Monday, July 28, 2014

World War I in fiction

One hundred years ago today saw the beginning of the First World War. Let's remember this war and the sacrifice of our soldiers in these novels reflecting Canadian men's and women's experiences in this world altering conflict.

The Gunner by Paul Almond

"Eric Alford's safe and romantic life on the peaceful Gaspe Coast is shattered by his decision to follow his elder brother John (the Pilgrim and The Chaplain) into the 1914-18 cataclysm of death and destruction known as the "Great War for Civilisation". By his thundering Howitzer, Gunner Alford assaults the Hun through every major Canadian battle of WWI: Ypres, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Hill 70, The Somme, and "The Hundred Days" that ended the conflict. A developing romance with a lovely Londoner is cut short by a German shell. Evacuated to a Rouen field hospital, he is surrounded by hellish wounds: blindness, amputations, and gas-inflicted horrors. Finally, back in Blighty among other shell-shock victims, he recovers and returns to his Gaspe home, bereft of his London love and changed forever." publisher

The Cartographer of No Man's Land by P.S. Duffy

"Nova Scotia, 1916. Angus MacGrath, a skilled sailor and navigator, is lost—caught between a remote wife, a disapproving father, and a son seeking guidance. An ocean away from his coastal village, missing is Ebbin Hant, Angus's adventurous brother-in-law and best friend. Ebbin's unknown fate sets angus on an uncharted course with profound consequences for those he loves and those he comes to love. In search of his own purpose and hoping against all odds to find Ebbin, Angus defies his pacifist upbringing and enlists. Assured a safe job as a military cartographer in London, he is instead assigned to the infantry and sent to the blood-soaked mud of the front-line trenches in France, where he begins his search. At home his young son, Simon Peter, once wide-eyed about the war—clipping stories and sneaking propaganda—must navigate uncertain loyalties in a village succumbing to war fever." publisher

Freddy Frieda Goes to War: a labrador native's story by Earl B. Pilgrim

"Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, the great Northern Doctor, arrived in Hopedale, Labrador, in August 1915. It was his last trip before going to war as a medical doctor for the British army in a field hospital in France. While in Hopedale, he met Freddy Frieda, a young Inuit hunter who could speak the German language fluently. Grenfell recruited Freddy for the Newfoundland Regiment and had him sent to England to train as a spy. This is the story of what happened to Freddy in the First World War. It's a story that has never been told before." Discover

Passchendaele: the novel by Paul Gross

"Sergeant Michael Dunne of the 10th Canadian Infantry Battalion has survived some of the worst fighting of the Great War. Wounded on the Western Front, he returns home to Calgary, a broken man suffering from neurasthenia and facing trial as a deserter should he ever attempt a return to the battlefield. In Calgary, he finds a complicated love with Sarah Mann, a nurse dismissed from her position because of her German ancestry. Sarah is struggling to care for her chronically ill younger brother, David, and is devastated when he finds someone to lie on his medical certificate so that he can enlist in the war. Though Michael is haunted by his memories of the battlefield, out of duty and love he follows David to the Front. Neither of the two men knows what lies ahead." publisher 

The Brothers Keepers: the Great War odyssey of Sable MacInnes and his brothers by John E. (Ted) MacNintch

"The Brother Keepers" is a sweeping epic of Sable MacInnes and his brothers who bond during the escapades of youth in bucolic, Nova Scotia, each designated as his brother's keeper by their Baptist Minister father "The Old Gent." Sucked into the vortex of the Great War, sniper Sable, his stretcher-bearer/piper brother Ian and their infantryman brother, Fraser, struggle through the horrors of the major battles of human attrition, witnessing history first hand as soldiers of the Canadian Corps, one of the most elite fighting formations of shock troops of the Western Front." Discover

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Taking Flight with the Wright Brothers

Birdmen: the Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the battle to control the skies
by Lawrence Goldstone"Wilbur and Orville Wright expected much more than fame after they flew across the sands at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Having successfully flown and filed a broadly worded patent for a wing and rudder design, they expected royalties to be paid to them for every aircraft built by rivals. Believing they owned the concept of flight, they also demanded licensing fees for every barnstorming flight and a cut from the profits of every public air show. Glenn Curtiss and other proud air pioneers scoffed at the brothers' claim, arguing they had all had a hand in achieving flight. In Birdmen, historian and novelist Goldstone recounts years of legal wrangling that slowed Americans using aircraft for commerce, transportation, and defense until the start of WWI. The author also chronicles a four-year period in which 142 barnstorming pilots died and swarming spectators picked their broken bodies and aircraft for souvenirs. This period history presents ample biographical details for readers who enjoy rivalries" - Booklist

To Conquer the Air: the Wright Brothers and the great race for flight
by James Tobin"This extraordinarily well-written and deeply nuanced work is the best of the recent spate of books celebrating the Wright Brothers and the 100-year anniversary of their invention of the airplane. Award-winning biographer Tobin (Ernie Pyle's War) provides a detailed yet truly exciting tale of the brothers' lifelong effort to stand "against the wave of popular doubt about the possibility of human flight....  The best yet of all the books celebrating the Wrights' 100-year anniversary, this should stand as the definitive account of their life and times, and will sell accordingl" Publisher Weekly

Wright Brothers' flying machine (DVD)
 NOVA/PBS"The secrets of the Wright Brothers' innovative genius are explored in this historic episode, as NOVA marks the 100th anniversary of powered flight. Their first successful flight, on North Carolina's Outer Banks, took place in December 1903. NOVA examines a working model of the Wright Model A, first flown publicly in 1908."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Staff Pick - Gin O'Clock by The Queen

Oh my! I think this is the first book I've ever read that made me laugh, snort and/or chuckle on every single page. The Queen [of Twitter: @Queen_UK] has published her diary from a rather eventful year in her life which encompassed the Olympics, two royal weddings and her diamond jubilee.

Mrs "Call Me Carole" Middleton on the phone. Wanting to check we're not wearing the same outfit to George's party. Would have thought not.

The Queen has been on Twitter for some time reflecting on ruling her Commonwealth one day at at at time, often one country at a time (she talks about Tonga alot - she likes Tonga and can often rule them from bed), dishes on her large family, keeps tabs on her prime minister and drinks an unconstitutionally large amount of gin in Gin O'Clock.

The star of the show has to be Camilla. Poor, confused Camilla - frequently missing, often found in a large hole or a decorative vase, sighted only by the puff from her cigarette. She is always getting the wrong end of the stick at all their fancy dress parties (and they have alot). On one memorable occasion, at a Eurovision party, she thought it was a Eurotunnel party and came dressed as a train. Awkward.

And Charles - he's given Australia to rule for a day for practice (from a cardboard throne made by Harry and William perhaps). Every Christmas he makes a speech which they record on DVD, pop into into the machine and never tell him it's not broadcast.

Apparently the DofE is planning to publish his diaries, however he's having problems getting it past the lawyers.

A lovely way to pass an afternoon and a treat to follow her on Twitter.

For more chuckles try:

Friday, July 25, 2014

2014 Prometheus Award Winners

The winner of the 2014 Prometheus Award has been announced and there was a tie!

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf. Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners.For more than three decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that stress the importance of liberty as the foundation for civilization, peace, prosperity, progress and justice.

This year's winners for Best Novel are Homeland by Cory Doctorow and Nexus by Ramez Naam.

Homeland by Cory Doctorow

"In Cory Doctorow’s wildly successful Little Brother, young Marcus Yallow was arbitrarily detained and brutalized by the government in the wake of a terrorist attack on San Francisco—an experience that led him to become a leader of the whole movement of technologically clued-in teenagers, fighting back against the tyrannical security state. A few years later, California's economy collapses, but Marcus’s hacktivist past lands him a job as webmaster for a crusading politician who promises reform. ... Fast-moving, passionate, and as current as next week, Homeland is every bit the equal of Little Brother—a paean to activism, to courage, to the drive to make the world a better place." publisher

Nexus by Ramez Naam

" In the near future, the experimental nano-drug Nexus can link humans together, mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it. When a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he's thrust over his head into a world of danger and international espionage - for there is far more at stake than anyone realizes. From the halls of academe to the halls of power, from the headquarters of an elite US agency in Washington DC to a secret lab beneath a top university in Shanghai, from the underground parties of San Francisco to the illegal biotech markets of Bangkok, from an international neuroscience conference to a remote monastery in the mountains of Thailand - Nexus is a thrill ride through a future on the brink of explosion." publisher

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Staff Pick - The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Looking for a great read and cannot find one in the adult section, try young adult. This book could surely pass as adult fiction with its rich writing and plot structure.

Truthfully, I put this book on hold from the new items list on the Discover Catalogue. Though, if I had actually laid eyes on the cover, I would have picked it up!

Most popularly recognized for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, I fell in love with Brashares' writing through My Name is Memory. I absolutely loved the story and characters and have been keeping an eye on Brashares publishing ever since.

“Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.' This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn't come from a different country. She came from a different time -- a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they're from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she's told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves" publisher

The Here and Now, a work of science fiction, brings you into a world of rules, secrets, deceit, and lies, lies, lies. The main character, seventeen-year-old Prenna James, comes from the future filled with death and decay. Others came too and formed a 'community', and to fight for a better life and a way to help prevent this world from crumbling. Or so Prenna has been told. Along with this rule, the rule to never, ever fall in love with someone outside her community is imprinted into her way of life.

This is okay, until she meets Ethan Jarves. And little do they know, they have met before, and together, will make this world a little better...maybe.

Other titles from Ann Brashares:

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series

The Last Summer (of you and me)

My Name is Memory

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Genealogy Mysteries

I have been an avid reader of the mystery genre. My favourites are cozies and historical mysteries, featuring amateur detectives in modern and historical times.

With my first experience researching customer’s family roots at the library, I felt so good in assisting to solve a genealogical "mystery". It inspired me to discover several mystery series that star professional genealogists as detectives:

Torie O’Shea Mystery series by Rett MacPherson. MacPherson is passionate about genealogy and her mystery series reflects that. In the charming cozy mysteries, genealogist Torie O'Shea always “seems to be right in the middle of it all in the goings-on in New Kassel, Missouri”.

Natasha Blake Ancestor Detective Mystery series by Fiona Mountain. This series features an intelligent and spunky genealogist who is also a sleuth in the Cotswold Hills, England.

Family Tree Mystery series by Patricia Houck Sprinkle. Katherine Murray, a bored housewife, finds excitement in an unexpected place when she investigates memorabilia belonging to families in the past.

Family History Mystery series by Brynn Bonner. Genealogist Sophreena McClure and her business partner and medium Esme Sabatier have learned that “every family has a black sheep— sometimes a whole flock of them”.

Suzie Fewings Mystery series by Fay Sampson. Suzie Loosemore Fewings, a keen family genealogist and "a married mother of two, becomes immersed in murder mysteries of past and present with devastating consequences for her family".

Lottie Albright Mystery series by Charlotte Hinger features Lottie Albright, a local historian and under sheriff in a small town in Western Kansas.

Nigel Barnes mystery series by Dan Waddell. "Scotland Yard recruits genealogist Nigel Barnes to assist in solving a grisly series of murders".

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Classic - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is one of those books I have heard so much about that I was kind of surprised to find that I had actually never read it. Given the novel's autobiographical elements and the author's unfortunate and well documented suicide around the time of its publication, it's difficult to separate Esther Greenwood from Sylvia Plath.

Esther Greenwood, an academically gifted young women, finds a summer internship at a prestigious women's magazine. She is conflicted by the glamorous lifestyle swirling about her and she is both drawn to girls like Doreen who are adventurous and devil-may-care and still has the need to be the "good" girl. Esther is somewhat unofficially engaged to Buddy, but is not invested in this relationship. She returns to her Boston home in general low spirits only to learn that she was not selected for an academic opportunity she had so counted on. She falls further into despair and finds herself in the hands of a callous psychiatrist who ineptly performs electroshock therapy and ultimately ends up in a mental hospital.

The Bell Jar can be a dark and painful read, but also has sparks of humor and wry observation. Although Esther is the psychiatric patient, you often feel that it is the people around her who are actually ill. Esther reflects, "if being neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at the same time, then I'm as neurotic as hell." Despite the fact that the book was published 50 years ago, it remain relatable to young readers still. Some things have changed - we have greater sexual freedom and the choice between career and family is not necessarily an either or situation, but it remains that a young person must still figure out what she wants from life and how much of herself is she willing to give up to conform.

Sylvia Plath, frozen in time as a brilliant and troubled young woman, has gone on to inspire many writers. She herself is the subject of And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky, Wintering: a novel of Sylvia Plath by Kate Moses, Sylvia and Ted: a novel by Emma Tennant and Nova Scotia's own Alice Walsh's Analyzing Sylvia Plath.

"English professor Isobel Harding knew she'd meet opposition when she invited her aunt, Dr. Elizabeth Wilcox, to be the keynote speaker at Evangeline University's literary conference, in Jacob's Ladder, Nova Scotia. As the best-selling author of the controversial new book 'Analyzing Sylvia Plath', Dr. Wilcox has drawn the ire of the academic and literary communities, who condemn her work - and its radical views on Sylvia Plath's life - as sensationalistic tabloid journalism. Even before the book's popularity exploded, Dr. Wilcox attracted headlines when a drug addiction very publicly ended her psychiatry career. But when someone attempts to poison Dr. Wilcox at the conference's welcoming reception, it's clear that her critics go beyond a few disgruntled professors. Now, to protect her aunt, Isobel must dig into the lives of her friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues to determine who among them could be at the center of this deadly maze of intrigue, which grows more disturbing with every twist." Discover