Charlotte’s Best Books for April 2020

Here are the 5 best books for April, 2020.

Discover a celebration of a fearless, formidable, kick-ass super hero, a smart and raunchy collection of mid-life musings and a war-time story Alice Munro calls “ . . . a perfect combination of delicacy, intensity and fearless imagination.”

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Pocket Birds of Canada

Whether you’re an armchair birder or a committed bird watcher, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Pocket Birds of Canada (DK Publishing, 2020), your go-guide to 435 species you’ll spot across Canada all year long.

Pocket Birds of Canada 2nd Edition is organized into chapters of related family groupings. Then within each chapter, birds that look similar are grouped together. Each half- or full-page profile features beautiful, close-up images of each bird, showing differences between males and females or juveniles and adults, along with range maps, and key information to help you sort out a Yellow-billed Cuckoo from a Black-billed Cuckoo and no, it’s not just the colour of the bills. You’ll discover each bird’s anatomy and how to identify the ones you see from their geographic location, general shape, bill shape, colours and markings and more. Including some cool personality characteristics. Yup, birds do have personalities.

Take geese, for example. We know they are cranky and quite happy to give chase if you get too close to their goslings. But did you know they tend to mate for life but do occasionally divorce? Pocket Birds of Canada doesn’t speculate as to why. Mid-life crisis?

I dunno about you but when I think vulture, I think old-school Westerns. So, imagine my surprise to learn that Turkey Vultures, found in most of the U.S., have expanded their range into southern Canada. They’re carrion eaters with a crazy-good sense of smell; they can sniff out dead animals under dense forest canopy. But wait. Apparently, their habit of defecating down their legs may serve to cool them or maybe kill the dead animal bacteria because of the ammonia content. Yikes!

 I think the peregrine falcon is my new most favourite bird. Its name means wanderer. In the Middle Ages, peregrine falcons were considered the royalty of the bird world, Western European nobility trained them to hunt. And for good reason. Considered the fastest animal on the planet, diving on their prey at speeds up to 320km/h (200mph). Take that cheetah (120.7km/h 75.0mph).

Produced in association with David M. Bird, Emeritus Professor of Wildlife Biology at McGill University and a long-time bird enthusiast, Pocket Birds of Canada 2nd Edition is a great little guide to have at the ready in your backpack – it would make a pretty awesome mom or dad day gift, too.

Pocket Birds of Canada by DK Publishing.
Pocket Birds of Canada by DK Publishing.

Marvel Black Widow: Secrets of a Super Spy

Pop quiz. Who is the Black Widow? Master spy? Avenger? S.H.I.E.L.D. agent?  If you answered all of the above plus…you know your Natalia Romanova. 

Marvel Black Widow: Secrets of a Super-Spy (DK Publishing, 2020) traces Black Widow’s remarkable journey from Soviet assassin to stops-out Super Hero, a must-have guide to Marvel’s most cloak-and-dagger icon.

In a nutshell. Black Widow was born Natalia Alianovna Romanova (the feminine form of Romanoff) in Stalingrad in 1928. As a little girl, she was rescued from a burning building by Ivan Petrovitch, a Red Army soldier who was searching for his sister. Ivan didn’t find his sis so decided to take Natalia – called Natasha by her friends and family – with him and raise her as his own.

While still in grade school, Natasha was selected by the state to attend the Red Room Academy (the students were orphans and pretty much the state’s property) to train as an elite secret agent dedicated to mounting deadly stealth missions around the world. She was good at the super spy training thing, excelling in academics as well as athletics.

Fun fact. Her hand-to-hand combat skills were honed with personal training from hired assassin Logan – the future Wolverine. Logan also taught Natasha life skills like, “The future’s just another bad day”.

Natasha did the Soviets’ dirty work for years until she decided to cross over and join the Avengers, ready to walk her own patriotic path protecting the vulnerable and bringing justice to the streets. But after a near-death brush, Natasha retires to Arizona to rock climb and commune with nature.

Before long, she realizes the free world needs her and she’s back in the game in her quest for redemption.

Black Widow: Secrets of a Super-Spy, is a big juicy Black Widow bible, meticulously researched, expertly written and lavishly illustrated with spectacular Marvel images, celebrating a fearless, formidable, kick-ass super hero who should have taken care of Harvey Weinstein. Seriously. 

Black Widow: Secrets of a Super Spy by DK Publishing.
Black Widow: Secrets of a Super Spy by DK Publishing.

Purchase Our Favourite Reading Accessories at Chapters Indigo

Get cozy with a new book while wearing these comfy reading socks and reading robe.

These scented candles and Ultrasonic diffusers will help you relax at home.

The Kobo eReader makes reading much more enjoyable and easier on the eyes. There are also great eReader accessories available, like the Kobo Sleepcover.

If you’re looking for something for the little ones in your life, we recommend checking out these great kids books, baby products and educational toys that will help develop your child’s love for reading.

Truths I Never Told You

1959: Grace is a too-young mother of four children under four, including a set of twins. She wanted a family but she struggles with what we’d now call post-partum depression. 

1990: Beth, Grace’s daughter, and Hunter had desperately wanted a child. After years of trying they opt for fertility drugs and six years on, Noah is born. Trouble is, Beth is sure she is a horrible mother. Like, damage-your-kid-for-life horrible.

Grace died in a car crash when Beth was only a toddler and her dad never remarried so she feels as if she has no role model of how to be the best-ever mom.

Hunter, siblings Ruth, Tim and Jeremy, and Beth’s mother-in-law Chiara, all are worried about Beth’s state of mind. Not that’s she’s going to do something terrible, like harm herself or Noah, but that she seems wound too tight.

When the kids decide to put their dad into a nursing home – he suffers from dementia – Beth volunteers to clean out his house over her siblings’ objections, and ready it for sale.

Beth starts with their old attic playroom and is surprised to find the door padlocked. Odd. Once the lock is broken, things get way odder: the attic is a chaotic hoarder’s nest of random papers, her dad’s paintings, dishes crusted with weeks old food, candy wrappers.

As she attempts to clear up the junk, Beth finds a handwritten note – it seems to be a journal entry – attached to one of the paintings. In her mom’s handwriting. As she carefully picks through the clutter, she discovers more notes.

And begins to piece together the truth about her mother’s life and death. And the role her loving dad played.

Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer is a page-turning family saga with a darker subtext. Rimmer tells the story through the eyes of three women – Grace, her sister Maryanne. and Beth – and juxtaposes the expectations facing women in the 50s with the expectations of the 90s. Despite the 40-year gap, not much has changed, really.

Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer.
Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer.

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Midnight Train to Prague

In 1927, Natalia Faber is travelling from Berlin to Prague, with Beatriz, her eccentric Argentina-born widowed mom. 

The train is delayed in Saxon, Switzerland and mother and daughter go to the dining car for coffee. A call goes out for a doctor; a man has collapsed. A young woman with a child in tow steps up. Natalia offers to mind the boy while Dr. Schaefferova takes a look at the passenger. 

He’s dead. And his name is Faber. He is Natalia’s father.

Some years later, at spa in Hungary, Natalia meets Miklos Count Andorjan, a journalist and writer.  Despite the 20-odd-year age difference they eventually marry and Natalia takes on the Count’s rural estate in Hungary.

When war breaks out, Miklos leaves to report from the front and the two lose contact. The last letter she receives convinces Natalia that she is to meet Miklos in Prague, at their favourite café.

The city is under Nazi occupation, so getting – and living – there is dangerous. To survive, Natalia sets herself up as a Tarot card reader – some of her most enthusiastic clients are the wives of Nazi SS officers. When a young woman named Anna arrives for a reading, Natalia discovers she is Dr. Schaefferova’s daughter.

Towards the end of the war, Natalia is accused of spying and sent to a concentration camp. When she is liberated in 1945, she reconnects with Anna and while the world will never return to “normal” their memories will keep them connected.

Carol Windley is a powerful writer. She weaves the compelling stories of three families into a rich tapestry that reflects both a time and a place that was, and a human condition that is.

Midnight Train To Prague by Carol Windley.
Midnight Train To Prague by Carol Windley.

Wow No Thank You

This collection of essays by blogger – bitchesgottaeat – and author Samantha Irby, “one of our country’s (that would be the U.S.) most fierce and foulmouthed author,” according to Amber Tamblyn at Vulture, is smart, edgy, and yup, raunchy. And snort-your-coffee-through-your-nose funny.

Irby, now 40, has moved from Chicago with her wife and two step-kids to a small, pretty-much-white, Republican town in Michigan, and she riffs on settled-down-life’s vagaries with the kind of bite and insight you expect from the author of Meaty and New York Times bestselling We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.

  • The promise of skincare products – will this face cream make her Instagram worthy?
  • Girls’ Night Out – and the bar dude calls you ma’am
  • Sure, sex is fun, but have you ever made the text font on your phone bigger?
  • Now that lives in a house, should they try to replace the interior door themselves or just move into a hotel for the winter?
  • Who are these people who get the correct number of servings of carrots every day?

Irby tackles the flotsam and jetsam of growing old but never growing up when you weren’t/aren’t ever going to be Instagram-worthy with the kind of “Yup” truth that makes you love her. 

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby.
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby.

Written by Charlotte Empey. Illustrations produced on iPad Pro with Apple Pencil by Mark Scheibmayr.

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