Your next great read: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

before the fall by noah hawley on what's inside that nut?
Tragedy and mystery, the insidiousness of the media, and the unreliability of memory.

A small private plane crashes into the ocean on a nighttime flight between Martha’s Vineyard and New York; there are two survivors. This much you know before you open the book, and even before the start of the first chapter you’re already involved in the characters’ lives. The rest of the story follows what happens after the crash by tracing the lives of the passengers and their actions in the days and weeks leading up to that fateful night.

But lives and actions are rarely straightforward. Fact and truth are dependent upon time, memory, and interpretation, and complicating the search for answers is the media’s agenda and the need to sell news regardless of its basis in reality.

Noah Hawley wrote for both Bones and the FX series Fargo and this book plays out like a tv show you can’t stop binge watching. From the initial crash to the immediate aftermath to the unfolding of the characters lives past and present, the mystery of why and how the plane went down will keep you turning pages long after your bedtime.

The weird, the wonderful, and the WTF?

the weird the wonderful and the wtf on what's inside that nut?
Of all the books I read over the summer, the following stand out for being either weirdly engrossing, wonderfully written, or what-the-hell-is-going-on?-ly head-shaking.

The weird:

angle catbird margaret atwood on what's inside that nut?Angel Catbird. Margaret Atwood’s graphic novel. Is it a comic book? Is it a public service announcement about keeping your cats from killing birds? Is it meant to be funny? My favourite line is when Angel Catbird doesn’t eat the baby bird and the other cats call out: “Predator Fail!” The book is a throwback to old time superhero comics, so if you can get past the hokey dialogue then you’ll find it weirdly enjoyable. I’m looking forward to Volume Two: will Strig Feleedus and Cate Leone find love? Will Dr. Muroid and his rat army take over? What will happen at Count Catula’s Castle? I can hardly wait to find out. I just hope they change Angel Catbird’s shorts/undies. I can’t take him seriously in that outfit.


The Wonderful:

i'll give you the sun by jandy nelson on what's inside that nut?I’ll give you the sun by Jandy Nelson. One of the best books I read all summer. A coming of age story of twins Noah and Jude, told by each twin in turn, several years apart. It’s about love and hate, life and death, jealousy, passion, belief, art, and fate. The voices are unique and the descriptive writing is wacky and wonderful.

jonathan unleashed by meg rosoff on what's inside that nut?Jonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff. A fun rom-com read about life going off the rails, about figuring out what you want to be when you grow up, regardless of how old you are, and about whether your dogs know more than you do and are secretly conspiring to run your life.


The WTF:

the hike by drew magary on what's inside that nut?The Hike by Drew Magary. Reading The Hike was like hearing about someone’s endless, crazy nightmare. It’s just one bizarre thing after another, and while you kind of want to know how it’s all going to turn out, you mostly just want it to end already. While I was immediately hooked when the protagonist Ben encounters two murderous men wearing the faces of Rottweilers, his interminable journey along The Path admittedly had me rooting for the dog-faced men from time to time. The book has been compared to a video game, and if I was a gamer, I could definitely see the appeal, as Ben encounters all sorts of crazy creatures that either help him or hinder him in his quest to find the end of The Path and go home. A good read if you’re you looking for something off the beaten track.

Is Gwyneth really wrong about everything?

Is Gwyneth Paltrow wrong about everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash by Timothy Caulfield on what's inside that nut?

Poor Gwyneth Paltrow. Turns out she is wrong about just about everything, and so is every other celebrity out there hawking a beauty treatment or health regimen.

Is Gwyneth Paltrow wrong about everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash by Timothy Caulfield on what's inside that nut?

But Gwyneth is only part of the problem! Apparently our proximity to celebrities (through both traditional and newer social media channels) is giving us an unhealthy fixation on fame, causing us to think that we, too, can be big-time stars.


Think you can dance, sing, or get drafted by the NHL? Timothy Caulfield says it ain’t gonna happen. And he’s got the stats to back it up.

Caulfield is a professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta. While writing Is Gwyneth Paltrow wrong about everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash, he researched widely, from well-regarded medical journals to an in-depth study of People magazine, and has distilled his research into an interesting and humourous look at celebrity culture, our fascination with it, our devotion to it, and its dangers both to our bodies and our psyches.

First thing you learn is to stop all those cleanses. They’re doing nothing for you and may be detrimental. Ditto the extreme diets, breast implants, and bird poop facials. Next comes the distressing and ultimately depressing news that you’re never going make it to the big time. Not in this town, and not in any town, not any time soon. This is followed by a final section wherein Caulfield assures me that even if I do make it to big time celebrity status, (which, he insists, will never happen so stop even thinking it will) I will not be happy.

Is Gwyneth Paltrow wrong about everything? is really two books in one.

The first discusses the way in which celebrities urge us to remake ourselves in their image by following their colon cleansing rituals and adhering to their beauty regimes. Wittingly or not, celebrities prey on our desire to look svelte and spectacular while endorsing products that have no proven scientific basis in reality.

The second part of the book looks at how living in a celebrity-infused culture encourages us to strive to be celebrities ourselves. American Idol success stories and overnight YouTube sensations only fuel the flames of our ambitions.

Caulfield throws an ice cold barrel of water on any such notions or ambitions. Following Gwyneth’s Clean Cleanse will do you no good, and not only that, you’ll never get that recording contract, and your kid is never going to make into the NHL.

Taken as a whole, this book might better be called “abandon all hope ye who enter here” not only because the statistics prove that you’ll never be celebrity-famous, but also because living the celebrity life sounds like the lowest circle of hell.

Caulfield is a bit of a parade-rainer, but he does it in a compelling, engaging, and completely readable manner. His self-deprecating wit and well-chosen celebrity quotes kept me entertained even as he crushed my dreams of celebrity fame and wealth.

Not that I wish to be a celebrity, you understand. Living the lifestyle of the rich and famous is not at the top of my to-do list. That said, I wouldn’t say no to a few of the perks. Is it wrong to dream of someday having a personal chef, say, or a closet full of clothes that aren’t older than my children? But the realities of pursuing the celebrity dream sound too soul-destroying to contemplate.

I highly recommend this book. If you like reading Malcolm Gladwell or Steven Levitt, this book will appeal to your interest in facts, stats and humour.

Light summer romances for hot summer nights

romances for summer reading on whats inside that nut

It’s too hot and steamy out there to do anything more vigourous than read, but you don’t want to be sweating your way through anything too heavy when the humidex is hitting 40. To the rescue: three light, fun books to take your mind off the external temperature.

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen

nine women one dress by jane rosen on whats inside that nutA quirky book about a little black dress and the people who come in contact with it. Written from the perspective of a dressmaker, a salesgirl, a model, an actor, a private detective, an unemployed graduate, and an emergency room doctor, the stories are woven together through their connection to the dress, some more tightly than others. A fun frolicky rom-com.

Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay

monsters a love story by lix kay on whats inside that nutRecently widowed mother of two, Stacy is trying to keep her shit together. Hollywood bad-boy Tommy is a player with issues of his own. She’s a poet, whose novel-in-verse is a feminist take on Frankenstein, and he wants to make a movie of the book. Sounds cheesy, and this book could go the way of fromage, but it doesn’t. It’s a book about relationships and mistakes, but there’s humour too, and while it teeters close to the edge of cliché at times, the writing and dialogue keep it from toppling.

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

city bakers guide to country living by louise miller on whats inside that nutThis book is coming out in August, just in time for the apple harvest, which is handy because you’ll be wanting to bake apple pies after reading it (there’s even a recipe at the back of the book to assist you). Pastry chef Olivia has to leave town in a hurry, and ends up in a small Vermont town where she gets a job at a country inn. Banjos and fiddles, square dancing and fairs, gossip and mystery all figure prominently, as does pie. Lots of pie. This one falls more firmly in the typical romance genre than the two books above; it’s a fun summer read, especially if you find lavish descriptions of desserts to be your aphrodisiac of choice.

Stay cool and read romance, my friends.

Escape-cation TBR: what’s on your summer reading list?

summer reading on what's inside that nut?

Not quite sure how it happened, but summer appears to be right around the corner, and that means it’s time to starting compiling your Escape-cation Summer Reading List.

All signs are pointing to a long, hot summer, and the rules for summer reading are the same as summer survival: keep it light, layers are good, and remember to hydrate.

Whether you’re hitting the beach, the dock, or the backyard deck, the key to summer reading is to leave the heavy stuff for fall. For keeping-it-light beach/dock/deck reading try these:

The Nest on what's inside that nut?The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney: Over-indulged and dysfunctional, four siblings confront the fear of losing their long-depended-upon inheritance. A well-written story, regardless of the fact that you might want to punch the characters in the head at times.


Be Frank with Me on what's inside that nut?Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborn Johnson: A reclusive author forced to write a book or face destitution, her eccentric, impeccably dressed, socially misfit nine-year-old son Frank, and Alice, who is sent by the publisher to keep the author on track and who is set on unraveling the mysteries behind the unconventional household.


My own Keeping-It-Light TBR list contains:

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafan on what's inside that nut?The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani. According to Goodreads: “A lush, sexy, evocative debut novel of family secrets and girls’-school rituals, set in the 1930s South. Part scandalous love story, part heartbreaking family drama… a vivid, propulsive novel about sex, love, family, money, class, home, and horses, …”  Sounds like it pretty much covers everything.


The Assistants by Camille Perri on what's inside that nut?The Assistants by Camille Perri. “A wry and astute debut about a young Manhattanite whose embezzlement scam turns her into an unlikely advocate for the leagues of overeducated and underpaid assistants across the city.” A little light research for my future embezzlement schemes, I mean, a little light reading.

In fiction as in fashion, layers are always a good idea: you can’t read the same genre all the time. For a side-order of sci-fi, fantasy, and post-apocalyptic adventure, I highly recommend:

The Fold by Peter Clines on what's inside that nut?The Fold by Peter Clines: A sci-fi thriller about the invention of a teleportation machine that folds time and space. The device is deemed “perfectly safe!” so what could possibly go wrong?



The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan on what's inside that nut?The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan: Coming out in July, this is the first book in Ryan’s Draconis Memoria series. Political intrigue, treachery on the high seas, jungle exploration and dragons!



City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin on what's inside that nut?City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin: The third and final book in Cronin’s Passage trilogy (if you haven’t done so already, go read The Passage and The Twelve.) A thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the post-apocalyptic viral world.



On my Keeping-It-Layered TBR list:

Horns by Joe Hill on what's inside that nut?Horns by Joe Hill: From Goodreads: “Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.” Highly recommended by a friend, this horror thriller by Stephen King’s son was made into a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe. I’m intrigued.


A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab on what's inside that nut?A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab: “Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds… Grey London, dirty, boring, lacking magic, Red London, where life and magic are revered, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, and the never spoken of Black London… perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn.” Because magic, London, and peril.

Finally, one must stay hydrated, especially since these last three recommendations will have you leaking copious amounts of fluid from the eye ducts…

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes on what's inside that nut?Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: A three hanky read, this one is being made into a movie which I will not be seeing anytime soon because there is only so much crying a girl can take. I’m not one for tear-jerkers, but this book was well-written, and a good cry can be therapeutic sometimes.


Me And Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews on what's inside that nut?Me And Earl and the Dying Girl  by Jesse Andrews. Another book made into a movie, another keep-the-tissues-handy, but this one is also very funny. I loved this book. I read it in one day and wanted to re-read it the next day. Andrews has a new book out called The Haters, about some kids at jazz camp, which looks to be equally well-written and humorous.


On my Keeping-It-Hydrated TBR list:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi on what's inside that nut?When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. We’re reading this one for book club, and while a book by a dying neurosurgeon would not normally make it to the top of my must-read list (see above re: tear-jerkers) I have been assured that not only is this a fantastic book, it is also more about life than death. I’m only sixteen pages in, but already I’m hooked.

What’s on your Summer Reading List?

Darcy re dux: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

eligible by curtis sittenfeld on whats inside that nut

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books. I’ll re-read it when other books are letting me down; it’s my brain’s comfort food. It’s not like I’m obsessed (I haven’t booked my P&P Vacation Tour yet, and I don’t even own the colouring book!) or even addicted. Far from it: I can stop reading P&P any time I want. I just don’t want to right now.

eligible by curtis sittenfeld on whats inside that nutAs you can imagine, it was with some trepidation that I approached Eligible, the “modern re-telling of Price and Prejudice” by Curtis Sittenfeld. Would the book be silly? Contrived? How would Sittenfeld deal with key phrases and events? Would she follow the story religiously or change it to suit the times? So many questions, only so many nails to bite…

Sittenfeld’s story takes place in Cincinnati, and opens with Chip Bingley and the assertion that everyone knows he’s looking for a wife because he starred in a Bachelor-type reality television series two years before the beginning of the book. So far, so much trepidation.

But fear not!

Eligible is most diverting!

Sittenfeld does an excellent job of retelling the story so that it hews closely enough to Austen’s P&P to satisfy hardcore fans, but veers far enough from a strict re-enactment to keep it interesting and unique. I thought I knew where she was going with certain characters and plot lines, and then she’d (pleasantly) surprise me.

If you’ve never read P&P then Eligible will be a light rom-com, if you are an Austen purist, you might take issue with some of Sittenfeld’s choices, but I found Eligible to be a quick, fun read, and I recommend it regardless of where you fall on the P&P addiction scale.

Coming soon to your bedside table: Children of Earth and Sky

Guy Gavriel Kay books on What's inside that nut?

Guy Gavriel Kay has a new book coming out next week!

children of earth and sky guy gavriel kay on what's inside that nut?A new GG Kay book is always cause for celebration and this one is no exception. Start lining up at the bookstore: Children of Earth and Sky goes on sale on May 10.



Not familiar with this award-winning, international-bestselling, Canadian author’s books? (Seriously? What have you been reading all this time?) Kay’s books combine history and fantasy with a distinctive storytelling voice, compelling characters, and unique settings.

Many of the books are interrelated; they take place in the same universe, although at different times throughout the history of that universe. Children of Earth and Sky is set in Renaissance Europe, and is one of his best.

I would recommend Children of Earth and Sky to anyone, but I especially recommend it if you love epic sagas, historical fiction with enough detail to make it utterly believable, a hint of fantasy to lift it from the ordinary, and if you love books with a large cast of relatable characters journeying to far flung locations engaging in heroic adventures. There is love and hardship, war, and intrigue, and of course, a map at the beginning, essential for any good historical fantasy book worth its weight.

Hooked yet?

Can’t wait until May 10 to start reading?

Then start with his earlier works in the meantime. There’s something here for everyone:

sarantine mosaic guy gavriel kay on what's inside that nut?Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors take place in Byzantium in the 6th century at the time of Justinian I: roman empire, chariot racing, political intrigue, artists, romance, and pagan magic. These might be my faves.


The Lions of Al Rassan Guy Gavriel Kay on What's inside that nut?The Lions of Al-Rassan: Andalusian Spain during the time of El Cid in the 11th century. More political intrigue (present in all of Kay’s books, and something he always does well), religious conflict between three warring groups (think Jews, Christians and Muslims, only fictional), heroics, romance… This one’s got it all.


The last light of the sun Guy Gavriel Kay on What's inside that nut?The Last Light of the Sun: Saxon England at the time of Alfred the Great in the 9th century. Vikings! Faeries! Revenge! Set in the same historical world as Lions and the Sarantine Mosaic books, as well as Children of Earth and Sky.


A song for Arbonne Guy Gavriel Kay on What's inside that nut?A Song for Arbonne takes its inspiration from medieval Provence, with troubadours and courtly love, feuding dukes and warring religions.



Ysabel Guy Gavriel Kay on What's inside that nut?Ysabel is a contemporary fantasy book about a boy who accompanies his father to Provence and becomes enmeshed in an ancient story of Romans and Celts. This book won the 2008 World Fantasy Novel award and was the one that got me hooked on Kay’s books.


Tigana Guy Gavriel Kay on What's inside that nut?Tigana leans more towards fantasy than history, and deals with warring sorcerers and a rebellious country whose name and history have been magically erased from the minds of its inhabitants.



Under Heaven and River of Stars Guy Gavriel Kay on What's inside that nut?Under Heaven (Tang Dynasty China during the 8th century) and River of Stars (several hundred years later, during the Song Dynasty). These two historical fiction novels are filled with dynastic struggles and palace intrigue, rebellions and battles.


The Fionavar Tapestry Guy Gavriel Kay on What's inside that nut?Finally, there are the three books that make up the Fionavar Tapestry (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire and The Darkest Road), Kay’s earliest works. Five U of T students are magically whisked from modern day Toronto to Fionavar to fulfill their destinies and complete their quests. The books are LOTR-esque, with Arthurian characters and Norse mythology mixed in.


Those should keep you busy until Children of Earth and Sky comes out. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy from Penguin Random House, and I loved it, but I read it too quickly, and now I have to wait impatiently for Kay’s next book… which means I’ll just have to start re-reading all his other books to pass the time.