Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 Staff Favourites - Fiction - Part 3

A big year for reading at Halifax Public Libraries. As we do every year at The Reader, we polled our staff all across our entire library system to see their favourite books of 2014. What a response! Stay tuned over the next few days for lists of our picks from the best published in fiction, nonfiction and children's and young adult books.  I know they've piqued my interest and have lengthened my "to read" list!

The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier
"The Lost Sisterhood features a cast of iconic, legendary characters and another grand adventure from a master storyteller. Fortier delivers a fresh new story to keep her audience coming back for more." publisher

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
"From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II." publisher

Tell by Francis Itani
"With the narrative power and writerly grace for which she is celebrated, Frances Itani has crafted a deeply moving, emotionally rich story about the burdens of the past. She shows us how, ultimately, the very secrets we bury to protect ourselves can also be the cause of our undoing. Tell is stunning achievement." publisher

Prince Lestat by Anne Rice
"A stunning departure, a surprising and compelling return…From Anne Rice, perennial best seller, single-handed reinventor of the vampire cosmology--a new, exhilarating novel, a deepening of her vampire mythology, and a chillingly hypnotic mystery-thriller." publisher

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
"Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are back. If you were swept away by Graeme Simsion’s international smash hit The Rosie Project, you will love The Rosie Effect. The Wife Project is complete, and Don and Rosie are happily married and living in New York. But they’re about to face a new challenge. Rosie is pregnant." publisher

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
"The story follows Hetty "Handful" Grimke, a Charleston slave, and Sarah, the daughter of the wealthy Grimke family. The novel begins on Sarah's eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership over Handful, who is to be her handmaid. "The Invention of Wings" follows the next thirty-five years of their lives. Inspired in part by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke (a feminist, suffragist and, importantly, an abolitionist), Kidd allows herself to go beyond the record to flesh out the inner lives of all the characters, both real and imagined." publisher.

The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer
"Sophie Kohl is living her worst nightmare. Minutes after she confesses to her husband, a mid-level diplomat at the American embassy in Hungary, that she had an affair while they were in Cairo, he is shot in the head and killed. Stan Bertolli, a Cairo-based CIA agent, has fielded his share of midnight calls. But his heart skips a beat when he hears the voice of the only woman he ever truly loved, calling to ask why her husband has been assassinated. Omar Halawi has worked in Egyptian intelligence for years, and he knows how to play the game. Foreign agents pass him occasional information, he returns the favor, and everyone's happy. But the murder of a diplomat in Hungary has ripples all the way to Cairo, and Omar must follow the fall-out wherever it leads." publisher

Peter Pan Must Die by John Verdun
"In John Verdon’s most sensationally twisty novel yet, ingenious puzzle solver Dave Gurney brings his analytical brilliance to a shocking murder that couldn’t have been committed the way the police say it was." publisher

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
"All My Puny Sorrows, at once tender and unquiet, offers a profound reflection on the limits of love, and the sometimes unimaginable challenges we experience when childhood becomes a new country of adult commitments and responsibilities. In her beautifully rendered new novel, Miriam Toews gives us a startling demonstration of how to carry on with hope and love and the business of living even when grief loads the heart." publisher life of a j fikryThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
"As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read and why we love." publisher

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 Staff Favourites - Fiction - Part 2

A big year for reading at Halifax Public Libraries. As we do every year at The Reader, we polled our staff all across our entire library system to see their favourite books of 2014. What a response! Stay tuned over the next few days for lists of our picks from the best published in fiction, nonfiction and children's and young adult books.  I know they've piqued my interest and have lengthened my "to read" list!

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
“zombie thriller for people who think they don’t want to read zombie thrillers: smart and thoughtful and a page turner” Kristina

Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
"Featuring the razor-sharp humor and acute psychological insight that made The Dinner an international phenomenon, Summer House with Swimming Pool is a controversial, thought-provoking novel that showcases Herman Koch at his finest" publisher

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
"After the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding, in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Long ago, Kelsea's forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea's nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen's Guard have appeared to escort the princess to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling." publisher

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
"Brilliantly constructed, Wolf in White Van unfolds in reverse until we arrive at both the beginning and the climax: the event that has shaped so much of Sean’s life. Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving, John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van is an audacious and gripping debut novel, a marvel of storytelling brio and genuine literary delicacy." publisher

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
"An internationally heralded debut novel of extraordinary warmth, insight and humanity that will appeal to readers who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Still Alice: Elizabeth Is Missing is at once a page-turning mystery that takes us from post-war Britain to the present day and a piercingly honest portrait of love and memory, families and aging through the lens of an unforgettable protagonist who will seize your heart--an elderly woman descending into forgetfulness, as she embarks alone on a quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared." publisher

Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer
"Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization, and the government is involved in sending secret missions to explore Area X. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer." publisher

Hang Wire by Adam Christopher
"Ted Hall is worried. He’s been sleepwalking, and his somnambulant travels appear to coincide with murders by the notorious Hang Wire Killer. Meanwhile, the circus has come to town, but the Celtic dancers are taking their pagan act a little too seriously, the manager of the Olde Worlde Funfair has started talking to his vintage machines, and the new acrobat’s frequent absences are causing tension among the performers. Out in the city there are other new arrivals – immortals searching for an ancient power – a primal evil which, if unopposed, could destroy the world!" publisher

Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
“surprise Giller winner: poetic historical fiction about the Russian inventor of the theremin who was also a spy” Kristina


Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains: a tale of travel and darkness with pictures of all kinds by Neil Gaiman
"Beautifully illustrated by renowned artist Eddie Campbell, this is a four-color edition of Neil Gaiman's award-winning novelette "The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains" -- a haunting story of family, the otherworld, and retribution" publisher.

Skin Game by Jim Butcher
“The Dresden Files is a great paranormal/ hard boiled detective series.” Ashley

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Staff Favourites - Fiction - Part 1

A big year for reading at Halifax Public Libraries. As we do every year at The Reader, we polled our staff all across our entire library system to see their favourite books of 2014. What a response! Stay tuned over the next few days for lists of our picks from the best published in fiction, nonfiction and children's and young adult books.  I know they've piqued my interest and have lengthened my "to read" list!

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrianne Harun
"The intoxicatingly lush debut novel by the acclaimed author of The King of Limbo, A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain is an unsettling portrait of life in a dead-end town, as seductive and beautifully written as the devil’s dark arts are wielded." publisher

Can't and Won't by Lydia Davis
"What does not vary throughout Can’t and Won’t, Lydia Davis’s fifth collection of stories, is the power of her finely honed prose. Davis is sharply observant; she is wry or witty or poignant. Above all, she is refreshing. Davis writes with bracing candor and sly humor about the quotidian, revealing the mysterious, the foreign, the alienating, and the pleasurable within the predictable patterns of daily life." publisher

The Bees by Laline Paull
"Born into the lowest class of an ancient hierarchical society, Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, an Untouchable, whose labour is at her ancient orchard hive's command. As part of the collective, she is taught to accept, obey and serve. Altruism is the highest virtue, and worship of her beloved Queen, the only religion. Her society is governed by the priestess class, questions are forbidden and all thoughts belong to the Hive Mind." publisher

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
“Humorous, touching and great characters.” David

The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton
“What a beautiful story! Fans of historical fiction will enjoy the novel. Set in 17th century Amsterdam it tells a story of eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman who arrives on her new husband's doorstep ‘with a small trunk, a birdcage for her pet parakeet, and almost no clear idea of who she's just married…’ The novel is atmospheric, moving and well written.” Julia

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
"Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he’d only imagined possible. On warm summer mornings he sits on a bench holding a small book, The Balm in Gilead, in his large hands. “There is a balm in Gilead,” his neighbor Clara Morrow reads from the dust jacket, “to make the wounded whole.” publisher

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
"Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive." publisher

The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory
"Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter—Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret’s contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors." publisher

Gallowglass by Gordon Ferris
"Douglas Brodie is dead. The Glasgow Gazette announced the tragic death on 26 June 1947 of their chief crime reporter. Just three weeks before, life was rosy. After a tumultuous winter chasing war criminals across Glasgow, Douglas Brodie was revelling in the quiet life. His relationship with advocate Samantha Campbell was blossoming and he'd put the reins on his impulsiveness. Hope and promise filled the tranquil summer air. A day later, Brodie was arrested for the kidnap and murder of Scotland's top banker." publisher

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton
"Police sergeant Lacey Flint thinks she’s safe. She thinks her new job with the river police, and her new life on a house boat, will keep her away from danger. But she’s wrong. When Lacey discovers a body in the water, and sinister offerings appear in her home, she fears someone is trying to expose her darkest secret. And the river is the last place she should be." publisher

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
"With cool precision, in language that shimmers with rage and wit and fierce longing, Jenny Offill has crafted an exquisitely suspenseful love story that has the velocity of a train hurtling through the night at top speed. Exceptionally lean and compact, Dept. of Speculation is a novel to be devoured in a single sitting, though its bracing emotional insights and piercing meditations on despair and love will linger long after the last page." publisher

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The 2015 International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award Longlist Includes 11 Canadian Novels!

The International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award  is sponsored by the city of Dublin, Ireland, and the company IMPAC. Works of fiction are nominated by public libraries from around the world. It is one of the richest literary prizes in the world. The 142-book 2015 longlist features 11 Canadian authors!

Alistair MacLeod won the prize for his novel No Great Mischief in 2001, and Rawi Hage - for De Niro's Game in 2008. The Canadian books on the 2015 longlist are:

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood - Oryx and Crake trilogy

“A conclusion to the trilogy finds Toby and Ren returning to the MaddAddamite cob house after rescuing Amanda and assuming the duties of the Craker's religious overseers while Zeb searches for the founder of the pacifist green religion he left years earlier.”

The Strangers' Gallery by Paul Bowdring

St. John's archivist Michael Lowe's life is turned on its head when a Dutch acquaintance, Anton Aalders, arrives on his doorstep in 1995. Anton is searching for a father he never met, ostensibly a Newfoundland soldier who was part of the Allied forces that liberated the Netherlands at the end of the Second World War. The Strangers' Gallery is a finely crafted, at times humorous, novel about the painful search for identity - both political and personal. - Novelist

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

“Boyden's novel tells the story of the French conquest of Canada from the point of view of both the conquerors and the conquered. Set in the early 1600s, as the French were exploring today's Canadian province of Ontario, Boyden's narrative depicts in compelling detail how the French exploited ancient enmities between the Iroquois and Huron tribes to speed their conquest of New France."

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

“In 1866, a weary Englishman lands in a gold-mining frontier town on the coast of New Zealand to make his fortune and forever leave behind his family's shame. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to investigate what links three crimes that occurred on a single day, events in which each man finds himself implicated in some way: the town's wealthiest man has vanished.”

Three Souls by Janie Chang

"Civil war China is fractured by social and political change. Behind the magnificent gates of the Song family estate, however, none of this upheaval has touched Leiyin, a spoiled and idealistic teenager. But when Leiyin meets the captivating left-wing poet Hanchin, she defies her father and learns a harsh reality: that her father has the power to dictate her fate. Leiyin's punishment for disobedience leads to exile from her family, an unwanted marriage and ultimately a lover's betrayal - followed by her untimely death."

For Sure by France Daigle

For Sure tells the story of Terry and Carmen and their children and the people who are drawn towards the Babar, the local bar in Moncton. The novel also tackles the topics of numbers, the Chiac language and minority cultures. - Novelist

Under Budapest by Ailsa Kay

“The drama and ravages of the Hungarian Revolution are seen through interconnected stories set in 1956 and 2010 of two North American Hungarian families who have gone back to Hungary for reasons which they have kept to themselves.”

Anatomy of a Girl Gang by Ashley Little

“Cast out by mainstream society, a gang of teenage girls known as the "Black Roses" rob ATMs, cook crack on stoves, and savagely beat down anyone who dares to harm them. Brutal and broken, they claw at the knot of darkness and violence that tightens around their lives.”

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

“Relegated to the status of schoolteacher and friendly neighbor after abandoning her dreams of becoming an artist, Nora advocates on behalf of a charismatic Lebanese student and is drawn into the child's family until his artist mother's careless ambition leads to a shattering betrayal.”

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Nao Yasutani is a Japanese schoolgirl who plans to kill herself as a way of escaping her dreary life. First, though, she intends to write in her diary the life story of her great-grandmother Jiko, a Zen Buddhist nun. But Nao actually ends up writing her own life story, and the diary eventually washes up on the shore of Canada's Vancouver Island, where a novelist called Ruth lives.- Novelist

Love Letters of the Angels of Death by Jennifer Quist

“Brigs, in the company of his wife Caroline, discovers the body of his mother in her mobile home. On his shoulders falls the burden of arranging the funeral. Brigs and Caroline turn out to be the only ones taking responsibility for the burial. By the time the burial is over they understand this will always be their role in future funerals, to liaise with death on behalf of the people they love.”

The shortlist for the 2015 award will be announced on April 15, 2015 and the winner will be revealed on June 17, 2015.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Staff Pick - Trauma Farm by Brian Brett

Trauma Farm: a rebel history of rural life

Poet and farmer Brian Brett delivers an inspired exploration of what it means to be a small farmer in modern day Canada. Having started his farming career twenty plus years ago in Salt Spring Island B.C., Brett certainly has loads of experience from which to draw upon.

He rants about the challenges facing small farmers in the face of big agribusiness and gov't regulations, but he also muses about the beauty of farming and the intangible benefits of being so closely connected to the earth. It is a compelling mix of criticism and celebration.

Brett presents an enjoyable mix of curmudgeonly humour with an artist's eye for detail, combined with a poet's way with language.

This is a particular good reading suggestion for those readers interested in the local/slow food movement, as well as fans of natural history and the farm life.

Brett has already won several literary prizes for this book, including the prestigious 2009 Writer's Trust Non-fiction Prize.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lives that Inspire

As part of my job here at the library, I moderate one of our book discussion groups. A title we read recently was the memoir Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, which documents the author's quest to bring schools to poor children - particularly girls - in Pakistan. Mortensen's book has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 149 weeks and counting: his recently released follow-up Stones into Schools, that looks at his continuing mission to build schools, now in Afghanistan as well - has already popped up on bestseller lists.

For me I think the appeal of Mortenson's book is two fold. The war in Afghanistan, and news stories about conflict in Pakistan have many people looking for stories of hope coming out of that part of the world. Mortenson's tale seems to be a model for the ways that Western and Eastern societies can successfully co-exist, embrace cultural and religious differences and work together for a common good.But beyond that, I think that stories of hope in general have appeal for readers. I've collected a few other tales - set around the world - of people that are working hard to make their own personal impact on the world.
Banker to the Poor: micro-lending and the battle against world poverty -- the story of the Grameen Bank and the man who created it. Muhammad Yunus' plan began with a small loan to a group of women in Bangladesh, now Yunus is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and micro-credit has become a popular and well know theory for addressing poverty.

Whatever it Takes: Geoffrey Canada's quest to change Harlem and America -- Geoffrey Canada wants to revolutionize how the America aims to help children living in poverty. He doesn't want to help the odd lucky, motivated kid from a poor neighbourhood (a kid like he was), he wants to help every kid. He created the Harlem Children's Zone - an integrated program targeted at parents and students - in a quest to change the lives of a generation of Harlem kids. President Obama recently had Canada as a guest at the White House and suggested his innovative model should be spread across America.

A Simple Path by Mother Teresa: although she died in 1997, Mother Teresa's story is still one that should serve as inspiration to people looking for the ways an individual can make positive change in the world. This is the story of her life and the The Missionaries of Charity in her own words.

Lighting the Way: nine women who changed modern America - a collection of short biographies of women from the 20th Century who worked to make significant social and political change in America. Some names you will know, and some you will wonder why you didn't.