It’s time for March Madness for book nerds! Here’s how it works: Harper Collins Canada has posted 64 of its books on the HCC March Madness website and you vote for your favourites until one book takes the title. You can vote once per hour, and — here’s the best part, for book lovers everywhere — you get to enter once per day for the chance to win all 64 books in the tournament! Cast a vote, win 64 books — can’t beat that, eh?
The tournament just started, and there are still so many awesome books in play! Not sure how to vote? Let me make a few suggestions…
ROOM, EMMA DONOGHUE
Room is so powerful that it prompted me to begin this book blog in the first place. Seriously: check out my very first post Emma Donoghue’s Room lives up to the hype. It’s an emotional, gripping tale from the perspective of a five year old boy, Jack, who has known nothing but the tiny room in which his mother had been held prisoner. I particularly love the incongruity between the innocence of the narrator’s perspective and the horror his mother had to face every day. When the mother tells Jack that she wants to escape and Jack wonders why, my heart just ached for them. On one hand, I totally understand where the mother is coming from, yet on the other hand, the experience of freedom is as strange and frightening for Jack as the experience of captivity would be for us. Amazing book.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, HARPER LEE
To Kill a Mockingbird is probably my sister’s favourite books of all time, and so it has a special place in my heart. It’s definitely a classic — how can you resist this story about the young, feisty Scout and her strong, admirable father Atticus? It’s a tale about the fight for idealism in a world where injustice and discrimination are believed to be natural. How often do we watch the news and wish Atticus Finch is real, or that lawyers could be more like him? To Kill a Mockingbird is far from an idealistic story — the truths it reveals are downright harsh — yet it has become a beloved classic because its characters still believe in the potential of idealism. Atticus and Scout still believe that right can triumph over wrong, and that good has to triumph over evil. We cheer for them, we cheer for their belief, and we wish we could believe as they do.
DEATH ON THE NILE, AGATHA CHRISTIE
If you follow me on Twitter, or read my posts on last year’s HCC March Madness, you know what an Agatha Christie fan I am. I love Agatha Christie books so much that I even challenged Jason from Harper Collins Canada to a Christie Quiz: Challenge and Results. Christie is the Queen of Mystery, and for good reason — her books revolutionized the mystery genre, introducing ridiculously complex twists and turns while still adhering to the “fair play” principle.
Death on the Nile not only features my favourite detective of all time — Hercule Poirot — but it also has one of my favourite Christie plots of all time. A woman named Jackie loses her fiance Simon to her best friend Linnet. It’s a soap opera, until Poirot runs into the trio in Egypt three months later, on Simon and Linnet’s honeymoon, which Jackie has crashed. To escape Jackie, Simon and Linnet join a Nile river cruise that Poirot is on. Unfortunately for them, Jackie gets on the same ship, and in a fit of rage, shoots Simon in the leg, and has to be confined to her room with a nurse. The next morning, Linnet is found murdered, and the nurse swears Jackie was in her room the entire night. Who, then, killed Linnet?
It’s an English country house mystery transplanted onto a cruise ship, where everyone on board is a suspect, and only Poirot’s little grey cells can unravel the various psyches and motivations. The answer to whodunnit is nowhere near as important as the whys, and in true Christie fashion, Death on the Nile takes us into the minds of an entire cast of fascinating characters.
Only one could win when Jason and I duked it out, Christie style, last year. But anyone who reads Christie is a winner, in my book. If you haven’t read her yet, definitely, definitely, check out Death on the Nile or any of her other books. And definitely, vote for her in HCC March Madness!
DEAD SIMPLE, PETER JAMES
Peter James is one of the nicest authors I’ve met, a soft-spoken librarian type who happens to ride along with police officers and write about crime. I absolutely adored his Perfect People, and the latest Roy Grace mystery, Dead Man’s Grip, turned me off smoked salmon for weeks. Dead Simple is the first in the Roy Grace series, and begins with an interesting premise: four friends pull a stag night prank on the bridegroom by locking him in a coffin and leaving him for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, they are then killed by a van. Now bridegroom’s fiancee has asked Roy Grace for help to track him down. Honestly, locking someone in a coffin — even with air holes — is such a horrible, twisted, nightmarish prank to pull. What were these friends thinking? The Roy Grace books are fast-paced, thrilling stories, with James showing all perspectives.
DOOMSDAY KEY, JAMES ROLLINS
I love the Sigma Force novels! Think scientists with guns — kick ass nerds! Each of the Sigma Force characters is a specialist in some kind of science or technology field, and they are therefore assigned the weirdest mysteries that ordinary agents can’t understand. In Doomsday Key, a geneticist, a Vatican archaeologist, and a U.S. senator’s son are killed, each in a different continent. The deaths are connected by a Druidic pagan cross burned into the victims’ skin. If you like Michael Crichton, Dan Brown and Simon Toyne, you’ll love James Rollins. His books are always meticulously researched, so even the weirdest scientific twists have some basis in fact. It’s hard to put a James Rollins novel down — it’s just too exciting! — and it’s great feeling smarter after having read one.
HUNCHBACK ASSIGNMENTS, ARTHUR SLADE
I cannot gush about Arthur Slade’s Hunchback Assignments enough. It’s an innovative, endearing concept — a hunchback named Modo has the power to change his appearance for limited periods of time and is therefore trained to be a secret agent from a young age. He is in love with beautiful fellow agent Octavia, and too shy to show her how he really looks. I fell in love with this book when I read it. It has adventure (steam punk!), romance, and the all too relatable tragedy of feeling self-conscious about your physical appearance. I’ve recommended this for reluctant young readers — I think the adventure and excitement will get them to fall in love with reader. I also highly recommend it to book lovers everywhere. Amazing, amazing book, and the beginning of a wonderful series.