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In the Winnipeg Free Press

A selection of books recently reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press. To see recent reviews, visit the Free Press website.

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Umboi Island

- by J.j. Dupuis

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The Creature X team travels to Papua New Guinea to investigate sightings of a surviving pterosaur.

Laura Reagan, host of Creature X, wants to leave North America behind and step out from the shadow of her father's cryptozoological research. She leads her team to Umboi Island, off the coast of Papua New Guinea, to shoot a cryptozoological documentary about the mysterious Ropen, a bioluminescent pterosaur-like creature that has somehow survived extinction.

In a stroke of luck, Laura and her team see a mysterious purple light above the trees. Could it actually be what they're searching for? But the hunt for the Ropen takes a drastic turn when a body turns up in the Creature X camp. With satellite phones down, Laura and her team are stuck on the island with a murderer -- and no chance of help.

This Is How We Love

- by Lisa Moore

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From the celebrated author of February and Caught comes an exhilarating new novel that asks: What makes a family? How does it shape us? And can we ever really choose who we love? 
As the snowstorm of the century rages toward Newfoundland, twenty-one-year-old Xavier is beaten and stabbed in a vicious attack. His mother, Jules, must fight her way through the shuttered streets of St. John's to reach the hospital where Xavier lies unconscious. When a video of the attack surfaces, Jules struggles to make sense of what she sees in the footage -- and of what she can't quite make out. 
While Xavier's story unfolds, so, too, do the stories that brought him there. Here, across families and generations, are stories of mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers; of children cared for, neglected, lost, and re-found; of selfless generosity and reluctant debt. Above all, Moore, in the inimitable largesse of her art, paints a shimmering portrait of the sacrifice, pain, and wild joy of loving.  A tour de force of storytelling and craft, This is How We Love brings us a cast of characters so rich and true they could only have been written by Lisa Moore. 

No Second Chances

- by Kate Graham

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As of September 2021, only thirteen women had reached Canada's top political posts: elected or appointed provincial premier or prime minister. They have represented three major political parties and served across provinces and territories from coast to coast to coast. But, as professor and provincial candidate Kate Graham discovered, there are concerning similarities in their stories: women tend to reach the top only in challenging political circumstances; they last in the top job for about half as long as men do; and, when they run for re-election, they lose. No Second Chances shares the stories of the rise and fall of women in Canada's most senior political roles and examines the obstacles that prevent more women from reaching for and achieving these goals. Based on interviews conducted for the Canada 2020 No Second Chances podcast, Graham provides readers with a rare glimpse into the lives of female political leaders, from the perspectives of the women who know this story best.

Lessons in Chemistry

- by Bonnie Garmus

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
A delight for readers of Where'd You Go, Bernadette, this blockbuster debut set in 1960s California features the singular voice of Elizabeth Zott, a scientist whose career takes a detour when she becomes the star of a beloved TV cooking show.


Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it's the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel Prize-nominated grudge holder who falls in love with--of all things--her mind. True chemistry results. 
 
Like science, though, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Eizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother but also the reluctant star of America's most beloved cooking show, Supper at Six. Elizabeth's unusual approach to cooking ("combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride") proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because, as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn't just teaching women how to cook. She's daring them to change the status quo.  
 
Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

The Nineties

- by Chuck Klosterman

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An instant New York Times bestseller!

From the bestselling author of But What if We're Wrong, a wise and funny reckoning with the decade that gave us slacker/grunge irony about the sin of trying too hard, during the greatest shift in human consciousness of any decade in American history.


It was long ago, but not as long as it seems: The Berlin Wall fell and the Twin Towers collapsed. In between, one presidential election was allegedly decided by Ross Perot while another was plausibly decided by Ralph Nader. In the beginning, almost every name and address was listed in a phone book, and everyone answered their landlines because you didn't know who it was. By the end, exposing someone's address was an act of emotional violence, and nobody picked up their new cell phone if they didn't know who it was. The 90s brought about a revolution in the human condition we're still groping to understand. Happily, Chuck Klosterman is more than up to the job.

Beyond epiphenomena like "Cop Killer" and Titanic and Zima, there  were wholesale shifts in how society was perceived: the rise of the internet, pre-9/11 politics, and the paradoxical belief that nothing was more humiliating than trying too hard. Pop culture accelerated without the aid of a machine that remembered everything, generating an odd comfort in never being certain about anything. On a 90's Thursday night, more people watched any random episode of Seinfeld than the finale of Game of Thrones. But nobody thought that was important; if you missed it, you simply missed it. It was the last era that held to the idea of a true, hegemonic mainstream before it all began to fracture, whether you found a home in it or defined yourself against it.
 
In The Nineties, Chuck Klosterman makes a home in all of it: the film, the music, the sports, the TV, the politics, the changes regarding race and class and sexuality, the yin/yang of Oprah and Alan Greenspan. In perhaps no other book ever written would a sentence like, "The video for 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' was not more consequential than the reunification of Germany" make complete sense. Chuck Klosterman has written a multi-dimensional masterpiece, a work of synthesis so smart and delightful that future historians might well refer to this entire period as Klostermanian.

One Step Too Far

- by Lisa Gardner

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, a chilling thriller about a young man gone missing in the wilderness of Wyoming . . . and the secrets uncovered by the desperate effort to find him
 
Timothy O'Day knew the woods. Yet when he disappeared on the first night of a bachelor party camping trip with his best friends in the world, he didn't leave a trace. What he did leave behind were two heartbroken parents, a crew of guilt-ridden groomsmen, and a pile of clues that don't add up.
 
Frankie Elkin doesn't know the woods, but she knows how to find people. So when she reads that Timothy's father is organizing one last search, she heads to Wyoming. Despite the rescue team's reluctance, she joins them. But as they hike into the mountains, it becomes clear that there's something dangerous at work in the woods . . . or someone who is willing to do anything to stop them from going any farther.
 
Running out of time and up against the worst man and nature have to offer, Frankie and the search party will discover what evil awaits those who go one step too far . . .

Run Towards the Danger

- by Sarah Polley

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#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER
 
"Fascinating, harrowing, courageous, and deeply felt, these explorations of 'dangerous stories,' harmful past events, and trials of the soul speak to all who've encountered dark waters and have had to navigate them." --Margaret Atwood via Twitter
 
"Sarah Polley tells us the truth, even when it feels razor sharp--even when it feels dangerous. These brilliant essays urge us, by example, towards the examined life, the life worth living, and give us a jolt of energy to muster the courage and compassion needed to live it." --Miriam Toews, bestselling author of Women Talking

Named a Most-Anticipated Book of 2022 by Entertainment Weekly, Lit Hub, and AV Club

Oscar-nominated screenwriter, director, and actor Sarah Polley's Run Towards the Danger explores memory and the dialogue between her past and her present.


These are the most dangerous stories of my life. The ones I have avoided, the ones I haven't told, the ones that have kept me awake on countless nights. As these stories found echoes in my adult life, and then went another, better way than they did in childhood, they became lighter and easier to carry.

Sarah Polley's work as an actor, screenwriter, and director is celebrated for its honesty, complexity, and deep humanity. She brings all of those qualities along with her exquisite storytelling chops to these six essays. Each one captures a piece of Polley's life as she remembers it, while at the same time examining the fallibility of memory, the mutability of reality in the mind, and the possibility of experiencing the past anew, as the person you are now but were not then. As Polley writes, the past and present are in a "reciprocal pressure dance."
 
Polley contemplates stories from her own life ranging from stage fright to high risk childbirth to endangerment and more. After struggling with the aftermath of a concussion, Polley met a specialist who gave her wholly new advice: to recover from a traumatic injury, she had to retrain her mind to strength by charging towards the very activities that triggered her symptoms. With riveting clarity, she shows the power of applying that same advice to other areas of her life in order to find a path forward, a way through. Rather than live in a protective crouch, she had to run towards the danger.
 
In this extraordinary book, Sarah Polley explores what it is to live in one's body, in a constant state of becoming, learning, and changing.

Easy Beauty

- by Chloe Cooper Jones

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"Gorgeous, vividly alive." --The New York Times
"Soul-stretching, breathtaking...A game-changing gift to readers." --Booklist (starred review)

From Chloé Cooper Jones--Pulitzer Prize finalist, philosophy professor, Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant recipient--a groundbreaking memoir about disability, motherhood, and a journey to far-flung places in search of a new way of seeing and being seen.

"I am in a bar in Brooklyn, listening to two men, my friends, discuss whether my life is worth living."

So begins Chloé Cooper Jones's bold, revealing account of moving through the world in a body that looks different than most. Jones learned early on to factor "pain calculations" into every plan, every situation. Born with a rare congenital condition called sacral agenesis which affects both her stature and gait, her pain is physical. But there is also the pain of being judged and pitied for her appearance, of being dismissed as "less than." The way she has been seen--or not seen--has informed her lens on the world her entire life. She resisted this reality by excelling academically and retreating to "the neutral room in her mind" until it passed. But after unexpectedly becoming a mother (in violation of unspoken social taboos about the disabled body), something in her shifts, and Jones sets off on a journey across the globe, reclaiming the spaces she'd been denied, and denied herself.

From the bars and domestic spaces of her life in Brooklyn to sculpture gardens in Rome; from film festivals in Utah to a Beyoncé concert in Milan; from a tennis tournament in California to the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh, Jones weaves memory, observation, experience, and aesthetic philosophy to probe the myths underlying our standards of beauty and desirability, and interrogates her own complicity in upholding those myths.

With its emotional depth, its prodigious, spiky intelligence, its passion and humor, Easy Beauty is the rare memoir that has the power to make you see the world, and your place in it, with new eyes.

The Match

- by Harlan Coben

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Named a Best Book by USA Today o Wall Street Journal o Publishers Weekly

A shocking genetic match exposes a family's darkest secret in this gripping new thriller from the creator of the #1 hit Netflix series Stay Close.

After months away, Wilde has returned to the Ramapo Mountains in the wake of a failed bid at domesticity that confirms what he's known all along: He belongs on his own, free from the comforts and constraints of modern life.

Suddenly, a DNA match on an online ancestry database brings Wilde closer to his past than he's ever dreamed, and finally gives Wilde the opening he needs to track down his father. But meeting the man brings up more questions than answers. So Wilde reaches out to his last, most desperate lead, a second cousin who disappears as quickly as he resurfaces, having experienced an epic fall from grace that can only be described as a waking nightmare.

Was his cousin's downfall a long time coming? Or was he the victim of a conspiracy as cunning as it is complex? And how does it all connect to the man once known as The Stranger, a treacherous fugitive with a growing following whose mission and methods have only turned more dangerous with time?

Animal Person

- by Alexander Macleod

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From Giller Prize finalist Alexander MacLeod comes a magnificent collection about the needs, temptations, and tensions that exist just beneath the surface of our lives. Named a Canadian Fiction title to watch by the CBC, Quill & Quire, and 49th Shelf, and a "must-read book" by Maclean's. Featuring stories published in The New Yorker, Granta, and the O. Henry Prize Stories.

Startling, suspenseful, deeply humane yet alert to the undertow of our darker instincts, the eight stories in Animal Person illuminate what it means to exist in the perilous space between desire and action, and to have your faith in what you hold true buckle and give way.
     A petty argument between two sisters is interrupted by an unexpected visitor. Adjoining motel rooms connect a family on the brink of a new life with a criminal whose legacy will haunt them for years to come. A connoisseur of other people's secrets is undone by what he finds in a piece of lost luggage. In the wake of a tragic accident, a young man must contend with what is owed to the living and to the dead. And in the O. Henry Award-winning story "Lagomorph," a man's relationship with his family's long-lived pet rabbit opens up to become a profound exploration of how a marriage fractures.
     Muscular and tender, beautifully crafted, and alive with an elemental power, these stories explore the struggle for meaning and connection in an age when many of us feel cut off from so much, not least ourselves. This is a collection that beats with raw emotion and shimmers with the complexity of our shared human experience, and it confirms Alexander MacLeod's reputation as a modern master of the short story. 
 

Young Mungo

- by Douglas Stuart

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#1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
 
"Young Mungo seals it: Douglas Stuart is a genius." --The Washington Post
 
From the Booker Prize-winning author of Shuggie Bain, Young Mungo is both a vivid portrayal of working-class life and the deeply moving story of the dangerous first love of two young men.


Born under different stars, Protestant Mungo and Catholic James live in a hyper-masculine world. They are caught between two of Glasgow's housing estates where young working-class men divide themselves along sectarian lines, and fight territorial battles for the sake of reputation. They should be sworn enemies if they're to be seen as men at all, and yet they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the dovecote that James has built for his prize racing pigeons. As they begin to fall in love, they dream of escaping the grey city, and Mungo must work hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his elder brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold.
 
But the threat of discovery is constant and the punishment unspeakable. When Mungo's mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland, with two strange men behind whose drunken banter lie murky pasts, he needs to summon all his inner strength and courage to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future.
 
Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism, Douglas Stuart's Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the meaning of masculinity, the push and pull of family, the violence faced by so many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much.

My Volcano

- by John E. Stintzi

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The brilliant new novel from the fiercely talented author of Vanishing Monuments, shortlisted for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award. On the morning of June 2, 2016, a jogger in Central Park notices a mass of stone in the centre of the reservoir, a mass that - three weeks later - will have grown into an active stratovolcano nearly two and a half miles tall. This inexplicable event seems to coincide with an escalation of strange phenomena happening around the world. For readers of Karen Tei Yamashita and Haruki Murakami and fans of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and Olga Tokarczuk's Flights, My Volcano sets the mythic and absurd against the starkly realistic, attempting to portray what it feels like to live in a burning world stricken numb. My Volcano is a pre-apocalyptic vision following a global and diverse cast of characters, each experiencing private and collective eruptions: an eight-year-old boy in Mexico City finds himself 500 years in the past, where he lives through the fall of the Aztec Empire; a folktale scholar in Tokyo studies a story with indeterminate origins about a woman coming down a mountain to destroy villages and towns; a white trans writer living in Jersey City struggles to write a sci-fi novel about a thriving civilization on an impossible planet; a nurse with Doctors without Borders works with Syrian refugees in Greece as she tries to grapple with the trauma of surviving an American bombing of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan; a nomadic herder in Mongolia is stung by a bee and finds himself transformed into a green, thorned, flowering creature that aims to cleanse the worldâEUR(TM)s most polluted places on its path toward assimilating every living thing on Earth into its consciousness. With audacious structure and poetic prose, My Volcano is an electrifying tapestry on fire.

The Candy House

- by Jennifer Egan

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Named a Most Anticipated Book of the Year by Time, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Oprah Daily, Glamour, USA TODAY, Parade, Bustle, San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Times, The Boston Globe, Tampa Bay Times, BuzzFeed, Vulture, and many more!

From one of the most celebrated writers of our time, a literary figure with cult status, a "sibling novel" to her Pulitzer Prize- and NBCC Award-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad--an electrifying, deeply moving novel about the quest for authenticity and meaning in a world where memories and identities are no longer private.

The Candy House opens with the staggeringly brilliant Bix Bouton, whose company, Mandala, is so successful that he is "one of those tech demi-gods with whom we're all on a first name basis." Bix is 40, with four kids, restless, desperate for a new idea, when he stumbles into a conversation group, mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or "externalizing" memory. It's 2010. Within a decade, Bix's new technology, "Own Your Unconscious"--that allows you access to every memory you've ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others--has seduced multitudes. But not everyone.

In spellbinding interlocking narratives, Egan spins out the consequences of Own Your Unconscious through the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades. Intellectually dazzling, The Candy House is also extraordinarily moving, a testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for real connection, love, family, privacy and redemption. In the world of Egan's spectacular imagination, there are "counters" who track and exploit desires and there are "eluders," those who understand the price of taking a bite of the Candy House. Egan introduces these characters in an astonishing array of narrative styles--from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter and a chapter of tweets.

If Goon Squad was organized like a concept album, The Candy House incorporates Electronic Dance Music's more disjunctive approach. The parts are titled: Build, Break, Drop. With an emphasis on gaming, portals, and alternate worlds, its structure also suggests the experience of moving among dimensions in a role-playing game.

The Candy House is a bold, brilliant imagining of a world that is moments away. Egan takes to stunning new heights her "deeply intuitive forays into the darker aspects of our technology-driven, image-saturated culture" (Vogue). The Candy House delivers an absolutely extraordinary combination of fierce, exhilarating intelligence and heart.

The School of Mirrors

- by Eva Stachniak

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER

From #1 internationally bestselling author Eva Stachniak comes this rich, engrossing tale of love, deception and scandal in eighteenth-century France.


During the reign of Louis XV, impoverished but lovely teenage girls from all over France are sent to a discreet villa in the town of Versailles. Overseen by the King's favourite mistress, Madame de Pompadour, they will be trained as potential courtesans for the King. When the time is right, each girl is smuggled into the palace of Versailles, with its legendary Hall of Mirrors. There they meet a mysterious but splendidly dressed man who they're told is merely a Polish count, a cousin of the Queen. Living an indulgent life of silk gowns, delicious meals and soft beds, the students at this "school of mirrors" rarely ask questions, andwhen Louis tires of them, they are married off to minor aristocrats or allowed to retire to one of the more luxurious nunneries.
 
Beautiful and impressionable Véronique arrives and quickly becomes a favourite of the King. But when she discovers her lover's true identity, she is whisked away, sent to give birth to a daughter in secret, and then to marry a wealthy Breton merchant.
 
This is also the story of the King's daughter by Véronique--Marie-Louise. Well provided for in a comfortable home, Marie-Louise has never known her mother, let alone her father. Capable and intelligent, she discovers a passion for healing and science, and becomes an accredited midwife, one of the few reputable careers for women like her. Eventually Véronique comes back into her daughter's life, bringing with her the secret of Marie-Louise's birth. But it's a volatile time in France . . . and those with royal relatives must mind their step very carefully.
 
Gorgeously written and with a breathless pace, this is the story of a mother and a daughter--at the centre of cataclysmic personal and public turmoil.

Stories I Might Regret Telling You

- by Martha Wainwright

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER
 
The singer-songwriter's heartfelt memoir about growing up in a bohemian musical family and her experiences with love, loss, motherhood, divorce, the music industry, and more.


Born into music royalty, the daughter of folk legends Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III and sister to the highly acclaimed, genre-defying singer Rufus Wainwright, Martha grew up in a world filled with incomparable musical legends--Anna McGarrigle, Leonard Cohen, Suzzy Roche, Richard and Linda Thompson, Emmylou Harris--and struggled to find her voice in a milieu in which every drama was refracted through song. Then, in 2005, she released her critically acclaimed debut album, Martha Wainwright, containing the blistering hit, "Bloody Mother F*cking Asshole," which the Sunday Times called one of the best songs of that year. That release, and the albums that followed, such as Come Home to Mama and I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too, showcased Martha's searing songwriting style and established her as a powerful voice to be reckoned with.
 
Martha digs into her life with the same emotional honesty that has come to define her music. She describes her tumultuous public-facing journey from awkward, earnest, and ultimately rebellious daughter, through her intense competition and ultimate alliance with her brother, Rufus, to finding her voice as an artist and the indescribable loss of their mother, Kate. With candor and grace, Martha writes of becoming a mother herself, finally understanding and facing the challenge of being a female artist with children. Stories I Might Regret Telling You is a thoughtful, moving account of the extraordinary life of one of the most talented singer-songwriters in music today.