Reading by the fire

Over the weeks that are Christmas holidays when you have children at home, the hours stretch out as far as your legs under a blanket before the fire. This can be lovely or madness. Some years you count the minutes until the school bus pulls up in January, other years – like this one for me – you want the fire and the board games and the eggnog (yes, the eggnog) to keep coming. Especially if it means you get to read, and read I did.

I started the days by finishing up the second novel in Louise Penny’s Gamache series, Dead Cold. I’m new to the party that is Inspector Gamache but enjoying it, even if I’m reading it out of order. This one was all about snow and food and murder and ice and more food. Perfection.

Next I moved on to a new favourite – Terri Favro’s Sputnik’s Children. It was so, so good! It’s written by a Canadian author, its a little science fiction (if you love Dirk Gently, read this!) but not overpowering so don’t let that put you off!  It’s about family and a woman trying to figure things out, albeit it is tricky when she has no choice but to jump back and forth between timelines to save the universe from destruction. I loved it and my husband’s enjoying right now.

Then I started the first of my new books. My younger son had heard me talking about Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and gave it to me for Christmas. It’s a tricky book to talk about without sounding out of touch and overly privileged. It’s a WOW book for sure that everyone should read it. It’s also being made into a movie. My older son bought me the best pillow ever, and I read all these books while cuddling up against it. They’re kind of the best – kids and books and pillows.

Other books I got for Christmas and can’t wait to read are The Power by Naomi Alderman and What is Going to Happen Next by Karen Hofmann, another Canadian author.

Right now I’ve dipped back into my summer stash and I’m reading Jennifer Egan’s (remember how much we LOVED A Visit from the Goon Squad!) Manhattan Beach. It is a historical novel set in New York during World War II. The protagonist, Anna, is sick of doing her part for the War by sitting in a room sewing with other women. She wants to dive in the harbour with the men and repair boats. She wants to find her father who abandoned her mother and severely handicapped sister. One night at a nightclub she meets a wealthy gangster who might be able to help her. It’s a fantastically researched and written story. There’s danger and intrigue and heartbreak and feminism. Wrap it up with a bow!

I’ll just finish it up, and then I’ll go back to my Christmas pile – too bad I’m out of eggnog.

-Sarah C.

What I love about working at WPL

You know what I love about working here at the library? It’s the… People. I bet you thought that I was going to say books. I do love the books. Books have always been very good friends of mine but in an hour or so of working here at the desk I can have such great conversations on so many different things this comes from the people who visit the library. You know, it’s pretty quiet in here before we open the doors every day. On a recent afternoon I enjoyed chats about classic action movies, a great new mystery book with a suspect known for wearing a crooked hat, and a shared love for short stories. This is the kind of lively dialogue you just don’t get anywhere else.

On that afternoon I was speaking on the phone to a customer about the good old days of Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis.  You know, when you search for films on the catalogue you can narrow it down by the name of the actor so it can be a treasure trove for the customer who is in the mood to take a walk down memory lane and watch movies from someone’s back catalogue. After he and I had placed holds on some of the classics, like Rocky and Die Hard (of course), we also moved ahead a decade or two and he decided he would dip a toe into the world of Iron Man. I gave him my wholehearted recommendation for these films although confessed that I found that Marvel films are like potato chips, once you watch one, you find yourself wanting to watch another…

I was also talking to a customer about a new mystery novel called The Man in the Crooked Hat because we were agreeing about how much escapist pleasure there is in reading murder mysteries. There are many new ones each week – how do you pick a good one? This particular title caught my eye because of the improbability of searching for a suspect wearing a crooked hat. Surely even the least bright of all criminals would know to remove his hat after he committed a murder and was spotted by a detective? Is he so attached to his chapeau that he can’t bear to part with it? This book has snappy dialogue, the main character is a former police officer turned private detective so the gritty details are spot on, and there are twists to the mystery that I just never see coming. And the man with the hat?  Well, he is simply terrifying to me and I’ve had to stop reading it in the dark which comes at 5:00 every day so it’s limiting my reading time to lunch hours in our comforting staff room. Will the man keep wearing his hat to the end of the book? I just don’t know but Harry Dolan is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.

A discussion of a shared love of short stories began with talking about the movie You’ve Got Mail. This is one of the movies that I watch every year while I wrap presents and a library customer was agreeing that she felt it had a great holiday vibe and then we started talking about the book, Uncommon Type: Some Stories, that Tom Hanks had recently written. It is getting a lot of attention right now but short story collections don’t get as much love as they should. They really are the unsung heroes of our shelves! You can pick up one of these gems and find yourself transported into another world in just minutes. Perfection – you have low commitment, low stress and so much opportunity for distraction. Try Alice Munro’s short stories or for additional CanCon I also recommend Alistair MacLeod’s wonderful writing. We have short stories in collections from different time periods, some which are organized by country, and can even provide you a 2017 story collection with a tale narrated by a talking lion in James McBride’s Five-Carat Soul.  You have got to get your hands on some of these.

So many conversations we have here at the library begin as one thing, like talking about the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail’, and then turn into another, with two people sharing how much we both enjoy a the low commitment and high reward of a good short story.  The public library is vibrant and ever changing, like life, and that’s why I just love it.

-Penny M.

The Music Shop

For anyone who has a love of music, The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce is a delightful read!! Set in 1988, the story is based in a vinyl record store owned by a music aficionado named Frank who has an uncanny ability to find the right piece of music for anyone who comes in need of musical solace or inspiration. Frank’s encyclopedic knowledge of music came at the knee of his unorthodox mother ‘Peg’ who taught him to heartfully and soulfully listen to music.

Frank’s store lacks the order of other record stores; boxes and cartons abound and it is only Frank that knows the order to the chaos. He would pair Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and the Beach Boys Pet Sounds together as he felt the  soul of the music was similar. For the reader who wants to enhance their appreciation of an eclectic range of music, Frank is a gift!

Frank is steadfast in his refusal to sell CD’s which is a testament to his love of the pure sound that can only be found on vinyl. In spite of the many obstacles that record companies put in his way, Frank remains adamant but soon discovers that bucking the music giants can and will backfire.

Frank and his motley crew of friends and fellow neighbourhood business owners have created a real sense of community in their run-down neighbourhood and in spite of many attempts to have them removed from the area, they support each other  and fend off interlopers.

Frank’s calm and carefree existence is shaken when a woman, Ilse Brauchmann, faints outside his store. This singular event turns Frank’s world upside down catapults him into an unending spiral of self-doubt and overwhelming agitation especially after the woman asks him to share his vast knowledge of music with her. And so begins a tumultuous journey of pain and healing for both Frank and Ilse as they both learn that they are more than their secrets. Unfortunately, neither is prepared for the complexity of the emotional journey on which they have embarked.

The writing is easy yet generous and you just can’t help but be drawn into the stories of these wonderful characters! A great read!!!

— Nancy C.

penguin_snippet_racheljoyce

Life after The Walking Dead

Fans of The Walking Dead will have to wait many long months for the conclusion of Season 8. So far this season, we’ve seen more bullets, explosions and bodies than all the other seasons combined. While waiting to see what Rick’s next move will be in his all out war against the Saviors, I checked out the dystopian teen novel Enclave.

Enclave is the first book in the Razorland trilogy by Ann Aguirre. I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover this trilogy but once I started, I was hooked. I read Enclave in one day. I checked out the other books, Outpost and Horde, immediately afterwards and had a lot of late nights.

Similarly to The Walking Dead, civilization in Enclave has collapsed. People scrounge on the remains of a once thriving culture to survive. Also like The Walking Dead, the world is plagued by twisted creatures that prey on the living. Only in Enclave, the creatures are not mindless zombies. ‘Freaks,’ as they are referred to in the book, possess an intelligence that evolves with every generation.

The story’s main character, Deuce, reminds me of a young Michonne. Strong, fierce and skilled with a blade, Deuce is a huntress trained to keep her people safe from freaks that roam near their territory. So far, her clan has survived by living in underground tunnels. However, as the freaks grow smarter, they are able to organize and even strategize their attacks. Deuce finds herself forced to flee above ground into a world she’s never seen. Sunlight, trees and buildings are all foreign to her but she must adapt to this new place in order to carry on.

In the second book, Outpost, Deuce has joined a group of villagers above ground. They are a devout group of people that adhere to a traditional way of living. Deuce does not fit in. She was once a revered warrior, but now she is an outcast, someone to be avoided. Meanwhile, the threat of freaks has risen above ground and is amassing at an alarming rate.

In the final book, Horde, the freaks have evolved to have near human intelligence. Their numbers are enormous, obliterating entire settlements and leaving no survivors. They are no longer looking for food, they are looking for vengeance. Deuce finds herself in a leadership role for the first time. The last few chapters had me clutching my comforter – at least Rick’s crew never had to deal with intelligent walkers.

The Razorland trilogy is fast paced and plot driven – you will have no problem getting through this series, although you will probably lose a lot of sleep.

-Lesley L.

Join us at a book club discussion

It is a new year and a wonderful new selection of book club titles awaits. Please feel free to join us for a discussion of the book. No registration required and everyone is welcome.

Date: Monday, January 8th at 7 p.m.

Location: Auditorium, Main Library, 35 Albert Street. Waterloo

Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

Ned Marriner, fifteen years old, has accompanied his photographer father to Provence for a six-week “shoot” of images for a glossy coffee-table book. Gradually, Ned discovers a very old story playing itself out in this modern world of iPods, cellphones, and seven-seater vans whipping along roads walked by Celtic tribes and the Roman Legions.On one holy, haunted night of the ancient year, when the borders between the living and the dead are down and fires are lit upon the hills, Ned, his family, and his friends, are shockingly drawn into this tale, as dangerous, mythic figures from conflicts of long ago erupt into the present, claiming and changing lives.

Place a hold on a WPL copy of the book here.

Read a review of the book from Quill & Quire here.

Discover information about Aix-en-Provence from Wikipedia here.

 

Date: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 1:30 p.m.

Location: Boardroom, Main Library, 35 Albert Street. Waterloo

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens

Five days. Four hikers. Three survivors. On his 18th birthday, Wolf Truly takes the tramway to the top of the mountain that looms over Palm Springs, intending to jump to his death. Instead he encounters strangers wandering in the mountain wilderness, three women who will change the course of his life. Through a series of missteps he and the women wind up stranded, in view of the city below, but without a way down. They endure five days in freezing temperatures without food or water or shelter, and somehow find the courage to carry on. Wolf, now a grown man, has never told his son, or anyone, what happened on the mountain during those five days, but he can’t put it off any longer. And in telling the story to his only child, Daniel, he at last explores the nature of the ties that bind and the sacrifices people will make for love. The mountain still has a hold on Wolf, composed of equal parts beauty and terror.

Place a hold on a WPL copy of the book here.

Read a review of the book from Globe and Mail here.

Discover how to survive in the wilderness here.

Please feel free to contact Christine Brown at cbrown@wpl.ca or 519-886-1310 ext. 146 with any questions.