What We’re Reading: The Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

I love finding a book that I can get lost in – it also doesn’t hurt if I can learn a thing or two about a historical era in the process.  As luck would have it one of my favourite historical fiction authors, Michelle Moran, has just released her latest book, The Rebel Queen.  I devoured it in 3 days.

 

Moran is skilled at writing character driven historical fiction books based on famous women.  From Nefertiti and Madame Tussaud to Napoleon’s second wife Marie-Louise and Cleopatra, Moran brings her readers into the tumultuous lives of her characters.  She also has a knack for giving her readers historical facts but not so much that it bogs down the pace of the book.

 

The Rebel Queen is set in India in the mid 1800’s and follows the life of Sita, a young woman from a small village who has lived in purdah (seclusion from men outside her family) her entire life.  In order to change her fate of marrying at a young age she trains and applies to be one of Durga Dal, an elite group of female guards trained to protect Rani (Queen) Lakshmi of Dhansi.  The story then follows Sita to Dhansi where her life in the palace is far from the small town she grew up in but the dangers are far worse. With the invasion of the British the Rani’s kingdom is in jeopardy.  She is a strong monarch and does everything she can, including raising a male and female army, to defend her country from the British.

 

This is the kind of book where you find yourself sneaking off to read ‘just one more page’ which really turns into 5 or 10 pages which means you might as well just finish the chapter.  If you’re looking for a great book to get lost in I’d definitely suggest picking up anything from Michelle Moran.  She writes about strong female historical characters and engages her audience from the beginning and doesn’t let up until the final page has been turned.

Check out her other books here at WPL where we offer some of her books in print, e-book or e-audio formats …

 

 

Madame Tussaud: a novel of the French Revolution

The Second Empress: a novel of Napoleon’s court

Cleopatra’s Daughter

The Heretic Queen

 

– – Laurie P.

 

 

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What We’re Reading: Cozy Mysteries

The cozy mystery is a popular genre that is relatively new, starting in the late 20th century, and typically involves amateur sleuths solving murders in quaint settings.  The sleuths are relatable to the reader and often have a unique business or hobby such as a bookstore or coffee shop.  These books tend to lack gory details but have a sense of humour and a variety of colourful characters.  Oftentimes these sleuths have connections to the police department where they can get added help in solving the crime but usually solve the case before the police.  Personally I’m a sucker for a Cozy Mystery that has the mystery set in a bookshop or coffee shop (two of my favourite haunts).  Here are some Cozies that you can cozy up with as the weather gets cooler.

 

Cupcake Bakery mystery series by Jenn McKinlay

Cupcakes, mystery and recipes … oh MY!  This series follows the spunky trio of Mel, Ang and Tate who own a cupcake shop.  These three have great, believable chemistry with each other and enough nosiness to keep the mystery going at a good pace.  With tempting recipes at the back of the book, this series will have your tummy rumbling and keep you up well into the night to finish it.

 Start with #1 Sprinkle with Murder

 

Haunted Bookshop series by Alice Kimberly

Penelope is a manager at a Rhode Island bookshop that locals believe to be haunted. After an author suddenly dies during a book signing who is the first person who offers help?  The bookstore’s ghost – a Private Investigator who was murdered in the store over 50 years ago.  

Start with #1 – The Ghost and Mrs. McClure

 

Novel Idea series by Lucy Arlington

Set within a literary agency in a small town this series has a cast of quirky secondary characters, a nosy, yet likeable protagonist and enough ‘red herrings’ to keep readers guessing. Lila is a good main character with her own family issues to deal with – including living with her quirky mother and dealing with her teenage son who has a penchant for getting into trouble.

Start with #1 Buried in a Book

 

Here are some other options for Cozy mystery series –

Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. Start with #1 Maisie Dobbs

Death on Demand series by Carolyn Hart. Start with #1 Death on Demand

Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews. Start with #1 Murder, With Peacocks

Faith Fairchild series by Katherine Hall Page. Start with#1 The Body in the Belfry

Bubbles Yablonsky series by Sarah Strohmeyer. Start with #1 Bubbles Unbound

 

– – Laurie P.

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What I recommend

 

Working in a library it is only natural to have a love of reading and, when asked, to share that love of reading with others. People often come into the library asking for a recommendation for a great book to read.  Often people have an idea about the type of book they are looking for i.e. a good mystery, latest book by James Patterson, etc. But not always. Just as often a customer will have no requirement for the book other than it be “good”.  I know. I know. “Good” can mean so many different things to different people. But, over time, I’ve developed a list of some reliable titles to suggest for just these requests.  Some new. Some old(er). All good!

 

The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurin

The president of France accidentally leaves his hat in a restaurant. The gentlemean who picks up the hat proudly wears the hat and it somehow transforms him. He, in turn, loses the hat. When it is discovered by someone else her life also takes on new meaning. Until, inevitably it blows into someone else’s life. Sometimes a hat (or a new pair of shoes or anything else) is just a hat. But sometimes, it is something much more.

 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A.J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island. And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, though large in weight–an unexpected arrival that gives A.J. the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.

 

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

A classic screwball romance about a handsome but awkward genetics professor and the woman who is totally wrong for him A first-date dud, socially awkward and overly fond of quick-dry clothes, genetics professor Don Tillman has given up on love, until a chance encounter gives him an idea. He will design a questionnaire–a sixteen-page, scientifically researched questionnaire–to uncover the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver. Rosie is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent, strangely beguiling, and looking for her biological father a search that a DNA expert might just be able to help her with.

 

Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State–and she would do it alone.

 

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…. As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends–and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society–born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island–boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

 

About the Author by John Colapinto

Just how did Cal Cunningham — a twenty-five-year-old bookstore stockboy who is new to Manhattan and who has never written anything — publish a bestselling novel that sells to the movies for a million dollars? A mysterious roommate, a timely bike accident, and the rapacious literary agent Blackie Yaeger all play a role in Cal’s success. Deception, blackmail, and murder all play a role in his desperate bid to hold on to it.

 

City of Thieves by David Benioff

Set in a World War II Leningrad, the persistent Nazi siege is slowly starving the inhabitants. Lev, a seventeen-year-old Jew living in Leningrad, gets arrested for looting, a crime punishable by death. He shares a cell with Kolya, a strong and handsome deserter. All seems lost until they are summoned by a respected Soviet colonel for an odd request. Their task: find two dozen eggs for the colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake. The quest for the eggs leads them all over the city and eventually behind German lines.

 

The Book Thief  by M. Zusak

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist-books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

 

Norman Bray in the Performance of His Life by Trevor Cole

Toronto stage actor Norman Bray has renounced all responsibility in the name of his “art.” Now, middle-aged, teetering on the edge of financial ruin, and clinging to the faded light of his career, Norman must answer to the bank, to the adult children of his recently deceased common-law wife, and, most of all, to his own illusions about himself. Making matters worse, Amy, his stepdaughter-of-a-sort, discovers her late mother’s journals and the unhappiness they contain. Meanwhile, Norman finds himself embroiled in the affairs of an attractive neighbour, with unexpected consequences.

 

– – Christine B.

 

 

 

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2015 One Book One Community selection

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

Access Discussion Questions about the book here

Looking for something similar to read? Click here

To learn more about the One Book One Community program and find out about upcoming events visit the OBOC website here

Okay, so imagine the apocalypse is upon us.  You have five minutes pack a few things together and escape to safety. What books do you grab?

 

 

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What We’re Listening to: ’70s Music Explosion

 We have the cure for the ‘January blues’ right here in a four CD set on the shelves at the Waterloo Public Library – it is the Barry Williams (yes, I’m talking about Greg Brady here) presents 70s Music Explosion.  It is also the cure for the ‘my-pile-of-dishes-to-wash-is-too-high’ blues and ‘driving-kids-to-endless-soccer-practices-and-hockey-games’ blues.  It is a universal antidote to anything moderately aggravating, even if you weren’t lucky enough to enjoy that decade firsthand.  It’s simply amazing how much energy you can feel when you hear the first notes to December 1963 (Oh, What a Night) or Crocodile Rock.  Suddenly you are transported back in time to AM radio at its very finest.  The windows are open in your family car because air conditioning still wasn’t standard in most cars, you are sitting on vinyl seats that are way too hot for your legs, and the music is so good that you don’t seem to mind.  I think my entire childhood was populated by these songs and the track listing is solid; 20 songs per CD and there are four of them.  Hours of listening pleasure here.

I recently played the CD as I was pushing my way though a cold winter’s night of dinner and dishes and my kids started making fun of me, saying things like, “oh do you love this song too, Mom?”  But the honest truth is I do love all of these songs.  They are bright and funky and the CD has a great variety of classic voices – Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, Chicago and even… Tom Jones.  Remember She’s a Lady?  Loved to dance to that one.  Whoa, whoa, whoa.

 

These songs are the ones that were played at every family wedding or reunion I went to when I was a kid.  My very favourite was Bad Bad Leroy Brown (but I always sang the words “baddest man in the whole darn town” because I knew that my parents would not be happy if I sang the authentic lyrics).  All of the best songs where the crowd spells out a word are on here too.  A sweet little ditty from the Bay City Rollers; S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night! and everyone’s favourite by the Village People, probably the most unifying party song for any age – Y.M.C.A. – which hasn’t lost it’s groove since it was recorded in 1978.  My dad could really dance to that one.

 

The amount of musical talent on this CD collection astounded me and I’m sure that we’ll have high interest in it once patrons know this treasure is on the shelves.  At a high school orientation evening this week I mentioned it to a few parent friends and several of these friends were going to put a hold on this CD.  It’s a little like a time machine you can borrow from the library, pop in your car CD player, and instantly remind yourself and your very fortunate kids that you’d ‘like to teach the world to sing’ (with the help of The New Seekers, 1971 – a great year) and that ‘you make me feel like dancing’ (Leo Sayer, 1976).

Music really does have charms to soothe the savage beast, especially if that beast is me, driving someone to a hockey practice on a snowy night, and the music is by the ’70s geniuses Chic.  I’m challenging you to just try to listen to Le Freak and not feel like singing along.  Maybe you could do the hustle?

– – Penny M.

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Spring 2015 Featured Titles

Spring 2015 Featured Titles

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What We’re Reading: A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

    

 

A Street Cat Named Bob and The World According to Bob by James Bowen

What’s not to love about these “Bob” books?  They tell the heartwarming—and true– story of a down-on- his- luck young man and a homeless cat and how each gets a second chance in life.

Author James Bowen was a recovering heroin addict, estranged from his family and surviving by busking on the streets of London, England. One cold winter’s day he encountered Bob, a hungry, injured and homeless cat. James makes the life-changing decision to adopt Bob. Bob, in return, offers James companionship, unconditional love and the chance to be responsible for someone other than himself.

Apparently they made quite a sight, a tall, scruffy-looking “bloke” walking the streets with a ginger cat perched on his shoulders—or, alternatively, travelling on the bus together.

Before Bob, James felt invisible and marginalized on the London streets. But with Bob in tow, he drew all kinds of warm, friendly attention. Though there were also encounters with nasty, unpleasant people, not to mention nasty, unpleasant dogs wanting to sink their teeth into Bob. Even a scary snake comes into the story.

These are wonderful books. I loved the close bond between James and Bob and even more how James was able to turn his life around. The author comes across as decent and seems pretty honest about the mistakes he’s made in life. And Bob? I have to admit it, I’m a cat person. So I thought Bob was intelligent, charming and—excuse me– just about purrfect.

– – Penny D.

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What We’re Reading: Suspenseful Reads

I do so love a great suspense read – one that leaves my heart beating with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming a mile away.  As a fairly avid suspense reader I have to give kudos to writers who can still leave me quaking in my seat even though I think I’ve ‘seen it all’.  Here are some good ‘edge of your seat’ reads to try here at WPL.

 

 

Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson – Davidson doesn’t waste time getting to the suspense. This book is intriguing, full of twists and is told from three points of view — Dominique, her brother Desmond and then a fairly tertiary character.  Fans of Myron Bolitar will enjoy Desmond who is the big brother swooping in to save the day. He is a strong, smart and believable main character and I would love to see more of him.  The pace, character development and complexity of the mystery are all well done via multiple layers within the story.  This is a story of family and how they influence who we become (good or bad), revenge, murder and deceit.

Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs (#1 in the Temperance Brennan series – 17 books so far in total) — As Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist in Quebec, investigates the case involving a dismembered body she suspects the case may be linked to the torture killing of a teen many years before.  Fast-paced, edge of your seat action that was the inspiration for the TV series, Bones.

That Night by Chevy Stevens – This book totally captivated me from beginning to end.  As a fan of Chevy Stevens I’ve read all of her books but this one is, by far, her best to date.  I will not ruin any of the plot but I will say that she expertly jumps from the past to present and helps the reader understand where Toni is coming from and why she does what she does.  I really felt connected to Toni throughout the book and felt that Steven’s helped me get an insider’s look into what it’s like for a bullied, misunderstood teen as well as well as what it was like for Toni to go back to her small town as a parolee of such a personal and infamous crime.  This was definitely a page turner for me.  Compelling, yet disturbing, with great characters and edge of your seat action.

 

Other nail biting reads:

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Gone, Girl by Gillian Flynn

Twisted by Andrea Kane

Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner

Promise Me by Harlan Coben (#8 in the Myron Bolitar series)

Daddy’s Girl by Lisa Scottoline

Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell) (#1 in the Kay Scarpetta series)

– – Laurie P.

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If You Like Downton Abbey booklist

If you Like Downton Abbey you might also like these books_1If you Like Downton Abbey you might also like these books_2If you Like Downton Abbey you might also like these books_4

 

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What We’re Watching and Reading: Getting Fit

Now that we’ve entered a new year people tend to make resolutions and often those goals have to do with getting into shape (especially after eating so well during the holidays and during those Super Bowl parties).  Whether you’re new to working out or a regular fitness guru, WPL has many different workout options for you, in book and DVD form, to get you in shape in 2015.

Absolute Beginners.  Cardio & Strength Training Workout for Seniors (DVD)

This cardio and strength training DVD is great for seniors who want to improve their balance and mobility with a modern approach to physical fitness.  With four different levels of intensity viewers can decide how intense they want their workout.

 

Transform Your Body with Brooke Burke – Strengthen & Condition (DVD)

I have used this DVD many times and enjoy Brooke’s personality (even is she’s a little overly bubbly at times).  She has a very laid back tone and the workout is challenging enough without making the viewer feel like it’s not doable.  The exercises are varied and her ab workout is admittedly pretty tough but when you see what it’s done for Brooke (a mom of four kids) it just makes you work a little bit harder.

 

Yoga Meltdown (DVD)

Jillian Michaels’ DVDs can be tough but they also show results.  She blends yoga poses with power moves to help her viewers to tone and lose weight fast.

 

Breathless Body (DVD)

This DVD isn’t for the faint of heart.  It’s a ‘calorie torching cardio’ workout that is a Tabata inspired interval drill workout for ultimate weight loss.

 

The BalleCore Workout: Integrating Pilates, Hatha Yoga and Ballet in an Innovative Exercise Routine for all Fitness Levels by Molly Weeks (book)

 

Yoga Cures: Simple Routines to Conquer More Than 50 Common Ailments and Live Pain-Free by Tara Stiles (book)

 

The Men’s Fitness Exercise Bible: 101 Best Workouts to Build Muscle, Burn Fat, and Sculpt Your Best Body Ever! by Sean Hyson & the editors at Men’s Fitness (Book)

 

Exercise For Your Muscle Type: The Smart Way to Get Fit by Michelle Lovitt and John Speraw (book)

 

Anywhere, anytime, any body yoga : a practical guide to using yoga in everyday life by Emily Slonina (book)

 

Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners (DVD)

 

Pilates Workout for Dummies (DVD)

 

Whether you’re into pilates, yoga, cardio or strength training, WPL has a lot to help you get up and get fit in 2015!

– – Laurie P.

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