Happy and Bright

Well, here we are: the last post of 2019. The last Reader’s Salon post of the decade, in fact. 

With that in mind, I want to close out the twenty-teens with a spotlight on items that bring a sense of joy, hope, and celebration. After all, even though it might not feel like it quite yet, the days are getting longer and warmer already.

Celebrate Everything! : Fun Ideas to Bring Your Parties to Life by Darcy Miller

Want to make your first gatherings of the new decade a little extra special? Take a flip through this book and you’ll find no shortage of beautiful images to spark and inspire your creativity.  

A Collection of Roxette Hits – Their 20 Greatest Songs by Roxette, available for streaming or download on mobile devices via Hoopla

I was sorry to hear that singer Marie Fredriksson passed away on December 9. Roxette has been a road trip staple of mine for over a decade, and I just can’t help singing along to their catchy songs, especially during the summer when I can put the windows down!

The Happiest Book Ever! by Bob Shea

An energetic book with fun illustrations and opportunities for reader engagement! Along with dancing cake, a whale with good news, and a candy parade, the reader is invited to think their happiest thoughts to make the book as happy as can be. There is a nice moment to acknowledge that you don’t have to be happy all the time, though, so this book is a great way to open up a conversation about feelings of all sorts.

Gmorning, Gnight! : Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda

If you need a little gentle motivation to keep your spirits bright through the dark mornings and long nights, these are nice little bite-sized morsels of encouragement and support.

If you’re looking for a more literal light in the darkness, did you know that there are light-therapy lamps at Millennium, St. James-Assiniboia, Harvey Smith and St Boniface libraries?  These are available to use within the library on a first come, first served basis during opening hours.

Whatever brings you joy or comfort, I hope 2020 is full of moments that become cherished and celebrated memories for years to come.

Happy reading, 


Escape into Story

January has to be the dreariest month of the year. It’s dark, it’s cold, and after ringing in the New Year there aren’t even any holidays to look forward to. It’s the time of year many of us choose to stay cozy inside, often with a good book. While I enjoy a variety of genres, I do read a lot of fantasy at this time of year. Maybe I just want to pretend to be somewhere less frozen! Much of my favourite fantasy draws heavily from mythology and folklore. While fairy tale retellings have become common, I’m always on the hunt for works that draw on lesser known stories. If you too would like to escape for a while, one of these books might be just what you need.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

When Shadow is released from prison, he begins to encounter strange individuals who may be more than they seem. What happens to old gods when people no longer believe in them? This one is an obvious pick, and has recently been adapted for TV.  I first read this novel as a teen mythology geek, and I had a lot of fun picking out various references and looking up myths that were less familiar to me. Gaiman has prior experience with mythic stories from his work on the Sandman comics in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Deathless interweaves Russian folklore and history into a dark dream of the last century. The story is about a young woman named Marya Morevna, her marriage to the immortal Koschei, and what happens after. Fair warning, this book is pretty bleak, but quite fitting for our wintry weather outside. If you’d prefer something shorter for this busy time of year, her poetry collection A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects re-imagines fairy tales from different perspectives.

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

McGuire is a prolific writer, so you’re sure to find something to like in at least one of her many series. Rosemary and Rue is the first in her series following a changeling PI. The author’s extensive knowledge of folklore make it stand out from other urban fantasy series. If you prefer ghosts and urban legends to fairy tales, try Sparrow Hill Road. Cryptozoologists should check out the InCrypted series.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Do you like the darker side of fairy tales? How about mixing some horror into your fantasy? A documentary film crew disappeared after they went looking for evidence of real mermaids. When a new crew sets out to find out what happened, they get a lot more than they’d planned for. Be warned, the mermaids in this ocean aren’t anything like Ariel. Grant and McGuire are one and the same, Mira being the name under which she pens her horror titles.

The Wicked + the Divine by Kieron Gillen

What would happen if gods walked among us for a short time? Every century, 12 gods are reincarnated into human vessels on earth. For two years these individuals enjoy divine influence and supernatural powers, before suddenly dying. But this time around, things might be a little different.

Wayward by Jim Zub

I loved the first volume in this graphic novel series based on Japanese mythology. When Rori and her mother move to Japan, she begins to encounter strange creatures and odd things start happening. Is it her, or something older?

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

This novel doesn’t deal with mythology, but with the literary monsters that have become a cornerstone of our modern imagination. What if the monstrous daughters of the mad scientists Frankenstein, Moreau, Rappaccini , Jekyll, and Hyde managed to find each other in Victorian London? Trying to survive and discover the truth about their origins, they uncover a plot involving their fathers that must be stopped. This is the first in a trilogy about the Athena Club.


How To: Un-Grinch Yourself This Season

It’s the most *wonderful* time of the year…right?

The holidays are right around the corner, and if you’re anything like me you need a bit of encouragement to truly get into the holiday spirit. No, I don’t mean the wasteland of W network Hallmark movies. I’m talking the crème de la crème of classic holiday books and films!

No matter how much of a scrooge I happen to be, these holiday favourites always get me into the festive spirit.

What are some of yours?

Home Alone 1 & 2

Thieves! Booby traps! Neglectful parents! What more could you ask for?!

8 Crazy Nights

I permanently have Adam Sandler’s ‘The Chanukah Song’ stuck in my head.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

If you’re wanting to read a Christmas classic without going down the ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ or ‘A Christmas Carol’ road.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

I recommend reading the book AND watching the movie! (But only the original…)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

This film is the standout best of all the National Lampoon movies. A staple at my house every December when I was growing up!


Holiday spirits

Spirits and wine have been in literature and poetry since time immemorial.   Homer’s phrase “a wine dark sea” and, of course, Scotch Drink by Robert Burns are just two examples.

LET other poets raise a fracas 
“Bout vines, an’ wines, an’ drucken Bacchus, 
An’ crabbit names an’stories wrack us, 
                    An’ grate our lug: 
I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us,        
                    In glass or jug. 
O thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch drink! 
Whether thro’ wimplin worms thou jink, 
Or, richly brown, ream owre the brink, 
                    In glorious faem,       
Inspire me, till I lisp an’ wink…

Holidays are the time to enjoy spirit and food combinations found at no other time of the year. Nowadays you can add cinnamon and candy cane flavored beverages to your list of holiday tipples. (Hallowe’en, for me, has become slightly bothersome as everything is pumpkin spiced, even the pumpkins.) If you’re looking for some holiday beverage help, the Library has books for you. Below you’ll find a variety of interesting books to help you navigate your seasonal get togethers and parties.

‘Tis the time of year to hear a lot of talk about mulled wine and wassail. Here are some selections on wine to help you pair it with food, make your own, or become an amateur sommelier.

Cheese and Wine: a guide to selecting, pairing and enjoying by Janet Fletcher

Le Cordon Bleu Wine Essentials: professional secrets to buying, storing and serving and drinking wine

From Vines to Wines: the complete guide to growing grapes and making your own wine by Jeff Cox

Some prefer beer instead; for those who do, here are some selections to help you brew, choose and serve all the malty goodness with food for friends and family.

The Beer Lovers Table: seasonal recipes and modern beer pairings by Claire Bullen

Beer and Food Matching: bringing together the finest food and the best craft beers in the world by Mark Dredge

Beer at My Table: recipes, beer styles and food pairings by Tonia Wilson

Mastering Home Brew: the complete guide to brewing delicious beer by Randy Mosher

Mixing drinks is also a very popular pastime during the season, and the Library has a good selection of books to help you become a certified mixer or bartender.

The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog Drinks Manual by Sean Muldoon

Cocktails for the Holidays: festive drinks to celebrate the season by Lara Ferroni

Hot Toddies: warming winter drinks for chilly days by Louise Pickford

The Cocktail Companion: a guide to cocktail history, culture, trivia and favorite drinks by Cheryl Charming

Since I reference the Robert Burns poem Scotch Drink at the beginning of my piece, I can’t forget to list a few books on that most fiery of Scottish drinks:

Single Malt and Scotch Whiskey by Daniel Lerner

Brander’s Guide to Scotch Whisky by Michael Brander

I wish you all a very festive holiday season and don’t forget to please recycle all your glass bottles. As a suggestion, you could build a wall of glass bottles and call it the wall of departed spirits.

Happy Holidays, everyone!


12 Tips to Green Your Winnipeg Holidays

The holiday season can sometimes overwhelm us with excess (but fun!) feasting, travel, gifts and decorations that create a large carbon footprint.

Here are some tips to green your holidays this year.

1. Buy a real tree and recycle it. Plastic trees create more emissions than a real tree that is recycled. Trees can be dropped off and recycled by our City through the Let’s Chip In program.

2. Use natural decorations, popcorn, pinecones, and create your own. And choose LED lights, as they use less energy.

3. Buy local whenever possible. Your community producer will be happier too!

4. Eat (or freeze) all the yummy food you make! Food waste creates methane which can be even worse than carbon.

5. If you can’t eat or freeze it all, compost! Learn all about composting options in the Green Choices Info Guide.

6. Make your own wrapping paper or gift bags with tea towels or other useful items. Or just don’t use it. This is an opportunity to get creative!

7. Give experiences – thoughtful gifts that create memories. Make a date to go to a free library program or start a book club with a group of friends.

8. Create a recommended book list and give it to a friend or family member – what a great gift! If you’re looking for book recommendations, you know who to ask – your neighbourhood librarian!

9. If you receive a new cellphone as a gift, donate your old one for reuse by the CNIB. Pick up an envelope at your local library branch.

10. Re-gift! Here are the “rules” for that. :-)

11. Recycle. If you receive new appliances, consider recycling the old ones. So many items can be recycled. Find out what goes where.

12. Finally, if you plan to travel over the holidays, carbon offsets may be something you want to explore.

All the best to you and yours for a peaceful, happy (and green) holiday season!

From the Green It. Mean It! team at Winnipeg Public Library.

Nadine, Reegan, Stephanie and Andrew

It's Time To Read: The Princess Bride

Dear readers, I’m here to tell you that I’m not the person to tell you about December’s Time to Read podcast book club selection. How is such a thing possible? I’ll do my best to explain. You see, last week my friend and colleague Aileen wrote an amazing blog post about The Princess Bride—which, of course, is December’s selection. 

Now, this isn’t Aileen’s fault. How was she to know what Time to Read would be reading in December? It’s not like she was able to read this blogpost announcing The Princess Bride as December’s selection. I hadn’t even written it yet! And now that she’s done such a great job of praising S. Morgenstern’s classic tale of true love and high adventure, I’m in a bit of a pickle. What more is there to say?

I suppose I could tell you about Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman. William Goldman, as Aileen correctly points out in her most excellent blog post, being the person who penned the screenplay for the film adaptation of The Princess Bride. But for some reason, were you to read Billy’s first-hand account of his time in Hollywood, you would find nary a mention of his involvement with The Princess Bride. I guess he wanted to focus on his lesser known works: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All The Presidents Men. So really, I would only recommend it if you’re interested in such niche films.

If you do want a little bit of insight into what it was like to film The Princess Bride, I do recommend the 30th Anniversary Edition of the book, as Willy talks about the film in the introduction. Which, coincidently, you’ll want to read anyways so you can share your thoughts of the whole book on our Time to Read Facebook group, our website wpl-podcast.winnipeg.ca, or by writing to us at wpl-podcast@winnipeg.ca

And don’t forget to check out this month’s episode in which we discuss dishwashers and  The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro!

~Alan and the rest of the Time to Read team

Fun Home and the Comic Memoir

I was lucky enough to attend Fun Home, the musical, at the MTC Warehouse in November. It was amazing to see Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel represented on stage in such a powerful way. It made me think about when I first read Fun Home: a family tragicomic and the subsequent Are You My Mother?: a comic drama – two graphic novels detailing the author’s complex relationships with her parents and growing up in a funeral home in small town America. Fun Home (published in 2006) was one of the first graphic novels that I fell in love with in my early twenties, and I haven’t looked back! When I read it, I was struck by how the graphic novel format is able to create such a deep connection with the reader. They truly have the ability to tell stories in an intimate (and often quite graphic!) way.

In Fun Home, Alison’s memories are given a new perspective when she looks back on her family life as an adult. In the musical adaptation, this is achieved by the character of Alison being onstage the whole show watching the memories of her childhood and young adulthood playing out. Combined with the music, it makes this play something magical.

Comics and graphic novels are a perfect medium for memoir. Here are some books you may enjoy, especially if you loved Fun Home!

Turning Japanese by MariNaomi

A comic memoir detailing the author’s experiences in Tokyo working in hostess bars. Growing up in the United States, MariNaomi had tried to connect with her Japanese culture, but it had eluded her.

Gender Queer: a memoir by Maia Kobabe

This self-reflective graphic novel starts with an author’s note about taking an autobiography class from MariNaomi during a master’s degree in comics! This is a very intimate story of the author’s journey to identifying as gender nonbinary and asexual which addresses questions about gender identity along the way.

Passing for Human by Liana Finck

Finck uses the medium of comics to tell the story of her quest for selfhood in spite of crippling anxiety and neurological difference that can lead to feeling as if you are just “passing for being human.”

Good Talk: a memoir in conversations by Mira Jacob

A graphic memoir created after the author’s biracial son started asking innocent and difficult questions about race and racism. Jacobs uses a unique storytelling method of bringing together photographs and cut-out comic images imposed over top.

Flocks by L Nichols

A coming of age memoir by Nichols, a trans man, who grew up in a conservative Christian family and how this shaped him. A student of mechanical engineering and later media arts, Nichols brings a unique voice to the memoir genre by using the language of science and engineering.

Spinning by Tillie Walden

Marketed as a YA graphic novel, this memoir deals with coming out as queer in the often close-minded world of figure skating.

Happy (graphic) reading!


In The Spotlight: Millennium Library – Readers' Services and St. James-Assiniboia Library

In the Spotlight – where we share what’s happening at your library branches! In this In the Spotlight, we’re hearing from Millennium Library – Readers’ Services and St. James-Assiniboia Library.

Millennium Library – Readers’ Services

Located on the main floor of the Millennium Library, we host the library’s Writer-in-Residence and other programs for adults, offer Book Club Kits, reading suggestions, and much more.

One of our main responsibilities is filling the large open cases on the main floor with interesting and timely displays. We like to pull books off the shelves and put them into the cases so that you can browse a genre or author in both hardcover and paperback formats, which are located in different places here at Millennium, or authors who cross genre lines, like John Grisham whose books can be found in both the Fiction and Mystery sections. Other times, we like to highlight books from a specific sub-genre such as Horror or Classics.

The biggest challenge is to make the displays visually appealing to attract your attention. We are fortunate to have the ability to drymount posters and build 3-D items from foamcore. Searching for inspiration, we often turn to the Internet to see what other libraries and bookstores have done.  We use photo-editing software such as PowerPoint, Publisher, and Photoshop Elements to print out posters as large as 16” x 22” – or even larger if printed in sections. Honestly, if we can imagine it, we can probably create it!

If you’re in the Millennium Library, come by and browse our displays for an interesting book. Still can’t find anything to read? Ask us for a book suggestion; we’d be happy to help!

St. James-Assiniboia Library – It’s Always Sunny Here!

Our community is affectionately known as Sunny St. James. We can promise you that even on a cloudy day, it’s always sunny at the library. Quite literally – we are one of four branches to carry a UV lamp. Grab a book, catch some rays and fight Seasonal Affective Disorder one page at a time. Figuratively, the library is always bright because of our smiley staff!

At St. James we are proud to offer unique family programs that are available only at our branch:

  • Sensory Story Time is geared to children on the Autism Spectrum
  • Share and Tell Story Time has been developed for families where English is an additional language.
  • Sign-a-Story, a program that is led by a member of the Deaf Community and an interpreter. This program is for hearing, hard-of-hearing, and deaf participants.

We try to provide the same level of unique programming for teens and adults. We’ve hosted many programs, including:

  • A “Zines for Teens” workshop where young adults were introduced to the concept of zines (self-published magazines). We provided the supplies and space, but the teens brought the creativity!
  • Treaty Talks with presenters from the Indigenous Speakers’ Bureau
  • 3D Printing Basics
  • An English Conversation Group
  • An English Reading Group

While we have a long-standing Adult Book Club, we are also introducing a second one come January. This book club, known as the Perspectives Readers’ Group, is open to anyone 16 and older. We will discuss diverse books from authors who write about life experiences similar to their own. Each month will bring a new perspective on a topic – gender, ability, culture and more.

This past summer, we had loads of fun with Library Lou, our Library dragon who hid from our patrons in a different spot each week. Lou has decided to resume their hide-and-seek habits for the holidays and we need your help! Please drop by St. James and help us find Lou. We can promise that you’ll be greeted with light in some form – the sun, a UV lamp, or at the very least, a dragon’s smile.

As You Wish…

Inconceivable!”, “Have fun storming the castle!”, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!”, I could go on forever quoting lines from one of my favourite movies of all-time The Princess Bride. My dad introduced my sister and I to this film when we were young and it has been a favourite of our family ever since. It is often quoted and sometimes even acted out and it is often re-watched by all of us to this day. Currently I am listening to the audiobook As You Wish: Inconceivable tales from the making of The Princess Bride written and read by Cary Elwes along with other actors on the film. Elwes reminisces fondly on this movie that did okay when it first came out but has since garnered a huge following. His enthusiasm for the film as well as his excellent impersonations of other actors make it a pleasure to listen to. I have even been caught laughing out loud on the bus on my way to work due to his hilarious storytelling. For The Princess Bride aficionado, and for those who wish to be introduced to what the film and book are all about, this is the perfect book/audiobook for you.

For those of you who aren’t familiar or who haven’t watched The Princess Bride I highly suggest you do so, you can even borrow it from the library. It is a story about a grandfather and his grandson, it is a comedy and an adventure story that is filled with pirates, giants, princesses, princes, ROUSes (Rodents of Unusual Size for the uninitiated), true love and “the greatest sword fight in modern times”. If any of these themes interest you, then The Princess Bride may just be the ticket for you. And did I also mention the A-List Cast? There’s Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, Christopher Guest, Chris Sarandon, Peter Falk, and Fred Savage just to name a few, oh, and directed by Rob Reiner. The film’s screenplay also happens to be written by the author of the book itself, William Goldman, so if you enjoy the movie, you should definitely check out the book as well. Why not request both this holiday season, you can sit together and laugh with your family, I assure you as inconceivable as it might be, you will be quoting lines from the film in no time.

Anybody want a peanut?



In 1974 four misfits from Forest Hills (NYC) decided to form a band. Other than a shared love of music the Ramones had little in common with one another. Joey was shy and neurotic, his OCD made it difficult to leave his apartment. Johnny was angry and intense, sometimes hitting his bandmates if they messed up during a song. Complicated and known for his penchant for drugs, Dee Dee was the band’s creative force, while Tommy who was supposed to be the band’s manager, became the drummer. The Ramones were troublesome and volatile but together they would save rock & roll.

The Ramones’ uniformed look and stripped down rock & roll was unlike anything that had been seen or heard before. Like a battle cry, Dee Dee shouts 1-2-3-4  and seconds later the band launches into an aggressive song at rapid fire speed. More than forty years later songs such as I Don’t Want to Walk Around With You, Teenage Lobotomy and I Want to Be Sedated still stand out. Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World which includes Nazi imagery shocked Seymour Stein – the head of Sire records. He pleaded with the band to remove the lyrics. (They didn’t.) But the Ramones weren’t trying to glorify the Third Reich – they were poking fun, ridiculing something that was so profoundly evil that it stripped the Nazis of that power and turned them into a caricature.

For twenty two years the Ramones toured constantly, playing more than two thousand shows that helped spread the gospel of punk rock, introducing fans to something new and exciting.

Over the past couple of years the Ramones have become a regular fixture in my life. The alarm on my phone is Blitzkrieg Bop which reminds me: Hey Ho Let’s Go. It is a reminder to get it done. I still listen to CD’s in my car and the Ramones get a lot of play. But it wasn’t always like this, as during my twenties  I started seriously listening to the Ramones. I knew their names and a few songs, but once I went to Cinematheque and watched the documentary End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones, I became a convert. The documentary discussed the complicated history of the band; it included interviews with the surviving members, family, friends and musicians. It is an incredible story filled with ambition, crushing defeats, heartbreak, substance abuse and the courage to persevere.

After watching End of the Century a few times – I started listening to their music. Their debut album Ramones helped codify how punk rock should sound, it’s such a great album I didn’t care to listen to anything else. But it turns out that Leave Home, Rockets to Russia and Road to Ruin continued where their first album left off. The songs are fast and aggressive but catchy as well. There is simplicity to their songs as well as honesty to their lyrics. Dee Dee wasn’t just writing songs for the sake of it, he was writing songs about everyday life and things that had happened to him. Except for that part in 53rd and 3rd about being a Green Beret – that was just for kicks.

While working at the Saint Boniface Library a bande déssinée caught my attention. One, Two, Three, Four – Ramones (Bruno Cadène) is the story of Douglas Colvin. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, he moved from Germany to New York City. A drug user since his early teens, Douglas finds salvation in music and becomes Dee Dee. As a founding member of the Ramones he experiences life in a rock & roll band firsthand. Unfortunately, life on the road is hard and takes a toll on his body and mind. Beautifully illustrated in black and white One, Two Three Four – Ramones is a heartbreaking portrayal of a complicated human being.

After reading the BD, I decided to go further down the rabbit hole and after browsing through the library’s website I discovered Marky Ramones’ book: Punk Rock Blitzkrieg – My Life As A Ramone. In the 1970s Marc Bell pursued a career as a drummer; he played in bands such as Dust, Richard Hell and the Voidoids and later the Ramones. Adopting the name Marky Ramone he joined the punk band in 1978, quickly learning the band’s unified front and their professionalism on stage ends once the show is over. Marky recounts the infighting between members and how it created a toxic atmosphere. He goes into detail about the feud between Joey and Johnny and how both went to great lengths not to say anything to one another. But the book is also more than just about the band. Marky talks about his own relationship with each of the Ramones, life on the road, and how his alcoholism led him to get kicked out of the band. It’s a great read told with a lot of heart.

And why stop there? Seriously! Why the Ramones Matter (Donna Gaines) wasn’t quite what I expected. The title caught my attention but it was the complexity of the book that really appealed to me. Sure it talks about the band, its members and how two of the founding members loathed one another but still continued to perform together for twenty-two years. (Seriously – who does that?) The author explains the band`s importance and how their DIY ethics helped them pursue a career even when radio stations refused to play their music. How their personal trauma helped them create music that would give a voice to those who felt isolated and powerless. It’s an incredible book that goes beyond the band and explores their lasting contributions.

The library has lots to offer when it comes to the Ramones – Hoopla (app) allows you to stream the band’s studio albums as well as compilations and live albums, and there are also other books that are worth checking out such as I Slept With Joey Ramone written by the late singer`s brother Mickey Leigh as well as Legs McNeil`s Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk.

Despite the fact the four founding Ramones have passed, the band lives on – Marky Ramone has a radio show on SiriusXM and still tours. In fact he recently played in Buenos Aires! It`s a good reminder that punk rock is alive and well, it’s just getting old.

For more information visit your local library, neighborhood bookstore or record store!

– Daniel Bohémier