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Archived Staff Picks June 2016


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All the Flowers in Shanghai
By Duncan Jepson
Recommended by Pauline

All the Flowers in Shanghai is Jepson's stunning debut novel. Set in 1930s Shanghai,the Paris of the East, but where following the path of duty still takes precedence over personal desires, a young Chinese woman named Feng finds herself in an arranged marriage to a wealthy businessman. In the enclosed world of her new household-a place of public ceremony and private All the Flowers in Shanghai is Jepson's stunning debut novel that is both historical novel and portrait of one woman's struggle against tradition.

For every young Chinese woman in 1930s Shanghai, the Paris of the East, following the path of duty takes precedence over personal desires. For Feng, that means becoming the bride of a wealthy businessman in a marriage arranged by her parents.

In the enclosed world of the Sang household --- a place of public ceremony and private cruelty --- fulfilling her duty means bearing a male heir. The life that has been forced on her makes Feng bitter and resentful, and she plots a terrible revenge.

But with the passing years comes a reckoning, and Feng must reconcile herself with the sacrifices and terrible choices she has made in order to assure her place in the family and society --- even as the violent, relentless tide of revolution engulfs her country.

This title is available in Regular Print and Downloadable eBook formats.

By Frances Itani
Recommended by Robert

It is always a special treat to be able to hear an author talk about a book that you have just read. While Frances Itani's "Deafening" was chosen as the winner of 2015 Quinte Reads, it became clear that the author really wanted to talk about her most current title "Tell". Although this is not a sequel to Deafening, it is set in Deseronto and does include as one of its principal characters the older sister of Grania, the heroine of Deafening. Tess is married to Kenan, who has returned from the Great War damaged and disfigured. He is also probably suffering from what we would now consider to be post-traumatic stress disorder. Tess seeks advice from her Aunt Maggie whose own marriage to Am has been devastated by loss.  A talented singer, Maggie looks to solace from a foreign choir director. Meanwhile, Am begins to seek out the company of Kenan who only ventures from his home at night.  Am is able to get Kenan to accompany him on late jaunts skating on a local pond, helping to alleviate some of his trauma. In postwar Deseronto, each character is expected to deal with the challenges of life with a stiff upper lip and silent resolve. In particular, men rarely communicate their inner feelings and do not share them with their wives. It is only when Maggie decides to look elsewhere for comfort that ordinary life in a small town is severely upended. The lives of all four principal individuals will be forever changed.

It is tempting to look at life at small town life in the early 20th century steeped in traditional Victorian values. Any examination of family and adoption records will reveal that family secrets had a serious impact upon people who were taught to persevere silently. In the novel "Tell", Frances Itani tells us the rest of these people's stories. As usual, Frances takes ordinary events and makes them riveting.  A wonderful Can-Lit read.

This title is available in Regular print and Downloadable eBook formats.

Room  (DVD)
Recommended by Kathy

"Room" is a soul-searing celebration of the impenetrable bond that endures even under the most unbearable of circumstances between a parent and a child.  Susan Wloszczyna (

Both highly suspenseful and deeply emotional, Room is a unique and touching exploration of the boundless love between a mother and her child.  After 5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his Ma (Brie Larson) escape from the enclosed surroundings that Jack has known his entire life, the boy make a thrilling discovery:  the outside world.  As he experiences all the joy, excitement, and fear that his new adventure brings, he holds tight to the one thing that matters of all--his special bond with his loving and devoted Ma.

The Room is based upon the book written by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation.  Brie Larson, playing the lead role of Ma won several awards for her work, including the Academy Award for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role"  and the Golden Globe for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama".

This item is also available in DVD, Regular Print , Book on CD, Downloadable E-Book and  AudioBook formats.

This review is taken from

The Secret of the Blue Trunk
By Lise Dion
Recommended by Janet

In this compelling true story we are drawn once again to the horrors of World War II.

Armande Martel is a 6 year-old girl who has just lost her mother to cancer.  Her father cannot cope with the idea of raising a young daughter and her two older brothers so he places her in an orphanage in Quebec.

Where there she gradually becomes attached to two caring nuns and considers her home is with them.  At age 18, because she has been sheltered and knows no other life, she decides to become a nun.  In the process she is sent to the "Mother House" in France for training.  During this time war breaks out with Germany and because she is a British subject her safety is in jeopardy.

Lise Dion discovers the secrets of the past in her mother's diaries which she found in the mysterious blue trunk.  (Translated from French to English)

This title is available in Regular Print, Downloadable Audiobook and eBook formats.

Paying Guests
By Sarah Waters
Recommended by Rachel

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa -- a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants -- life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the "clerk class," the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances's life -- or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

This title is available Regular Print, Book on CD, Downloadable AudioBook and eBook formats.

This review from

300 Days of Sun
By Deborah Lawrenson
Recommended by Marilyn

Combining the atmosphere of Jess Walters' Beautiful Ruins with the intriguing historical backstory of Christina Baker Kline's The Orphan Train, Deborah Lawrenson's mesmerizing novel transports readers to a sunny Portuguese town with a shadowy past--where two women, decades apart, are drawn into a dark game of truth and lies that still haunts the shifting sea marshes.

Traveling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career. Faro is an enchanting town, and the seaside views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But behind the crumbling facades of Moorish buildings, Joanna soon realizes, Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption and wartime spoils. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child's kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline over two decades ago.

Joanna's subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English expat who cryptically insists she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple's experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn't fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford's story and Nathan Emberlin's may indeed converge in Faro--where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.

I enjoyed this book mostly because of its description of southern Portugal as I have traveled there as well vino verde took me back.

This title is available in Regular Print, Large Print, Downloadable AudioBook and eBook formats.

Review from


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