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Join us for book club conversation!

No need to sign up. The WPL Book Clubs have “open” membership, so you can drop in once in a while, or attend every month.

Date and Time: Monday, November 13 at 7 p.m.

Location: Auditorium, Main Library

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving

avenueofmysteries

Summary: This is the story of Juan Diego Guerrero (né Rivera), who is either “a kid from Mexico or a grown-up from Iowa,” depending on his mood. As an adult, Juan Diego is a famous writer, a professor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop no less, and an international literary sensation. Although he lives a somewhat glamorous life — first-class travel, occasional groupies — he is not entirely happy, owing to the trauma of his childhood. Not that he has disturbing recollections; on the contrary, and as counterintuitive as it seems, Juan Diego is bothered by the lack of them. He is under the influence of two prescription drugs: Viagra, with its obvious benefit, and Lopressor, a beta-­blocker that leaves him feeling “diminished.” Even worse, it robs him of his dreams, the only means by which he can access his memories.

 

Date and Time: Thursday, November 16 at 1:30 p.m.

Location: Board Room, Main Library

A Force for Good by Daniel Goleman

aforceforgood

With the help of his longtime friend Daniel Goleman, the New York Times bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence, details the science of compassion and how this singular guiding motivation has the power to :

* break such destructive social forces as corruption, collusion, and bias

* heal the planet by refocusing our concerns toward our impact on the systems that support all life

* reverse the tendency toward systemic inequity through transparency and accountability

* replace violence with dialogue

* counter us-and-them thinking by recognizing human oneness

* create new economic systems that work for everyone, not just the powerful and rich

* design schooling that teaches empathy, self-mastery, and ethics

Millions of people have turned to the Dalai Lama for his unparalleled insight into living happier, more purposeful lives. Now, when the world needs his guidance more than ever, he shows how every compassion-driven human act–no matter how small–is integral for a more peaceful, harmonious world, building a force for a better future.

For more information about WPL Bookd Clubs, contact Christine at cbrown@wpl.ca or 519-886-1310 ext. 146.

In good health

One of my favourite things about working in the library is the treasures I find shelving or among the returns in the book chute. Many times, my interest is captured by an item I would never have thought to search the catalogue for on my own. Hot Detox, by Registered Holistic Nutritionist Julie Daniluk, is new to the library and one of my latest finds. The title hooked me right away, and when I quickly flipped through the book I found lots of beautiful photographs and healthy-looking recipes.

Later, at home, I discovered whole chapters dedicated to cleansing toxins from your “gut”, liver, lymph system, kidneys, lungs and skin. Julie Daniluk, who is also the author of the Meals that Heal Inflammation and Slimming Meals that Heal cookbooks, explains how she suffered from colitis and joint pain for years until she began to experiment and eat foods that reduced inflammation in her body. In Hot Detox, Daniluk takes her experience and learning even further, by using warming spices in all the recipes, traditional Ayurvedic practices from India, and medicinal techniques from China. Hot Detox provides a 3 day, 10 day, or 21 day detox plan, each complete with suggested menus.

I decided to try the 21 day detox. In the first 9 days of the plan (Phase 1) you are weaned from gluten, dairy, refined sugar and caffeine. This sounds way worse than it is!  I did have a bad headache for a couple of days, which Daniluk suggests could be caused by shifting hormones or toxins, dehydration, or caffeine withdrawal. Phase 2 of the detox (days 10, 11, and 12) eliminates animal products and relies heavily on liquids. Phase 3 allows you to choose whether you want to remain vegan or reintroduce animal products again. There is also more of a focus on rebooting and nourishing all the systems in your body.

I have to say I really surprised myself!  Not only did I stick to the plan, but I didn’t feel hungry or have cravings. I tried lots of new-to-me foods, such as hemp hearts, chia seeds, coconut flour, and coconut milk. My whole family found the supper recipes to be especially good, and some even provided leftovers for another meal. I think the only recipe I really didn’t like was called Detox Rocket, which was a smoothie that included boiled beets. Other members of my family, who are counting calories, didn’t like the fact that the detox recipes do not include a nutritional breakdown. To save money, I went to Bulk Barn to get only the amounts I needed of ingredients I wasn’t sure I would use again after the detox, rather than buy them in big bags at Goodness Me or the grocery store. Some of the recipes also require additional preparation time, so I either chopped up ingredients in advance, or tried the recipe on a day that wasn’t as busy.

I lost 12 pounds on the 21 day detox plan. People ask me, “But how do you FEEL?”  Other than the obvious answer, “I feel great!  I lost 12 pounds!” I think the biggest change happened after the detox was over, when I ate a cookie a friend had made. One small taste of refined sugar and I felt very sick for several hours. This has only given me more incentive to carry on, and I have now borrowed Meals that Heal Inflammation and Slimming Meals that Heal. All three of Daniluk’s books are available at the Main Library, and the John M. Harper and McCormick branches.

Hot Detox has been shortlisted for the Taste Canada Cookbook Awards 2017.  Daniluk, who lives in Toronto, has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, is a resident expert for The Marilyn Denis Show, and hosts The Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).  Daniluk’s blog, free recipes and video cooking classes can be found on her website at http://www.juliedaniluk.com.

-Sandy W.

 

A wild ride of secrets & betrayal

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda is a domestic thriller that takes readers on a wild ride of secrets, betrayal and deceit. Readers witness one full day in the lives of Paul and Mia Strom as they set off on a short holiday that they expect to be the ‘best day ever’. As the minutes and hours tick by, readers are privy to the main character’s innermost feelings and motivations and witness their idyllic holiday spin out of control.

The beginning of the book has a slower pace than I had expected and I’ll admit that it took me awhile to feel invested in Paul and Mia’s lives. But if readers are patient they’ll enjoy the slow building of tension as the author reveals, in wee doses, the cracks in her main character’s perfect veneer.

You never know what goes on behind closed doors and Rouda brings this idea home by giving her readers a chilling, bird’s eye view of a dysfunctional and toxic relationship that appears perfect to those who know the Stroms. Best Day Ever is a story of a sociopath who has manipulated people and events to build a perfect life. This character will easily go down as one of the least likable yet compelling characters I can remember reading. You can’t help but be mesmerized and a little bit fearful of their narcissism, sense of entitlement and total lack of empathy.

The story has a slow build and while some of the plot was predictable to this well-read suspense reader, overall this was a good creepy page turner that readers will have a hard time putting down. It has a memorable evil character and I enjoyed how the simple plot is slowly infused with a sinister feel as Rouda unfolds her story and reveals her characters’ true natures to her readers.

-Laurie P.

 

For the love of audiobooks

Here’s the thing: LeVar Burton has a new podcast where he performs short stories. I think that this is lovely, exciting, reminiscent of the Reading Rainbow (which I loved so, so much) and I adore LeVar Burton because he is Geordi La Forge, was Kunta Kinte, and continues to be a champion of literacy. But we have our own ‘podcast’ of stories being read to us by world-class actors and it is available to us 24 hours a day in the downloadLibrary so I’m left a little cold by the news of this cool new podcast. Podcast? Who needs it? We never have to wait for the next episode of anything to be released and can just search for the story or topic that interests us. I think that this is so much better than any podcast, and, did you know that LeVar Burton reads more than one title available to us on the downloadLibrary? He reads a beautiful children’s book and the autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. There you go.

With the downloadLibrary you can ask yourself “am I in the mood for romance?” and search the database with a result of over 650 of them to choose from. How about looking for something truly hilarious to listen to as you commute into work? We have it right here for you – you will find more than 450 of those titles available through the downloadLibrary. Tina Fey reads her own autobiography and it is sensational – I’ve listened to it more than once. And, if you have a particular voice that you would like to hear you can search using that actor’s name. Benedict Cumberbatch has recorded audiobooks. So have Patrick Stewart and Stephen Fry. Now those are voices to listen to any time of the day. Annette Benning, and Anne Hathaway have all recorded audiobooks. Amazing voices reading incredible stories to you, just like when you were a kid. Does it get any better than this?

So many Broadway stars have chosen to lend their voices to the world of audiobooks that it is hard to imagine they have any time at all to perform on the stage. Alan Cumming has, of course, recorded his own autobiography as have many other actors, but he has also recorded Scott Westerfeld’s entire Leviathan series for us and that is a treat that the whole family can enjoy. Many actors have chosen to stay with a series through all of the books allowing for a sense of continuity that is so satisfying. You have a real sense of character when you hear that voice throughout a series and it is just amazing when you hear one actor play fifteen or twenty people so beautifully.

A recent bestseller, Lincoln in the Bardo, was one of the most interesting books I have ever read and a superb audiobook. It was popular with every reviewer and they all claimed it to be ‘remarkable’ and ‘extraordinary’, praising George Saunders for his brilliance in telling the story of Abraham Lincoln and his son on the night after Willie’s death. It features the voices and stories of the many ghosts that Willie meets in the graveyard where he is freshly buried. It was a strange and beautiful story with each peculiar personality introducing themselves to the little ghost/boy one by one. I enjoyed reading them in the ‘voice’ in my head but it became so much more real when I heard the audiobook because the author, George Saunders, and 164 other people recorded the voice of each character individually. Saunders tapped some friends, like the actor Nick Offerman, to participate and then they asked their friends to be a part of the book so the whole thing is like a fantastic radio drama. It’s outstanding. It is so worth a listen, in your car, kitchen, at the cottage.

And that’s the thing about audiobooks. You can listen to them while you drive, walk or bike and they are available for you to rewind if you miss something or play again because you were laughing so hard (as you might with Tina Fey’s memoir). I enjoy listening to them while I am working on an ambitious baking project or during a particularly long day of cleaning. I can play a novel from my phone and carry it around with me in my apron pocket. And, truly, is there anything more delicious than listening to a favourite children’s book again as an adult? Did you know that E. B. White recorded the entire text of Charlotte’s Web himself? He starts off the reading of his book by saying “this is the story of a barn. I wrote it for children and and to amuse myself. It is called Charlotte’s Web and I will read it to you.” I don’t think I will ever get tired of hearing those words in that voice. We have choices galore through our downloadLibrary ‘podcast’ – Romance, Mystery, Science Fiction, Non-Fiction, even the voices Broadway stars – it is absolutely magical. The kind of magic that you can only get at a library, I think.

-Penny M.

 

Resources for Writers

As I was looking through the WPL’s Adult Programs & Events Guide for fall 2017, I noticed an interesting lecture series being offered at the Main Library.  On October 11, Jane Ann McLachlan spoke about Publishing and Marketing Your Novel and, on October 25,  will speak on how to be Motivated to Write.

There’s something cyclical and lovely about a public library offering programming to develop writers whose books could one day stock the library shelves. If you’re a budding writer, or an old hand polishing up a ten-year project, I’d encourage you to check out the talk. Registration is required.

WPL has more writing resources beyond the McLachlan lectures. Here are five valuable resources for budding authors:

1. Writer’s Digest Magazines

This magazine has all sorts of writing tips and advice, including the business parts of writing (such as finding an agent, writing a query letter etc.). Writer’s Digest has eight issues a year plus back issues are available for borrowing.

2. Gale Courses

Gale Courses are online classes that are available for anyone with a library card. There is a whole category dedicated to Creative Writing. Take courses like “Write Fiction Like a Pro” and “Writeriffic: Creativity Training for Writers.”

3. Books

The library has tons of books that talk about pursuing the craft of writing. Look for classics like On Writing by Stephen King or peruse the 808.3 section in Adult Nonfiction.

4. Market Directories

Figure out where to sell your writing by taking a look at Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market. This directory is updated yearly and helps you find the right publisher for your work.

5. Bookable Study Rooms

Sometimes you need a fresh, dedicated space to help you focus on your writing. The John M. Harper Branch has study rooms that you can book with your library card. The Main Library also has lots of common work spaces available.

The great thing about these library resources is that they’re all FREE! It’s such a terrific opportunity to be creative without having to spend a penny (or a nickel). Why not be inspired by these resources and pen your own story?

— Jenna H.

The Dark Town Series Continues

Lightning Men is the latest offering from Thomas Mullen and picks up two years after Darktown, the first book in the series, left off.

Once again, Mullen brings his readers into the gritty streets of post-WWII Atlanta with its social and political issues, racial intolerance, corruption and outright brutality that continues to be the status quo for so many. Mullen doesn’t shy away from these emotionally charged topics in this character-driven crime novel.

Readers continue to witness the Black officers struggle within the confines set for them by their supervisors as they police the Black neighbourhoods which are grossly overpopulated and in need of even basic necessities. This is in stark contrast to the White neighbourhoods — and many Whites are fine with the way things are, thank you very much. The dichotomy between Black and White continues within this second Darktown book and I like that Mullen doesn’t give easy answers or hold back on the gritty, hard-to-read scenes.

Mullen also continues to educate readers about aspects that many may not know about, myself included. For me, that issue involved the Columbians (aka Lightning Men) who formed soon after the end of WWII. With their lightning patches on their uniforms they, like the Nazis that inspired them, reveled in promoting hate against Blacks and any diversity and were a smack in the face to those American soldiers who had just returned from battling similar hatred overseas.

The cast, including Rake, Boggs, Smith and MacInnis, continue to show great depth and readers get some backstory on each but I still feel there’s a lot of untapped issues that Mullen will bring forth in future books. The only issue I had with this book is that I found there to be a lot of characters to keep track of.

48538-v1-600xMullen shows that, unfortunately, the process for social change is a very slow one as we sadly continue to witness in recent events. Racism, both blatant and covert, remains a timely issue and racial tensions ran high then as they do now.

Like the first book in the series, Lightning Men is eye-opening, gritty and gripping with well-rounded, well-flawed characters who struggle within the stifling confines of racial injustice, ignorance, indifference and intolerance. Mullen weaves compelling characters with historical issues within his story with great skill. I highly recommend this book but strongly suggest starting with Darktown.

— Laurie P.

Note: in 1948, eight African-American men (picture above) joined the Atlanta police force. They inspired Thomas Mullen’s latest novel, Lightning Men.

In the words of women

While this would be a book that I would normally consider a ‘light’ read, I must admit that I enjoyed it very much!

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows centres around Nikki, the daughter of Sikh parents living in London, England. Having abandoned her father’s dream of her becoming a lawyer, she finds herself working in a bar while trying to figure out what she really wants to do in her life. Having embraced the life of a modern woman in her twenties, she regularly comes into conflict with her mother’s view of how and where she should be living. Nikki’s life becomes interesting when she impulsively and successfully applies to teach a ‘creative writing’ class in a local Sikh community centre. However, her students, who are a group of Punjabi widows, believe that they are coming to a class to learn basic English literacy. The intersection of their varying goals for this class gets very interesting.

There is an East Indian cultural narrative that is woven throughout the story which is very revealing and the reader is witness to the struggle that young people face when intertwining cultural tradition with modern ways. Additionally, we get a glimpse into the challenging life of an immigrant and the lengths to which they will go to create a sense of security and familiarity in their new country.

Layered on top of that is the repressed sexuality of the Punjabi widows who have gathered to share, in written form, their dreams, fantasies and amorous experiences. The women, who have had varied degrees of matrimonial experiences in the bedroom, are eager to break free from the cultural chains that left many of them to be merely housemaids, child bearers and receptacles for their husband’s desires. The stories they create are lush with sensuality and imagination and they bring comfort and a sense of unity to the widows. However, the need to keep their activities secret is intense within the confines of a community kept in cultural check by the Brotherhood, a gang of self-appointed militia, whose mission is to keep people true to the doctrines and strictures of the faith. Nikki’s relentless support of her ‘students’ places her in serious danger with the Brotherhood and others who see her as a threat to their cultural cohesion. As one would expect, word about the stories does eventually leak and many people within the community begin to benefit from the tales being spun in the ‘Learn to Write English’ class being held at the temple. A sensuous romp!

-Nancy C.

While you’re waiting…

It’s really no surprise that Louise Penny’s latest book, Glass Houses, was at the top of our holds list for September. It’s the 13th in her series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and with each book fans love Louise, and her writing, even more. Every one of her book signings sell out in just a few hours and this summer she hosted Hillary and Bill Clinton in the small Quebec town where she lives and writes – her fans can be found everywhere. Her bestselling novels involve Gamache and his team puzzling through a complicated investigation and, more often than not, using his impeccable instincts to find their way through the darker side of human nature.  Members of the entertaining supporting cast from the village of Three Pines have a chance to shine in each novel but it’s Gamache at the centre of it all every time.

Should you be looking for another pensive, Canadian inspector to fill your TBR pile while you wait for your copy of Glass houses you might want to spend some time with Domenic Jejeune, the recently appointed Chief Inspector in a small British town. Quite unlike Inspector Gamache who has the respect and admiration of many, you will find that Jejeune spends a great deal of his time coping with officers who are openly suspicious of him and his methods. From the moment he arrived in the UK he has had to work on his cooperation and diplomacy skills when he would prefer to be solving crime or just taking a long walk outdoors. You see, this series is about a brilliant police inspector who also enjoys birding as a hobby. Don’t let the sweetness of the title, like A Shimmer of Hummingbirds, make you think this is a cozy mystery – these books will keep you fascinated to the last page and author Steve Burrows delivers fantastic detail to satisfy anyone who is interested in the police procedural side of a mystery.

Louise Penny has said that she modelled Chief Inspector Gamache on her own husband Michael Whitehead. When she decided to write mystery novels she thought that she would need a main character with characteristics she could love for many years. There is no doubt that she succeeded with her inspector just as Donna Leon has done with the cultured and capable Commissario Guido Brunetti. Crimes don’t just happen in a remote part of Quebec, they can also occur in sunny Venice, and for Donna Leon’s successful series they have happened twenty-six times. In Earthly Remains, her most recent novel, Bruno has made a brash decision during an investigation which leads to a forced leave of absence. Even as he is taking a break from his work he finds himself involved in a criminal investigation and this is good news for mystery fans but makes the time off far less relaxing for poor Bruno.

With police officers and inspectors you expect crime to be a regular part of their lives but with a citizen it can change the path of their lives, as it did with one of Gail Bowen’s characters, Joanne Kilbourn. In Bowen’s first novel Joanne is a university professor helping with a political campaign when the politician becomes the victim.  As the series progresses her skills as a sleuth develop and by the time Bowen’s latest book arrived on the shelves she had become a favourite here at WPL. In The Winners’ Circle Joanne and her husband are involved in an investigation surrounding a triple homicide and, as usual, she is grappling with bigger questions than just finding out who committed this crime. Joanne is loved for being trustworthy, honourable and thoughtful – characteristics that she shares with the investigators created by Donna Leon, Steve Burrows and Louise Penny. Their characters are solving crimes as they also try to decipher what they mean on a deeper level – making for fabulous reading each and every time a new one is published. Here at WPL we eagerly await the next book in a beloved series like these and can help you to find something else to read while you wait because we are doing exactly the same thing.

-Penny M.

Hum if you don’t know the words

Hum If You Don’t Know The Words is a wonderful book that gave me all the feels. It made me cry, laugh, feel angry, shocked and even hopeful. But what surprised me was that this is Bianca Marais’ debut novel. Marais uses imagery and beautiful, even poetic, language to describe South Africa’s multicultural and linguistic diversity as well as the complicated and blatantly bigoted dynamics between South Africans in the 1970’s.

I have always been an avid reader of books dealing with racism and civil rights and after reading (and loving) Trevor Noah’s book Born a Crime a couple of months ago I have become more interested in books related to apartheid. With this book, Marais sheds light on the flagrant racism and abuse of power of apartheid and also addresses other issues including homophobia, loss, grief, abandonment, bravery and the deep need we have for family connections.

Marais humanizes apartheid by showing how the Soweto Uprising on June 16, 1976 affected her two main characters. The story is narrated by two very different points of view – Beauty, a highly educated Black Xhosa single mother and teacher from the Transkei region and Robin, a 10-year-old white girl from the Johannesburg suburbs. These two are brought together after the Uprising and show two contrasting views of the effects of apartheid and the prevalent, often flippant attitude of racism as the status quo.

Both Robin and Beauty are given equal page time and are well-rounded characters but I had a much stronger connection to Beauty.  She had such strength, tenacity, grace and conviction even after enduring unimaginable losses and hardship. Robin is precocious and deals with the loss of her family in her unique way but often she was used to bring humour to the story. While these lighter moments offset the more serious scenes, at times, it got to be a bit much.

I will caution readers that there were a few scenes, especially towards the end involving Robin, that will require readers to suspend belief. This is fiction, I get that, but I think that the story went a little too far past what I’d feel was plausible. That is the only part of the book that faltered for me. Otherwise, this is an outstanding read that will keep readers transfixed.

Hum If You Don’t Know The Words will hit readers in the heart, head and hopefully conscience about how we need to treat and respect others. A little compassion, respect and empathy can go a long, long way. This is a poignant and important story that shows the damaging and long-lasting effects of inequality and bigotry with heart, some humour and wonderfully vivid language.

-Laurie P.