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.