Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Literary Finds – Joan Thomas

I recently had the opportunity to meet Joan Thomas when she came to speak to the Pembina Trail Library Book Club. For those of you unfamiliar with that name (how does that happen?), Joan Thomas is an award winning author and fellow Winnipeger. Her debut novel, Reading by Lighting, was the 2010 On The Same Page selection. She was the Winnipeg Public Library’s Writer-in-Residence in 2012. Ms. Thomas’ third novel, The Opening Sky, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award in 2014.

At the book club meeting, Joan shared with us the ways she gets her inspiration for her writing, and read from her forthcoming novel, Five Wives, coming out this September (I can’t wait!).

Reading by Lighting, a quintessential coming of age story, was based loosely on the life of her aunt. Lily Piper, a young woman from Manitoba, is sent to her father’s family in England to take care of her ailing Grandmother just before World War II. 

Curiosity: A Love Story is an exploration of historical fiction, inspired by the life of Mary Anning of Lyme Regis, on the southwest coast of England. Mary was an accidental fossil hunter and cabinet maker’s daughter. The love Joan has for the character of Mary is obvious, and is a love that the reader shares. The time, effort, and research that went into this book makes it well worth a read.

The Opening Sky is a contemporary character study inspired by modern life, and is a story about struggle of life, love, and the unexpected. Aiden and Liz are driven professionals, and their daughter Sylvie is unapologetically herself. I was completely drawn to this novel; there was something very familiar about it. I felt like this could have been a story about any one of my neighbours. 

Joan Thomas is one of those literary finds of a lifetime, and I am so glad I discovered her books! Do yourself a favour and check out her books. You won’t regret it!

Happy Reading!

– Andrea

Summer Slump


“Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.” — Dr. Seuss

    Summertime – check. More daylight and time to read-check. Comfy reading spaces indoors and out – check. Variety of refreshing beverages – check. Stacks and stacks of reading material as per Dr. Seuss – check. Me actually reading anything? Not so much.

     I’ve got all of the boxes checked to immerse myself in reading, and in listening to audio books, but somehow I’m not finding anything that’s catching my attention. Maybe it’s having too many choices, or having my expectations set too high. Whatever the reason, I’m smack dab in the middle of a summer reading slump. All is hope is not lost, though. I’ve been reaching out for suggestions in an effort to find something that will re-kindle the  diminished spark in what used to be a burning passion, my relationship with reading. In an effort to embrace everything and dismiss nothing I’ve made a list (I’m still passionate about that) of the titles that have been suggested to me, and I’ve requested them from Winnipeg Public Library. No descriptions from the people who recommended them, no checking out reviews in advance, I’m not even looking at the summary on the book itself. Just clicking on a cover and and requesting, that’s it. I’ve included a partial list of my overall list here. I’ll check back in my next post to let you know which title makes me into a blazing bibliophile once again.


If any of these covers look like they’d be worth a second look, do what I did and just click it. You never know where or when a reading slump will strike, so it’s best to be prepared.


Confessions of a reluctant summer reader

I admit it. I never think of reading in the summer. Instead of sitting on the beach reading, I would rather be swimming, hiking, checking out festivals, or letting myself be mystified by the flames of a campfire. Summertime is generally not a time when I choose to read books.

But when a storm is thundering outside and either you’re stuck inside a cabin with little else to do, or you’re home and having electronics plugged in isn’t advised, I’ll resort to reading a book.

This is when I get really picky. I want something short and fast-paced—so I can go back to exploring the outdoors while the weather is still nice. The following are my 2019 summer reading picks:

The Nest – Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

A well-crafted story of the dysfunctional Plum family illustrates the New York setting with careful details and hilarious observations. The book starts off with Leo, the eldest Plum, leaving his wife at a wedding, high on drugs and with a waitress in the passenger seat, only to crash his car and get sent to rehab. In order to hush the gossip, his mother spends the money from the Nest, a delayed inheritance for all the children when Melody, the youngest, would turn 40. With all the other siblings in dire straits, expecting the money to fix their debts and relationship problems, they eagerly await for Leo to come up with a solution. It’s a fun quick read filled with drama and ridiculous situations that are just perfect for stormy days inside.

This is also available in audiobook, which is great for long road trips!

Saturday Night Ghost Club – Craig Davidson

If you’ve ever been to Niagara Falls, you’ll recognize it immediately in this coming-of-age story. Jake Bake, neurosurgeon, reminisces on one summer growing up in Niagara Falls. At 12 years old, Jake was still scared of monsters in the closet and bullies from his school, but after meeting the new boy in town, Billy and his sister Dove, he begins exploring the city’s haunted sites with Uncle Cal, or the newly-formed Saturday Night Ghost Club. Exploring the themes of memory, nostalgia and tragedy, Davidson brings to life that summer feeling of exploring the city with nothing but your bike and your friends.

Ysabel – Guy Gavriel Kay

Looking for a getaway to the south of France? Ysabel, set in Aix-en-Provence, will sweep you into a story of adventure that will make you feel like you’re there. Ned, 15 years old, accompanying his father, a revered and professional photographer there to take some pictures of the city and landscape, stumble into a fantastical situation that spans over 2000 years. With great dialogue, well-timed humour, lyrical description of the Aix-en-Provence and a story unlike any I’ve read, this one is sure to keep you reading even after the storms outside have calmed.

Also available in audiobook!

The Key to Rebecca – Ken Follett

When I hear Ken Follett, I think of his long, sweeping historical novels. While those are great for cold winter nights, it’s not what I’m looking for when the sun sets after 9 o’clock. The Key to Rebecca gives you that historical fiction fix, but with a fast-paced, action-packed story. Follow Alex Wolf, a Nazi spy who travels through the Sahara Desert and into Cairo to get information on the British operations in Egypt during the Second World War, and William Vandam a British Army Intelligence office who picks up Wolf’s trail in the city. It has all the action, intrigue and romance you would expect from summer blockbuster, and it’s just as much fun.

So if you’re like me and hesitate to pick up a book over the summer, make sure to pick one that’s sure to be fun and fast-paced.


And the Award Went To…

Book Awards. There are many, many awards given out for books, and whenever a book has been newly honoured with an award, or was recently nominated, this book often has lots of holds on it. So if you come to the library and find that the newly minted Governor General Award winning books aren’t available, have no fear, our lovely library staff members can place a hold on the book for you, and while you wait, why not take a look at some past award winners that may very well be available right away?

Governor General Literary Awards – Fiction:

sistersbrothers Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (2011 Winner)

Contract killers and brothers Charlie and Eli Sisters set out from Oregon City to their mark’s gold-mining claim outside Sacramento in this darkly comic novel by Canadian-born novelist Patrick deWitt. Though Charlie enjoys his whiskey and being a killer, Eli does not and on this long road he starts to question what he does for a living and dream about a different life. Set during the Old West the novel is filled with interesting characters and humour, perfect if you like reading Western novels with a bit of quirkiness thrown in. 

Bram Stoker Award (Horror):

silence The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988 Winner)

This classic by Harris was not his first novel to include the infamous Hannibal Lecter, the first was Red Dragon which came out a few years prior. Though Lecter was only in that novel for a very brief time (much less than the movie version) his character certainly made a lasting impression. His follow-up to that novel features a strong female protagonist, Clarice Starling, as an FBI trainee, and of course the excellent character, Dr. Hannibal Lecter as they work together (“quid pro quo Clarice”) to find the serial killer known as Buffalo Bill. This is a fantastically taut and fast-paced thriller that will have you breaking out in goose-bumps whenever Lecter is featured on the page (of course that may just be me as whenever I read any dialogue by Lecter I just imagined Anthony Hopkins’ reading the lines). Perfectly sinister!

Lambda Literary Awards (the best lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender books):

six Six Metres of Pavement by Farzana Doctor (2012 Lesbian General Fiction Winner)

Twenty years ago Ismail Boxwala mistakenly forgot his baby daughter in the back seat of his car and ever since then he has been racked by that grief. After a divorce and heavy drinking he has been alone and isolated for years until chance would have it that he befriends two women. One, Fatima is a queer activist who was kicked out of her parents’ home and the other is his neighbour Celia who is also grieving. All three find strength and safety together to help heal old wounds in Doctor’s second novel.  

Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction:

nightwatch Nightwatching by Méira Cook (2016 Winner)

In the Orange Free State of South Africa, Ruthie Blackburn feels like an outsider, everyone is at odds around her and she is constantly in conflict with her maid Miriam who is raising Ruthie due to her widowed father being more absent every day. She runs around during the dull days of summer until two guests arrive from the big city. This arrival, and one weekend, will alter the course of her adolescence and lead to a devastating tragedy. A beautifully written novel from local author and poet Méira Cook.  

Hugo Award (Science Fiction):

sandman The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by J.H. Williams III (2016 Best Graphic Story)

A prequel to the Sandman series of graphic novels by the fantastic Neil Gaiman, this collection of stories follows Dream/Morpheus/The Sandman (and his many other names) as he embarks on a journey in an attempt to fix what he had previously tried to repair (and failed). In his travels he meets some of his siblings, Destiny, Delirium, Desire and Despair as well as his father Time. Gaiman is a master at building fantastical worlds and interesting characters, and the art by J.H. Williams III gorgeously captures Gaiman’s world. Start with this graphic novel and you’ll want to continue reading more adventures with The Sandman.

RITA Award (Romance Fiction):

repressed Repressed by Elisabeth Naughton (2017 Romantic Suspense)

The first in a series of novels featuring adoptive siblings with troubled backgrounds, this book follows high school teacher Samantha Parker who, eighteen years ago witnessed her brother’s murder, and newcomer Dr. Ethan McClane a child psychologist, who turns out is not a newcomer to the town after all. When working together to help a troubled student, attraction grows between the two, but when new facts come to light of an incident long ago the newly formed bond will be tested and danger will be found just around the corner.

Don’t see a book listed here that peaks your interest? You can search other award-winners in our catalogue by clicking “Award Winners” and choosing an award in the categories listed.  

Happy Reading!


I know it’s out there somewhere

I have two words for you: Antiques Roadshow. If you accidentally started watching this show while channel surfing, your surf probably stopped there. Why? Because it is part fascinating, part suspense, and part history. This television show has been running since 1979. People line up with family heirlooms or thrift store/garage sale finds and wait patiently for an antiques appraiser to share information about their item’s history and worth. Sometimes they find that their item has little monetary value, but it still makes their heart swell; other times, the monetary value is mind-boggling and leaves the owner with the difficult decision of whether to keep it or sell it.

Just yesterday it was shared in the news that someone found an Egon Schiele sketch in a thrift store in New York. It could sell for $100,000! A couple of years ago, someone found a Maud Lewis painting in a thrift store. It sold for $45,000. And did you ever hear about the man who bought a chess piece for $6, only to later find out that it was worth $1.2 million dollars? $1.2 million dollars!!

There’s something about these stories and the Antiques Roadshow that leave you wanting to visit the thrift stores and garage sales to hunt for the ultimate treasure, or wondering if you already have one in your own home. Read on if you want to learn more about collectibles, have a precious heirloom that you need to care for, love reading Antiques Roadshow-type stories, or are intrigued by the darker side of this world (yes, it exists!).


We have Collectibles Guides. These provide you with visuals for many types of collectibles and how much each can sell for. There are guides for stamps, kitchen wares, action figures, cards, coins, and more.

Tricks of the Trade

We have books by individuals who have learned the tricks of the trade and are happy to share them.


If it’s the stories that draw you in, check these titles out:

  • The antiques magpie: a fascinating compendium of absorbing history, stories, facts and anecdotes from the world of antiques by Marc Allum. You’ll “go in search of stolen masterpieces, explore the first museums, learn the secrets of the forgers and brush up on your auction technique. Meet the garden gnome insured for £1 million, track down Napoleon’s toothbrush, find out how to spot a corpse in a Victorian photograph – and much more.”
  • The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr recounts the journey in the discovery of a Caravaggio painting that was lost for almost 200 years, and explores how many others likely remain lost to time in a storeroom or basement, or are being mistaken as a copy.
  • In Priceless, the founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team offers a real-life international thriller to rival The Thomas Crown Affair. The son of an antique dealer, the author went undercover catching art thieves and black market traders of priceless art and antiquities: golden armour, Geronimo’s headdress, and a Rodin sculpture to name a few.
  • Caveat Emptor by Ken Perenyi is about his life as an art forger. Self-taught, he confounded experts and became wealthy by forging masterpieces for 30 years!
  • The Island of Lost Maps by Miles Harvey tells the story of Gilbert Bland, Jr., an antiques dealer who stole centuries old maps from research libraries in Canada and the United States. He was referred to as the “Al Capone of cartography”.

We have all that you’ll need to keep up the excitement, the mystery, and the learning around antiques and thrift store treasure hunting. Enjoy the adventure!

~ Reegan

Reading about Writing

Maybe you just read a book thinking “I could do this better”. Maybe you’ve read thousands of books and have finally decided that the time has come to take a crack at writing one yourself. Maybe you have a story that has been knocking around in your head for a while, wishing someone had written a book about it and finally decide you’ll just have to do it yourself. General consensus on writing seems to be “sit down and write”. This is not something you can get around—books ultimately need to be written by someone. It can be pretty overwhelming if you’re just not sure where to start, and you may find you’ve been staring at the wall for an hour with nothing but a blank page to show for it. Thankfully there are plenty of writing tips and prompts available for free online, and there are a lot of books at the library written by experienced authors on writing as well as publishing.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

The main piece of advice novelist and non-fiction writer Anne Lamott offers is something she heard her father say to her brother who had a school assignment about birds due the next day. He’d had three months to write it and he hadn’t started it yet. He was so overwhelmed about how little time he now had that he was unable to start working. Lamott writes that her father “sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”  She has found this advice useful in her writing throughout her life. 

If you think about how much you have to do it can paralyze you with fear and you end up getting nothing done. If you narrow your focus to smaller elements it can help make the writing process less arduous. Lamott’s book is broken up into chapters about elements of writing like character, plot, and dialogue. She also talks about her personal struggles as well as struggles with writing and what to do when you feel jealous of other writers’ successes. 

On Writing by Stephen King

The first half of Stephen King’s book on writing is more of a memoir that also includes his writing career. The second half called “Toolbox” goes into the details of the writing process and gives practical advice. I particularly liked how he credited his wife as being a big part of improving his writing, especially regarding the book Carrie—she brought him up to speed on the parts of being a teenage girl which were foreign to him at the time. He also writes about the time he was hit by a van in 1999 and how writing helped lead him back to his life after the accident.

Dear Ally, How Do You Write a Book? by Ally Carter

Ally Carter is a YA author of some of my favourite series including the Gallagher Girls and Heist Society.  This book is written for young adults but is useful for writers of any age and not just those writing YA novels. Carter wrote the majority of the book, but she also asked many other YA authors such as David Levithan, Julie Murphy, and Zoraida Cordova to answer questions about their own processes. She figured that since authors have many different ways in which they write novels that it would be good to share their knowledge as well as her own. 

Some of the writers only write a few drafts whereas others write many more. Some of them have novels with word counts numbering in the hundreds of thousands whereas some authors’ longest books are 50,000 words. A lot of writing advice is perpetually useful but since this book is a lot newer than King’s or Lamott’s books there more current information on the aspects of the publishing industry that have changed, such as ebooks (which did not exist when “On Writing” and “Bird by Bird” were written).

There are many other books on writing available through the library, including those on how to write and publish in specific genres such as romance and mystery.


50 Years Ago: Landing on the Moon

It was only one step, but what a step.  50 years ago, on July 20th 1969, the moon landing was seen live by 20 percent of humanity, making the event truly global in scope.  Born of Cold War rivalry between two superpowers, the space race mobilized the scientific and technological resources of the time and helped transform the way we saw humanity’s place in the universe and continues to inspire new generations to aim for the stars.  The Winnipeg Library has a large and fascinating collection about space exploration and the moon landings for you to explore.

Cover image for One Giant Leap : The Untold Story of How We Flew to the Moon.

Of course, the Apollo 11 flight did not happen overnight and it is easy to forget how much efforts, time and resources was needed to achieve the first moon landing, not to mention the countless attempts and failures to create the conditions to successfully fly men to the moon and return them safely to Earth.  The Russians were the first to send probes into space (the famous Sputnik satellite) in 1957, followed by the first man in space in 1961, with the United States struggling at first to catch up, before pledging to land a man on the moon before 1970.  As Charles Fishman mentions in the intro to his book One Giant Leap: The Untold Story of How We Flew to the Moon: “When Kennedy announced that goal, no one knew how to navigate to the Moon.  No one knew how to build a rocket big enough to reach the Moon, or how to build a computer small enough (and powerful enough) to fly a spaceship there.  No one knew what the surface of the Moon was like, or what astronauts could eat as they flew there. ”  Fishman’s book is a delight to read, providing a great overview of the American space program’s many achievements and reverses that led to Apollo 11 as well as how it changed the world we live in today.  The progress made with the Mercury and Gemini programs (which preceded the Apollo flights) and the pioneering work done by the Soviet space program and German scientist Werner Von Braun are also highlighted.

Cover image for Rocket men : the daring odyssey of Apollo 8 and the astronauts who made man's first journey to the moon

The names Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders may not be as well-known as that of Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, and yet they were the first human beings to leave earth’s orbit and make a round-trip to the moon.  As related in Rocket men : the daring odyssey of Apollo 8 and the astronauts who made man’s first journey to the moon by Robert Kurson, by August 1968, the American space program was in danger of failing in its two most important objectives: to land a man on the Moon by President Kennedy’s end-of-decade deadline, and to triumph over the Soviets in space.  The book tells of the gamble that NASA took in radically advancing its timetable to send its first rocket to the moon while using new and untested technology that would be used by Apollo 11 a few months later.  A new HBO documentary about the Apollo 8 mission, Apollo’s Daring Mission, is also available on DVD.

Cover image for First on the Moon : the Apollo 11 50th anniversary experience

For an excellent, up-to-date read about the event itself, Rod Pyle’s First on the Moon : the Apollo 11 50th anniversary experience is a strong recommendation, filled with firsthand accounts from the astronauts and their families and friends and written in an accessible style with gorgeous illustrations.  The Apollo 11 mission is told in exciting details, including the tense moments when Neil Armstrong had to make last-minute corrections to safely land the lunar module in the Sea of Tranquility.  This is not the first book that this author has written about space exploration and it shows in his exhaustive research and his inclusion of archival documents and newly-available pictures.

Cover image for Neil Armstrong : a life of flight

If you interested about learning more about the man himself, Neil Armstrong : a life of flight by Jay Barbree is the inside story of Neil Armstrong from the time he flew combat missions in the Korean War and then flew a rocket plane called the X-15 to the edge of space,  to when he saved his Gemini 8 by flying the first emergency return from Earth orbit and then flew Apollo 11 to the moon’s Sea of Tranquility.  Working from 50 years of conversations he had with Neil, from notes, interviews, NASA spaceflight transcripts, and remembrances of those Armstrong trusted, Barbree writes about Neil’s three passions: “flight, family, and friends”.

Cover image for Apollo's legacy : perspectives on the moon landings

You might be asking what does it matter that we landed on the moon after 50 years?  That is the question Roger Launius explores in Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landings.  Launius doesn’t shy from presenting opposite views about the legacy of a program that was attacked by both sides of the political aisle even at the time the missions were underway for being too expensive in both treasures and lives.  The success of the Apollo program, and the heroes it created, helped inspire a generation and solidified the United States at the cutting edge of scientific progress.  It also produced enduring conspiracy theories and even denials of the program’s existence.  Though the immense effort and mobilization necessary would not have been possible outside of the Cold War, the nations of Earth, including Canada, have since sent more people in space as well as more automated probes to explore the planets in and outside our solar system.

What about the next 50 years: what breakthroughs will humanity accomplish in space?  Will we reach Mars and beyond?


Tips for being knotty

If I mention crochet and images of garishly colored granny squares straight out of That 70’s Show come to mind, then you might be thinking that it is outdated and boring.

Knotty tip #1: Crochet is not for Grannies anymore.

Last summer, we were heading out on a long road trip to the Georgian Bay to visit friends and I needed a project that would fill the hours. Browsing through the knitting and crochet books at the library (746.434), I discovered the coolest crochet book ever!

The Edward’s Crochet series of books are written and created by Kerry Lord who founded Toft, a British company specializing in alpaca wool in natural colors. Her 3rd book in the series, Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium is a brilliant, imaginative, spiral bound flip book that allows the crocheter to create monsters. Its pages are split into three sections, one for the head, one for the arms and one for the legs. Children, and let’s face it… adults too, are invited to mix and match the body parts to create a monster of their very own. The patterns are simple using the single crochet stitch throughout and there is a guide for interesting color patterns so your monsters can be striped, rainbow or look like they are wearing clothes. There is even a technique to create fur so your monster can be fluffy or have hair. The possibilities are endless!


Knotty Tip #2: You will quickly become obsessed so stock up on wool before borrowing the book.

As we were driving, and driving, and driving, I was busy trying to make my first monster. To my intense frustration, my monster just wasn’t turning out right. The pattern called for the DC or double crochet stitch, which is a common stitch and one I’ve done many times. It wasn’t until we were well past Thunder Bay that I noticed the fine print: this book uses British terminology. Who knew the Brits’ Double Crochet is actually a Single Crochet stitch?

Knotty tip #3: Double check which terminology the book is using!

Now that I know what I am doing, I cannot overstate how fun this book is. Anything that inspires you can be created out of a few simple pieces. To get an idea, follow the #edsflipbook, #edsanimals or #toft hashtags on social media to see some of the combinations people have come up with. I have a few examples of my own:

If monsters aren’t your thing, Toft has lots of other options. Winnipeg Public Library carries most of Kerry Lord’s books. Once you’ve learned the techniques from one, they are all fairly easy to create. If you know how to crochet in the round, you’re set! If you don’t, there is an easy method, found in the back pages, that explains how to thread a different colored piece of yarn through your rows to keep count of where you are.

For barnyard and zoo animals, try Edward’s Menagerie.


For birds of all feathers, try Edward’s Menagerie: Birds, which is also available in French.


If you want to make people, use the Doll Emporium. It has a standard form for the body and an easy or more challenging pattern for the arms. This book includes all types of clothes and costumes so if you are crocheting for a child, be prepared to make a whole wardrobe for their little mini-me.


 Knotty tip #4: The Doll Emporium uses a variety of stitches for the clothing, so attempt a project from an easier book if you are a beginner.

Lastly, if you have a puppy in your life, you will love Edward’s Menagerie: DOGS! This title is chock full of patterns for all different types of pure bred dogs. If your pooch is a mixed breed, it also has tips on how to personalize your creation to match your pet.


I have now started on my dog pound…


Knotty tip #5: Dogs uses the loop stitch in most of the projects. Not the easiest stitch to master, but well worth the time to learn for the cuteness it provides.

If you are a beginner and want to give some of these projects a try, we can help! The Idea Mill at the Millennium Library has a drop-in class on Tuesday nights where you can come with your knitting or crochet projects to get help from actual human beings.

If you are more of a figure-it-out-on-your-own type of person, Toft has provided instructional videos for every one of the techniques that they use. So help is as near as your phone… unless you’re in a car and you’ve maxed out your data plan.

Knotty tip #6: Download the videos before travelling!

By the time we arrived at our friends’ cabin just outside Tobermory, I had the body and head of my very first monster completed. It was time to start on the embellishments, which is easily the funnest part. Our friends have a 2 year old, Sullivan… and I am not making this up… he literally screamed with delight when he saw the yet unfinished monster. He quickly claimed it and we added horns, claws and a belly button as per his request. Next morning, he was busy feeding his monster breakfast and I began getting requests from the other children we were visiting with to make monsters for them. So you’ve been warned; once you start crocheting, it won’t be long before you’re hooked.

It’s so much fun to be knotty.


Spiders, bugs, and worms…oh my!

“I take my hat off to you — or I would, if I were not afraid of showering you in spiders.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

June was an interesting month in Winnipeg – hot weather, then cool weather; dry periods with the relief of occasional rain. It sounds like the perfect Manitoba spring. But wait, what are those tiny things crawling on the lawn chair you wanted to sit on in the sun? The small black things covering your car? Welcome to cankerworm season. The time of year where getting in your car might require some serious brushing off, and where the eco-alternative, cycling, involves dodging (or not) curtains of worms!

One afternoon I tried doggedly to brave this year’s hoards and swept off my deck and, broom in hand, hauled out my laptop and sat down. This was interrupted every few minutes by a fresh sweep. By the end of the afternoon I felt like I was positively crawling. This got me thinking to a book I had read, that had me crawling in a fairly major way, The Lost City of Z.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon  is an Amazonian adventure story. It chronicles different real life searches for the mythical lost city of Z, alternating between the different adventurers. In 1925 Percy Fawcett, his son, and the rest of his party, ventured into the Amazon hoping to make a huge historical discovery. But the whole party disappeared, and over the ensuing decades, many scientists and adventure seekers have searched for evidence of Fawcett’s party, often coming to tragic ends themselves. The description of the natural world, especially the insect part, is more than vivid. Before I read it I had no idea you could lose a whole backpack in a matter of hours to hoards of ants!

Spiders and I are not the best of friends – I am able to sort of deal with small, non-hairy, non-creepy-with-legs-radiating-from-the-centre kind. Spiders in literature can be pretty cheerful and wise, like Charlotte, whom Wilbur befriends in Charlotte’s Web. But more often they are dark and frightening. The Lord of the Ring’s Shelob fits this bill perfectly – a sort of evil personified (If you LOVE J.R.R. Tolkien then check out Ungoliath in The Silmarillion– she makes Shelob feel almost tame). Then there is Aragog, from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. A sort of sad case, accused wrongly, and loved by Hagrid, he wasn’t quite as scary as some of his literary peers.

Stephen King apparently lists spiders as one of his top fears, but it hasn’t stopped him from including them in some of his novels – they show up in both It and the Dark Tower series. Neil Gaiman includes not one, but thousands of spiders, in his novel Anansi Boys.



Winner of the 2016 Arthur C Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time includes both ants and spiders. It is the epic story of humanity’s battle for survival on a terraformed planet, but the planet is already populated by an empire of accidentally scientifically evolved spiders!

In Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects, Stewart has uncovered the most terrifying and titillating stories of bugs gone wild. It’s an A to Z of insect enemies, interspersed with sections that explore bugs with kinky sex lives (“She’s Just Not That Into You”), creatures lurking in the cupboard (“Fear No Weevil”), insects eating your tomatoes (“Gardener’s Dirty Dozen”), and phobias that feed our (sometimes) irrational responses to bugs (“Have No Fear”).

As much as insects and other arthropods might make us squirm and crawl,  the cold hard truth is that we couldn’t live on this planet without them!



It’s Time to Read: All Systems Red

Dear Readers, would you believe I’m worried? I’m worried about whether or not I can sell you all on a sci-fi novella in which the main protagonist is called Murderbot. Oh, and did I mention the cover looks straight out of the video game Halo?

Not that I’m against sci-fi, novella’s, or things named Murderbot (as long as they’re not murderbotting me). I’m not even against Halo—though, truth be, I’ve always been more into PlayStation than Xbox.

I’m worried because my formative years were spent in a particular space (Northern rural Manitoba) and a particular time (The 90s) and the resulting space-time was not particularly kind to nerd culture. In this space-time one read sci-fi in dark corners of the library, lest one be seen; and anything that ended in the suffix ‘ella’ was seen as pretentious. Recommending a sci-fi novella was not something done with abandon.

But here we are, nearing the end of the twenty-teens, and nerd culture is all the rage. Fantasy is cool. Science Fiction is cool. Keanu Reeves is cool. So, by all logic, this month’s Time to Read selection: Martha Wells’ Hugo and Nebula award winning novella All Systems Red should be cool!

Do you agree? Do you disagree? At only 152 pages, it would be almost painless to find out. And once you do, be sure to let us know on our Time to Read Facebook group, our website, or by writing to us at

And to ease you into hardcore science fiction, be sure to check out this month’s Time to Read episode in which we discuss the urban fantasy Trickster Drift with special guest host Jordan Wheeler. Available now!

~Alan and the rest of the Time to Read team