Lightfoot

I’m in the midst of a Gordon Lightfoot love affair. Well, okay, not with him personally, but with his music, life and times.

Awhile back, I placed a hold on the new book Lightfoot by Canadian music journalist Nicholas Jennings, and had to wait a bit as there were a number of people ahead of me. I guess there are lots of Gordon Lightfoot fans are out there! Finally, it was my turn.

Besides reading the book, I’m also listening to his music and watching some of his performances on YouTube. I feel I’m taking part in a Gordon Lightfoot-fest, a feast for the eyes and ears — and mind and heart as well.

In Lightfoot, Jennings traces the unlikely trajectory of a kid from Orillia, Ontario to international super star. It’s clear from reading Lightfoot — just in case you didn’t already know — how enormously talented this Canadian singer-songwriter is.

The book strikes a good balance between Lightfoot’s personal life and his music, though as a songwriter there is obviously considerable overlap between the two. Jennings gives a good, nuanced account of who the singer really is. Despite some personal demons (alcoholic excesses being pretty high up on the list), Lightfoot comes across as a decent guy with a lot of personal and musical integrity.

I have borrowed some CDs (WPL has a good selection) and can honestly say it has been a delight to rediscover his music. It’s so real, so genuine. I think my all-time favourite Gordon Lightfoot song has to be “If You Could Read my Mind.” Other greats are “Early Morning Rain,” “The Last Time I Saw Her,” “I Heard You Talking in Your Sleep” and oh, so many others. I love his rich, melodic voice.

Lightfoot is a great read but might I also suggest you check out some of his timeless music as well. Maybe start (or rediscover) your own love affair with Gordon Lightfoot.

BTW, Gordon Lightfoot is scheduled to appear at the Centre in the Square November 22, 2018. I have my ticket bought. I will be there.

— Penny D.

The Long Night is upon fans of Game of Thrones

It’s going to be a very long wait for Game of Thrones fans. Recently, it was announced that the final season will not be released until spring of 2019. Will Bran reveal what he knows about Rhaegar? Will Jon Snow defeat the Night King? Will the Long Night end? Who will sit on the Iron Throne if the battle is won?

Fortunately, there are some fantastic television series DVDs in our collection to help you get through the Long Night.

Vikings

There are only two things that matter to the Vikings: destiny and war. And the only way for a Viking to achieve his destiny was to be victorious in war. Vikings follows the story of the legendary Norse hero, Ragnar Lothbrok. Ragnar is an ambitious and methodical warrior who is a descendant of the god Odin. Eager to achieve what no other Viking has done, he eventually he leads an army to the shores of England to raid the Saxon villages.

Axes and shields may dominate the screen but at its core Vikings is about politics. Ragnar is a calculating leader who plays the long con, often outsmarting his opponents through strategy rather than blood. Women also play a strong role in the show. Lagertha (Ragnar’s wife) is a shield maiden with a reputation for courage and wit all her own. When it comes to fantasy, Vikings goes light on the supernatural elements. A raven may appear to give the idea that Odin is watching, but the fantasy symbols are few and only serve to reflect the belief system of the time.

Vikings combines action with intrigue and is my go-to series between seasons of Game of Thrones. Season Five, Part I of Vikings will be release in April 2018.

The Last Kingdom – (based on Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Series)

The Last Kingdom shares the same timeline as Vikings but the story is told from the point-of- view of the Saxons.  What we know as modern day England is broken up into seven separate kingdoms. Six of the seven kingdoms are ruled by Danes (Vikings). For decades, the Danes have attacked and plundered Saxon lands and now only Wessex remains free. The show follows Uhtred, the young heir to Bebbanburg. His family is murdered by ruthless Danes and he is taken as a slave. Overtime, he is sold to a Danish Earl who treats him as a son rather than a captive. Uhtred grows to be a man of two worlds – born a Saxon but raised in the brutal traditions of the Danes. His adoptive father is murdered in the first episode and his quest for retribution sets the tone for the remainder of the show.

The Last Kingdom is a fast paced, plot-driven series that is quick to watch – the first season only has eight episodes. It’s a good choice for those who don’t want to commit to hours of television watching.

Spartacus

A Thracian soldier is captured and enslaved by the Romans. Forced to fight as a gladiator for Roman entertainment, Spartacus conspires to overthrow his masters. His path to freedom is bloody and full of vengeance.

This is not a show for the faint of heart. There is a lot of action and violence, true to the nature of historical gladiator fighting. The cast is incredibly talented. You can’t help but love the villainous husband and wife who run the gladiator school. Played by John Hannah and Lucy Lawless respectively, they are comparable to the Macbeths – always plotting to rise above their station. The costume and set design is equally impressive. There is a great attention to detail placed on replicating the style of the Roman time period. It is done on a scale that is usually reserved for big budget Hollywood movies.

Spartacus is a wild ride – it is incredibly fast paced with a scandalously shocking storyline. It is one of my guilty pleasures.

Reign

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was only six days old when she ascended to the throne. Viewed as a threat to the English crown, she was sent to France for her protection. The show begins with Mary’s betrothal to Dauphin of France and follows her rise to power until her execution in England.

Reign takes a lot of liberties with history, which makes the story hard to predict. The Mary we see on the show is much more scandalous than the Mary we read about in our history books.   The costumes, accessories and music of the show are designed in modern style, giving it a Gossip Girl type of appeal. While not a true fantasy show, there are elements of the supernatural on the fringes of the storyline – just enough to add a twist to the plot and keep the audience guessing how the story will unfold.

Reign is a plot-based show, rich with intrigue and conspiracy. The main character, Mary, is a relatable girl that you will root for even when you already know her fate.

-Lesley L.

Men & Women of Our Past

Greetings from the Ellis Little Local History Room!

The Ellis Little Local History Room is located at WPL’s Main Library. The many threads of Waterloo’s history are woven together in our extensive collection of photos, documents, newspaper articles, books and more. One of the most unique and precious collections in the room is the Ellis Little Papers.

Ellis Little was a local historian and retired teacher who spent many hours at the Waterloo Public Library researching the history of Waterloo. When he passed away in 2004, all of his research papers (“The Ellis Little Papers”) were donated to the library. Often Little’s research notes were written on the backs of scrap paper, which adds an interesting flavour to the files. His papers have given many researchers (myself included) insight into those hard-to-find local history topics.

There are many intriguing files in the Ellis Little Papers, but one of the best is called Men and Women of Our Past. This file is a collection of handwritten biographies that Little wrote during his years of research. The biographies focus on people from Waterloo’s earliest days. Some cover the expected prominent figures, such as Abraham Erb who was the first permanent resident of Waterloo, but many more are about people who might sometimes be overlooked.

For example, did you know that there was a Waterloo doctor named Dr. William Sowers Bowers who married a woman named Hannah Flowers? Dr. Bowers trained at the University of North York, and had a medical practice in the house of John Hoffman on King Street South. The charming story of this rhyming family is just the beginning of what can be found in the Ellis Little Biographies.

Sometimes the biographies are only a few lines long, but no matter the length, each biography has a list of information sources at the end. The book Welcome to Waterloo by Marg Rowell, Ed Devitt and Pat McKegney must have been a favourite resource for Little as it often appears in the source section for the biographies. Little also used newspaper articles, local atlases, registries and Waterloo Historical Society articles as sources for the bios. These source lists now provide an excellent path for researchers to chase down primary documents and find even more information about the people Little wrote about.

The Ellis Little Biographies are definitely worth checking out if you want to know more about past Waterloo residents. The original paper versions are available in the Ellis Little Local History Room. With volunteer help, we are transcribing all of the Ellis Little Biographies and making them available through Our Ontario, which hosts WPL’s local history collection online. This is an ongoing digitization project but we already have 80 biographies uploaded and ready for you to enjoy.

Reading through these biographies is a great reminder that the past is made up of people who lived their daily lives and made decisions that would influence the future, just as we are doing today.

— Jenna H.

Bala’s Bestseller Ignites Questions

What if you realized that the only thing you know for sure is that you don’t know anything for sure! The Boat People by Sharon Bala is certain to ignite some questions about the beliefs and prejudices the reader holds and may be a reminder to people to assess what governments say and do with more judicious reflection.

The Boat People is about the plight of, among others, a Tamil widower, Mahindan, and his six year old son, Sellian, who are smuggled into Canadian waters in 2009 on an illegal ship. The story flips between their present situation of being detained in a B.C. prison in admission limbo, and the travails of the civil war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government during the early 2000’s that drove their desperate escape and search for safety.

The adjudicator for Mahindan’s case is Grace Nakamura, whose parents were affected by the internment of Japanese-Canadians during WWII. Grace’s mother, Kumi, is beginning to question the moral and legal rights of the government who robbed her family of their hope and dignity throughout that process. Watching her mother roil in her resentment and anger at the injustices suffered, Grace is forced to look at what lengths governments will go to in order to ‘keep the peace’.

In an age when terrorism is being played out with such frequency and ferocity, it is easy to point fingers and paint entire groups of people as ‘terrorists’. But what if we changed the script and really believed that 99 percent of the people labelled in such a way just want to live their lives in peace and harmony. Most Canadians have been spared the agony of living in a country embroiled in a civil war. Where you live in a war-torn country may be the determining factor to where your loyalties lie but is that true loyalty or loyalty born from fear of the repercussions of non-alliance? What would any of us do to protect our loved ones from the savagery of war?

The Boat People demonstrates the extreme lengths people will go to in order to protect their families. It also raises questions about the way the Canadian refugee/asylum system handles the complexities of war ravaged individuals who arrive on our shores, frantic to find safety and peace.

— Nancy C.

(Book Clubs note: The Boat People would be an excellent book club selection, generating dialogue and discussion)

 

It’s All About Pi(e)

We live in a great city for celebrating Pi Day (March 14). I’m not entirely sure when the idea to full-on celebrate the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter began but any celebration is a good thing and I love this one.

Each year we are surrounded by celebrations of 3.14. The University of Waterloo marks the occasion in multiple faculties as do groups at Wilfrid Laurier University, Conestoga College and our Main Library’s neighbours, the Perimeter Institute. It’s everywhere and it’s so much fun.

There’s no shortage of people in Waterloo who might feel inclined to get involved in the classic “How many digits of Pi can you recite?” contest and I’m sure that they don’t need to be convinced to enjoy sweet or savoury pies in a tribute to the day.

When I think of Pi I must confess that I think of pie and this in turn gets me thinking of some of my very favourite music. On the WPL shelves we have one of the most beautiful CDs from American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. It’s full of gorgeous songs that she created for the 2015 Broadway musical, Waitress. Just put it on repeat. Once you get started you won’t be able to stop singing along and thinking about friendship, family, love, heartache and baking. Great news too! The Mirvish theatre schedule includes a production of Waitress for summer 2019.

You can also borrow the 2007 movie that the musical is based on. The film has a fabulous cast – Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion – and seems like a standard Southern rom-com (one character is even named ‘Earl’) but it has so much more depth. Treat yourself to a generous slice of pie and some time watching The Waitress.

Should you actually want to learn how to bake your own delicious pie, we have many books to offer you recipes and guidance. You could select a classic cookbook like Joy of Cooking or pick something a little more modern like Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s The Home Cook: recipes to know by heart. I have read that she includes a personal favourite in there called “dark chocolate rum pie”. Oh. Yum.

So, whether you want to sing, eat, bake, or learn more about the magic of Pi, we will be happy to help you celebrate – and maybe we’ll sing you a song too.

— Penny M.

Need To Know

Have you ever been watching a TV show or film when suddenly the scene depicted becomes so tense you feel like you just can’t bear to watch and want to hide until it’s over? I have but not while reading a book…until now.

In Need to Know by Karen Cleveland, Vivian Miller is a busy wife and mother of four children, one of which has special medical needs. She is also a CIA counterintelligence analyst. Vivian develops an algorithm to root out Russian agents hiding in the United States, but what she discovers will turn her whole world upside down. She is forced to choose what is more important, the security of her country, or the lives of her family.

Need to Know is a nail-biter from beginning to end. I found Vivian’s character very real and believable, and felt as if I were struggling right along with her, trying to decide what I would do. The twists and turns in plot keep the story moving at a fast pace, and I found that I was still thinking about the ending days after finishing the book.

I first heard about Need to Know from the author Louise Penny, who highly recommended it in her monthly newsletter. Other best-selling authors, such as John Grisham, Lee Child, and Patricia Cornwell all have high praise for this book as well.

The author, Karen Cleveland, was a former CIA analyst herself, so the subject matter is obviously very familiar to her. It is hard to believe that Need to Know is Cleveland’s first novel. I only hope, for the sake of everyone who enjoys reading it as much as I did, that it won’t be her last.

— Sandy Wilmering

What’s everyone reading?

Well, the book with the highest number of holds in the library this past month was Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside The White House – again! Which is…fine. We are still very curious to learn more about his behind-the-scenes take on the contentious people working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Let’s look at the second most popular book at the library this month. It is exactly the thing to take your mind off of all things political. You won’t be able to resist this thriller with a reclusive main character watching through the windows of her New York City home as a new family moves into their neighbourhood. A. J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window is already in development for film – no surprise – as you read the book you can almost picture the camera angles. Remember how the we all talked about the astonishing twists in Gone Girl? This is an absolute roller coaster of a novel but you really care for Anna Fox, a child psychologist who is coping with her own crippling agoraphobia while she helps others in an online support group, so you are turning the pages with a mixture of both curiosity and dread as you think “oh, what could possibly be happening to Anna now?” Although Anna is quite unwell she still enjoys photography, caring for others, playing chess, drinking wine and watching old black and white mysteries so she is a character you can’t help but adore. Be prepared to become 100% invested in her life and what might happen to her in this unusual take on the thriller.

In Alafair Burke’s latest outstanding book The Wife it’s hard to decide which character you can trust and that is what makes it so wonderful to read. You are constantly wondering who is telling the truth? Here we have Angela and Jason in a comfortable marriage with one son and beautiful home that would fit into the pages of a decorating magazine. Burke provides a complete picture of their lives and the events that led to the current state of their marriage but she gives the details slowly, causing you to keep reading just one more chapter – long past the time when you should have gone to sleep.  So, Angela finally feels safe from a dark past that she keeps carefully hidden.  She is content with the daily habits of their picture-perfect home life, and so hopeful that the increased attention her NYU professor husband is receiving from a successful book won’t crack the shell of their amazing life. Her comfort does not last long. Angela is blindsided by sexual assault allegations from young women who work in her husband’s office and the investigation into their life is a fascinating and terrifying read. As her world crumbles and the police start knocking on the door, we have a front row seat while it happens. This is another page-turning look at a life turned upside down by deception and infidelity. It is absolutely guaranteed to distract you from today’s newspapers even though the themes might remind you somewhat of current events.

Laura Lippman is another author we can always count on to write a suspense-filled novel. Her Baltimore-based Tess Monaghan series is always a first choice for customers who request ‘something good to read’ when they are on vacation. She has never failed me yet (and I haven’t had anyone come back to voice a complaint) and, with Sunburn, a one-off novel about Polly and Adam – both hiding something, such a good sign in a novel – she has created a different style from her usual novels. At first Adam and Polly seem like they are just passing through when they meet in the High-Ho diner and their attraction keeps them in town where secrets, betrayal and a murder follow. Perfect! What is it that keeps them together even though they are determined to hide things from one another? It’s not just romance, there is something going on. We know that someone is hiding something but we just can’t put our finger on it….Although the book is set in the mid-90s it has the feel of something much older which just adds to the delight you feel in reading it. You step into another world as soon as you spend the first moments in that little High-Ho diner. This is a sizzling read from Laura Lippman.

These are the books that keep you guessing, written by authors who are pushing the boundaries of the traditional thriller. They are amusement park rides that make you gasp out loud when you get to the shocking twists and then apologize to the person next to you on the bus or at the lunch table. I love books like these and I wish Laura Lippman, Alafair Burke, Gillian Flynn and A. J. Finn long and healthy lives where they will have lots of time to write more just like them. The shelves – and customers of WPL – are ready.

-Penny M.

Seven Fallen Feathers

I am struggling with what to say about Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death And Hard Truths In A Northern City by Tanya Talaga. It is a raw, deeply moving and horrifying look at how our Indigenous youth continue to be treated in this country, specifically in Thunder Bay in this instance. It takes us through the stories of seven teenagers who came to their deaths living in a city far from home, because education at home was not an option for them. Forced to live in boarding houses with strangers, they were overwhelmed by urban life and while there were many conscientious and heartfelt attempts by kind-hearted souls to try to ease the blow of assimilating, the truth of the matter is that these kids were separated from family and friends during a very difficult transitional period.

It is the story of the families left behind without answers to why their children perished. It is the story of racism and neglect in a 21st century Canadian community. The cover of the book was painted by the father of one of the victims, Christian Morrisseau, son of renowned painter Norval Morrisseau. It is a stunningly beautiful depiction of the fragility of life and the incredible strength of the human spirit.

How is it that in 2018, a large segment of our population continues to be treated as ‘savages’ with no access to clean water, health services and educational opportunities for their youth? What aspect of colonialism is still so embedded into our national psyche that we are not pounding on the doors of every single Member of Parliament to demand action immediately? It is inconceivable that children still need to be flown to ‘residential’ schools hours away from their families and communities. We have the money to bail out Bombardier but we can’t erect schools, water purification systems or hospitals for our Indigenous communities. We pay huge amounts of money to ineffective and inefficient political policies and procedures but don’t have the financial resources to live up to the false promises that have been made over and over and over again.

This book should be essential reading for anyone holding or aspiring to hold political office in this country. This book should be part of the curriculum in every high school across Canada. And, it should be mandatory reading for any and all people involved in our legal, policing and judicial systems.

-Nancy C.