What We’re Reading: Full Dark, No Stars

Back in high school Stephen King and Dean Koontz were the cool guys to read. Something about the spine tingling horror novel was just very appealing.  Lots of action and scares.  Last month the WPL Book Club was reading Full Dark No Stars by Stephen King. I facilitate the book club, naturally I needed to read the book . . . oh my . . . Mr. King sure knows how to get minds and hearts racing.

Full Dark No Stars by Stephen King is made up of four short stories. Each of the stories contains a moral dilemma along with a fair amount of chills and thrills.

1922

The story opens with the confession of Wilfred James to the murder of his wife, Arlette, following their move to Hemingford, Nebraska onto land willed to Arlette by her father.

 

A Good Marriage

Darcy Anderson learns more about her husband of over twenty years than she would have liked to know when she stumbles literally upon a box under a worktable in their garage. ** I will never look at my husband the same way again.  You just can’t know what secrets people are keeping . . .

 

Big Driver

Mystery writer, Tess, has been supplementing her writing income for years by doing speaking engagements with no problems.  But following a last-minute invitation to a book club 60 miles away, she takes a shortcut home with dire consequences.

 

Fair Extension

Harry Streeter, who is suffering from cancer, decides to make a deal with the devil but, as always, there is a price to pay.

- – Christine B.

 

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What We’re Reading: Mystery Men

My parents loved to read.  My dad preferred to read non-fiction but my mother, she had five kids to keep track of, probably needed guaranteed relaxation from her reading material and was more likely to have a mystery in hand while I was growing up.  I loved the groovy 60s covers of her books – like The Hot Rock by Donald Westlake and she really liked Rabbi Small (by Harry Kemelman) – I really loved how she would talk about the stories she was reading.  When I pick up a new mystery novel with a little gasp of happiness (we have so many good ones here at WPL – new ones every week!) I think this enthusiasm makes sense.  I got this good feeling about reading mystery novels from her.

 

Where my mother was a fan of Rabbi Small my first sleuth crush was on Jim Qwilleran.  In my opinion there was nothing more satisfying than reading about that little town in the Great Lakes area of the U.S. where Qwilleran writes a column for the local paper – The Daily Fluxion.  He meanders through town, solving mysteries and caring for his friends, while making a home for two marvelous Siamese cats.  I would read those ” The Cat Who…” mysteries over and over and save special ones to reward myself for a particularly hard exam time in high school.  I still find it very hard to walk by a tall man with a mustache and not wonder if he just might be a billionaire philanthropist/journalist.  Just maybe?  On a rainy there is still a lot of comfort to be found in The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare or any one of Lillian Jackson Braun’s 25+ other novels and short stories.

 

Women solve mysteries also!  I know this.  I have many favourite female sleuths on my list.  Nancy Drew was my original favourite, of course.  She is still popular with junior readers in all of our locations (as is Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator, a great junior series by Jennifer Allison).  We have Aunt Dimity, Miss Marple, Miss Julia, Agatha Raisin, Katherine Hall Page, Miss Marple, and many more lining the shelves here at WPL.  So many good friends in that list but right now I am thinking about men who solve mysteries and have to mention the dashing Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.  I was hooked from the first chapter of Louise Penny’s Bury Your Dead and I haven’t met a single WPL patron who doesn’t share the feeling of instant dedication to the man.  He is everything we are looking for in an inspector – clever and patient while he sorts through his clues – but he is also unfailingly kind and respectful of the people he encounters during the investigation.  And James Qwilleran has his small town in the U.S. but Gamache has the charming hamlet of Three Pines.  You just can’t help but wish it really existed so you could go to that same bookstore he visits and eat those same delicious croissants.  It’s not on the map.  I have looked.  Each time Louise Penny publishes a new book in Inspector Gamache series the interest among WPL patrons is steady and the chatter as the books are returned to the desk is full of satisfaction about how he solved another impossible crime while staying true to his personal code of ethics.  For a real treat you can listen to these as audiobooks – they are just wonderful.  

 

A newer favourite of mine is Cormoran Strike, created by Robert Galbraith.  Poor J. K. Rowling tried to get out there and publish something different following the success of Harry Potter and didn’t receive kind treatment with The Casual Vacancy so who could blame her for trying again under a pseudonym?  Maybe that little removal from public interest in her writing allowed Rowling/Galbraith to unleash her creative gift enough to give us this winning private investigator in Cormoran Strike.  Named after a Cornish giant, he lives and works in Central London, following his return from Afghanistan where he served in the SIB.  He has that tough ex-army feel but this is blended with a better than average sense of humour and an inner monologue that gives you clues to the investigation and his personal life.  It is fantastic.  The first book in the series – The Cuckoo’s Calling – had Strike investigating the murder of a famous supermodel and in the second book, The Silkworm, (so creepy and delicious that I had to stay up late to finish it and then wished I wasn’t awake in the dark late at night) the murder is of an unpopular novelist.  In both books we have an opportunity to meet some colourful characters and this adds to the layers of detail she creates in her writing.  The streets of London come alive just as Hogwarts did.  Rowling/Galbraith delivers fascinating twists and turns in the first two books of this series so they are very satisfying mysteries.  I hope that I’ve added Cormoran Strike to the list of sleuths I’ll be following for years to come.   

 

 

- – Penny M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday Batman!

July 24th marks the Caped Crusaders 75th birthday. So, celebrate it this year with some of these selections. Whether you love the Nolan or Burton films, the campy tv show with Adam West, or follow the latest comic books there is something for everyone in this list.

       
Batman. Volume 1, The court of owls by Scott Snyder

With 75 years worth of stories, you would think there isn’t anything new to be written about Batman. However, Scott Snyder proves that there are still plenty of stories left to be told with this modern take on Batman. Snyder explores the complex relationship between Bruce Wayne and his alter ego and has only begun to scratch the surface on what it means to be Batman.

 
Batman. The Dark Knight returns  by Frank Miller

This was written during a time when many comic books were taking a more mature road, The Dark Knight became a lot darker with this story that sees a retired Batman return to fight crime in his old age. Considered one of the best Batman stories, and arguably the best comic book story ever, The Dark Knight Returns challenged audiences with its thought provoking story and brutal art.

 

 

 The art and making of the Dark knight trilogy by Jody Duncan Jesser & Janine Pourroy

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy changed how audiences perceived the world of superheroes, proving that comic books could be a type of literature to take seriously. This book takes you behind the scenes with photos and stories on the start of the trilogy with Batman Begins, Heath Ledger’s Academy Award winning performance in The Dark Knight, and the epic conclusion in The Dark Knight Rises cementing the trilogy in film history as one of the best.

 

After 75 years of striking fear into criminals, saving Gotham City countless times, and inspiring people all over the world, Batman isn’t showing his age. Happy Birthday!

- – Albert P.

 

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What We’re Reading: some of my favorites

Try these!

It’s summer.  The sun is shining and the flowers are perfect.  I couldn’t settle on a theme this month other than some of my favourite books.

            

Where’d you go, Bernadette by Maria Sempleis about fifteen-year old Bee and her beloved mother Bernadette.  When Bernadette disappears out of fear for an upcoming family vacation to Antarctica, Bee searches endlessly through emails and letters, anything to find her mother and hopefully understand her eccentricities and her genius. This is a very difficult book to put down.

We are completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.  I don’t know what to say about this book except that I loved it, you should read it, and it deserved every bit of the PEN/Faulkner award it won earlier this year. I promise.

Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment is amazing, and most likely one you’ve never heard of. It’s a short read about an elderly couple living in New York. They are hours away from putting their home up for sale, when their beloved dog gets sick and a tracker trailer stops dead on the interstate throwing the city into panic at the thought of possible terrorist attack.  It’s a love story, for each other, for their dog. It’s wonderful and the author is from London, Ontario.

Frog Music  by Emma Donaghueis her newest since Room.  It is based on the true story of Blanche Beunon, a French burlesque dancer, in 1876 San Francisco.  It is the summer of record breaking heat waves and the small pox epidemic.  Blanche’s friend Jenny is shot through a window will Blanche leans over just enough to miss the shot herself. Who was the bullet meant for?  This book is gorgeous and such a ride with Donaghue’s incredible attention to detail bringing this true, never solved mystery to life once again.

More titles! Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling).  The sequel to last summer’s Cuckoo’s CallingAlways wonderful.

The upcoming Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman is the third in a trilogy about young magicians. It’s like Harry Potter meets C.S. Lewis, for adults! Lots of fun and it comes out the beginning of August.

Enjoy your summer reads, whether short and sweet or grand sweeping epics! Please comment and tell us what  you’ll be reading by the campfire or the pool!

- – Sarah C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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