The Best Books I Read in 2015

best books 2015

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Winter 2016 Featured Titles

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Destinations of a Lifetime

Destinations-of-a-Lifetime-225-of-the-Worlds-Most-Amazing-Places-0Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the world’s most amazing places by National Geographic magazine

Get set for lots of oohing and aahing as you look through the gorgeous photographs in this travel book.

Travelling–even the arm-chair variety– is one of the very best things in life. So many places to visit, so little time (and money).

I would, however, quibble with some of the choices in this book. The U.S is well represented, maybe over-represented, with many sites listed. But Canada gets only two mentions, the City of Vancouver and the Maritime provinces. I would have to add at least two more, Quebec City and one of my very favourite places to visit, the Thousand Islands. (An aside, did you know the Thousand Islands is actually made up of nearly 1,900 islands? Fact.)

Of the 225 destinations in the book, I’ve visited a measly three: Canyon de Chelly in Arizona (absolutely amazing), Coba, a Mayan site in Mexico and the Maritime provinces. Clearly I have my work cut out for me. Time to break out the suitcase and start making some serious travelling plans…..

— Penny D.

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The Best Book I Read

best books 2015Waterloo Public Library staff love to read, and love to share the titles of the best books they have read.

Waterloo Public Library customers love to ask staff what they have read lately, or what are their favourite books.

With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of “The Best Book I Read in 2015“, recommended titles from WPL staff members.

This list contains both fiction and non-fiction titles for adults.

To view the list, click here.

We hope you’ll find some new titles to try or perhaps a new author or two. Enjoy!

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December Movie Night

One of the best ways to relax during the busy holiday season is to get cozy and watch a movie. I can usually get total participation at my house if I relax the nutrition rules a bit and bring snacks into the planning for the night. As our kids get older they have stronger opinions about the movie choices but I still try very hard to bring some of my favourites into the rotation for December movie nights and with thousands of options on the shelves at WPL it is easy to make everyone happy. You could even go with a double feature…

         

First on my list is always The Sound of Music. It really is one of my favourite things. Robert Wise was a production genius and Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein made the von Trapp family story* Hollywood-style glamorous with pretty melodies and clever lyrics. I just can’t get enough of those children and their ridiculous outfits made out of drapery fabric. It’s not really a holiday movie but they used to play it on TV in December every year when I was a little girl so I like to add it to the rotation. *We have the memoir written by Baroness Maria Augusta Trapp in the collection if you would like to read the real story behind their escape and life in the U.S –it’s a wonderful read!

Another must watch for me is Meet Me in St. Louis. This film has holiday scenes and one gorgeous Christmas song in it but it covers a whole year in the life of a wealthy family just before the World’s Fair in 1904 so you get to see all four seasons in glorious Technicolour. There are several memorable songs from this score – the title song is particularly catchy – and the cast is filled with big names; Judy Garland, Mary Astor, Marjorie Main, Tom Drake (so dreamy), but I loved Margaret O’Brien in the role of ‘Tootie’. She played the youngest sister in a family who is leaving St. Louis to move to New York and it is jut breaking her heart to leave behind everything that she loves. When she talks about her dolls or takes a ride on the ice wagon she steals the whole movie. As Judy Garland sings the incredible “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in an attempt to cheer her up I can’t bear to watch the tears tumble down her face. She was awarded the Juvenile Academy Award that year for her performance – at just 7 years of age – with a little miniature Oscar statue.

I never miss a chance to watch White Christmas. Bing Crosby plays the grumpy theatre producer to Danny Kaye’s optimistic song and dance man and it is absolute perfection. Pairing those two with Rosemary Clooney and the delightful Vera-Ellen was a sensational casting choice. The movie begins with the two female leads playing sisters (and that is a great song!) who are working in small nightclubs when they find a way to meet big-time producers played by Crosby and Kaye. The romantic comedy between these four is so entertaining that it should be taught in all film schools. There is a long train journey, wonderful set pieces, costume changes galore, lavish dance numbers, quirky side characters and more than one misunderstanding between the couples. Danny Kaye can dance his way into and out of all manner of trouble and this is one of his best performances. It will make you laugh, might make you sing and might even make you wish you could dance. Or shuffle around the stage, like Crosby does.

11180687_800Although the black and white films are a harder sell at home I try to sneak in one or two each year -some I end up watching alone. One that my kids will watch, I think a bit because of the humour and a bit because of the chemistry between the two men who star in it, is Holiday Inn. Although White Christmas was filmed in 1954 and named after the Irving Berlin hit song, Bing Crosby originally sang that song for this 1942 movie. Instead of Danny Kaye he is working with another graceful dancer, Fred Astaire. Bing Crosby plays a successful singer who chooses to leave behind the fast pace of show business to open an inn that he will open on holidays only. He is joined in his work at the inn by a lovely young singer who he and Fred Astaire both fall for. The resulting love triangle is so much fun to watch as they both try to sing or dance their way into her heart. Irving Berlin’s score is sensational and although this one is in the dreaded black and white instead of colour the glamour of the dance numbers and the beauty of the music far makes up for it (at least I tell my kids this).

Many of these movies are favourites because I watched them when I was a little girl and looked forward to seeing them every year. I never missed a chance to watch these and others like them when they were profiled by the amazing Elwy Yost and his show Saturday Night at the Movies. In a busy month it’s relaxing to spend a bit of time on the couch and travel back in time to days spectacular dance numbers, long train journeys, hijinks and mistaken identity, a lot of sparkle and a chance to sing along. If you do a search on “musical films” in our catalogue you end up with over 300 choices. That’s a lot of relaxing to look forward to.

– – Penny M.

But wait! There’s more!

Love Actually

Penny M came up with a great list of recommended holiday viewing (Dec 12), but I have to add one more: Love Actually (from 2003). I love this movie, I actually (ha) love it.

But, this is definitely not for family viewing. It has an R rating, so keep that in mind.

The movie boasts a big British ensemble cast (Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson and many others) and looks at many different kinds of love, young love, old(er) love, unrequited love, brotherly love…

A couple of story lines stand out for me: Bill Nighy as a wildly outrageous rock star trying to make a comeback with a Christmas hit and Hugh Grant as the British prime minister (not exactly typecasting, but he pulls it off). My daughter and I find his dance scene hysterically funny.

It just wouldn’t be Christmas at my house without Love Actually. It’s smart, it’s sad and oh so very, very funny. You absolutely have to see it.

– – Penny D.

 

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What We’re Reading: Cormoran Strike series

Oh Cormoran Strike! Why is it that I love these mysteries so? The newest addition to the series written by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) has become the most anticipated book on my reading list each year. Present day, gritty London town mysteries and characters whose pasts are revealed little by little to the reader with each installment. This is grown up stuff however, not Harry Potter.

I was lucky. The first book in this series was released in the UK the same week I was on holiday in England. I was traveling with my husband who was there for work and I bought Galbraith’s (Rowling’s) The Cuckoo’s Calling at a W.H. Smith on a hot summer day in Manchester. I bought the book, along with my lunch and an iced coffee and sat at an outdoor market with hundreds of other sun seekers and read all afternoon. Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott jumped off the page and begin solving a mystery that had me looking around at the crowd, wondering if the killer was close, just in case.

It’s been an uphill ride since then. The second installment, The Silkworm, was a little predictable in that I was able to figure things out but the personal story (will they, won’t they?) along with the clever take on the insides of the writing industry had me flipping pages late into the night.

The newest novel, Career of Evil, is my favourite. Not for the faint of heart, it kept me guessing right to the end. Rowling tackles topics of social class in London and feminism in very dark alleys of London, issues that come out regularly in her writing (think Muggles vs Wizards and Hermione’s troubles). These are big books and there is much more at the heart of them then simply determining ‘who done it’.

There is the fascinating plot line of Strike and Robin’s friendship. Robin is engaged (to a creep, of course) and Strike dates other women. Although feelings for each other are present and obvious, the struggle to define their working relationship is more at the surface in these novels, at least for now. Robin is too smart of a private investigator to just make tea and appointments and Strike views her, usually, as his partner. It’s interesting to see Rowling play with mutual respect between these two until Robin is in danger and much to her chagrin, Strike pulls rank as a means of protection, protection she’s never asked for and doesn’t want.

Anyway, I could (and I will to my poor husband) go on and on about these books until I get settled into my next great read. If you haven’t read them, put them on your Christmas list! They’re just as perfect for settling with in front of a fire and a warm drink as they were for me on that flawless day in England at the market square with the sun on my neck.

         

 

– – Sarah C.

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What are we reading?

staff picksOur staff have once again come up with a list of books that they just can not wait to read…and they want to share those title with you.  Fiction and non-fiction. Popular authors and new authors. We hope you find a few treasures on this list.

To view this Staff Picks list, click here.

For more staff reviews of books and movies, visit the WPL Reads! blog.

For reader’s advisory resources, best seller lists (including the always popular WPL Best Sellers List), links to great websites for book lovers, and much more, visit Reader’s Corner.

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Documentaries

documentaries“Doing a documentary is about discovering, being open, learning, and following curiosity.” — Spike Jonze

At WPL, we love documentaries and love being able to promote the classics and the new.  This list is just a small selection of new documentaries that we feel are “must views”.

Click here to view our Featured Documentaries list.  We hope they will inspire you as they’ve inspired us.

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KidPicks

kid_picksThere are soooo many wonderful new books for kids coming out that we just had to share some of our favourite titles with you.

Click here to view our list. 

Looking for even more great new books for the children in your life? Just ask us! Our staff are always happy to share favourite titles and authors with you.

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Love Lost & Found

dvdOK,  I’m really not all that knowledgeable about the blues, so this isn’t going to be some keen, insightful review.

But I was intrigued to come across a DVD that was locally made and about a local person (well, a transplanted local person). There can’t be too many DVD’s like that at the library. And I REALLY, REALLY needed to know how a blues legend from the American Deep South ended up in Kitchener, of all places.

Mel Brown was born in 1939 in Jackson, Mississippi into a highly musical family. He learned to play the guitar and over a lifetime recorded thirteen albums. He also played for many other musicians, including B.B. King, T-Bone Walker and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

In the late 80’s he was approached and asked to lead the house band at Pop the Gator in Kitchener. Remember Pop the Gator? I was never inside but I can picture the exterior perfectly. It was located on Queen Street in downtown Kitchener, just about where Queen Street Yoga is now.  Mel Brown was obviously happy here in K-W, he stayed for the rest of his days. He died in 2009.

I was pretty impressed by Love Lost & Found: the Story of Mel Brown. I thought being made locally might mean it was a little weak or lame, but not so. And, as I said, I don’t know much about the blues, but it’s obvious from watching this DVD that Mel Brown was hugely talented. How very lucky this community was to have someone of his talent and stature living here.

If I have piqued your interest, you might also want to listen to some of Mel Brown’s CD’s to be found at the library.

— Penny D.

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