“A Hero of France” by Alan Furst

herofrancefurstIt is the spring of 1941 and although the British raids over Germany had intensified, there was general concern that the British were losing the war.

Some of the aircraft were badly damaged on the way home and came down in the Occupied Zone of France. Here they were hidden by small groups of French men and women who helped the pilots get home to England, where they were badly needed to fly again. This was the beginning of what came to be known as the French Resistance and this new book by the renowned spy novelist, Alan Furst, gives a thrilling account of what this Resistance was able to do.

The hero goes by the name of Mathieu. He works out of Paris which is occupied by the Nazis, and heavily shuttered by night with the streetlamps painted blue and windows shuttered in a heavy blackout. Mathieu and his network also work from neighbouring farmhouses, barns and churches.

The story is thrilling and the relationships very real and touching, heightened by the constant fear of discovery. A Hero of France joins the list of Alan Furst’s legendary thrillers, many of which, such as Midnight in Europe and Mission to Paris, were bestsellers. Furst was born in New York, lived for many years in Paris and now lives on Long Island.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

“Van Gogh’s Ear” by Bernadette Murphy

vangoghearThis is a book on Vincent Van Gogh, with a new look at the troubled artist.

Bernadette Murphy is an English writer who went to live with an older brother in Provence, France, thirty years ago. She had already researched her own family tree and while in France became interested in the story of Vincent Van Gogh. She gets to know the ancient city of Arles where he lived from February, 1888 to May, 1889.

Van Gogh was born in Holland, in 1853, to the Reverend Theodorus Van Gogh and his wife Anna Cornelia, one of seven children. As a youngster his contemporaries describe him as peevish, intense, and quick to anger. The mental problems continued, and were not treated in those days. He tried church work, following his father, and had great care and kindness toward those in difficulty, something he kept all his life. He was not accepted by the church, however, and started painting, encouraged by his brother Theo who was an art dealer and devoted to his brother all his life, as we know from his letters.

Vincent moved to Arles and set himself up in what would become famous as The Yellow House, and set out to paint full time. At one point the painter Paul Gauguin came to live with him. He was lonely, however, and one day in deep distress, cut off his ear and gave it to a prostitute who lived in a nearby brothel. Murphy does a thorough job of investigating this whole incident, from reports by the police officer to documents from Gauguin, Theo, and others. We are left with the marvelous illustrations in this book and the record of a mentally disturbed artist who didn’t sell a single painting in his lifetime but left so much beauty to the rest of us.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

August Newsletter

July Bestsellers

1. Barkskins by Annie Proulx
2. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
3. The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
4. The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart
5. The Pleasure of Reading by Antonia Fraser
6. Albert and Ettore by Mark Curfoot-Mollington
7. The Idea of Canada by David Johnston
8. The Black Widow by Daniel Silva
9. Umbrella Man by Peggy Blair
10. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

The days are getting shorter, the sun is beaming down, and the cicadas have taken center stage to perform their seasonal evening set – it’s not hard to tell it’s August.

After all the jet-setting and world-traveling that you no doubt did in the first couple of months of the summer, that backyard hammock and dockside Adirondack chair are looking like pretty nice places to just sit, relax, and enjoy the summer breeze. While that scenario sounds wonderful, we can think of one tiny addition that would make it absolutely ideal – a great book!

The summer might be winding down, but that doesn’t mean that book releases are slowing down at all. We’re still getting lots of new, exciting, titles tumbling into the store every day. When sweetness and romance are the order of the day, Jeffrey Bartsch’s Two Across is the perfect fit. Full of the trials and tribulations of first love, Stanley and Vera will charm any reader with their wit, their intelligence, and their undying love of crossword puzzles. Sarah Maine, a debut author who spent part of her childhood in Canada, has a style that’s been described as “Kate Morton meets Daphne du Maurier.” The House Between Tides features not only an old family estate, some unidentified human remains, and the forgotten history of an intriguing turn of the century artist, but our heroine inevitably stumbles across a hundred year old mystery that will cause more than ripples in the surrounding community.

Mystery fans rejoice! It is almost time for the new Louise Penny book to hit our shelves! While you’re waiting for A Great Reckoning to arrive towards the end of August, why not take comfort in Penny’s newest paperback Gamache novel, The Nature of the Beast? Alternatively, Maureen Jennings’ new Inspector Tom Tyler mystery has just arrived, hot off the press. Dead Ground In Between is the fourth book in the series, appearing hard on the heels of its predecessor, No Known Grave. On the adventure side of things, Dave Eggers’ new novel, Heroes of the Frontier, is a contemporary family story which takes us on a journey through wildfire-plagued Alaskan wilderness. With a beautiful jacket sure to catch your attention, Dancing with the Tiger is Lily Wright’s debut novel after years of non-fiction writing. Set in Oaxaca, this witty, thrilling, sophisticated novel is full of discredited art collectors, sinister artifact dealers, mysterious painters – the perfect story to get lost in.

For some of us, it can be just as satisfying to get lost in a good non-fiction book instead of a novel. If you can’t physically get lost among the glens, hills, and vales of the British Isles, why not let Robert Macfarlane help your mind do the wandering instead? Landmarks, the newest release from this bestselling author of The Old Ways, takes us on a meandering linguistic tour through the various communities and cultures that make up this multi-faceted European gem. With a slightly more concentrated eye, Ted Sandling’s newest book, London in Fragments, carries readers along the banks of the mighty Thames, uncovering precious bits and pieces of London’s history – from ancient Roman tiles to Georgian pottery. Skipping across the Channel, Van Gogh’s Ear by Bernadette Murphy is a brand new book that sets out to discover the mystery behind this beloved artist’s most famous act: the severing of his own ear. A compelling story of love, madness, and obsession, this is a great read for art and history lovers alike!

Of course, no newsletter would be complete without mentioning the highly anticipated (and hot off the press) addition to the Harry Potter canon, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Unlike its predecessors, this new Potter book is in fact a bound screenplay of the new play by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling that just debuted in London. As such, it offers not only the same appeal as Harry’s previous adventures, but gains a certain sophistication that Potter fans will surely appreciate. Here are some more titles to keep an eye out for as the month progresses: Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory, the newest historical novel about Henry VIII and his many wives; By Gaslight by Steven Price, an intriguing historical thriller for fans of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries and Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers; and Serial Monogamy by Kate Taylor, a novel about a woman who finds comfort in her newest writing project even as she tries to deal with a cancer diagnosis and mend the rifts in her marriage – it hasn’t even been published yet, and it’s already a staff pick!

Even though we’ve only just entered the eighth month of the year, some of us have already turned our eyes to 2017. If you count yourself as part of that group, why not come by the store to see the 2017 calendars that are already gracing our shelves? From New Yorker Cartoons to Edward Gorey ArtMom’s Family Calendar to Inuit Art of Cape Dorset, there’s a little something for everyone!

Whether you’ll be spending these dog days of summer hiking through a national park, lounging by a pool, or just hanging out in the dappled sunshine with your pooch, we hope your backpack and beach bag are playing host to at least one reasonably-sized tome of infinite knowledge and entertainment. Be prepared for any eventuality – pack a book!

Happy August and Happy Reading!

-The Staff of Books on Beechwood

“Trying to Float” by Nicolaia Rips

tryingfloatThis is a clever little book by a seventeen-year old girl, living in New York City, and describing her years at school.

Nicolaia Rips is the only child of bohemian parents, who live in the renowned Chelsea Hotel. Her father, once a lawyer, is now writing and her mother, a former model, is painting. They have very little idea of what their daughter is doing at school. Luckily it doesn’t seem to matter much, because she has made dear friends with some of the hotel occupants.

It’s just as well, because the girls at school leave her out of their cliques, and the boys ignore her. The book has a series of short chapters under The Fledgling Years, and Middle School, when Nicolaia tries giving parties and arranging other surprises – in order to make friends. They make very funny reading, but don’t do much for the author’s popularity.

It is only when she gets into LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City, that her talent for vocal music, as well as writing, gain her an audience. This book is the result.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

July Newsletter

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June Bestsellers

1. Albert and Ettore by Mark Curfoot-Mollington
2. The Idea of Canada by David Johnston
3. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
4. A Hero of France by Alan Furst
5. The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor
6. How to Run a Government by Michael Barber
7. The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
8. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
9. The Green Road by Anne Enright
10. The Call of the World by Bill Graham

Greetings Book Lovers!

Now that the kids are finished school and we’ve entered prime holiday season, it’s time to crack down and get serious about our summer reading. If you haven’t yet compiled your book list for the next couple of months, never fear! Books of all kinds are still pouring into the store, your ultimate summer read no doubt among them.

Forget ghost stories around the campfire, for this year’s trip to the deep dark woods, why not scare yourself silly with The Hatching by Canadian author Ezekiel Boone? A creepy, crawly horror debut starring everyone’s favourite type of arachnid: the ancient man-eating kind. This seriously spine-tingling novel is definitely not for the faint of heart! For a different kind of chill, Susie Steiner‘s Missing, Presumed will grant you all the twists and turns you could possibly want in a missing person mystery. Already making waves in independent bookstores across the country, the adventures of Detective Manon Bradshaw are perfect for fans of Kate Atkinson (Case Histories) and Tana French (Faithful Place).

While winter makes us want to curl up and read stories that wrap themselves around us like a warm woolen blanket, summer tends to instill in us a desire for tales of adventure, self-discovery, and grand sweeping historical epics. In this vein, Isabelle Allende‘s newest novel (just released in paperback) fits the bill perfectly! The Japanese Lover is a heart-wrenching story of forbidden love in a time of war. Torn apart again and again by time and circumstance, Alma and Ichimei’s story will keep you glued to your deck chair to the very last page. Hot on the heels of her charming debut, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, Amy E. Reichert has delivered yet another sweet treat of a novel about love and friendship. Love, Luck & Lemon Pie follows the story of a woman eager to reconnect with her husband through his love of gambling…a plan that, as you can imagine, doesn’t turn out the way she expects. It’s the perfect accompaniment to any cool poolside refreshment!

Everything Explained that is Explainable by Denis Boyles is a fascinating new book about the publication of the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Published in 1911, the 11th edition encapsulates a unique perspective on where the world was heading before hopes and beliefs were dashed by the sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and the outbreak of the Great War. It’s the perfect read for history buffs and book enthusiasts alike. Looking at life from a different perspective is the task Robert Moor takes on in his new book On Trails. Part philosophical essay, part social history, part scientific treatise, Moor looks for answers to life’s big questions on the long-forgotten trails of the Cherokee, the endlessly twisting networks of the internet, and the well-trodden path of the Appalachian Trail. It’s an intriguing, in-depth look at how placing our feet on a certain path can shape not only our own experiences, but our outlook, and society as a whole.

Whether the kids in your life are heading off to camp, going to visit family in a far off land, or lazing away the summer days at home, it’s essential for them to be armed with enough reading material to get them through any and all eventualities. A thrilling teen debut from Canadian author Catherine Egan has just landed on our shelves and promises to be a real treat! Julia Vanishes follows the adventures of Julia, a spy and a thief who uses her magical talent to evade authorities and complete her surreptitious tasks. However, Julia soon finds herself in over her head and struggling to escape evil forces more powerful than she could ever imagine. Laura Marx Fitzgerald, the author who brought us Under the Egg, takes her readers back to the roaring twenties in her new book, The Gallery. Featuring an eccentric recluse, a self-absorbed newspaper magnate, and a shady footman, the secrets hidden in the gallery of the mysterious Sewell House can be solved by only one person – twelve year old maid, Martha. Written with spunk and spark, this charming historical mystery makes for a great summer read! Finally, a shout-out to a well-deserving, timeless classic that’s just come out in a brand new edition! Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is a beautiful, captivating story about a boy and his dogs. In the tradition of The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, Rawls’ story is perfect for anyone who’s ever owned a dog, wanted a dog, or simply loved a dog.

Now for some exciting summer sale news for the month of July! In partnership with Penguin Random House, we’re happy to present the BYOB (#BringYourOwnBook) promotion! Featuring a selection of great paperback fiction titles, we will be offering a 10% discount on these books from now until Sunday, July 31. Visit us to check out the full list of titles included in this offer. So whether you’re spending these hot, hazy days on the beach, at the cottage, on a plane, on your hammock, or in the backyard, don’t forget to BYOB!

We don’t have any store signings to tell you about this month, but looking ahead to the fall, there will be some exciting Titles@Table40 evenings on our roster. Tickets aren’t available yet, but here’s a sneak peak at some of the events you can look forward to: Steve Patterson (The Book of Letters I Didn’t Know Where to Send) on Wednesday, October 26, William McElligott (Ottawa) on Sunday, November 20, and Charlotte Gray (The Promise of Canada) on Sunday, November 27. We’ll keep you apprised of the details through our newsletter and website as we get a closer.

As exciting as the fall book releases and events will be, let’s make sure we don’t wish our time away. So, unfold that deck chair and pour yourself another glass of lemonade! With a little sun, some snacks, and a book (or two) on the side, your summer is set to be a great one!

Happy Reading!

– The Staff of Books on Beechwood

“The Rainbow Comes and Goes” by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt

rainbowcomesgoesThis is the story of a poor little rich girl and her down-to-earth son who get to know other – finally – through this collection of letters.

Gloria Vanderbilt descended from one of the richest families in America – the Vanderbilts. This turned out to give her endless financial security but very little love. Her father, an alcoholic, left when she was fifteen months old and her mother took off for Europe with her twin sister. They lived in Paris where Gloria was looked after by a devoted grandmother and nanny and hardly ever saw her mother who spent her entire time at cocktail parties seeking out knights and earls.

Back in America eventually, Gloria showed talent as an artist and also wrote. She had a number of marriages, the most significant to Anderson Cooper’s father who died young. She and Anderson kept in touch; he went on to journalism, television and writing books. His mother has also written eight books and contributes to the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and Elle.  In this book with her son, they agree to be frank in their memories and what they still hope to achieve. It makes for a charming read.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

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“Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry” by Paul Goldberg

buildingartPaul Goldberger, a prize-winning critic of architecture, has written an impressive biography of Frank Gehry, one of the most famous architects of our time. Gehry is unusual in that he not only tried new materials, design and form, which resulted in the extraordinary Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, but he also built houses accepted and loved by the general public.

Now 82, Gehry was born in Toronto, where his Jewish parents had immigrated from Poland. At school, Frank was always drawing, and also making shapes out of cardboard and pieces of paper. At one point he attended Bloor Collegiate where he took woodshop and was skillful at installation work and meticulous about measurements. The family moved to Los Angeles,  where Frank eventually studied architecture at the University of Southern California.

This book gives an excellent description of how his career developed with very good photographs of his highly original buildings. Frank’s parents were Irving and Thelma Goldberg. Frank and his first wife ran into some anti-Semitism and they changed their name to Gehry. In this book, Goldberger feels that Frank Gehry approaches his buildings as a painter would his canvas. He has written a sensitive and fascinating biography.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

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“Alfred Hitchcock” by Peter Ackroyd

alfredhitchcockWe have all loved Hitchcock films and this is an “elegant and hugely enjoyable” look at the man who made them.

Alfred Hitchcock was born in 1899 in eastern suburbs of London and grew up on the floor above his father’s greengrocer shop. This later included two fishmonger shops and Hitch often went to school smelling faintly of fish. He was a fat little boy and, unlike his older brother and sister, was afraid of many things. The family was strictly orthodox Catholic. Ackroyd points out that this training instilled in him a sacred, rather than secular view of the world where mystery and miracle are as important as logic and reason.

Hitchcock was a lonely boy, without playmates, so he invented games for himself and played alone. He also discovered the picture palaces and saw his first films at the ages of eight or nine. In his teenage years he saw D.W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks senior, Harold Lloyd and Mary Pickford, as well as the first Chaplin silent films. After training as an engineer and subsequently finding work at a Telegraph Company, he started taking night classes at the Art Department at the University of London. From here his skill at design, as well as his interest in seeing all the films in town, got him a job at Famous Players-Lasky and he was on his way. He also met and married Alma Reville, who was already a professional of film production. The book tells how he made The Lady Vanishes, Rebecca, To Catch a ThiefThe Birds, and many other of his famous pictures. There are also good illustrations.

Peter Ackroyd has won prizes for many of his biographies including T.S. Eliot, Charles Dickens and most recently, Charlie Chaplin. He holds a CBE for services to literature.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

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