Get the Night Light Ready

At Halloween do you like to settle down and watch a spooky movie to get you in the mood for handing out candy to the ghosts and ghouls on your doorstep? Perhaps you have more of a taste for the macabre. Reflecting on Halloween makes me think of how I would rank my favourite fright-filled films.

Now, I’m not really a horror fan. I have been known to watch a movie with a blanket pulled up, covering my face, with one eye peeking over the top while I ask my husband to tell me when the scary part is over. Still, there a few films that I’ve watched and enjoyed which do fit the bill.

One of the most recent horror films I’ve watched is Winchester. It was Helen Mirren playing Sarah Winchester, the widow of the Winchester Firearms company magnate, that first intrigued me. This partly fact-based film (with some creative license of course) wasn’t one of those blood-gushing, over-the-top violent films. However, it does make you jump at the right times and the underlying theme of ‘why’ resonated with me. Although only a few parts of the movie were filmed at the actual Winchester mansion it made me want to visit and see just what made Sarah frantically build this mysterious house in San Jose, California. If you’re as intrigued as I was, watch the film and then check out the mansion’s website.

Another of my favourite horror films is Sleepy Hollow, based on the Washington Irving legend that we’re all familiar with. A headless horseman haunts a town. People are scared. A gruesome death occurs.

What makes the Johnny Depp version of Sleepy Hollow a favourite of mine is the romantic twist on this piece of European folklore that’s been popular since at least the Middles Ages. In this version a personally troubled police constable from the city, Ichabod Crane (Depp), is asked to help the village. Arriving in Sleepy Hollow, he meets Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci), the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Ichabod falls in love with Katrina while trying to help rid the town of its monster. This “battle” is highlighted by some CSI-like techniques which have been adapted to fit in with the time period. As dark as the cinematography of this film is, the light in the outcome of the story makes it one to watch.

This brings me to my two favourite films based on Stephen King novels: The Shining and Misery. In The Shining Stanley Kubrick adapts the story of a boy whose psychic powers brings out the evil in an old hotel. Being isolated in a large hotel during a snowy winter creates cabin fever for one of the main characters with murderous outcomes. The historic setting of the hotel and the film’s score of music from the past gives the film a nostalgic feeling which is partly what attracted me at first. The scary scenes will make you jump out of your seat and although the film is slightly different from the book it’s a great movie to watch!

In Misery it’s the spectacular performances of Kathy Bates (who won the Academy Award for this role) and James Caan that originally caught my attention. Rob Reiner directs and one of the best scenes happens as Caan’s character slowly, painfully hobbles across the screen towards freedom and then … BANG … our excitement is squashed and we cringe as Bates’ character ends his attempt to free himself of this ‘misery.’

The final films on my Halloween “must watch” list are:

I’m sure there are much scarier movies out there with blood and guts that would give me nightmares forever but I digress. Whether it’s the spinning head of Linda Blair in The Exorcist, the mysterious woman’s appearance in the Woman in Black, the question of is he dead or alive in The Sixth Sense, the satanic plot of the people in Rosemary’s Baby, the classic shower scene in Psycho or the static on the television in Poltergeist these frightening, suspenseful moments always draw me in. I get the shivers just thinking about these films. For now though, I think I’ll just wrap my blanket around me tightly and make a run for the candy bowl!

— Teresa N-P

Stepping Out of My Reading Comfort Zone

I have to come clean right off the bat and admit that I almost didn’t keep The Saturday Night Ghost Club on my reading pile. Looking at the blurb, it didn’t seem to be the kind of subject matter that would normally catch my attention. I am thrilled to say that I stepped out of my comfort zone and into a gorgeously written coming of age story set against the backdrop of a derelict city called Cataract, a.k.a. Niagara Falls.

The narrator, Jake Breaker, is a neurosurgeon whose career has offered him the opportunity to delve deeply into people’s brains, knowing full well that the slightest error could cause irreparable damage to the patient. The technical details that are interwoven into Jake’s adult narrative are interesting and told with a simplicity that allows those of us uneducated in the anatomy of the brain to understand the concepts and to visualize what it must be like to be at the either end of the scalpel.

The 12 year old Jake takes us on a poignant journey of self-discovery through his membership in the Saturday Night Ghost Club, a group formed by his eccentric Uncle Calvin. With fellow club members, new kid-in-town Billy Yellowbird and his sister Rose and Calvin’s equally quirky friend Lex, who owns a video store that only sells Betamax, Jake begins a journey that ostensibly is meant to satisfy his curiosity about some of the town’s macabre urban myths but ends up stirring up the pot in a variety of life-changing ways. The summer of Jake’s twelfth year ends up being the one that introduces him to love and to the heartbreaking sadness that loss of love can bring.

At times hilarious and yet devastatingly sad, the story told from the perspective of a nerdy outsider feels poignantly real and emotionally charged. While the reader knows from the beginning that Jake has matured into a successful surgeon, one can’t help but be caught up in the dramatic pre-teen angst that culminates in the adventures of the Saturday Night Ghost Club.

Craig Davidson is establishing himself as one of Canada’s most successful and hard-working authors. Cataract City, published in 2013 was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and The Saturday Night Ghost Club is a shortlisted finalist for the 2018 Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize.

— Nancy C.

Hold It!

If WPL customers were going to pick one book that they most want to read right now (let’s assume that the book with the highest number of holds is that book) then The President is Missing  written by a former U.S. president and the world’s best-selling author is a good choice.

It’s a safe bet that many readers would be able to find something interesting about a thriller that has espionage, a killer computer virus, gripping suspense and the guarantee that it will have behind-the-scene information that we have not seen before.  Truly excellent details.

When Bill Clinton is the co-writer on a novel and the character is sneaking away from his Secret Service minders you think he has either successfully done this before or knows exactly how it could be done when necessary.  All of the elements have come together in this book for a great beach read – it’s like they manufactured this book to satisfy as many people as possible and waited until the right time to get it on the shelves.  Clever.  Their publishers must be happy with the success of this book as it has outsold much of the competition in the busy summer season and reports say that they have sold the TV rights for their book. TV shows set in the White House do tend to be popular and with the added weight of Bill Clinton behind it – whoa.  I know that I’ll be watching.

So, what should you read once you have finished the Clinton-Patterson team up?  It’s a quick read because you can’t wait to find out how it ends so you will need to have a second book at the ready.  James Patterson is a successful author because he knows how to craft a plot and deliver a surprise at the end – teaming up with Bill Clinton did not change that pattern in the least – this book will go by quickly.  Despite them coming up with 513 pages of White House-related suspense I would suggest that you take a second book with you to the cottage or download something else because you will finish this one and be ready for another faster than you think.  Here are a few suggestions of what you could read next.

If presidential stories have caught your fancy and you are willing to try something new you really should try this one from Quirk Book’s Andrew Shaffer.  He has set Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the roles of Holmes and Watson in what I really hope will be a successful series.  The story of Hope Never Dies begins with our lonely hero Amtrak Joe learning that one of his favourite train conductors has been killed in a train accident.  In fact, Barack comes to tell him the news and Joe is relieved to see him again.  Joe has been feeling a bit left out lately.  After years of spending time together he has watched and wondered about where their friendship is going post-White House and too many nights looking at Barack’s photos online with famous actors and politicians have left him a bit melancholy.  As Joe digs deeper into the circumstances surrounding his conductor friend’s death some of the details look fishy so he turns to Barack for assistance and their bromance heats up again.  This fabulous story allows them to put on their shades, get back in the saddle, and drive a car for themselves instead of having the Secret Service do it for them.  This isn’t a hard-boiled crime novel at all so if that is what you are hoping for you should probably take a pass on Joe and Barack but there is a solid mystery to be solved and a chance to laugh a bit as you wonder if this version of their personalities is at all like the one we imagine them to have.  It’s not all sharing ice cream cones and going to basketball games you know, there are car chases, they wear disguises and Barack carries a weapon when they storm into a warehouse.  It sounds pretty good, right?

Joe and Barack were once powerful men with the full force of the White House behind them when they are trying to solve their mystery but Michael Tanner is just an average guy on the way home from a business trip when he makes the mistake of picking up the wrong briefcase and stepping into a mess that is almost too terrifying to contemplate.  I love the idea of mixed up briefcases.  It sounds like something that might happen in a Disney movie but in this book it all turns dark so very quickly. In The Switch he picks up a case belonging to a U.S. senator who has top secret information on her laptop.  Once she knows he has, there is a target on his back and the clock is ticking to get the contents back from Michael.  He strongly believes they want him dead to hide the evidence which just adds to the feeling of desperation.  The narrative goes back and forth between Michael’s story and that of the Senator’s Chief of Staff who will do anything to solve this problem for his boss.  It’s a gripping tale and has the added bonus of being written by a journalist who specializes in covering espionage and international affairs for the New York Times and The Washington Post.  The terrifying authenticity in books like this will make you think twice when you pick up your personal items from the security line at any airport.

Really, any of these thriller/suspense/murder-mystery type stories can be so much fun to read but you don’t want them to happen to anyone in the real world.  A mystery about the President of the United States is safely set far from your own experience but when you read something like The Switch it is much more personal.  This is exactly the case with the novels of Clare Mackintosh.  Her debut novel, I Let You Go, about a hit and run accident involving a 5-year old boy caught readers by the throat, partially for her beautiful writing, and partially because it seemed like something that could happen to any one of us.

With Let Me Lie the main character is a young mother coping with the double suicide of her mother and father when she receives a note that causes her to rethink the circumstances of their deaths.  She convinces a local retired detective to help her in her investigation and then starts receiving threats on her life and that of her child.  There are plot twists that will cause you to gasp out loud while you read this book, you might even say things to the characters – questioning their decisions – but it’s a book that keeps you turning pages long into the afternoon or evening.  There are no spies and not a single member of the Secret Service but this is a truly satisfying thriller.  If you haven’t had a chance to enjoy her two previous novels, oh, so much good reading is ahead for you.

Thrillers are the perfect choice for late summer reading, whether they are written by a man who Forbes once said is second only to J. K. Rowling in total earnings or one who is known for writing a guide to surviving a sharknado – there really is so much time for a great book.

— Penny M.

 

We Promise You…It’s Great!

Really, everyone likes to read a crime story, preferably one that is completely solved at the end with the killer safely locked away. A classic thriller that lets you feel like all of the loose ends are tied up when you turn the last page and perhaps breathe a sigh of relief that you don’t live in that town. This is the kind of reading pleasure that comes from the 2018 One Book, One Community (OBOC) title, Broken Promise.

Customers are responding to the enjoyment of getting to know new characters, rooting for a small police department under strain as they sort through the clues and then rushing to the end of the book as the author, Linwood Barclay, throws in some surprising plot twists. Some of our customers have enjoyed Broken Promise as their book club choice, some have picked it up so that they can keep up with personal OBOC reading and others have been inspired to try it out because of the posters that they see in the library.

Every season of OBOC brings us fresh book chat from customers. It’s great to hear which character is a favourite after they have finished reading the book, even one that features a grisly murder. This year we’ve heard approval for the main character, David Harwood, who moves back to his hometown in an attempt to get his life back on track for himself and his son. Maybe he is getting the sympathy vote – living with his parents, an unemployed widower, ferrying casseroles around his old home town. We’ve also seen a strong showing of support for Detective Barry Duckworth who is charged with solving the murder at the centre of the novel and several peculiar crimes that pop up as the story moves along.

Did you know that Linwood Barclay published a standalone title related to this series in October of last year? It’s called Parting Shot and gives us all a chance to return to the beleaguered town of Promise Falls. Local vigilantes are taking things into their own hands by running a website to promote the punishment of alleged criminals who have escaped the law. Oh, poor, overworked Detective Duckworth. Maybe he should just give in and eat one of those doughnuts that he is trying so hard to avoid?

Customers have also been enjoying a hearty discussion of the characters that they ‘love to hate’ in this novel. Former investigative reporter David finds himself piecing together the bits and pieces of this case at the request of his well-meaning mother. She is keen for David to get to the bottom of this as his cousin, Marla, is one of the police department’s strongest suspects, and he quickly finds out that there are many targets for his investigation. It is almost impossible to not want to reach into the book and shake some of the people you find involved in the horror surrounding this crime. They seem like they are straight out of a really good 80’s soap opera. Maybe we could start creating a dream cast? Jessica Lange would be fantastic as Marla’s mother, the busy hospital administrator, so obsessed by details. And the psychiatrist, Dr. Sturgess? We should choose someone with a face that makes you wonder if you should fear or trust him. A horrible man.

When you reach the last pages of the book your loathing for the killer will reach new heights. All of the loose ends are tied up, at least as far as the suspicion around David’s cousin Marla is concerned, and you could find yourself setting this book aside and moving on to another if it weren’t for Detective Duckworth and all of the little things that are nagging at him. This is very bad news for town residents but great news for readers and OBOC fans because there are two more books for us to read after this because the crimes continue.

Far From True begins with the murder of four Promise Falls residents at a local drive-in and soon the police link that crime back to those of the previous novel which proves their nasty serial killer theory. The twenty-three has the whole town at risk of being poisoned on May 23rd (Memorial Day weekend) if Duckworth doesn’t get to the bottom of the killer’s latest plot. So much good reading in there. In both of these novels Linwood Barclay continues with his style of multiple storylines and a gallows humour in the dialogue between his law enforcement officers. Something has to balance all of that darkness.

This story of a cozy town that seems safe but is hiding multiple secrets has been resonating with customers. All of these readers will have a chance to come together in September for free author events across the Region.

The event in Waterloo will take place on September 26 at 7:00pm at Knox Church across from the Main Library.

Broken Promise is a fast-paced thriller with more than one character you can cheer for and several you will despise – a safe bet for any customer who wants a good summer read.

— Penny M.

Shhh…A Quiet Place

We received a movie at WPL this week that has been worth waiting for. I don’t always think this. I place my holds early and often for books but don’t really follow the same plan for movies. I know that a new book is coming months, sometimes years, before it is published and it’s so exciting. With movies, it’s a so-so feeling. Many movies are good, many movies have captivating performances, gorgeous sets, wonderful costumes, sensational soundtracks but very few will actually knock my socks off. Well, this is the one. Socks are off. This is the one you must see. A movie that should rise to the top of every list this year. It’s John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place.

Initially it was billed as a horror film and then the tide seemed to swing towards marketing it as a thriller but I would say it is more like a classic suspense film with a few monsters thrown in to spice things up. The monsters are definitely scary. A bird flew past our kitchen window the day after we saw this movie and I was sure it was one of those monsters in our backyard. That feeling has finally worn off now.

This is John Krasinski’s film because he is the director, co-writer and star of this film. You might be thinking to yourself “Hey, isn’t he Jim from the American version of The Office?” when you see his face on screen. Yes, yes, he IS Jim from The Office and he is just as spectacular as a father who is leading his family through a post-apocalyptic world where monsters are hunting them using the sounds that they make as he was when he played Jim. And these monsters, they are hunting for any sounds. This family is so careful about not making noise that they use American Sign Language to communicate, play Monopoly with felt pieces, and spread this wonderful white sand on the walkways of their farm to muffle their footsteps. Now, about that sand. Where did it all come from? I was really not sure about this as we were watching the film but I could not even bring myself to lean over and ask anyone in my family because I was so compelled to stay silent throughout the whole thing. I’m sure that you have heard this from other people who have seen the film or even seen some of the jokes online.

quiet

But after you see the movie you can’t stop talking about every last detail. I think it’s been our top film for post-movie chatting for the whole year. Maybe it was because we felt like we had to stay silent through the whole thing or maybe it was because of the outstanding performances of the cast, the beauty of the landscape and the sheer terror we felt while we were watching. Other than Krasinski the cast is small which works very well and adds to the sense of isolation on screen as you realize that so few people survived the apocalypse. It’s just eerie. Emily Blunt plays his wife in a role that is half earth-mother, half warrior and they have cast some wonderful actors as their children, including a young woman who also had a lead role in 2017’s Wonderstruck.

This is a challenging film for all of the actors as so much of the emotion is conveyed entirely through gestures and facial expression – there is no room for error in their parts and it is done well. You can find some wonderful interviews online with the actors as they describe the work that they did to prepare for these roles and the guidance they received from young Millicent Simmonds with using ASL on film.

And, I know it’s a horror/thriller film, but I did really think it was a beautiful film. It might not make it to any Oscar lists for costumes or set design but there was a distinct look to this movie. They cared. Really, if they hadn’t been facing a constant struggle to stay alive I think it might not have been a bad way to live. The lovely photographs on their walls, the jam jars and quilts. Like Country Living but dingy. I did catch myself thinking that the absolute silence of their home life was appealing. Their kids were playing Monopoly without arguing over who got which piece or who had the next turn. I know, I know, they are living in the constant shadow of an ever present danger that will swoop in and eat them if they even knock a knife off of the table. But the sense of calm and all of the cozy sweater wearing? I could go for that. Monsters – no. More whispering while we play board games after dinner – yes.

The Blu-ray + DVD copies that we have here at the library come with glamorous special features which I am so very excited about. Director John Krasinski will give us a special behind the scenes look in Creating The Quiet and they have also included The Sound of Darkness and something called A Reason For Silence : the art of unforgettable visual effects. I look forward to watching all of these and I am going to watch the entire film one more time. I’m going to watch it again because I know that I am going to love being terrified again, because those children are absolutely amazing, because Emily Blunt gives an incredible performance as the strongest onscreen mother I have ever seen and because this time I’ll be able to eat popcorn while I watch.

— Penny M.

Judging By The Cover

I admit it, I judged this book by its cover … and I was not disappointed. In fact, The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins is now one of my favourite novels.

As anyone who reads a lot will know, it is hard to be surprised by a story. Tropes are everywhere, and while they can certainly be enjoyable they can also make stories and characters a bit predictable. This book had me wondering what could possibly be happening, and surprised by whatever came next. It has been a while since a story kept me on my toes the way that this one did and made for a very exhilarating read!

Carolyn and her adopted siblings have been raised by a man they call Father for almost as long as they can remember. He teaches each child to be an expert in a subsection of his library, with teaching methods that are often quite cruel.

As the children master their library catalogues they gain fantastical abilities that relate to their area of study. The story opens when they are adults, then the narrative jumps around in time.

The storytelling is masterfully done. Scott Hawkins keeps his readers on the edge of their seat by revealing things in bits and pieces. While you start off accumulating only more questions, by the end of the book you have a complete picture of everything that has come together like the final image of a jigsaw puzzle. Characters are discovered the same way and the revelations can completely change your opinion of who they are. I found myself empathizing with characters I never thought I could.

This is a story about revenge and the bonds that tie people together, but it is so different from your average story. There is some dark and disturbing content, however it is all essential to the narrative. Hawkins has written an amazingly creative book and it is hard to believe it is his debut novel.

The Library at Mount Char is a beautiful, twisted, and layered story. I absolutely loved this book and I can’t wait to read more from Scott Hawkins.

— Ashley T.

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