The Language of Thorns

I confess – I love fairy tales. I love mermaids. I love witches. I love goblins, golems, trolls and elves. I especially love animals that talk. Add in a few magic spells and I’m hooked. There is just something about how fairy tales are written that I can’t resist. There is a benevolent hero with an impossible problem and just when everything seems to be lost *poof!* there is some sort of magical resolution and everyone lives happily ever after.  The heroes always win and villains always lose.

When Leigh Bardugo’s latest book The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic (illustrated by Sara Kipin) crossed my desk, I was thrilled. It’s not often that I find fairy tales written for grownups. Not that this book is hard to miss. The front cover is adorned in bright, detailed artwork. Inside, every page has a vivid illustration. It is worth peeking through just for the art alone.

The Language of Thorns is compromised of six short stories that have similarities to popular fairy tales. You will recognize elements of classic tales such as the Nutcracker and the Little Mermaid. However, each story has a new twist. The princess doesn’t always marry the prince. The hero doesn’t always turn up to save the day. But each story will transport you to a new world of enchanted woods and mythical creatures.

Ayama and the Thorn Wood
“Interesting things only happen to pretty girls.”

A poor farmer is blessed with two daughters: one beautiful and one plain. The beautiful daughter is raised to marry a prince. The plain daughter is sent into the woods to make a treaty with a beast.

The Too-Clever Fox
“Just because you escape one trap, doesn’t mean you will escape the next.”

Koja the Fox has a talent for evading death. Armed with a silver tongue, he has outwitted every predator in the forest. One day a hunter enters the woods and Koja’s wit is put to the test.

The Witch of Duva
“Dark things have a way of slipping in through narrow spaces.

A classic fairy tale turned upside down and inside out. Witches, stepmothers and heroines have their roles reversed in this tale about missing children.

Little Knife
“But as you leave that dark gap in the trees behind, remember that to use a thing is not to own it.”

The old Duke is blessed with a daughter of extraordinary beauty. He schemes to marry her off to the richest man in the kingdom.

The Soldier Prince                                                                                                                       “This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.”

Beware of gifts from the clocksmith. Clara could play with dolls for hours. However, when she’s given a wooden toy soldier, strange things begin to happen.

When Water Sang Fire
“I was not made to please princes.”

There have always been whispers about Ulla. That she was different somehow. But no one could deny the power of her voice. Ulla’s fate is forever changed when her song catches the attention of Prince Roffe.

Curl up with The Language of Thorns and live amongst mermaids, witches and golems for an evening. It will leave you feeling happily ever after.

-Lesley L.

What a Great Read!

What a great read! One wouldn’t think so given The Prisoner and the Chaplain by Michelle Berry is about a man who is down to his last twelve hours on earth before his execution for a heinous crime.  The chaplain who is to accompany the prisoner during this final stage of his life is a substitute for the regular chaplain who has been known to the prisoner, Larry, during his 10 years on death row. The chaplain, Jim, has tried to get up to speed about Larry’s life and crimes but knows that he is entering into a situation for which he is not prepared.

Being opposed to the death penalty, Jim struggles as he listens to Larry begin to unpack the story of his life, a childhood that was atypical in that his mother ran off with his older brother when he was just seven years old. Having been left with an older sister and an alcoholic, emotionally abusive father, Larry learns to navigate his way through his lonely life the best way he knows how. Without a mentor to keep him on the straight and narrow, Larry turns to petty crime and discovers that this is something at which he can and does excel.

Larry’s recounting of the story of his life triggers within Jim the anguish of his own personal failings brought on by challenges he faced as a child. Those same failings are what have directed him to the chaplaincy and he is torn by the conflicting emotions that Larry’s story has awakened within him.

The final hours creep by as both men are consumed in the devastation of their personal journeys and yet, in spite of the differences in their circumstances, they develop a mutual trust and bond that will endure, at least for Jim, well beyond the final act of cruelty.

To me, this story reinforces why the death penalty should not be the retribution of a civilized people.

— Nancy C.

Note: author Michelle Berry is the owner of an independent bookstore, Hunter Street Books, in Peterborough, Ontario

 

Beautiful coffee table books

Did you know that we have fantastic, monster-sized books that you can check out to take home and admire? This is not the technical name for the books, in fact, we tend to call them ‘oversize’ books around here because they don’t fit on the regular shelves very easily. We actually put them on special shelves that you can browse when you are in the mood to look at spectacular books like these – convenient! These books are gorgeous works of art and can feature a wide range of topics, like worldwide travel in Destinations of a Lifetime, lavish photographs and recipes in Thai Street Food: Authentic Recipes, Vibrant Traditions or contain amazing photographs of the galaxy in Cosmos. Don’t forget we also have an amazing assortment of huge atlases that you can take home to spend some time with when you are planning your next adventure or just reminiscing about one from the past. These books are beautiful ways to connect with the world, using your library card.

In the old days we would call this kind of book a coffee table book because people would leave them scattered about on their coffee tables so that when someone would visit their home would look extra impressive. I do know, from the world of Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, that decorating with books has become a sensitive topic lately. Many, many librarians and bibliophiles that I follow online took to picking on poor ‘Lauren’ because of an image that circulated indicating that ‘she’ shelved her books with the spines facing inwards. This, naturally, would make it very hard to find the book anyone wanted on a shelf, but it seems it had a uniform look that suited her decor. Well, people were not kind to Lauren online and the hashtag of #backwardsbooks was born and I spent a fair bit of time looking at the funny comments and articles. Here is the original image of ‘Lauren’s shelves that I scooped from someone I follow on Twitter.  I don’t think she would be able to find anything in a hurry.

Neutral bookshelf

I just purchased a wonderful new coffee table book after being swept away by one we have in the collection here at work. Actually, it isn’t the first time I’ve fallen for a book on this topic or even the first time I’ve written a blog post about the topic either, because my beautiful oversized book is about Barack Obama. Other books I have loved about him include his own – Dreams from My Father: A story of race and inheritance (I loved hearing about his early years as a community organizer) – one from his former deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco called Who thought this was a good idea? : And other questions you should have answers to when you work at the White House and Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years which was written by a chief speech writer who never truly won me over but I did find his behind-the-scenes access riveting.  So, why would I break down and actually purchase a book when I can just take one from the shelves of this grand public institution whenever I like (well, as long as the book isn’t currently checked out by another customer)? Well, Obama: An Intimate Portrait is, page after page, an inspiring look at eight years of moments that inspired and changed the world. The author, Pete Souza, was the official White House photographer and had access to every moment of this incredible presidency. He was present for each of the hills and valleys that Obama, his staff and family were living through. It’s a time capsule his time in office – of the situation room, the Rose garden, the Oval office, landmark meetings with international leaders – but it is also filled with personal moments and small kindnesses. When we had the library’s copy at home we would pore over each page and look at it like a photo album (which is really what it is) with lovely captions written by a man who was there, by Obama’s side, every day. We would say things like “I remember this!” or “Hey, come look at this one!” and then look at the photographs together. So, I think it’s worth spending the money to have this book on our coffee table because as decorative as it may be it is also inspiring and extraordinary. You can be sure that we won’t be displaying it with the spine facing in.

-Penny M.

 

Breaking Free

I think everybody has their weird interest in certain subjects. Or is that just me?

 

Anyway, one of my “weird” interests is in the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). There’s just something about this very patriarchal/hierarchical church and its emphasis on total obedience. And I really can’t wrap my head around their practice of polygamy—the men with multiple wives. It’s also hard to believe that such a group operates right here in North America—mostly in Utah and surrounding states, but also in British Columbia.

 

I’m currently reading Breaking Free by Rachel Jeffs. She’s the daughter of the FLDS Prophet, Warren Jeffs. So the author certainly has a unique perspective from which to look at and comment on the church. Just so you know, Warren Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence + 20 years for sexual assault against children. Despite being in prison, he still heads and directs the church. WTH!

 

Rachel Jeffs, now a young woman, comes across as strong and feisty in this book. Good thing for her, as her life has been a difficult one. Her father (the Prophet, mind you) repeatedly molested her, beginning at the age of eight. When she was 18, she was married to a man she barely knew, becoming his third wife. Later on, she would share a home with two more “sister wives.”

 

Warren Jeffs has ruled the church with an iron fist. Rule-breaking, whether real or perceived, is dealt with harshly. Punishment often means a person being sent into isolation, for weeks or months at a time. In one instance, Rachel was sent away without her baby son. When she was allowed to come back, he had forgotten who she was! Becoming ever more angry by these repeated punishments, Rachel left the church.

 

If you share my “weird” interest, here are some other WPL titles I have enjoyed reading: Becoming Sister Wives by Kody Brown, The Witness Wore Red by Rebecca Musser and Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall.

-Penny D.

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.