A glimpse of old Hollywood

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is an utterly engaging look at a Hollywood icon – her trials, tribulations, successes and multiple marriages – as she struggles to make her way in life, love and career within the confines of Hollywood and those she creates for herself.

Evelyn is a complex character. She’s stunningly beautiful, head strong and confident in some aspects of her life. As a young woman, she doesn’t always make the right choices but she’s a compelling character that readers will gravitate towards. Readers will become engrossed in Evelyn’s life as she struggles to find love, accept love and find her true self – unabashedly and totally. Personally, I loved the older Evelyn who had paid her dues, made her mistakes and came out of it all with a quiet confidence, strength and self-awareness.

 Evelyn isn’t a character that I’d normally enjoy … and yet, I liked her. I really liked her. She’s exceptionally flawed but she’s aware of many of her flaws – she accepts some, regrets a few and is unashamed of many. She has used her body and played the Hollywood game to further her career in an industry that didn’t value strong, independent women. She made horrible choices, betrayed loved ones and even ignored parts of her own identity to further her career. But underlying it all there was always a glimmer of a woman I could get behind as a main character and I wanted to see her succeed, despite herself. 

The story is told with two different time lines with Reid dropping juicy tidbits to keep her readers attention. The first timeline follows Evelyn as a young starlet in Hollywood and the other, decades later, focuses on an elderly Evelyn as she tells her life story to Monique, a young, unknown journalist. There are some twists thrown in and the mystery of why Monique was chosen to write the memoir added mystery to the book. 

 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a mesmerizing read that gives readers a bird’s eye view into Hollywood and touches on some bigger issues, including sexism, sexuality, owning up to one’s choices and even has its touching and romantic scenes too. 

Your emotions will get a work out with this book. You’ll laugh, feel exasperated, cry, get all mushy with true love and even enraged! And through it all you’ll find yourself cheering on this unique, sassy and flawed character who persevered, lied, loved and betrayed to achieve success at the box office and in her personal life as she struggled to know herself. This is some wonderful storytelling that would make a fantastic summer read if you want to delve into old Hollywood with a truly unique and flawed character that you can’t help but root for.

-Laurie P.

Oh, the horror!

I am taking a course this summer that requires me to read from genres outside of my normal reading tastes. Horror is a genre I haven’t touched since the mid 1980’s, when I read Stephen King’s Pet Semetary, became terrified of my roommate’s cat, and had to sleep with the light on for a week!

The other day I noticed one of our new books at WPL called The Only Child by Andrew Pyper. When I saw National Post quoted on the cover saying “Pyper could be the next Stephen King” and then discovered that Pyper is Canadian, I was willing to give horror another try.

The Only Child revolves around the character of Dr. Lily Dominick, a forensic psychiatrist, who became obsessed with the human mind after witnessing her mother’s death at the age of six. Lily’s newest patient, however, shakes her to the core: not only does he claim to be 200 years old, but he says he knew her mother. Lily struggles between what is real and not real, both in the memories of her mother and the stories this “man” tells her about his life. The patient/man/monster quickly establishes a hold on Lily that keeps both her and the reader in suspense and looking over a shoulder until the end of the book.

Elements of the characters of classic horror, including Jeykll and Hyde, Dracula, and Frankenstein are present in this storyline, so it definitely had the potential to be terrifying. However, I found the book to be more creepy than scary. I was able to determine a couple of plot twists way in advance, which also helped reduce my fright (and our hydro bill). Overall, I would give The Only Child 3 stars out of 5.

-Sandy W.

A graphic novel masterpiece

Jeff Lemire’s latest graphic novel, Roughneck, is a beautifully illustrated backdrop to a troubling story that Canadians, sadly, have seen played out so many times. Set in the fictional Northern Ontario town of Pimitamon, Derek Ouellete is a ‘has-been’ hockey player battling his demons from a troubled childhood and hockey career as an ‘enforcer’. While being a ‘thug’ during his career was his role, using his fists in his civilian life has become his mode of communication and the patience of the local constabulary is running thin.

The story accelerates with the arrival of his sister Beth, who has clearly been on the wrong end of her boyfriend’s punch. Having escaped from Pimitamon to the urban lights of the big city as a teenager, Beth has lived a life unknown to her friends and family back home. As Derek discovers, Beth is also struggling with addiction and when a crisis point is reached, old friends help Derek to get Beth to a safe place to begin the withdrawal process and hopefully, her healing journey. Both Derek and Beth need to unravel a harsh upbringing in order to have any chance of finding peace in their hearts and minds. Together and apart, they piece together the harshness of their childhoods and with the strong bond of sibling love between them, manage to start looking at the world in a different way.

The thread that breaks and binds the relationships in the tale is the Indigenous blood both Derek and Beth possess, a gift from their maternal side.

The artwork is stunning, eloquently and quietly communicating this unfolding drama without the overuse of dialogue. You feel the intense desperation that has gripped both Derek and Beth as they face their demons. Even something as simple as walking on a snow-covered road is brought to life vividly. Jeff Lemire is a master of the graphic novel genre!

-Nancy C.

 

Magazines galore at your fingertips

I’d like to say that I love all of the Waterloo Public Library’s online resources equally, but PressReader has a special place in my heart. PressReader is an online resource that you can access through the Waterloo Public Library’s Digital Library webpage. PressReader gives you access to thousands of online newspapers and periodicals. Although most people use PressReader for their daily newspaper intake, the database offers a variety of magazines, including many that we don’t have in our physical collection.

When I first found out about the magazines that PressReader offers, I got quite excited and spent a good chunk of my afternoon perusing the selection. It’s interesting to see the international versions of familiar magazines like Good Housekeeping. In my browsing, I came across five magazines that piqued my interest, and I wanted to share them with you.

Top 5 Magazines I want to read on PressReader:

BBC History Magazine

This magazine has articles on different bits of World and British history. This jumped out to me, because it seems to make history accessible to the average person. It seems to cover interesting topics without the density of an academic journal.

The Simple Things

This is a lifestyle magazine that focuses on slowing down, living simply and enjoying life. I love a good lifestyle magazine, and one that’s designed beautifully, and makes me feel peaceful while reading it, is a winner.

Flea Market Décor Magazine

This is a décor magazine that focuses solely on the Bohemian/Shabby Chic/Vintage decorating style that is Flea Market inspired. I really enjoy seeing inspiration for this style of decorating and trying new DIY projects; this magazine offers both!

Practical Photography

This magazine is all about how to take better pictures. There’s a feature in the current issue of this magazine that’s all about the story behind a great photo. Too often photography magazines explain how a great photo was taken, but not why. Hopefully that feature is a sign of a good magazine!

The London Magazine

This magazine is the oldest literary periodical in England. I always enjoy reading a good literary magazine, so I was excited to see that this was available online. If you’re interested in short stories or poetry, this is the one for you!

As you start to travel away from Waterloo on your well-deserved summer vacations, don’t forget to check out the digital resources on wpl.ca . Resources like PressReader, the Download Library and Zinio are all available wherever you have internet access, 24/7. Take some time this summer to explore WPL’s online resources. You never know what you’ll find!

-Jenna H.

To Buy or Not to Buy

I very rarely buy books.  Why ever would I? Every book I want to read is here in the library so I just check it out or put it on hold and then check it out.  When my loan period is up I bring it back to the library for safekeeping and I know I can come and get it again when I need it.  It’s just the best system ever.

I am occasionally tempted to buy a book though if it is particularly beautiful to hold in my hands.  For example, just a few weeks ago there was a fantastic book about the history of card catalogues, called The Card Catalog : books, cards and literary treasures, published with a foreword by Carla Hayden (you should really check out her Twitter account – she is @LibnofCongress – it will make your day), and I so enjoyed reading that book and then flipping through the gorgeous pages again that it seemed like it might be worth having to keep.  But, I didn’t buy it.

Once in a while I find a book so charming that I check it out of the library more than once and then I think that it might just be worth it to buy a copy to save myself the trouble of coming in to check it out over and over again.  Then I remember that it isn’t really that much trouble.  It’s fun to come and find it on the shelves again and really, since I am reading it for the second or third time, is it really a rush job anyway?  No.  So I don’t buy that book even though it meant so much to me. This has happened a few times, especially with novels written about books or booksellers.  Like with Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry or Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  Really sensational books.

Well, in this summer’s list of Featured Titles I have found a book that is making me think I might change my ways.  This might be the beginning of a whole new me.  Feast: recipes & stories from a Canadian road trip is an outrageously beautiful cookbook that extends beyond that genre into coffee table book-style with photography that will knock your socks off.  Maybe you will put it in your kitchen or maybe you will leave it artfully displayed in your living room to impress visitors?  It is that stunning.  The authors, Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller, decided that they would spend the summer of 2015 traveling across our country to write about Canada’s food, culture and the wonderful people they would meet.  They have done this in a way that includes recipes, of course, but also has a warmth and sense of spirit that you don’t expect in a cookbook.  The idea of ‘road trip’ comes across just as strongly as the food does.  They are in love with our country and they write about it with such passion.

downloadThe recipes in Feast are wonderful, of course, and are broken down into regions and also into sections like “grazing” and “cheers”, and the instructions included with each one are very clear.  I like clear directions with my recipes and they have done so every time.  It’s comforting and encouraging, it’s absolute perfection.  They photograph each recipe and also include images from the places that they visited to source those foods and that is where the true beauty of our country shines.  This is one of the rare cookbooks where you won’t skip a single page.  Say you find that an individual recipe doesn’t suit your family, maybe you are vegetarians and you won’t be interested in the Slow Cooker Moose Stroganoff, but you will want to read all about how they came to meet chef Roary MacPherson, who gave them that recipe.  It’s 304 pages of great reading and it just happens to have beautiful photographs and incredible recipes.

I brought the book home, slowly turned the pages and called out to my family about the things that caught my eye like “bannock!”, “sausage rolls!”, “come look at these chickens!”, “holy cow, they went to Churchill and had apple fritters!”  Generally my kids don’t love it when I do this but I did wear them down and they had to come to see what these two cookbook authors were up to.  It’s beautiful from the first page, from the cover.  You can, by the way, read the whole story of how they got to the final decision on the cover of their book on the website that they maintained as they traveled across the country.  Check it out at edibleroadtrip.com

Their adventure began on their blog and they continue to update it with lovely posts about food and travel.  It’s inspiring, vibrant writing and a wonderful way to get to know more about the two women who created this incredible book.  I’ve seen many Canadian-themed cookbooks before, as I am sure so many WPL customers have, but this one stands out because they aren’t just talking about food, they are talking about our country with humour and cheer.  They cover many of the foods that you think that someone might in a typically Canadian cookbook and introduce you to people in bakeries, restaurants and communities across the nation while they do it.  I’m going to buy my copy and return this one for the shelves now.  I hope that this doesn’t start a new personal trend and I just keep buying more books for my home.  Perhaps I should start looking at bookshelf designs? I know that we have some great books on that topic (one nice choice that I’ve found on the shelves is called Bookshelves & Cabinets) if I do.

— Penny M.

 

An autobiography from the heart

In the Christian community the name Steven Curtis Chapman is a familiar one. A popular musician in the contemporary genre, Steven is particularly known for his songwriting skills. His songs speak from the heart and resonate with his audience in powerful ways. If you’ve ever heard his song, Cinderella, you’ll know what I mean. If not, see it on YouTube before proceeding!

A staple on the concert circuit for many years, Chapman, along with his wife, Mary Beth, have become strong advocates for adoption. Initially urged to consider embracing a non-biological child by their then adolescent daughter Emily, they went on to adopt three girls from China and developed a passion for encouraging others to do the same, even creating an organization called Show Hope to provide financial support.

In the book Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story, Steven shares more of his personal journey. From his humble upbringing in Paducah, Kentucky, to his decision to pursue music as a career, to meeting Mary Beth and beginning a family, to the challenges they have faced as a couple, he holds nothing back. The reader walks with him through his mountaintop experiences, as well as through some of life’s deepest valleys. He admits a tendency to want to “fix” things; describes the challenges of married life; and pours out the anguish of losing a child.

Even if you weren’t a Steven Curtis Chapman fan in 2008, your heart couldn’t help but bleed for the family as news of the accident that killed his adopted daughter came to light. Nine years later, the hole left by five-year-old Maria Sue is still profound, and the family has found healing through their faith and purpose through charitable activities undertaken in her name.

I highly recommend Between Heaven and the Real World for fans of Steven Curtis, as well as for anyone interested in Christian memoir or autobiography. Though he would be the first to acknowledge he is far from perfect, the author’s story is incredibly inspiring and, ultimately, hopeful.

–Susan B.

Other autobiographies I have enjoyed from our collection include:

Choosing to See: a Journey of Struggle and Hope by Mary Beth Chapman (e-book)

marybeth

Grace Will Lead Me Home by Robin Givens

robingivens

It’s All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life by Denise Jackson (wife of country musician Alan Jackson)

denisejackson

This Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith and Life by Gavin MacLeod

gavinmcleod

Against All Odds: My Story by Chuck Norris

chucknorris

Revisiting a classic

Sometimes you want a new (or newish) book. And sometimes you want an old classic.

I’m doing the classic thing. I recently checked out Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind for a re-read. I expect I’ll be hanging out with Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler et al for a good chunk of the summer as it’s 1037 pages long. Maybe I’ll have to skip a few of those pesky household chores…

I am so caught up in this magnificent piece of historical writing. The book, as most people know, is set in the American South just before the Civil War. It’s kind of bittersweet, maybe sad, to see Scarlett O’Hara’s comfortable, gracious world and know that it is about to disappear forever (though since the whole system was predicated on slavery you can hardly regret its disappearance).

Then comes the war (1861-65) and all its horrors and uncertainties. When it is over, the people of the South struggle to pick up the pieces of their life again. And through it all, our heroine schemes and manipulates time and time again to get what she wants. (But maybe the scheming and manipulation are really not so bad. Since Scarlett lived in a time and place where women had very little power, I’m not sure I blame her for using what means she could to exert some control over her life.)

So yes, GWTW is a wonderful story. It is also a first-rate piece of writing and has a large cast of well-drawn characters. It’s no wonder the book was a sensation when it was published in 1936 and is still widely read today, a classic in other words.

–Penny D.

Join us for book chats!

No need to register, just drop in!

Fragile by Lisa Unger

Date: Monday, July 10th at 7 p.m.

Location: Main Library – Auditorium

Ricky’s girlfriend, Charlene, has disappeared, and Ricky’s mom wonders whether he’s responsible. Despite reassurances from her husband, a police officer, Maggie is worried that Ricky’s new black garb and tattoos signal a dangerous change of outlook. What’s more, Charlene’s disappearance echoes another case 20 years earlier, stirring community concerns. A parent’s biggest nightmare, with standard cold-case parallels.

Poles Apart by Terry Fallis

Date: Thursday, July 20th at 1:30 p.m.

Location: Main Library – Board Room

Eve of Equality, a new feminist blog, becomes an overnight sensation when a wildly popular talk show host stumbles upon it, tweets about it, and promotes it on her show. The anonymous blog is intelligent, thoughtful, and bold, brazenly taking on various injustices in the lives of women. But it’s the blogger Eve’s post about the controversial entrepreneur behind XY, a new chain of high-end strip clubs opening up across the country, that sets off a firestorm. In a matter of hours, the site crashes, its Twitter count jumps from a paltry 19 followers to nearly 250,000, and Eve is suddenly lauded as the new voice of modern feminism. But who, exactly, is the Eve behind Eve of Equality ? Well . . . not who you might think. Meet Everett Kane, aspiring writer and fervent feminist. He writes his erudite blog in his new apartment, at his kitchen table, and his life is about to change forever.

Find more information about WPL Book Clubs here.

The truth about food

One of my favourite ways to find new-to-me books and authors is word of mouth. There’s nothing like finding a book based on a friend’s recommendation. The New Farm by Brent Preston is one of those books that a friend strongly recommended I pick up. I’m not a huge non-fiction reader but I liked that the book is set in our local(ish) area and I was intrigued by a big city couple trying to make their mark on the food industry.

I won’t lie, I went into this book humming the theme song from Green Acres but The New Farm is so much more than a story about a couple leaving the big city to start a farm. Preston’s writing is engaging and humorous and he isn’t afraid to show his missteps or naive notions about what it would take – financially, time-wise or personally – to run a successful, organic farm.

He shares the hard truth about where much of our food comes from, how we can and need to do better for ourselves and our environment and how good quality food should be available for everyone, no matter their socioeconomic standing. Throughout the book he weaves in the social, economic and environmental aspects of the food we eat. He stresses that it’s important to know where our food is coming from and how it has been treated from the very beginning and that we need to insist on better food for our health and the sustainability of our food industry and environment.

This book is well paced and you find yourself learning about sustainable farming, the good food movement, immigrant workers in Canada and so many other important issues all within the framework of a humorous and entertaining read. You don’t have to have an interest in organic farming or know the difference between a rutabaga and a turnip to enjoy this book. This is a story about a family who wanted to do better and did. The Prestons challenged the food industry, small farming, who has access to organic food and much more.

I have a new understanding of our current food industry and a greater expectation for quality, safe food for my family. I now wander the food store and wonder where and how this head of lettuce or potato was grown. I want better food and plan to take better advantage of the local farmer’s markets near me and even inquire about a local Farm Share.

I’m so happy that I picked up this book. It is inspiring, educational, funny, honest, important and has helped to remove the blinders I’ve had about the food that I buy. Even though the issue of successful, sustainable organic farming feels like a huge challenge Preston shows that it is possible.

–Laurie P.