Monday, December 17, 2012

From Ampersand...

The following is a review written by Chris from our November/December 2012 issue of the library's newsletter, Ampersand.

Non-Fiction: Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt 940.21
In this wide ranging history, the author reconstructs the story of the re-discovery, in the early 15th Century of a poem written in 50 B.C. He argues that the poem which might otherwise have been lost, was the seminal work which kicked off the Renaissance.
There are two central characters in the story. Poggio, a papal secretary who re-discovers the poem by Lucretius called 'The Nature of Things.'
Lucretius, who lived in a time of multiple gods, was apparently an atheist and a humanist. His work is wide ranging from the erotic to the scientific. It apparently had an understanding of astronomy and atomic structure.
Greenblatt traces the progress of distribution of this remarkable poem from its re-discovery in a German monastery by Poggio. It was ruthlessly suppressed by early Catholic and Protestant churches. Yet its content kept it alive until it was eventually printed and translated from the Latin into modern languages.
Not everyone will enjoy this book, but, for those with an interest in history, it is involving and readable.

From Ampersand...

The following is a review written by Chris from our November/December 2012 issue of the library's newsletter, Ampersand.

Fiction: The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This is the third in a series which starts with The Shadow of the Wind and continues through The Angel's Game.
The stories are set in Barcelona. They concern the era of the dictator Franco in the pre-World War II time of widespread repression in Spain.
Zafon is a consummate story teller with a touch of the gothic. The main characters work in a book store and there are occasional visits to a secret and hidden library known as the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.
In this story The Angel's Game is referenced as a book by a mysterious mad writer, who may, or may not have died in one of Franco's worst prisons. One of the book store employees, who was also imprisoned, tells the story of the castle prison and its sadistic governor.
I envy anyone who has not read these books and has that pleasure ahead of them. The Library has all three.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

I discovered this delight in the New Books section and am a little reluctant to give it up. Even though it caused me to lose a full day of my vacation, I truly enjoyed this foray into the Parisian world of luxury apartments, autodidacts and family foibles.

It is author Muriel Barbery's second novel and is translated "from the French" by Alison Anderson. The two main characters, concierge Renee Michel and twelve-year-old tenant Paloma Josse, are both hiding their true talents and finest qualities from the world for fear they will not be believed nor appreciated. In their own words we are introduced to a wide variety of interests and observations including phenomenologic philosophy, the importance of regular doses of silence, vapid dissertations, the underrated colour pink and Japanese culture.

When a wealthy, retired Japanese exporter, Kakuro Ozu buys and renovates one of the large apartments in their block, the quirks and prejudices of the other tenants quickly are revealed. All are abuzz about the new tenant; all hope to be included in his exotic circle.

It is Mr. Ozu who quickly discerns who are his most intelligent, interesting fellow inhabitants--Madame Michel and Paloma. Through kindness and good conversation he strikes up a companiable romance with the concierge. By respecting the profound abilities and difficult family life of Paloma, he gives the gift of justification to a troubled girl.

His greatest gift to both is his gentle hand that facilitates their friendship.

And now it is back on the shelf for all to enjoy.    

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Comparing Travelogues

In the interest of full disclosure I have to admit to being a serial reader. Not the trilogies or Harry Potter juggernaut, although I have dabbled in the consecutive genre. No, it's more like a lack of focus and I start one book before I have finished the last. At any one time I may be reading as many as six.

So it was that I recently found myself reading two travelogues simultaneously quite by accident. I had been meaning to read Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier for some time and checked it out and dove in. But alas, I had to go to the mall and there's a book store there! And didn't I leave with several under my arm, one of which was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by new author Rachel Joyce. It hooked me over lunch in the food court and I was off. (At about the same time Marie purchased Harold Fry for the library.)

Cold Mountain is set in the American Civil War and follows the path of W.P. Inman, a wounded Confederate soldier, who walks away from the war back to his home in the Blue Mountains and to Ada Monroe, the woman he loved. Since he is a defector, Inman must use his wits to outsmart the marauding Home Guard, aiding and being aided by slaves and farmers along the way. Interwoven is Ada's tale of trying to revive her deceased father's derelict farm with the able assistance of a local girl, Ruby. Although Ada and Inman attempt to correspond with each other the only one who benefits from their letters is the reader as they never connect.

So Inman's journey is a lonely, uncertain one--uncertain of success and, even, if Ada is still on the farm and waiting for him. And such is the climate that, should he succeed in reaching Cold Mountain, his deserter status will prevent him from settlng in.

Harold Fry's journey begins innocently enough in his village in the south of England (Kingsbridge) when he steps out to mail a note of encouragement to a dying colleague who is in hospice 600 miles away at the northern tip of the country. A chance encounter along the way convinces him that his friend, Queenie, will live as long as it takes him to deliver the note in person. So he keeps walking.

Harold is woefully ill-prepared for the excursion--recently retired, dressed only in tennis shoes and a light jacket, unfamiliar with the rigours of long-distance walking and sleeping in the elements. It turns out his journey is as much an escape as a destination. His long marriage to Maureen has stalled in an unhappy quagmire and neither seems to know how to get out. But neither has found the reason to end it and move on.

Along the way Harold encounters the good and bad elements of society but on the whole, most are decent and helpful. His travels force him to revisit the highs and lows in his life, and as he and Maureen begin to talk again, the immaterial falls away.

I won't give away either ending except to say that both men complete their journeys. And both books, in their own way, are an excellent read.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Home Front by Kristin Hannah - Blog by Sandy

This is a hard book to put down.  It is a story about honour, love, tragedy and family life. A troubled marriage is made worse when the wife who flies helicopters is sent to fight in Iraq. The husband, a workaholic lawyer, quickly learns what it takes to run a household and raise children. There is also the friendship between two female pilots that plays a big part in sustaining the characters and showing us two different type of military life styles.  The reader learns a lot about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and life in military families.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Odd Egg: Give this a try with your kids!

This past week at our TD Summer Reading Club, we did a group read aloud of The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett. This book features fun illustrations, split pages, and a suspenseful and joking story line perfect for kids. This book allowed a lot of feedback as we asked, "What kind of bird is that?" and "What do you think will hatch out of this egg?" Each of the children at the program shared their guesses and were quite surprised when it was revealed what was really inside the 'Odd Egg'.

To make this read aloud even more exciting, we provided each of the children with plasticine and encouraged them to build a creature (imaginary or realistic) that would be found inside of their egg. Their creations included bunnies, elegators (a mix between an elephant and an alligator), and robots.

After the plasticine creations were finished, we set them aside and got each of the kids to create an egg using a balloon and paper mache. This activity was super messy, but we had a tarp to protect the carpet and asked each of the parents to send their children in play clothes so that prevented some of the mess. The older kids grasped the concept more than the 5-year-olds who seemed to just enjoy getting their hands covered in the gooey mixture.

Before the next program, Emma and I are going to do another layer of paper mache on each of the eggs, give them a quick paint job, and cut a hole inside the eggs just big enough to squeeze in the paper mache creations. When the children arrive, they'll have their 'Odd Eggs' with their surprise creatures to either play their own guessing games with or share with their families!

This book was an awesome choice for our story time and the activity supplemented it perfectly!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

Last summer, I went through an Emily Giffin phase. I read Something Borrowed, then Something Blue, then Love the One You're With, and Baby Proof. I'd seen numerous tweets from @emilygiffin on Twitter about her latest title Where We Belong so I just had to read it. I also tweeted about my desire to read it. I was kind of hoping for a retweet - that didn't happen. #sadface
Where We Belong was great! In this book, Marian is forced to confront a secret she's kept with only her mother for eighteen years... because her eighteen-year-old secret shows up on her doorstep. This little secret could not have come to light at a worse time for Marian. She is in a steady relationship, slightly putting pressure on her boyfriend to propose, has a career and hardly time for anything else.
Marian's secret, an eighteen-year-old drummer chick named Kirby, gives this novel a kind of  Young Adult twist. Kirby's character appealed to me as I could sense her hesitance and uncertainty in getting involved with a life-changing situation with Marian. 
If you liked Emily Giffin's other novels, give this one a shot!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey

This isn't a book review, trust me, I'm not going to touch this one. Or as it has become to be known as in our library, It. Not a day goes by without someone asking, "Have you read It?" "What did you think of It?" These are just a couple reactions I've gathered from patrons (anonymous patrons of course) about It.

Staff: So, what did you think of it?
Patron: Well, you or I could have written it.
Staff: Uh.....
Patron: I mean the writing! It wasn't well written!

Patron: I wanted to know if you have Fifty Shades of Grey.
Staff: There's a reserve list on it. I can add your name to it.
Patron: Yes, please. I was in earlier but I was too embarrassed to ask Chris to put my name on it. *

*Chris is our only male staff member. It's okay, everyone, we've all signed a confidentially agreement that we won't divulge your book choices.

Patron: OH MY GOODNESS! I flipped through it and I couldn't believe my eyes! Then I flipped a few more pages and I still couldn't believe it!
Staff: Oh yeah, I flipped through it while I was cataloguing it and I was thinking the same.
Patron: Yes, it's outrageous. Could you put my name on the second one, please?

Staff: So what did you think of this one?
Patron: I'm trying to get through it. But it does make you think about that type of lifestyle. I don't know... If I was 35, it might be better.

Well, there you have it folks. It's almost worth reading 'Fifty Shades' just to see what the hype is all about. For the record, we have two copies of the entire series circulating here in the library. Lots of demand for this book!... :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Introducing... Lego Club!

Our CEO, Marie, had an idea at the beginning of the summer to begin a Lego Club here at the library. We're having our third meeting tomorrow and so far Lego Club has been a huge hit... because everyone loves Lego of course!
Each session has a theme. So far we've done zoos, outer space, and tomorrow we're planning on having a theme of architecture. Shhh, don't tell the kids! Each session opens up with five minute madness. We suggest that the children build a certain object in only five minutes. After this session, we share a little bit about our creations.
Our next activity lasts around 45 minutes. This is the main building activity related to the theme. During our outer space week, we gave the children 45 minutes to build a planet. The features that they built on these planets were unbelievable. The planets were able to sustain their aliens (built during the five minute madness) with food and water, offered defence methods with laser beams, and some even features methods of transportation. 
For the rest of the session, the children can continue to work on their 45 minute project, or if they would rather, they can free build. 
We wrap up each session with a round of sharing, a giant round of applause and take pictures of each creation. The creations go on display until the following week on the shelves in the children's sections of the library.
Our Lego Club is a drop in program. If you're looking for a fun way to channel your child's creativity, this may be it! During the summer, Lego Club will take place every Friday from 1:00-2:30pm. Feel free to drop in and see what it's all about!

Nicholas and Brooklyn display their zoo.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Come Home by Lisa Scottoline - Jordan

I like books about relationships, specifically books about family connections. I also enjoy books with legal ties and theories and a slight element of suspense. I found all of these present in Come Home by Lisa Scottoline.
Come Home features Jill Farrow, a widowed, divorced, and now-engaged pediatrician who has lived an imperfect life, and admits to making flawed decisions. Jill's life seems to be finally coming together after a rocky past with her upcoming wedding and now-steady home life when she is shockingly reunited with her former step-daughter, Abby, who brings news of her father's (Jill's ex-husband's) death... and possible murder. 
Jill, who evidently cannot forget her obligation and motherly love toward her former step-daughter, makes a number of rash decisions in order to assure Abby that her father's death was not a murder. But then Jill begins to uncover some suspicious facts and becomes fixated on her ex's death.
Predictably, this puts a strain on the relationship between Jill and her fiancé Sam, and the sudden reappearance of her step-daughter Abby leads to friction between Jill and her daughter Megan.
This book kept me up late at night trying to unravel the mystery. I would recommend this book to any fans of Jodi Picoult. It was definitely a great summer read.

Monday, August 6, 2012


 Clockwork Angel
 by Cassandra Clare

            A light entertaining read with a fast paced, intriguing plot that is set in Victorian London.  If you like Demon Chasers, Vampires, Warlocks and Magicians this is the book for you.  It is a prequel to The Mortal Instruments Series but can be read on its own.  It consists of danger, action and romance as a young girl travels to London to find her brother only to learn hidden secrets about herself. The female characters are tough, opinionated, forthright, and fearless. Of the male characters one is emotionally challenged while the other is physically challenged but both are strong, cocky, and handsome.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My eReader Experiences - Jordan

Summer for me largely involves sitting in a lounge chair in my backyard with a novel. This year though, I've switched up a part of my old routine in favour of a recent innovation. I will admit that my dog-eared paperbacks have been swapped for a Kobo eReader. If I hadn't been generously given the Kobo by a family friend, this day might not have arrived so soon, but to my surprise, I can now comfortably read from an eReader with the same ease and familiarity of a print book. 
When I received this eReader, I borrowed a few books from Overdrive that I had been eager to read for some time but had not been available in print here at the library. If you're new to eReaders, my first recommendation would be download an eBook that you are genuinely interested in. Don't download the first available book you find just to try out your eReader as this not-so-favourable experience will likely create a negative association with your eReader. I believe this was my biggest mistake when I had borrowed an e-Reader from the library about a year ago.
If you've used Overdrive at all, you probably know most titles have extensive waiting lists on them. There were a few titles I wanted to read that weren't available on Overdrive (or in the library), so I purchased these from the Kobo store. This was so easy. Much easier than taking a twenty minute drive to the nearest Coles. Definitely a plus side to using an eReader. Probably not so great for my Visa bill but that's another story. 
Since getting my Kobo, I've also had the chance to use a family member's iPad as an eReader. The backlight display makes reading in bed so easy, and getting books from Overdrive takes just a few clicks. I'm  trying to trade my Kobo for the iPad... Just dreaming though.
If you've used an eReader in the past and didn't like it, I'd say pick it up and give it another try. Maybe try a different model and see what features are of importance of you and what you can do without. A lot of people are hesitant to abandon the print book... and that's completely unnecessary. There's no reason why you can't find an eReader that you love and enjoy the best of both worlds!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Check These Books Out! - Chris

Allah, Liberty & Love  by Irshad Manji - A great follow up to her earlier, The Trouble With Islam. Manji urges Muslims and non-Muslims to break free from the tribal interpretations of Islam. Great Stuff!

The Power of Habit  by Charles Duhigg - Using a variety of examples from nailbiting to football, the author shows how habits are formed and changed. Interesting and inspiring.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

Book Blog: Annabel by Kathleen Winter
Last month, it seemed like I was hearing about Kathleen Winter’s Annabel over and over. First of all, the book club discussed it. Then, when deciding what to put on the Staff Picks shelf, Helen mentioned that she absolutely loved it. As I looked into the book, I figured it would be the kind of book that I would enjoy.

Annabel explores the concept of a hermaphrodite child born in Eastern Canada. The child is forced into embracing his male identity, and goes by the name of Wayne, but as he ages more feminine tendencies become evident within him. Despite his father’s attempts to masculinize Wayne, over time, he begins to sense there is something present within him that causes him to be different than the other boys he encounters. Eventually, he begins to really question – is he Wayne, or is he Annabel, the female who he senses lives within him?

This book is truly amazing, as evident through the many awards it has won, including Best Book of the Year 2010 and New York Times Editors Choice in 2011. I will definitely be recommending this book to patrons in the future.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Untamed - A House of Night Novel (Spoilers!)

I just finished the fourth House of Night novel, Untamed, last night.

I really wasn't impressed with Untamed when I first began reading it. While I liked the other books, I've begun to find them extremely repetitive. The fact that Damien uses advanced vocabulary has already been established, and yet it is still mentioned way too many times in every book. While I can understand the authors explaining this to new readers, it is extremely overdone to the point that it becomes annoying.

I also started to get annoyed with the dialogue of other characters as well, mainly during conversation involving the twins. It's just not believable for me that conversation would actually progress like that between older teens. 

Thankfully, the plot quickly advanced and previously introduced ideas were addressed and developed which made the rest of the novel enjoyable. Once I really got into it, I forgot about the annoying writing style (except when the twins were speaking to each other). The progress in the war on humans and the exposure of Neferet's true evil motives are what really kept me reading. In fact, wanting to know how this war on humans progress is what caused me to check out the fifth book in the series today. I suspect that the fifth book will be even more action-packed.

All in all, I am still this series when I'm able to overlook some of the more irritating aspects of the Casts' writing and will continue to recommend this title to other readers of Young Adult Fiction.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

End of Year Reading Review for 2011

If you've been following this blog for sometime, you might remember that last January I posed a challenge to myself and all followers to read one book beginning of each letter of the alphabet. I forgot about this challenge mid-year, and upon compiling a rough list of the books I read this year, I can say I was unsuccessful in completing the challenge. I did read many notable books this year though -- see some highlights below!
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert -- This book took me on a journey. I re-read several pages and passages from the book because I found Gilbert's thoughts and perspectives so inspiring. I'll probably read this book again in 2012 when I need some motivation or a change in perspective.
Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs -- I'm not entirely sure why I chose to read this book, but I'm glad I did. I loved all the characters in this book, and their relationships were extremely entertaining. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the other books in this series.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins -- The Hunger Games series was so good. If you haven't read the series yet, make sure it's the first thing you read in 2012. Seriously.
Other books I read (and remembered):
Chosen - P.C. and Kristin Cast
No Roads to Follow - Michael Herman
Betrayed - P.C. and Kristin Cast
The Best of Me - Nicholas Sparks
Marked - P.C. and Kristin Cast
Knit the Season - Kate Jacobs
Mocking Jay - Suzanne Collins
Along for the Ride - Sarah Dessen
Knit Two - Kate Jacobs
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Keeping Faith - Jodi Picoult
The Undomestic Goddess - Sophie Kinsella
Unbearable Lightness - Portia de Rossi
House Rules - Jodi Picoult
Sing You Home - Jodi Picoult
Bossypants - Tina Fey
Living Dead in Dallas - Charlaine Harris
Friday Night Knitting Club - Kate Jacobs
Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
Save Me - Lisa Scottoline
Sizzle - Julie Garwood
Fire and Ice - Julie Garwood
Mommywood - Tori Spelling
Mini-Shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella
The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom
The Shack - William P. Young
Sundays at Tiffany's - James Patterson
Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas - James Patterson
Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay

Instead of creating another Reading Challenge in 2012, I'm just going to try and read as often as possible and add a little more diversity into my reading list by exploring new authors and new genres. I'm also going to blog about each book I read... which will hopefully make it easier to review the books I've read this time next year.

Happy New Year!