2022 Holiday Book Wrap-Up

by Jackie LaPlante – 

River of the Gods, Candice Millard
In 1857 British explorers Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke set out to discover the source of the Nile. Despite morale-defying hardship, life-threatening illness and persistent professional rivalry, the adventurers push on to eventual success. Burton’s diaries depict his empathetic recognition and treatment of the courageous African guides, who prove invaluable to the expedition. Candice Millard’s detailed account, featuring diary excerpts, letters and photographs, is enjoyable to history buffs and armchair travellers alike.

The Marriage Portrait, Maggie O’Farrell
Inspired by a historical account of a teenaged girl forced to marry to ensure her family’s dynastic success, Maggie O’Farrell takes us deep into the luscious rooms of Lucrezia di Medici’s family palazzo and of her new husband’s court. Although initially playful and attractive, Alfonso reveals a dark side that Lucrezia distrusts. As with O’Farrell’s Hamnet, the writing is evocative and character development so well-defined that it fully immerses the reader in Italian court life.

Half-Baked Harvest Every Day, Tieghan Gerard
Colorado-based food blogger Tieghan Gerard’s latest cookbook promises “balanced, flexible, feel-good meals”. It does just that, with modern recipes such as ”Pizza Pasta” and “Coq au Vin Meatballs,” accompanied by warm, golden-baked photographs perfect for rainy day browsing. The lists of easily available ingredients are clear, and each recipe features just the right amount of author chat. Coded labels denote dishes as vegetarian, gluten-free, etc, and Gerard offers modern lifts to familiar favourites.

All the Quiet Places, Brian Thomas Isaac
Five-year-old Eddie lives a quiet life on an Okanagan reserve with his loving mother and grandmother. His innocent perspective is rocked when he enrols in the off-reserve school and experiences racial bullying. GG Prize nominee Brian Thomas Isaac writes in calm and simple language, but simmering undercurrents are present. The setting reflects the natural beauty of the Okanagan in simpler times while depicting the realities of growing up Indigenous in Canada in the 1960s and 70s.

Mindful of Murder, Susan Juby
Set in a spiritual retreat on an island near you, this “cozy” mystery is a hilarious delight. Helen, a Buddhist nun (and butler), is called to the Yatra Institute after the owner dies. She must determine which of several possible heirs should inherit the business. When Helen suspects that the death was not accidental, she enlists butler friends to assist. Nanaimo author Susan Juby, a prize-winning humourist, peoples the story with a roster of wacky characters.

E.J. Hughes: Canadian War Artist, Robert Amos
B.C.-born painter E.J.Hughes served as a war artist from 1939-1946, depicting scenes of military life from Petawawa to England. Robert Amos has produced a comprehensive biography that is as much for historians as art aficionados. Each page features a sketch or painting. A biographical summary in Hughes’ own hand graces the front and back inner covers, and the illustrated letters to his wife are particularly charming.

Prisoners of the Castle, Ben Macintyre
Ben Macintyre returns with another history that reads like a thriller. WWII Allied prisoners held in the formidable Colditz Castle repeatedly attempt escape by increasingly daring and ingenious methods. Macintyre details the microcosm of daily life in prison, depicting interactions between Douglas Bader, Pat Reid and other British, French, and Polish soldiers and their German captors. Insightful portraits of captives and jailers and often amusing anecdotes make this book an informative historical account of wartime intrigue.

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