain to Germany, the Canary Islands to Central America, and, for several years in the 1970s, to the Sahara.

Stories of the Sahara invites us into Sanmao’s extraordinary life in the desert: her experiences of love and loss, freedom and peril, all told with a voice as spirited as it is timeless.

At a period when China was beginning to look beyond its borders, Sanmao fired the imagination of millions and inspired a new generation. With an introduction by Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti, this is an essential collection from one of the twentieth century’s most iconic figures.

 

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VALENTINE – Elizabeth Wetmore

Valentine: A Novel

I’ve read Caleb Pirtle’s  books and blogs set in Texas—enough to know that the climate is harsh and drilling for oil even harsher,

In VALENTINE, by Elizabeth Wetmore, harsh morphs into downright grim. The relentless heat seeps out of every page urging you, the reader, to turn on the air conditioner. The violence and the apparent lack of caring, like a punch to the gut, leave you breathless. Yet, you keep turning the pages. You have to know.

The widow, the young Mexican girl, the pregnant mother and her daughter, the young girl trying to take care of herself and her father—each presenting the oil patch from their point of view with their fear and strength and the often deeply buried tenderness making unexpected appearances.

Blurb:’

Mercy is hard in a place like this….

It’s February 1976, and Odessa, Texas, stands on the cusp of the next great oil boom. While the town’s men embrace the coming prosperity, its women intimately know and fear the violence that always seems to follow.

In the early hours of the morning after Valentine’s Day, 14-year-old Gloria Ramírez appears on the front porch of Mary Rose Whitehead’s ranch house, broken and barely alive. The teenager had been viciously attacked in a nearby oil field – an act of brutality that is tried in the churches and barrooms of Odessa before it can reach a court of law. When justice is evasive, the stage is set for a showdown with potentially devastating consequences.

Valentine is a haunting exploration of the intersections of violence and race, class, and region in a story that plumbs the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into beauty and hope. Told through the alternating points of view of indelible characters who burrow deep in the listener’s heart, this fierce, unflinching, and surprisingly tender novel illuminates women’s strength and vulnerability, and reminds us that it is the stories we tell ourselves that keep us alive.

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AKIN — Emma Donoghue

Absolutely marvelous!

Noah is about to celebrate his eightieth birthday in Nice — the city where he was born, the city he hasn’t seen since he was four years old – when his eleven year old great nephew is foisted on him by a desperate and persistent social worker.

Noah, determined to get to Nice and unravel the mystery of his mother’s photos, refuses to give up his trip and takes the boy along. The ensuing adventures of this unlikely pair take the reader on a wild ride through Nice and back to WWII as they search for the answers Noah needs. A story of adventure, bonding, and finding home.

BLURB

Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he’s discovered from his mother’s wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he’s never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip.
Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy’s truculent wit, and Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.
Written with all the tenderness and psychological intensity that made Room an international bestseller, Akin is a funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy, born two generations apart, who unpick their painful story and start to write a new one together.

Voyage of Dreams – Ariel Lawhon

Flight of Dreams: A Novel

Wow! Just wow! Lawhon has brought the story of the Hindenburg’s last flight to life in a stunning creation. Based on the actual passengers and crew on board, she has woven a beautiful portrayal of passion and intrigue in her creative imagining of what could have happened before the enormous airship burst into flames just as it landed in the US.

There is nothing in Lawhom’s story that rings false likely because of her intensive research about the Hindenburg itself as well as the bits and pieces of information that she could find about the passengers and crew.

One small complaint. I wish they hadn’t put a picture of Emilie on the cover. I prefer my own version of what she looked like and it’s nothing like the picture they chose.

BLURB:

On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.

Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.

Brilliantly exploring one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century, Flight of Dreams is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing till the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after.

 

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A Spool of Blue Thread — Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread: A Novel

Are family lives really held together by a fragile thread? Tyler’s exploration of this concept is brilliantly and beautifully executed through the minute details of family life.

And who is the center of the family? Mom? Dad? The wayward brother?

Reading this book creates an urge to jump in and become a part of this family as they work through their lives and sort out the circumstances that threaten their bond.

BLURB:

“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon…” This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the 21st century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.

Brimming with all the insight, humor, and generosity of spirit that are the hallmarks of Anne Tyler’s work, A Spool of Blue Thread tells a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity. It is a novel to cherish.

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A Well-Behaved Woman — Therese Anne Fowler

An intriguing glimpse into the life of the Vanderbilt family. Fowler had done a great job in bringing the family to life in a very relatable way. The story focuses on Alva, who married into the family to give them “acceptability” with the “old money” crowd. She proved to be a dynamo who led the Vanderbilts to the heights of power in the right social circles. But when push comes to shove, she had the courage to break rigid norms and do the right thing — for herself and to help the less fortunate.

Blurb:

Alva Smith, her southern family destitute after the Civil War, married into one of America’s great Gilded Age dynasties: the newly wealthy but socially shunned Vanderbilts. Ignored by New York’s old-money circles and determined to win respect, she designed and built nine mansions, hosted grand balls, and arranged for her daughter to marry a duke. But Alva also defied convention for women of her time, asserting power within her marriage and becoming a leader in the women’s suffrage movement.
With a nod to Jane Austen and Edith Wharton, in A Well-Behaved Woman Therese Anne Fowler paints a glittering world of enormous wealth contrasted against desperate poverty, of social ambition and social scorn, of friendship and betrayal, and an unforgettable story of a remarkable woman. Meet Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont, living proof that history is made by those who know the rules—and how to break them.

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