From the Library: Lisa Moore, Nicola Davison, Chad Lucas, and C.S. Porter

Four incredible books from Atlantic Canada: one from Newfoundland and three from Nova Scotia. Gruesome murders, foster homes (for both two-legged and four-legged creatures), mothers and sons in critical conditions, a cast of furry (and feathered) characters, and #Snowmageddon.

Beneath Her Skin by C.S. Porter (Nimbus Publishing)

I don’t usually read crime novels, but this one was nominated for an Atlantic Book Award so I went for it. I have to admit, I was kind of expecting more of a cozy, small-town mystery, but what I got was full-on disturbing. Yes, it took place in rural Nova Scotia featuring crimes that involved hay bales and lobster cars, but these crimes are gruesome and horrifying, and the characters involved in solving them haunted. The full extent of whatever is haunting Detective Kes Morris is not fully revealed, so I’m guessing there will be more of Kes Morris in the future. And I will be sorely tempted to pick it up.

This was a place that rarely saw inconceivable violence. It was a place people came to feel safe.

This Is How We Love by Lisa Moore (House of Anansi Press)

Lisa Moore’s newest, I snapped it up as soon as it arrived at the library. As with all her books, this one has a strong sense of place and character. In an interview with Shelagh Rogers on The Next Chapter, Moore talks about how she wanted to explore our need for connectivity and how deeply we depend on each other. This goes for generational connections, as well. Rather than separating our very old and very young, Moore believes we belong together.

The story centers around a mother whose son has been stabbed and lies unconscious in hospital. She sits with him and thinks back on her life, her husband’s family, and the life of a foster child who lived across the road. What are the events that have led to this moment?

This is also a story about mothers: what makes us mothers, how we mother. Moore wanted to explore what it means to be a mother, and the idea that you don’t have to have a child to be one.

His mother would be angry with him for dying. She would consider it the culmination of every time he had disobeyed her.

I’d never seen anything like natural love between Mary and Trinity, but there was something more durable and remote, a sense of inviolate duty toward each other.

Some people are the opposite of a portal, he wanted to say to his mother. Some people are a vacuum, he would have told her. You open that door and you’re sucked into oblivion.

This is a story about mothers. How it has nothing to do with blood or choosing or being chosen. It has to do with being able.

Thanks A Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas (Amulet Books)

A middle grade novel by a Nova Scotian author that has been getting a lot of attention, it won this year’s Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children’s Literature at the Atlantic Book Awards. The characters in this book completely won me over – they are sweet and polite and kind and supportive of each other. I can only hope this is the way most 12-year-old boys are today.

We went to Kevan’s at lunch, which was always better than lunch at school. Especially when Kevan made dessert. He set a plate on the coffee table in the Sidhus’ small den. “Behold, my newest invention”… Ty hollered for joy. “Sweet Baby Moses on a Jet Ski! It’s a miracle in my mouth.” / Kevan’s grin widened. “Maple, bacon, chili, and a bunch of spices. I took the most Canadian food and made it more Indian, and more delicious. I call it the Reverse Colonizer.”

Lucas is able to weave heavier topics into a light, fun book for kids. Brian has anxiety and it gets worse when he and his brother end up in foster care. Ezra has lots of friends, but worries what they’ll think of him when they find out he has a crush on a boy. With a cast of diverse characters, the book explores the relationships the boys have with each other, as well as Brian’s relationship with his parents.

We’d thought everything was fine. We hadn’t known the world was ending.

What to Do with the Day Brothers

  • A. Let them take care of themselves
  • B. Hard labour in the coal mines
  • C. Eccentric haunted boarding school
  • D. Lend them to total strangers

Chad Lucas has just launched his newest book Let the Monster Out.

Decoding Dot Grey by Nicola Davison (Nimbus Publishing)

My local authors are not letting me down – they just keep on bringing it.

Meet Dot. At eighteen, she is living in the basement room of an elderly man’s house. It has no windows, but does have a menagerie of small creatures: a lizard, a guinea pig, two gerbils, and a hairless rat. Add to that a crow named Toby, who Dot rescued from the side of the road after it was hit by a car. She works at the animal shelter she’s been working at since she was 12, except now she’s there full-time. Probably more than full-time. About a year ago, her mother was involved in an accident and she is working through her feelings. More like, trying to avoid them.

Two new employees at the shelter–Rachel and Joe–try to befriend her and her boss–Judy–tries to shoo her home for some rest. Things get interesting when Rachel gets Dot and Joe involved in a possible animal abuse situation. And then Joe drops his bomb of a secret.

A tender story with a lot of heart, gentle humour, and some fun word-play, this story will capture your heart and you won’t want to say good-bye to the characters. Dot, Joe, Toby, Button, and Ori… I miss them already. Dot’s aversion to people and inclination to tap out Morse Code with her fingers; Joe’s kindness; Toby’s mischievous comic relief; Button’s big oafish ways; and Ori’s ability to bring quiet comfort to Dot as she goes through the world.

Nicola Davison is also the author of In The Wake, which won the 2019 Margaret and John Savage First Book Award for Fiction. (Okay, Nicola, I’m ready for the next one!)

Well, that was a successful trip to the library. Are you tempted by any of these? Do you enjoy animal characters as much as I do? #LoveYourLibrary

21 thoughts on “From the Library: Lisa Moore, Nicola Davison, Chad Lucas, and C.S. Porter

  1. Marcie McCauley says:

    I’m so glad you wrote about the Lisa Moore novel; I just wasn’t in the right mood when I borrowed it from the library, but I’ve thought back to it several times since, and wished that I could have kept renewing it until I was in a different headspace!
    The Nicola Davison looks like one I would love…assuming that all those animals make it out alive. *sideeye

  2. Rebecca Foster says:

    I love how much of a cheerleader you are for books from Atlantic Canada, and library books! I’m still keen to read the Lisa Moore, even though I missed my chance to review it at its U.S. release.

  3. Anne Smith-Nochasak says:

    Lisa Moore’s book is now on my reading list. I am fascinated by the concept of “Beneath her Skin”, but not sure I can handle the gruesomeness just yet. Such an array you present here!

  4. wadholloway says:

    Sweet and supportive twelve year olds, there’s an odd idea. Though I suppose I’d accept ‘supportive’ some of the time.

    Lobster cars was the other phrase I struggled with. Google comes up with some great images. But yes, I did see lobsters, for the transport of.

    • Naomi says:

      From what I understand (and I am definitely not very knowledgeable about this), the lobster goes from the traps to the cars to keep them fresh and in the water until the fishers are ready to take them out to sell. They hold a lot of lobster all in one spot. (It is not a car shaped like a lobster. Lol)

      The sweet and supportive 12-year-olds sound too good to be true, I know, but Lucas makes it seem so natural – which is a pleasure to read!

  5. Marianne Ward says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your review of Decoding Dot Grey. Such a great book! I’d recommend it for anyone, of any age. Lots of fun, especially, for word lovers.

    Really looking forward to reading Lisa Moore’s, which is on my “For Later” shelf at the library (lots of other books demanding my attention first). A friend in Toronto read Beneath Her Skin and loved it, so I bought a copy. Might have to read it next…

    Great post!

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks, Marianne!

      I thought the same about Dot Grey – definitely not just for the younger crowd – great for all ages!

      Beneath Her Skin won the Howard Engel Award for best crime novel set in Canada this year! I hope you like it!

  6. Anne Smith-Nochasak says:

    That is a good idea, Naomi. However, I would probably imagine something even worse! πŸ˜„ I think I will be reading this one soon after all. Actually, it is available at our local library! But “This is how we love” is on hold, so I have a little wait!

  7. Laila@BigReadingLife says:

    So much library goodness ( aside from the gruesome first one.) I haven’t been traditionally much for animal characters, but there have been great ones in two of my favorite books this year: Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett and Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

  8. annelogan17 says:

    These sound great, and like Laila above, I love a good library haul! I was curious about the new Lisa Moore, interesting it’s about Mothers. I also love this idea that we need to spend more time together across generations – I seem to think it would solve quite a few of our problems, we are all still so isolated!

    • Naomi says:

      It hadn’t even occurred to me really that we tend to separate the very young and the very old from the rest of us as well as from each other. It seems completely like the wrong thing to do – like so many other things we do… *sigh*

  9. Jenna @ Falling Letters says:

    Chad Lucas has recently become a favourite of mine! I enjoyed THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE last year but I am in love with LET THE MONSTER OUT, which I’m currently about halfway through. I agree with your comment re being won over by the characters.

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