An Autumn Edit

October 6, 2023

Autumnal greetings! It’s a big book season and there are soooo many new titles to consider. I narrowed down a lengthy list to the following six for a podcast chat with Amy Mair, host of Red Fern Book Review. If you’re familiar with our past posts and discussions, you’ll know the drill. If not, read here and hear there! Tune in to our conversation at

The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok

Previous novels by Jean Kwok include Searching for Sylvie Lee and Girl in Translation. Each of these, along with this new novel, feature elements of the immigrant experience and are written with remarkable emotional depth. I guarantee you will remember scenes from her books for years to come. In a good way! The Leftover Woman, releasing on October 10, 2023, is a family drama featuring two mothers of an adopted daughter. The birth mother was forced to surrender her child due to China’s One Child policy while the adoptive mother has raised the child in her extraordinarily privileged New York City environment. When the birth mother bravely makes her way from China with little to no means of support, leaving a controlling husband behind, she is on a collision course with the adoptive mother who is enmired within crises of her own. Words like “atmospheric” and “profound” and “suspenseful” describe the mystery that unfolds. Jean Kwok moved to Brooklyn, NY as a young immigrant herself and went on to study at Harvard and Columbia universities.


The Class – Memoir of a Place, a Time and Us by Ken Dryden

Ken Dryden is a name familiar to most Canadians; he is in the history books both for his Stanley Cup successes in goal for the Montreal Canadiens and for his time in politics as an MP and Cabinet Minister. He has also written hockey history books: The Game, Home Game and four others. As a young student, he joined a cohort of 35 in a “Selected Class” who remained very closely together throughout their studies. It was the post-war era and a time considered to be of “boundless possibilities” There was little contact among the students following graduation and Dryden takes us along as he connects with his former classmates and discovers what those possibilities turned into. A great glimpse into a period of history and a reflection on the different opportunities and choices made by the individuals in the group. I’m really looking forward to this one.


A New Season by Terry Fallis

T’is the season for a new novel from Terry Fallis! The Best Laid Plans launched his writing career and we’re all grateful he’s continued with a variety of warm and humorous tales. This particular story may have a bit more pathos within but I’m certain the funny bits will still be there too. It is the tale of a fellow, recently widowed, who has lost his emotional footing. He has a supportive gang of fellow ball hockey teammates and a loving son but it’s a bit of “gumption”, mystery, and serendipity in Paris that brings him back. “…sometimes, making a change in your life can save your life.”


The Golden Gate by Amy Chua

So here we have a debut novel … but not a debut writer. Amy Chua is author of the wildly successful, iconic even, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother which dominated headlines for months in 2011. But today we’re talking about her new novel which is gaining traction for its merit as an historical thriller. The scene is set at a spooky landmark setting (Berkeley’s Claremont Hotel) when a homicide detective is perchance on the scene while a Presidential Candidate is murdered upstairs on hotel premises. As our officer digs into this crime and the political enemies around the deceased, he discovers there is a history of unfortunate events at the hotel, with ties to a privileged local family. From the publisher: “Chua’s page-turning debut brings to life a historical era rife with turbulent social forces and groundbreaking forensic advances, when race and class defined the very essence of power, sex, and justice, and introduces a fascinating character in Detective Sullivan, a mixed race former Army officer who is still reckoning with his own history.”


A Clouded Leopard in the Middle of the Road – New thinking about roads, people and wildlife by Darryl Jones

(Bonus) Crossings: How Road Ecology is shaping the future of our planet by Ben Goldfarb

I’ve posted before about the publishing phenomenon of synchronistic releases – two (or more) books on the same topic published very near to one another in the calendar. This latest example is focused on the topic of Road Ecology. A topic which may seem dry to some of you but fascinating when you delve a little way in. There are 40 million miles of roadways on our planet, reflecting growth and prosperity of communities. And yet, these paved ways have an enormous impact on our planet’s surface, waterways, plants, and the wildlife with whom we share it. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Tunnels of Love in Australia which allow animals to pass under the roads? Or the overpasses in the Rockies providing the same service? These explorations of an important global topic will appeal to the non-fiction readers among us but will also intrigue anyone wishing to understand more about Earth’s well-being and how we can become more mindful of development’s effect. Both of these books are rating extremely generously among reviewers.


Talking at Night by Claire Daverley

And now for romance. A debut UK author receiving great acclaim, Claire Daverley’s writing has been described as evocative of Sally Rooney’s. High praise for Sally fans. I’ve just begun the story and have to say there is a quiet tender tone to the writing that easily draws the reader in and creates space to absorb and appreciate the dialogue and characters as they reveal their stories. Will and Rosie are utter opposites in the high school pecking order and yet establish an unexpectedly deep interest and bond with one another. Tragic circumstances prevent them from being together and, as the decades pass, they come close to reuniting, again and again. However, missed opportunities abound. It’s an emotional see-saw, poignant and hopeful. “It’s the story of the many loves we have in a lifetime.” and “It’s about the people we meet who change us irrevocably and who we always carry with us.”

As always, dig in and let us know what you enjoy most. Happy reading!



I am an enthusiastic fan of  our Canadian Astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield, as he communicates creatively from the International Space Station. Be sure to visit:  (For the record you don’t need a twitter account to play along but he may inspire you to get one!) Hadfield just happens to be about to command the rig itself yet seems to find ample time to engage in lively conversation with Earthlings and to share absolutely stunning photographs. He really does seem to be enjoying his celebrity chats, his guitar concerts with school children, his cooking lessons and more, all from space. Hadfield’s twittering/blogging is some of the best reading around at the moment and I really encourage you to tune in.

Timely as it is, I have just completed another hilarious journey with Terry Fallis, this time to the world of PR, the wilds of Northern BC, NASA, and Space. I so enjoyed his Best Laid Plans that I was hesitant to read this new book in the event that it fall short of my expectations. It was such fun and I encourage you to settle down with it and enjoy the characters, poignancy, and humour Mr. Fallis so masterfully orchestrates once again.

Up and Down by Terry Fallis

Another book I’ve happened to have on my list to read for some time is Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. Mary Roach has made a name for herself researching all the oddities, icky and otherwise, that pique our curiosity in the world at large. This time she investigates Space with her inquisitive mind and great humour.

A little beyond the realm this week with the recommendations but they are fun ones and you’ll feel so savvy when you tweet with the Commander!

I  recently read this tremendous book and must recommend it to you … and then you must recommend it to all your friends. Honest to goodness, I laughed out loud and teared up too and then on a high from the crescendo of the story closed the book and felt wistful – sorry I couldn’t join the characters for a chat in the local coffee shop. They were all such, well … characters! I have been on a great run of good books lately: Room, The Postmistress, Left Neglected and while each of those was moving in its own way and certainly enjoyable, this little book-that-could was the one that has inspired me most to share it with others.

The story behind the existence of the book is entertainment enough. Terry Fallis wanted to have the book he had written read by readers, and what writer wouldn’t? But he found it challenging to garner a publisher and finally resorted to creating a series of podcasts of his book just like the podcasts he enjoyed listening to himself. Sure enough, a following of listeners/readers began to tune in. And cheer! Then Terry decided to self-publish a few copies. Enough copies were printed that the book could be considered for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour (2008) and lo and behold it won the award.  A great deal more copies were in demand as a result.  As positive an experience as that was, The Best Laid Plans was selected as a candidate for CBC Radio’s Canada Reads 2011 … and was that competition’s victor too. This success doesn’t surprise me one iota. It is rare to find a novel that strikes the funny bone and the heart with equal force. This was funny, heartwarming, intelligent and oh so Canadian.

The tale begins by following Daniel Addison as he attempts to extricate himself from a political career in Ottawa. Before he can move on he must recruit an electoral candidate for a write-off, never won riding on behalf of his federal political Party. He locates an extremely reluctant candidate – one gruff, unfailingly honourable Scot, Angus McLintock – who puts his name forward only so long as he’s guaranteed to never actually win the post. This duo reminds me of some of the oldtime caper movie partnerships – Redford and Newman or maybe more Abbott and Costello. The take on politics is satirical yet refreshing – a timely read during our current federal and provincial election campaigns. Dear Angus is recently widowed and poignantly reports his personal review of his antics and adventures to his late wife at the end of each chapter. More lovely characters join the cast and are just as enjoyable and fun. I don’t want to give any of the hilarity away but be prepared for a good guffaw.

And now for the reee-allly good news … there’s a sequel! No need to feel gloomy at the last page after all. The second installment for the cast is called The High Road and is already nominated for its very own Leacock medal. I’m off to locate a copy, pronto.  Chime in with your thoughts if you’ve read the book (or books) as well.