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“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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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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Fall-Winter Featured Titles

featured_reads_fallwinterWPL’s latest selection of Featured Titles launches November 6 and is just a small selection of the many awesome reads coming your way this fall/winter.

Click here to view our Featured Titles list for fall-winter 2015.

For more 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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Testament of Youth

testament-of-youthJust so you know, this is a very sad movie. So if sad is not your thing, you probably don’t want to see it. But that would be a shame because it really is excellent.

It’s the true account of one woman’s experiences in the First World War. Vera Brittain abandons her studies at Oxford University to take up nursing, first in London, then behind the front lines in France in a war that seems to grind on forever.  Her fiance and her brother enlist, as do two close friends, so she lives in perpetual anxiety as to their fate. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say some of them are killed.  Alicia Vikander shines as the fiercely independent Vera.

It’s a powerful movie, though sad (or did I mention that already?). And I have to admit it, I did shed a tear or two.

You might also want to take a look at the book, which I’m reading right now. After the war Vera Brittain went back to Oxford and then became a lecturer and writer as well as a life-long pacifist. Her book Testament of Youth was published in 1933 and it became a best-seller. I’m finding the writing a bit old-fashioned—rather long-winded sentences– but it’s well worth reading.

— Penny D.

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Love & Mercy

love-and-mercy-dvdAwhile back I noticed this movie about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys playing at the Princess. I really wanted to see it but somehow never did. So I was really excited to find it while flipping through the new DVD’s  at WPL recently.

Brian Wilson is/was a musical genius, but plenty troubled too. He hears music in his head, no doubt good for a musician, but voices also, clearly not so good.  When he wanted to take the Beach Boys’ music beyond their surfing songs and the other members refused to go along, he fell into a deep depression. Paul Dano portrays Brian Wilson as a young man, while John Cusack portrays him as a middle-aged man. Both actors are superb.

Wilson seeks “help” from a psychologist who proceeds to drug him to the eyeballs, to isolate him from his family and friends and to control every single aspect of his life (hmmm, maybe just a few ethical violations there). Paul Gamatti plays the psychologist and very frightening he is.

But here is where the Love & Mercy comes in. Brian Wilson meets a woman, they strike up a friendship and then fall in love and go on to marry and have five children. But first, she has to stage an intervention, actually stage an intervention, to get him away from the psychologist.

Maybe I have just seen too many movies in my time. But most times after seeing a movie, I feel like I’ve seen it before, or at least something very similar. I mean, usually two days later I can barely remember it (or is that old age creeping in??).

But not so with Love & Mercy.  I really liked this movie. Though to be completely honest my husband was only so-so on it. But what does he know? I’m – clearly — the discerning movie person in our household.

— Penny D.

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Thinking Pre Back-to-School

1621452158I am such a big fan of September and the back-to-school season in general.  It feels more like the real New Year to me – time for resolutions and fresh starts – and all the bright & clean feelings that go with it.

In the first library that I worked at after graduation I had the good fortune of working with a woman who still bought new school supplies (every year her pencil cases were fabulous!) for herself even though she was 15 years beyond her school career just for the pleasure of participating in the annual ritual.  This memory pops into my head each year as I do the shopping with my kids and I love it.  It’s not just the shopping that I enjoy; I relish in the return to routine and the chance to bring something new to that pattern and this is exactly where the library’s resources comes in handy.  Every August I turn to the WPL catalogue for inspiration and it never fails me.

One favourite thing I love to do in late August – especially just before we hit the stores for new clothing, pencils and binders – is a whole bedroom and desk overhaul.  This is never an easy process for anyone at our house and it helps to have expert advice for getting it right.  I have found that many books on organizing or purging your house have either too much information or plans that are too ambitious and this can be overwhelming.  I don’t want to redecorate the house while I am reorganizing before back-to-school and I don’t want to sort our photographs into magical scrapbooks that will last a lifetime, I just want things to be tidy so I know what we need to buy and who needs new shoes for gym class.

fB04wCDPfwMRNLCIyOS1H1UW7DEyeXeu“Keep This, Toss That” and “Declutter Anything” are two of the best books I have used lately on this topic.  Both provide practical tips on donating gently used items, throwing away things that can’t be re-used, and being ruthless about what not to keep.  Jamie Novak was gloriously cold-hearted in limiting how many individual things any family should have but she offset that by providing great tips on things like stocking your bathroom and pantry for safety and first aid while you purge.

Another thing I try to organize a little better each August is meal planning and lunch packing.   Like every adult I would like to have healthier meals and a better plan for packing lunches.  I would like less wasted food and get it all done a little quicker in the morning.  Hooray!  So, back to the WPL catalogue for a little bit of finesse and flair?  Or at least a little spark that will give me a spring in my step as I walk to the pantry and fridge.

An easy thing to zero in on is lunches.  Our two kids have less and less time to eat at school with the activities they do during their break time so I really need to zero in on things that are quick to eat and nutrient dense.  I brought home a couple of books I loved and my kids found more that one thing in there that they liked, that didn’t include ingredients that I have to drive all over town to find, and that don’t involve me buying specialized equipment to create.  Also, neither book involved me making anything complicated like using chives to make faces on a hard-boiled egg.  That type of book is beautiful and I admire the parents that make that kind of lunch but my kids cram so much into their knapsacks every day that it looks like they are heading off to Everest and those pretty lunches would not survive.

I try to get my kids involved in the lunch planning because every expert (including the ones who wrote all of these books) suggest this will help kids enjoy meals more and inform them about shopping, meal preparation and nutrition.  It has helped a little bit and while we talked about lunch foods it naturally led to talking about improving our dinner menus and the things they might possibly eat for that meal.

cvr9781416548928_9781416548928For support I turned to the WPL catalogue.  Why buy expensive cookbooks when I can enjoy the variety we have on the shelves here in the library?  I am not heroic in the kitchen and tend to stick with books that are created to help someone who needs encouragement in cooking for a family.  Experienced cookbook authors and bloggers suggest ways that you can plan ahead to make nutritious meals that kids will eat and use up leftovers in lunches or quick evenings where everyone has to be in a different place by 6:00.  They also suggest that you balance your life and still prepare spectacular meals on nights when you feel inspired (maybe on a long weekend or day off) with nights when you are in a hurry using the skills/recipes they suggest in their books.  It’s nice to read that published experts feel overwhelmed by cooking and that they also have a child who just last week said that they loved tilapia and this week can’t stand the sight of it on a plate.  How is this possible?

Menu planning, cleaning out bedrooms and desks, changing routines, going to new new schools, finding out if any of the sports equipment fits, learning if music lessons and other events sort back into the complex puzzle of the week?  Phew, it’s all part of the back-to-school routine that I love to return to every year.  Really, it’s easy to love when you have all of these gorgeous books for inspiration, and a spiffy new pencil case.

– – Penny M.


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What We’re Reading: Seven Letters from Paris

Seven Letters from Paris by Samantha Verant

I’m not one to read biographies, but this memoir was worth it.  Samantha Verant’s Seven Letters from Paris is part romance, personal journey, travelogue and one whirlwind tale!  Verant’s self-reflection during the rediscovery of seven letters she received after one fantasy-like day with a French man twenty years prior, gives one pause that truth is stranger than fiction.  Love indeed never fades.  This book provides a warm fuzzy read and a look at life and what one can do to achieve what one really wants given the courage and opportunity.  I highly recommend this book for those wanting to reaffirm that princes and princesses do exist even if you weren’t born with that title.


– – Teresa N-P


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What We’re Reading: The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden

The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden: Grow Tons of Organic Vegetables in Tiny Spaces and Containers by Karen Newcomb

I love my vegetable garden.

I’ve been growing my own vegetables since I was a teenager (possibly a strange interest for a teenager!). Since then I’ve grown veggies at a community garden plot and at the three homes I’ve lived in. I like having a direct connection with at least some of the food I eat, the bonus being all that wonderful, fresh produce. I particularly like to grow tomatoes, greens and way, way too many zucchinis.

This book is very cool. It shows you how to maximize your garden by eliminating empty spaces, so that each plant just meets up with the next. It also contains lots of helpful advice, such as how to create really fertile soil, companion planting etc.

A few years ago I saw one of these postage stamp gardens, and I was absolutely amazed that such a small garden space—maybe a couple of feet square—could grow such a large quantity of vegetables.

This is a new idea to me, as I’ve always grown my vegetables the traditional way, in rows with plenty of spaces between the rows. I must say that reading this book has opened up new possibilities to me. I can’t wait to incorporate them into my garden.


– – Penny D.

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