Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Literary Halifax

Halifax is a beautiful and book-loving city steeped in history, culture, and literature. According to the National Geographic 2014 Traveler, Halifax is also one of the world’s smartest cities.

Let’s explore our city’s hidden literary treasures and vibrant bookish landscape. Famous writers associated with Halifax include:

Canada’s first French-Canadian novelist, Philippe-Ignace-François Aubert de Gaspé Jr. (L’Influence d’un livre). “Aubert de Gaspé came to Halifax in 1840 and briefly taught at the Poorhouse, which was located just up the road on Doyle Street. He later accepted a job as parliamentary reporter for the Halifax Morning Post.”

A beloved Nova Scotian author Thomas Raddall (The Governor’s Lady, Halifax: Warden of the North) “chose early Halifax for many of his novels, mixing real historical figures and events with fictional characters.”

The world famous Anne of Green Gables author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, “came to Halifax in 1895 to attend Dalhousie University and instantly fell in love with the city. “

Charles Dickens (The Pickwick Papers, A Christmas Carol). “For one day, on January 21st, 1842, Joseph Howe hosted notable author Charles Dickens on his first visit to Canada.”

Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray) “arrived in Halifax on October 8th, 1882 and took to the stage, the next night, at the Academy of Music, which once stood on the site of the Maritime Centre.”

“For almost two decades, Anna Leonowens (The English Governess at the Siamese Court) lived in Halifax with her daughter Avis and son-in-law, Thomas Fyshe, general manager of the Bank of Nova Scotia.”

Many writers have found Halifax to be an inspiring setting for their fiction:

The Halifax Connection by Marie Jakober 

The Deception of Livvy Higgs by Donna Morrissey

 Burden of Desire by Robert MacNeil

Going Fast by Elaine McCluskey

Sign of the Cross by Anne Emery (Monty Collins mysteries)

Shoot Me by Lesley Crewe

Homing by Stephanie Domet

Dear Reader, you can read more about Halifax literary scene in the  Halifax Literary Walking Tour

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

2014 Costa Awards

The shortlists for the 2014 Costa Awards have been announced.

The Costa Book Awards is one of the UK's most prestigious and popular literary prizes and recognises some of the most enjoyable books of the year, written by authors based in the UK and Ireland.  Since their launch in 1971, the awards have rewarded a wide range of excellent books and authors across all genres.


The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

How to be Both by Ali Smith

House of Ashes by Monique Roffey (available in Canada in 2015)

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

First Novel

A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray (unavailable for order)

Academy Street by Mary Costello
(available in Canada in 2015)

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Chop Chop by Simon Wroe


H is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald
(available in Canada in 2015)

Roy Jenkins: a well-rounded life by John Campbell (available in Canada in 2015)

The Iceberg: a memoir by Marion Coutts

Do No Harm: stories of life, death and brain surgery by Henry Marsh (available in Canada in 2015)

Monday, November 24, 2014

6 Degrees of the Library Collection: From William Boyd to Hilary Mantel

This month's Six Degrees of the library collection post is contributed by guest blogger Lara.

This month, the book club that meets regularly at the Spring Garden Memorial Library will discuss William Boyd's novel, Restless. This thrilling spy novel portrays a fascinating female character who has hidden her World War II-era activities from her family. Boyd's page-turner should make for some excellent discussion on Thursday, November 12th.

Restless won the 2006 Costa Book Award, which recognizes excellent authors from Britain and Ireland, and is the only major award to consider children's literature alongside works intended for adults. The Costa Book Awards were formerly known as the Whitbread Awards, and the last book to win the Whitbread Book of the Year Award before the name change was Hilary Spurling's Matisse the Master. Using material from private archives and lots of family letters, Spurling evokes a more complete portrait of the master painter than has ever been available before.

Spurling enjoys writing about the lives of creative people, and the previous biographer to win the Whitbread award also made her mark by authoring accounts of famous authors. Claire Tomalin, winner of the 2002 Whitbread, has written biographies of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and Mary Wollstonecraft. It was her account of Samuel Pepys: the unequalled self, however, that garnered her the Whitbread.

Tomalin apparently studied at Newnham College at the University of Cambridge. Iris Murdoch is another alumna of the College, having studied there as a postgraduate student of philosophy, and is well remembered for many novels and writings with elements of philosophy and morality playing important roles. Several of her works have been honored with major awards, including the 1974 Whitbread for The Sacred and Profane Love Machine, and the 1978 Man Booker prize for The Sea, The Sea. Murdoch's writing is full of charged emotions, existential crises, and unexpected events that impact every day life. Nine years after winning the Booker, Murdoch was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, an honor she shares with fellow writers like Agatha Christie and A. S. Byatt (another alumna of Newnham College!).

Byatt won the Booker in 1990 for Possession, and her recent novel The Children's Book has been very well received. The story takes place before World War I, at a time when the concept of childhood was changing dramatically, and the several children in one family become caught up in movements like feminism and socialism. As the Great War begins, the mother of the family remains caught up in her fairytale world of writing stories during the time of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. The line between adulthood and childhood becomes blurred as the world falls apart around the characters.

The Children's Book was shortlisted for the 2009 Booker, but when the prize was announced on October 6, it was Hilary Mantel who won this year's prize, for her novel Wolf Hall. Mantel writes psychological, historical fiction with links to the occult and darkly comical themes. Her 2005 novel, Beyond Black, was also nominated for the Booker Prize as well as the Orange Prize for fiction.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Staff Pick - Fables series, by Bill Willingham

Written by staff blogger Eric Drew

Fans of fairy tales, legends and lore, myth, magic and mayhem will find exactly all these things and more in the on-going comic book series Fables.

First printed in 2002, author/creator Bill Willingham has guided this epic for the last seven years and shows no signs of stopping. In fact, the series is getting even bigger.

The Story: As a tremendous enemy laid siege to the Fable homelands, heroes and villains alike escaped to a place where their 'Adversary's' minions could not reach: our world, the 'Mundy' world. Now, having rebuilt their society over the last 300 years, Fabletown lies cloaked in the heart of New York city.

Snow White runs the Fabletown office with BlueBoy and Buffkin the flying monkey (easier than running a household for seven dwarves). Old King Cole is an ineffectual mayor, and must run against Prince Charming in the next election. The big bad wolf (aka Bigby Wolf) is sheriff, Jack Horner is the local miscreant, and the pirate Bluebeard has bought his position in the community. Non-humanoid Fables live elsewhere on the 'Farm' These include the rebellious three little pigs, Shere Khan and Bagheera, Thumbellina and the Cheshire Cat.

It seems that for as long as a Fable's story is told, the Fable lives forever. The more it is told, the more powerful the Fable.

And since they know about this, it is one of their highest laws not to fool with Mundy storytellers. Which is exactly what Jack Horner did in 2006, when he financed his own trilogy of Jack the Giant-Killer films. This super-charged him, made him a lot of cash, and prompted his expulsion from Fabletown.

Thus began his own irreverent spin-off series: Jack of Fables. On his wanderings, he travelled the American Fablelands with Paul Bunyan and three spunky librarians, cheated Lady Luck and the Belgian mob in Las Vegas, and escaped from / returned to / defended / destroyed the Fable prison Golden Boughs.

He also duct-taped Humpty Dumpty back together again.

In the Spring of 2009, Jack and the Fables reunited against an inconceivable foe in the aptly named mini-arc The Literals. Such characters included the Pathetic Fallacy (aka Gary) and the Genres. The plot? Save reality from being edited.

To close 2009, three new spin-offs loom. Peter And Max is Bill Willingham's first Fable novel, telling the story of the Pied Piper and his big brother, skirting the edges of the core narrative. Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love is a mini-series about Fabletown's best secret agent and shoe seller And recently promised by the scribe himself at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland will focus on the lone Big Bad Wolf as he seeks out a new home for his people.

To date, Fables has won twelve Eisner Awards from both writing and art. It has been optioned by both NBC and ABC for a live-action drama. Even the anthology Fables Covers: Art of James Jean sold out from its limited print run.

You could say its Willingham's golden goose.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin and Hamish MacBeth series Readalikes.

a post by guest blogger Trish A. (NSCC Library Technician)
M.C. Beaton is actually a pseudonym for Marion Chesney. Under her M.C. Beaton pen name she writes two contemporary series falling under the “cozy mystery” genre. Her characters are very quirky and unusual. In her own words regarding Agatha Raisin’s personality “I chose to make Agatha into a public relations executive because I wanted to create someone the reader might not like but would want to win through to the end.
Interesting to note: Abe books claim M.C. Beaton has actually outsold J.K. Rowling in their 2008 sales.
The Agatha Raisin series take place in the Cotswold’s of England. The setting is charming, relaxing and yet Agatha seems to be constantly causing friction by her antics and personality.
Some suggestions for readalikes for the Agatha Raisin Series are:

Lillian Jackson Braun- The Cat Who series takes place in fictional Moose County, United States “400 miles north of everywhere” and the main character Qwilleran is like-able from the moment you “meet” him. However, you will find this series to have the same mood of tranquility. The quirkiness in the series comes from Qwill’s cats KoKo and YumYum and his relationship with them while he solves crimes with their indirect help.
Finally one can not forget the classic mystery writer Agatha Christie with her enigmatic protagonist Miss Marple. Miss Marple, living in an English village has many quirks and appears to be somewhat dimwitted or “fluffy” however, she in fact possesses a sharp logical mind. Although Ms. Marple is not as verbally sharp (in the negative sense) than Agatha Raisin, the reader will enjoy the subtlety of her sense of humor.

The Hamish MacBeth series written by M.C. Beaton take place in the Scottish Highlands and features an under achiever/lazy Hamish who solves crimes because of his natural “Highland curiosity.” This series is so popular they have made it into a BBC television series.

Caroline Graham’s Chief Inspector Barnaby series is similar to Hamish since he appears to be slow moving and yet is extremely perceptive of the smallest of clues. The stories are usually set in the English villages that are under his county jurisdiction. These novels have also been made into a television series named “Midsomer Murders.”
Catherine Aird’s Inspector Sloan series is set against a British backdrop featuring Detective Chief Inspector Sloan and his slow-thinking helper Detective Constable Crosby. The humorous tension in these novels is found between Sloan’s cranky but driven superior, Superintendent Leeyes and himself. Sloan likes to tend to his roses, when he has time, to relieve his stress; reminding the reader of the under achieving Hamish Macbeth.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Next Reads - Thrillers and Suspense!

Are you looking for a few good books to read? Sign up for our e-newsletters and get great book suggestions by email. We'll deliver reading lists right to your inbox along with new gems, bestsellers, and related titles. Select from your favourites (Biography and Memoir, Mystery, Romance, and more), or choose them all!

This month we feature Thrillers and Suspense novels with legal, science-fiction-tinged, historical, and psychological twists. For more information about these titles check out the November 2014 Nextreads Newsletter.

A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin
You by Caroline Kepnes
The Day of Atonement by David Liss

Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay
The Legal Limit by Martin Clark
The Prophet by Michael Koryta

The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli
Airtight by David Rosenfelt
That's How I Roll by Andrew Vachss