What We’re Reading: Malevolent, Nefarious & Loathsome – The Literary Villian

Modern villains are a diverse bunch.  They’re no longer the clichéd moustache twisting ‘bad guy’ cackling an evil ‘bwa-ha-ha’ in the shadows.  Authors are now tapping into the fact that villains can be sinister but still gain their own fan base and occasionally garner sympathy from readers.  Here are some of the scoundrels, rapscallions and down-right creepy characters who have given me many a goose bump:

Image for The Silence of the Lambs      Image for Harry Potter and the Philosopher



Sarren from The Blood of Eden series by Julie Kagawa – Sarren is a sadistic and powerful vampire and those qualities make for a terrifically terrifying ‘bad guy’.  He has a disquieting calm about him that gives me the creeps especially when he refers to Allie as “little bird” when he toys with her. *shiver* Included in series: The Immortal Rules, The Eternity Cure, The Forever Song

Hannibal Lector from Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon and Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris - He uses his vast intellect and charm to disarm his opponents but you can never forget how ruthless and utterly chilling this man can be. I will always associate the words ‘fava beans’ with Hannibal and I’d decline any dinner invitation from him.

Annie Wilks from Misery by Stephen King – Annie takes the typically innocent action of being a fan to the extreme. In her own mind, she’s not a villain but to those reading Misery, we see her in a very different light.

King Joffrey from A Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin – There’s bad guys and then there’s the kind of villain who is vicious and vile through and through with no redeeming qualities.  It’s evil characters like these that I eagerly hope to witness their downfall. Included in series: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons, The Winds of Winter

Dolores Umbridge  AND  Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling – Don’t let her pink dresses and affinity for fluffy kittens fool you.  Professor Umbridge’s abuse of power and cruel, abusive punishments for her students definitely put her in the sadistic villain category. Included in series: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Here are some other villains who also made my cut of favourite evil doers:

Sauron from The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R Tolkien

Prof. Moriarty - Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis from The Final Problem (included in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes)  by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Whether they’re calm and sadistic, undoubtedly evil or criminal masterminds, villains come in many forms and without them literature would be pretty dull.  So, who are your favourite villains?

- – Laurie P.











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What We’re Watching: history and travel

As an armchair traveler and history buff I’m always on the lookout for captivating DVDs.  The following four do just that.



Ghost of Murdered Kings provides a unique look into Ireland’s history and demystifies some previously discovered facts about the ‘bog bodies’ found across Ireland and Europe.  Both scientists and historians gather to examine the latest finds and suggest something unique that will make you look differently at this country’s already tumultuous past.

The story of Ireland provides viewers with the most comprehensive history of Ireland that I’ve seen to date.  Fergal Keane’s presentation is a pleasure to watch, as is the content from the beginnings of Ireland’s history to present day.  This one keeps you interested from start to finish making the viewer come away with a better understanding of Ireland’s tragic and complex history.

The Grand Tour of Italy and its commentator present a colourful look at Italy like you’ve never seen before. Following the footsteps of young 18th century British aristocrats undertaking a Grand Tour through Italy, exploring art, architecture, and manners the presenter’s witty dialogue makes you chuckle while at the same time giving insight to things you probably thought you never knew about Italy and makes you want to board the plane now.

Israel:  The Royal Tour delivers a look at a country from a proud politician’s and American commenter’s eyes.  Follow along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Peter Greenberg as they explore this tiny but remarkable land you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

For those of you who don’t have travel plans this summer, pull up a comfy chair, grab your favorite snack and beverage, relax and enjoy your journey as you watch these fantastic films.

- – Teresa NP





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What We’re Reading: One Man Guy

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

There are moments when I feel like I am getting old.  I know that every single one of us will experience this feeling, whether it’s when you first realize that you don’t feel ‘current’ with popular music or when an actor is mentioned (for me it was Shia LaBeouf when he was cast in the 4th Indiana Jones movie) and you realize you have no idea who that person is.  I accept this as an expected stage in life but, once in a while, you get the opposite feeling – a chance to feel young again.  I find that those wonderful moments come most often through a really fantastic book.  It’s one of my very favourite things.  It came to me again recently through the words of a first-time novelist Michael Barakiva and his book One Man Guy.


It’s written for teens but I’d like to make a strong case for it to be read by everyone in their teen years and older.  Remember the Required Reading lists for your university courses?  I think there should be a Required Reading List for Life and this book should be on it because it gives you that chance – Poof – to feel like a 14-year old again.  That simultaneous joy and terror of starting to make decisions on your own and break free of some of the things your parents taught you while still holding tight to some of the others.  All that edgy half-kid and half-adult feeling wrapped up in a shiny yellow book cover of 255 pages. 


In this book, Aleksander Khederian has been forced to attend summer school after his first year of high school sees his marks dip down low enough that he just misses the cut off for the Honour Roll.  We get to know Alek through a family dinner that is held in a neighbourhood restaurant.  Restaurant meals are rare in his family as they are v-e-r-y particular about their food and this first chapter will remind you of some of the best stage writing you’ve ever seen or read.  It had me dashing off to the WPL catalogue to see if we had any Neil Simon on the shelves so that I could compare the two. The writing is that clever.  In the first chapter alone you get the sense of the kind of kid Alek is and the world he inhabits with his parents and one older brother.  


Once Alek realizes that summer school is in his future he is resigned to it.  He dresses for his first day in a bedroom decorated in colours and furniture chosen by his parents, conservative clothing also chosen by his mother, carrying a JanSport schoolbag he wishes would disintegrate and somehow finds himself making friends (and eventually falling in love with) with Ethan who is known for skateboarding and starting a cafeteria-wide food fight to protest a change to the school dress code.  Ethan is described as having “wavy sandy hair that fell in his face in a way that made Alek think of surfers” while “Alek’s own hair was dark, thick and unmanageable, like weeds in a garden”.  It’s not exactly star-crossed love but it’s pretty close.  There are wonderful hills and valleys in their relationship and Alek has a sassy friend named Becky who helps him to navigate all of them.  She’s the kind of friend everyone should have in their lives; teen or adult.  I’d love to read a novel with Becky as the main character. 


This is a novel about teen romance, it’s a novel about family and it’s a novel about understanding different points of view.  All valuable thing to read about; wrapped up in one of the most convenient and entertaining packages – a novel!  If you are still in your teen years you will find friends in Alek, Ethan and Becky and might gain some insight into the actions of your mysterious parents.  If you are in your post-teen years you should read One Man Guy just for the pleasure of going back in time and remembering what it felt like to be on the cusp of something incredible like that.  This book really should be on a Required Reading List for Life.  Oh, and if you were in the mood for a playlist to enjoy while reading it; Ethan and Alek take in a Rufus Wainright concert while they visit New York City (the title of the book is taken from one of Rufus’ songs) and we have several of his CDs in our collection here at WPL.  Anything Rufus Wainwright sings will be the perfect thing to listen to while you read this book but the song “One Man Guy” is on the 2001 album Poses.  Psst, his father, Loudon Wainwright III, wrote and recorded this song in the 80s and we have a recording of his version of that song in the WPL catalogue on his 2000 album The BBC sessions.

- – Penny M.

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Featured Titles – Summer 2014

Summer_2014Every few months, we choose two recently published books – a work of fiction and a work of non-fiction – as our Featured Titles of the season. These are interesting books with some buzz that we don’t want you to miss.

Click here to check out our list for the summer of 2014.

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WPL Staff Picks – Summer 2014

staff_summer_picksLike many of you, our staff are looking forward to taking some time off this summer…and spending more time reading! This list is just a sampling of the books they are most excited about. To view this list, click here.

We hope you have a happy and safe summer full of good reads!

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Teen Books that Adults Can Read Too!

The Teen genre is on the rise in popularity with many books swiftly climbing to the top of bestseller lists.  But this doesn’t mean that you have to actually be in your teens to read Teen fiction.  Some adults feel the need to hide the fact that they enjoy this genre because they’re embarrassed to be seen by their peers with a Teen read in hand.  But I’m here to tell you that there’s no need to feel that reading a Teen book has to be a clandestine affair.

Sometimes it’s assumed that this genre is only about dystopian settings, vampires, werewolves and teenage love triangles.  Admittedly, this genre has had its share of supernatural post-apocalyptic action and teenage angst but it can also be so much more.  There’s emotional drama, dynamic relationships, action, loss, struggle and yes occasionally some romance.  The genre has come a long way in the past few years with its own complex characters, riveting plot lines and larger story arcs that can draw in readers from their teen years all the way up to us more *ahem* ‘seasoned’ readers.

Here’s a couple of great Teen reads that I think adults (as well as teenagers) will enjoy.

The Immortal Rules series  by Julie Kagawa  – This series takes the vampire dystopian genre to a whole new level. There are ruthless bad guys, a gritty setting and a strong female protagonist who struggles to hold onto her humanity as she becomes the ‘monster’ that she hates.  This book is filled with action, some gore and a wee bit of PG-rated romance.

The Fault in our Stars by John GreenThe hype surrounding this book is warranted (Tip: Keep Kleenex on hand). It’s a book about the strength of the human spirit and the bravery and resilience of a bunch of teens who are dealt a really tough lot in life. It reminds us that we can still make a huge impact on the lives of our loved ones even if we may not be around long enough to make an impact on the world at large.

In case you become an avid Teen fiction fan here are some more selections:

The Testing by Joelle Charboneau

Shatter Me series  by Tahereh Mafi

House of Night series by P.C Cast

Delirium series by Lauren Oliver

Red Rising  by Pierce Brown

The Geography of You and Me  by Jennifer E Smith


So whether you’re a sweet sixteen or a sassy 67, give the Teen genre a try.  You just may find yourself with a new genre that you’re proud to love.

- – Laurie P.




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What We’re Reading: Books about Gardening

Ignore the rain and start to imagine your garden. Think of the buds and seeds under the wet ground that are about to pop and stretch and grow all thanks to you! Think of the benefits you’ll receive, the harvest, the shade, the beauty! To get you in the mood this, let’s talk gardens.

First off, a novel for inspiration that you must get your green thumbs on! Last year, Elizabeth Gilbert published a fat tome of a book titled, The Signature of all Things. All I can say is how much you’ll love Alma and her studies of moss.  Yes, moss becomes absolutely fascinating in this epic read.

Once your creative gardening juices are flowing, it’s time to delve into non-fiction where there is something for everyone.


Image for Grow Your Own VegetablesImage for One Magic Square : The Easy, Organic Way to Grow Your Own Food on a 3-Foot Square

New to gardening? Try any book by Toronto’s Gayla Trail. She knows it all and will get you excited about getting your hands dirty. My favourite is Grow great grub : organic food from small spaces

All about organic? My garden bible over the years has been the great and green The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food.  Artichokes to walnuts, this book covers all of your organic needs.

Not a lot of space?  One Magic Square: the easy, organic way to grow your own food on a 3-foot squareby Lolo Houbein.  One three-foot square is all you’ll need.

Not a ton of time? Try Gardening Shortcuts by Jenny Hendy and learn to grow a great garden with step-by-step projects. No guilt required!

Wondering why you’d even bother to grow your own? Carol Klein will convince you in her book Grow your Own Vegetables.  It’s a beautiful book, lots of pictures and simple explanations for getting your food from the garden to the kitchen!

- – Sarah C.




















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What We’re Watching: Mr. Selfridge

  In 1909, Harry Gordon Selfridge opened Selfridges, a modern, high-end department store in London, England. The store set out to make shopping an enjoyable, sensual experience by creating fantastic window displays and prominently displaying store merchandise in a way that customers could see and touch it.

Mr. Selfridge spent twenty-five years working at Marshall Fields department store in Chicago before realizing his vision of opening his own store. In addition to offering such things as ice cream sodas, elevators, restaurant with orchestra and  rooftop garden with skating rink.

The series, a screen adaptation of the book Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge  by Lindy Woodhead provides a fictionalized (although realistic) snapshot of life in London in the early 1900s.  If you are a fan of the Downton Abbey series this will also appeal to you.

- – Christine B.





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What We’re Reading: Agatha Christie


Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks (2010) and Agatha Christie’s Murder in the Making (2011) by John Curran

I still remember when I read my first Agatha Christie. I was in Grade 7, sick from school and looking about for something to read. I picked up a battered paperback copy of The Body in the Library.  And that was that.  I was hooked and went on to read just about everything that the hugely prolific (and successful!)  author ever wrote.

So I got quite a thrill from these two books by John Curran. At Dame Christie’s former home in Devon, England (now owned by the National Trust—I’d love to visit!) Curran unearthed 73 of her writing journals, which form the basis of these books and provide a fascinating look at Christie’s 50 year writing career.

So, for example, in the notebook entries for Crooked House (1953), Christie lists her main characters and a brief plot outline. But at this point she is not sure of either murder victim or murderer, so she tosses around a couple of ideas for each, and then, ever inventive, reels off quite a list of possible motives for the crime. She then slowly wrestles it all into shape and, voila, the latest Christie best-seller. Fascinating.

I have to conclude by listing some of my favourite Agatha Christie books. I can’t list just one—that would be impossible. But my list would include: The ABC Murders, And Then There were NoneA Murder is Announced, A Pocket Full of Rye and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

- – Penny D.

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2014 World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day is Friday, June 20 and events are happening across Kitchener-Waterloo throughout the month of June. WPL invites you to check out a book related to refugee experiences or attend our Film and Speaker series. For more information on World Refugee Day events, visit http://worldrefugeedaykw.ca/.

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