Thursday, October 30, 2014

Staff Pick - The Full Ridiculous by Mark Lamprell

Mark Lamprell must be a parent of teenagers. In his novel, The Full Ridculous, he paints a very real feeling picture of life with adolescents - with the intensity of its highs and lows, the anxiety and frustration you feel when things are out of your control and the intense relief when all goes well.

Michael O'Dell is a movie critic who takes a risk and quits his job in order to write a book on Australian cinema. When the novel opens, his world is turned upside down as his is struck by a car. While he has no broken bones, he is battered and injured and faces a recovery time. Just as this blow arrives, his teenage children begin to spiral out of control. Son Declan is certainly holding, if not using and selling, drugs. Daughter Rosie, gets into a feud with a rich and unpleasant girl from a vindictive family, which leads the O'Dell family victim to an aggressive and dubious police officer. As the title indicates, the once quiet and peaceful family spirals further and further out of control as events become increasingly ridiculous.

This is quite a pleasant book, a quick weekend read. It's sometimes funny, certainly offbeat, with characters which are entirely relatable and sympathetic. Lamprell uses the unusual literary device of writing in the second person. "You have been hit by a car", "you are staring at the ceiling of the hospital." The "you" is Michael O'Dell and the effect is to draw you into his world intimately, causing you to share a bit in his fear and sadness when he says, "The good part of your life is over. The bad part has begun.

This domestic story from a man's perspective will likely be appreciated by readers who enjoyed

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." Discover

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Seasons of Life

Library staff have been working hard shelving books at the new Halifax Central Library. There are so many great collections! Last week we were shelving our awesome non-fiction books and I stumbled upon these interesting titles about seasons and nature which I would like to share with you, dear Readers:

Four Seasons of Travel : 400 of the world's best destinations in winter, spring, summer, and fall by National Geographic

"Building on the success of National Geographic's Journeys of a Lifetime series, a sumptuously photographed, detailed tour of hundreds of the world's most alluring locations and activities is seasonally organized to profile everything from the cherry-blossom temples of Kyoto to Rockefeller Center's ice-skating rink."

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: how to grow your own food 365 days a year, no matter where you live by Niki Jabbour

"Make every month a vegetable gardening month... Begin by planting your vegetables during the seasons they prefer -- tomatoes and peppers need summer sun and heat; asparagus and radishes thrive in cooler weather; and kale, lettuce, and scallions tolerate frost and come alive under winter sunshine. Apply Niki's intensive gardening methods and some affordable and easy-to-assemble protective structures, and your vegetable garden will reward you with fresh, delicious produce even on short, cold winter days."

The Forest Unseen : a year's watch in nature by David George Haskell

"In this wholly original book, biologist David Haskell uses a one-square-meter patch of old-growth Tennessee forest as a window onto the entire natural world. Visiting it almost daily for one year to trace nature's path through the seasons, he brings the forest and its inhabitants to vivid life. Each short chapter begins with a simple observation. Each visit to the forest presents a nature story in miniature as Haskell elegantly teases out the intricate relationships that order the creatures and plants that call it home."

The Soup and Bread Cookbook : more than 100 seasonal pairings for simple, satisfying meals by Beatrice Ojakangas

“Perfect for traditional holiday recipes or impromptu get-togethers, every ingredient contains only in-season vegetables or fruits. Some of standout pairings include: "Spicy Mango Melon Soup & Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins,"- a spring time recipe. For summer, she offers a "Spicy Revitalizer & Carrot Breadsticks." Autumn's "Colombian Chicken and Potato Soup with Corn & Almojabanas" and winter's "New Year's Good Luck Lentil Soup & Ezekiel Bread" are nice and hearty for those colder months.”

The Migration of Birds : seasons on the wing by Janice M. Hughes

"The Migration of Birds is a comprehensive illustrated presentation of the mysteries of bird migration. Over 70 stunning full-color photographs show some of the world's most dauntless voyagers. Maps show migration routes, and illustrations depict the mechanics of flying. The text is engaging and straightforward. This book will fascinate birders, naturalists and conservationists as well as general readers."

Our Canada : a country for all seasons

"A visual celebration of Canada.In this fresh, up-close-and-personal view of Canada, you'll see our magnificent country through the images of your fellow Canadians. You'll get a uniquely personal look at our beauty, the rich diversity of our people, landscapes, and wildlife found across our great land throughout the year."

Seasons of life : the biological rhythms that enable living things to thrive and survive by Russell G. Foster and Leon Kreitzman

"In this fascinating book, Russell G. Foster and Leon Kreitzman draw on remarkable recent scientific advances to explain how seasonal change affects organisms, and how plants and animals over countless generations have evolved exquisite sensitivities and adaptations to the seasons. The authors also highlight the impact of seasonal change on human health and well-being."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 Kirkus Prize - Winners!

The winners of the 2014 Kirkus Prize have been announced.

The Kirkus Prize is one of the richest literary awards in the world, with a prize of $50,000 bestowed annually to authors of fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature. It was created to celebrate the 81 years of discerning, thoughtful criticism Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large.

Fiction and Literature

Euphoria by Lily King

"English anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field for several years studying the Kiona river tribe in the Territory of New Guinea. Haunted by the memory of his brothers' deaths and increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when a chance encounter with two colleagues, the controversial Nell Stone and her wry and mercurial Australian husband, Fen, pulls him back from the brink. Nell and Fen have just fled the bloodthirsty Mumbanyo and, in spite of Nell's poor health, are hungry for a new discovery. When Bankson finds them a new tribe to divert them from leaving Papua New Guinea, he ignites an intellectual and romantic firestorm between the three of them that burns out of anyone's control."

Biography and Memoir

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: a memoir by Roz Chast

"Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast's memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents. When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the "crazy closet"-with predictable results-the tools that had served Roz well through her parents' seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed."

Children's and Teen

Aviary Wonders Inc.: spring catalog and instruction manual by Kate Samworth

"Since 2031, Aviary Wonders Inc. has offered bird lovers a unique opportunity: Assemble your own bird from stunningly beautiful and carefully hand-crafted parts. The birds can even be taught to fly and to sing! This slyly satirical crafter's delight is offered as the perfect antidote to extinction of birds in the wild. Brilliantly illustrated with oil paintings and filled with laugh-aloud asides as well as sobering facts about extinct species, this mock catalog is a clever send-up of contemporary sales spin and a thought-provoking look into an all-too-possible future."

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (English/Arabic)

Dear Readers, this blog post was written by our guest blogger George Hanna. George is a Teaching Assistant at the Faculty of Arabic Studies at Dalhousie University.

Writers like Amine Maalouf, Nawal Al-Saadawi and many others have their books available now at the Halifax Public Libraries. The purpose is for you to read and share that knowledge with locals and also learn from them via other great books. As well as sharing that knowledge with your children for them to learn more about the cultures they came from.

My favorite book available now in the public library is The Prophet (Al-Nabii) by Khalil Gibran. The book is about life, children, gifts… and many other topics that we struggle with every day. It gave me a deep knowledge about facing real life challenges through the wisdom of the “Mustafa”; taking into consideration the big picture of our existence. This big picture is the reason that brought me to Canada. The human rights, the system, a better life, respect… I had lost some of them in my country of origin and found them here, in this beautiful country. I found them not only through services, but also through interaction with others. It is easy to get distracted during every day work, but one thing keep me stay in focus is reading.
I think it is important for me to share these words, and I would like to hear from you about your different experiences.

Read... and share your experience!

كتابٌ أمثال أمين معلوف ونوال السعداوي وغيرهما الكثير، كتبهم متوفرة الأن في المكتبات العامة في هاليفاكس ونطاق بلديتها. هدفها الاتاحة لك ولعائلتك فرصة القراءة وتبادل المعرفة مع السكان المحليين والاستفادة أيضاً من معرفتهم وخبراتهم من خلال قراءة كتبٍ أخرى. هدفها أيضاً الاتاحة لأولادك التعرف على الثقافة اللتي أتوا منها.
كتابي المفضل الموجود الأن في المكتبة العامة هو كتاب النبي لجبران خليل جبران. هو كتابٌ عن الحياة العامة والانسان والاولاد والعطاء... ومواضيع أخرى يومية نناضل من أجلها. هذه المواضيع اعطتني معرفة عميقة لمواجهة الصعوبات الحياتية  اليومية من خلال حكمة المصطفى، غير متناس الصورة العامة لوجودنا. هذه الصورة هي سبب مجيئي إلى كندا: حقوق الانسان، النظام، حياة أفضل، والإحترام... خصائص فقدت بعضاً منها في بلدي الأم  ووجدتها هنا في كندا، هذا البلد الجميل. وجدتها ليس فقط من خلال الخدمات بل أيضاً من خلال تعاملي مع الناس. من السهل أن يتشتت انتباهي وتركيزي في كل يوم، ولكن الشيء الوحيد الذي يبقيني على تركيزي هي القراءة.
أظن أنه من واجبي أن اشارككم هذه الكلمات، واتمنى أن اقرأ عن خبرتكم أيضاً في هذا المجال.
اقرأوا وشاركونا خبرتكم.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Staff Picks - The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Stephen Galloway 

Galloway addresses the question,"How does war affect ordinary people? ". The Siege of Sarajevo lasted four long years killing nearly 10 000 people. Galloway was inspired by Vedran Smailovic, a cellist in the Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra, who played his cello in acknowledgment of twenty two people who were killed while waiting for bread.

The cellist was actually a minor character is this novel. His actions, his twenty two days of performing, linked the stories of the three main characters involved. Kenan is a family man who makes the perilous journey to fetch water for his family. Dragan works at a bakery and his family has fled the city. Finally, there is Arrow, a girl who excelled at target shooting and who unwilling became a soldier and a sniper.

There are no labels to define nationalities. There is the we/us in the city and "the men on the hills" who shoot us. No one seems to understand why this is happening. Everyone's lives have been ripped away. When society falls apart how do we act? Kenan stays focused on the future. As he trudges home under his burden, narrowly missing the snipers bullets, he thinks about his children and how their family life will be different - going out for ice cream and counselling his daughter about the dangers of boys. Dragan looks to the past. He remembers what life was like and does not want the world to see his city like this. And Arrow, Arrow is the grim reality of the present.

Yann Martel has been sending Stephen Harper books. Reflecting on stillness, Martel concluded that in order to read we must be still and in order to reflect upon life we must be still. Watching Prime Minister Harper's busyness he vowed to send him books that have been "known to expand stillness" The Cellist of Sarajevo was number 21.

I came across another book that seems to have some similarity to The Cellist of Sarajevo. Pretty Birds by Scott Simon tells the story of Irena Zaric, a spirited teenager who has all the usual celebrity crushes and enthusiasm for basketball. Her girlhood is abruptly brought to an end by this war. Her new life as a sniper strikes a chord with readers as we feel for her (as we did for Arrow's) loss of innocence.

A review for The Cellist on the CBC website referred to the book as "Book Club Catnip". I certainly understand what they meant. There are plenty of issues to address. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Staff Pick - The 2 ½ Pillars of Wisdom by Alexander McCall Smith

Autumn is beautiful: the trees look really pretty, everything gets a bit more atmospheric, there are leaves to kick, and plenty of rain, too. On these rainy gray days I wanted to read something funny and light. So I found myself rereading The 2 ½ Pillars of Wisdom by Alexander McCall Smith, a comic trilogy, introducing the unnaturally tall Professor Doctor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, the proud author of the Portuguese irregular verbs.

I am having so much fun reading The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom which incorporates three titles Portuguese Irregular Verbs, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances. The trilogy tells the story of Professor Dr. von Igelfeld and his friends and colleagues at the Institute of Romance Philology in Regensburg, Germany: Professors Detlev Amadeus Unterholzer and Florianus Prinzel.

The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom follows unbelievable adventures of Professor von Igelfeld and his colleagues from Regensburg to Switzerland, from Venice to Ireland, and from England and Columbia. In his crazy escapades Dr. von Igelfeld investigates the world of archaic Irishisms, takes part in a duel, transports relics for a Coptic prelate, and is pursued by lovesick widows on a cruise ship. I adore the quirky and "socially clumsy" Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld.

These three novellas are filled with humour, warmth, and insight into friendship, love, and kindness. This book will have you laughing out loud and brighten up your dullest day.

Unusual Uses for Olive Oil is the latest and fourth book about new series of adventures of Professor Dr. von Igelfeld. "In Unusual Uses for Olive Oil, von Igelfeld finds that his academic rival Detlev-Amadeus Unterholzer has been winning undeserved recognition, a situation that must be addressed. Then von Igelfeld stumbles toward a romance with Frau Benz. Later, von Igelfeld fearlessly plunges 3000 feet into mountaineering history, and turns his survival into the subject of inspirational lectures. Finally, at a dinner party, he is the only kind soul who can aid an unfortunate dachshund whose sticky wheels are in need of lubrication." The book is definitely on my list. I cannot wait to read "Unusual Uses for Olive Oil".

Friday, October 24, 2014

Letter by Letter - part 2

Q by Evan Mandery is a sort of time travel novel. I say sort of because the unnamed protagonist is visited by a man who claims to be his future self. With each visit he is warned not to marry the love of his life, Quentina Elizabeth Deverill. One reviewer states that this novel is the perfect combination of humour, truth and poignancy. For someone (like me) who wonders what could have been versus the reality, this is the book for you.

R by Chuck Palahniuk has me cheating a little on the title. On the novel’s cover all you see is the letter “R”, but it is also known as Rant. I am a fan of Palahniuk, but I can’t really tell you why since he often writes about unpleasant topics, however with a dark humourous twist. R is an oral biography of Buster “Rant” Landru Casey. It takes place in a dystopian future with the citizens divided into the respectable Daytimers and the oppressed Nighttimers. Rant is one of the Nighttimers and is actively involved in this lifestyle, which causes his eventual death, or does it? Read the novel to figure this mystery out.

S by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams is a very unique book that is so unique that there Youtube entries on just how to read it. It is a story within a story, with a mystery tied in. It is packaged within a box and has various materials, such as postcards and napkins to insert within the pages. Within the box is the fictional novel Ship of Thesus written by a fictional author and handwritten notes between two college students written in the margins. The fictional novel can be read as a separate entity, but the notes between Jen and Eric are what make it so very striking. I know that I am not doing it justice, so dear reader, I urge you to pick it up for yourself.

V is the debut novel by Thomas Pynchon. It was a National Book Award nominee in 1963. It is the tale of discharged U.S. Navy sailor, Barry Profane and his adventures in NYC with a group of pseudo-bohemians. He encounters a number of characters but his life changes dramatically when he befriends Stencil. Stencil’s main mission to find out the identity of V. V may be a person, a place or could be neither. Pynchon has called it “A remarkably scattered concept.” Read the novel to judge yourself.

Y is a stunning debut novel by Marjorie Celona. The tale of Shannon, an infant who is abandoned at the Y. It follows her life, starting with why her mother, Yula, decides to leave her and through her life moving through one foster home to another. Y is not only the place where the story begins; it also symbolizes “That perfect letter, the wishbone, fork in the road…”.

Z by Therese Fowler is based on a person I have always been curious about, Zelda Fitzgerald. Zelda always seemed like such a free-spirited yet tragic figure. While most people focus on F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda is an interesting and unrecognized talent. This novel shows this talent and that of the legendary circles that the couple circulated in.

If you had been paying close attention you will notice that there are letters of the alphabet not listed here. That is because I could not find any to represent this on the library catalogue. So, Dear Reader, perhaps you can recommend some for us to purchase, or write one yourself!