Fair Isle Felonies

My wife and a friend get together for supper and knitting on a regular basis. I’m usually around too, but often get outvoted on what to stick on the TV when the knitting starts. I’m happy to report that we’ve found a series on which we can all agree. It’s called Shetland and is produced by the BBC.

The first 3 seasons are available through Netflix, and WPL has a DVD of Seasons 1 and 2, if you are interested.

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It is a police procedural centered on Detective Jimmy Perez, who works on the remote Shetland islands off the coast of Scotland. (His Spanish sounding surname is explained by the fact that his ancestor was a shipwrecked survivor of the Spanish Armada way back in 1588, although you’d be hard pressed to see the resemblance in actor Douglas Henshall’s blonde hair and fair complexion.)

Each story (in the first couple of seasons anyway) takes two full episodes to tell, so the writers really give the characters time to breathe and develop. There are many moody, atmospheric shots of the Shetland Islands throughout, and knitting enthusiasts will love to check out all the woolly knitwear sported by the locals (if you’re into that kind of thing).

The series is based on the award winning novels written by Ann Cleeves, and you can borrow many of them from WPL. Ann Cleeves never intended her Shetland books to be a series when she wrote her first one, Raven Black. After all, how many murders can you expect on these quiet peaceful islands? Well, the success of her first one meant that sequels were on the way, so she decided to write one for each season of the year and call them her “Shetland Quartet” and be done with it. The fact that her most recent Shetland novel, Cold Earth, is her 7th in the series, just shows that you might want to consider life insurance if you ever decide to take a trip there. So many murders!

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The latest Shetland novel.

 

If you are a knitter and want to attempt your own “Shetland cosplay”, WPL has a great looking book called Northern Knits: designs inspired by the knitting traditions of Scandinavia, Iceland and the Shetland Islands.

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If you are looking for a group of like-minded knitters who meet regularly and offer support to one another, why not consider joining WPL’s Knitting Book Club, which meets on the first Tuesday of every month at the Louis Riel Library? Call 204-986-4573 to register.

Trevor

Fun for the Holidays

The Holidays are a time when friends and family are in close quarters. Much of that time is joyous, full of fun and spent in front of the TV watching any number of Christmas specials. We are never far removed from Jimmy Stewart, Chevy Chase, George C. Scott, Billy Bob Thorton or Little Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun.

However, film and TV are relatively new additions to the Holiday season. A century ago, no one owned a TV and movies were silent. How did people pass the time? The answer, of course, is games. Board games, card games, word games and many others were played for fun.

The Victorian era (1837-1901) which gave us Christmas cards, A Christmas Carol and Christmas Crackers also had games like Up Jenkins, Similes and Throwing the Smile. Up Jenkins was played with 8 or more players divided into two teams. Teams would sit across from each other and one team was given a coin. The team with the coin would pass or pretend to pass it among themselves until the opposing team shouted Up Jenkins! At which point the team with the coin would raise their hands above the table with fists closed. The opposing team would then say Down Jenkins! The team with the coin would then place their hands on the table palms down. The other team would then get one chance to guess which player on the opposing team had the coin.

Similes could be played with as few as two people but more is better. Each player would take a turn telling the other player or players a simile. Here are some examples of similes:

tight as a drum
green as the grass
brave as a lion
strong as an ox.

Players would keep telling similes until someone couldn’t think of one and then that person would be out. Eventually you would be left with a winner.
Those are games from Christmas past. If you’re looking to play games in Christmas present here are some books that can help:

The Complete Book of Card Games

card-games

This how-to book offers a large variety of card games along with rules and instructions about how to play.  You’ll see Poker and Cribbage as well a few games not often played.  In addition to learning how to play, you’ll also get a short history on the evolution of the game.

Hoyle’s Rules of Games: Descriptions of Indoor Games of Skill and Chance, with Advice on Skillful Play: Based on the Foundations Laid Down by Edmund Hoyle, 1672-1769

hoyles

If you’ve ever wondered “how do I play Egyptian Ratscrew?” this book is for you. Providing rules and strategies for card and board games, you’ll find fun from Scrabble to Eleusis. The book also helpfully separates games geared for adults versus those more suited for children.

Family Fun Night

family-fun-night

Check out this book to create an “unplugged” family fun night that appeals to children too! With twists on timeless classics to brand new games, this book provides ideas for indoor and outdoor fun. Plus, it suggests snacks and meals that complement each family night theme.

The Oxford History of Board Games

oxford-games

My list of books would not be complete without a history of board games. David Parlett dives into the rich and interesting history of board games from around the world and from different time periods. His book offers some tips on strategies but focuses primarily on the development and cultural aspects of the games.

These books offer some great ways to stay entertained over the holidays. And there is one more twist you can throw into your gaming that can be a lot of fun. Today most games end with a player or players being “out” or being “it”. However, in ages past many games didn’t end this way. Players would perform a forfeit. Here are some examples:

  • A player has to stand on a chair and assume the form or shape of an object or animal the group chooses.
  • Make at least three other people smile.
  • Tell a joke.
  • Mime something and make the other players guess what it is you are doing.

Try these or create your own forfeits to add a different twist to your games!

While the holiday season is a great time to break out the games, it isn’t the only time you can enjoy them. Come to the library and enjoy “Tabletop Games Day”.  Different branches host this games day event at different times of the year.  Come and enjoy an oversized game of Chess, Checkers, or Snakes and Ladders.  You can also have fun with some regular-sized games like Clue, Scrabble or Cribbage.  Check the most current “At the Library” for times and locations.

Happy Holidays!

Andrew

Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

A few days before his prison term is supposed to end, Shadow is brought before the Warden. In three years, he’s only seen the Warden once. Shadow is worried that something has happened, he feels that the authorities will find a reason to deny him his freedom. To his surprise he learns that he’s being released a few days early, then the Warden tells him, “…your wife died.”  The life that was waiting for Shadow is gone. The home he shared with Laura, his recently deceased wife, no longer has any appeal. It’s no longer their home, it’s simply a place that’s filled with possessions and memories – memories that are too painful to think about.

American Gods

After Shadow leaves prison, he makes his way to the airport and boards a plane, bound for Eagle Point. After waking from a strange dream he disembarks and learns that his flight has been redirected to St. Louis. Shadow hurries to catch his next flight – missing this plane means missing his wife’s funeral. A seating error results in him getting bumped to First Class. There he meets a mysterious man who calls himself Wednesday, and unbeknownst to Shadow, his life is about to change forever.

‘American Gods’, written by Neil Gaiman, is a story where legendary beings, those who possess great and terrible power, sing karaoke – and where ancient deities seduce men into worshiping them. It is a fantasy story that borrows from folk tales and mythology, and sets it in the modern world. We learn about pixies and how they arrived in the New World, and encounter a djinn who is struggling to survive in a world that’s forgotten his kind. As the story progresses – you begin to ask yourself questions such as; how does a God make its way in the electronic age? How would you interact with a being that’s witnessed countless battles, floods and famines? Would you believe someone if they told you they were thousands of years old? Could you ignore someone perform incredible feats, or would you start to think outside of the box and open your mind to the possibility that magic does exist.

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Released back in 2001, ‘American Gods’ is available in hardcover, paperback, and streaming audiobook on Hoopla. There is also a ten year anniversary edition available which features the author’s preferred text and has an additional 12,000 words. Daunting? Perhaps. But speaking as someone who’s read both the original and the author’s preferred text, I can honestly say that Mr. Gaiman added more depth to story and fleshed out some of the characters – which made it even more enjoyable. Last but not least, there is an upcoming TV show based on the novel, which is scheduled to air on Starz, in 2017. The author himself collaborated with the production of the series and is excited about it – which I think is the BEST endorsement anyone could give.

– Daniel Bohémier

‘Tis the season to be reading!

Thanks to Mother Nature, it’s finally feeling pretty Christmassy outside. Inside the library, we’ve got you covered for seasonal romance and mystery. I’ve spent the past few months ordering all sorts of Christmas goodies for our readers, including stories with ho-ho-hot rogues, magical mistletoe, paranormal presents, and cozy Christmas sleuths. The current offerings provide something for every taste, so get comfy under a blanket (or mistletoe!), pour yourself a cup of something hot (alcoholic or not!), and check out the books below.

Making Spirits Bright by Fern Michaelsmaking-spirits-bright

This swoon-worthy collection of novellas hits the holiday sweet spot. In the title story, singleton Melanie McLaughlin dreams of adopting far more than she frets about her empty love life, but everything comes together when she’s offered two children orphaned by a terrible car crash and twinkle-eyed Bryce Landry steals her heart along with his offer to give the kids “the best Christmas ever.” Elizabeth Bass cooks up a tear-jerker in “Runaway Christmas” as spunky Texas teen Erica, trying to get back on track after her mother’s death, decides to spend Christmas with a family friend in Brooklyn. Rosalind Noonan’s “Home for Christmas,” a tale of a single mother falling for a wounded soldier returning from Afghanistan, is sure to tug the heartstrings. Nan Rossiter’s “Christmas on Cape Cod” delivers a dog-lover’s dream.

Fields Where They Lay by Timonthy Hallinan fields-where-they-lay
It’s three days until Christmas and Junior Bender, Hollywood’s fast-talking fixer for the felonious, is up to his ears in shopping mall Santas, Russian mobsters, desperate holiday shoppers, and (’tis the season) murder, in this sixth entry in the Junior Bender Holiday Mystery series (after King Maybe). The halls are decked, the deck is stacked, and here comes that jolly old elf. Junior Bender, divorced father of one and burglar extraordinaire, finds himself stuck inside the Edgerton Mall, and not just as a last-minute shopper (though he is that too). Edgerton isn’t exactly the epicenter of holiday cheer, despite its two Santas, canned Christmas music, chintzy bows, and festive lights. The mall is a fossil of an industry in decline; many of its stores are closed, and to make matters worse, there is a rampant shoplifting problem. The murderous Russian mobster who owns the place has decided it takes a thief to catch a thief and hires Junior–under threat–to solve the shoplifting problem for him. But Junior’s surveillance operation doesn’t go well: as Christmas Eve approaches, two people are dead and it’s obvious that shoplifting is the least of the mall’s problems. To prevent further deaths, possibly including his own, Junior must confront his dread of Christmas–both present and past.

 

christmas-brideA Christmas Bride by Hope Ramsay

‘Tis the season in Shenandoah Falls and the first time Willow Peterson has been home in years. But she’s determined to fulfill the wishes of her recently deceased best friend and restore Eagle Hill Manor to its former glory–all in time to host the perfect holiday wedding. She just has to get the owner of the historic inn to hire her. Unfortunately, that means dealing with Scrooge himself.
After the death of his wife, David Lyndon has a bah-humbug approach to Christmas. But as December counts down and the wedding planning is in full swing, it’s harder and harder to stay immune to the charms of Willow, especially when he sees how much joy she brings his eight-year-old daughter. After a simple kiss under the mistletoe turns into something more, David is hoping he can turn the magic of the holiday season into the love of a lifetime.

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelttwelve-dogs-of-christmas

Martha “Pups” Boyer, who’s at the center of Edgar-finalist Rosenfelt’s entertaining 15th legal thriller featuring Patterson, N.J., attorney Andy Carpenter (after Outfoxed), earned her nickname for her efforts to take in stray puppies that the local animal shelter can’t handle and find them permanent homes. Near the holidays, Pups’s new neighbor, Randy Hennessey, reports her for keeping more than the legal limit of animals. Andy, a long-time friend of Pups, figures that puppies and Christmas are key words that will ensure that the case is dismissed. He’s right. But when Randy turns up dead, Pups is arrested for his murder. The evidence is stacked against her, but Andy refuses to believe Pups guilty. On the other hand, Andy and his team discover some alarming discrepancies when they dig through the assets of the wealthy Pups and her late husband.

 

holiday-temptationHoliday Temptation by Donna Hill, Farrah Rochon, and K.M. Jackson

Three unlikely couples heat up the pages in this sensual trio of holiday. An aspiring playwright and a barista who is more than he seems learn to trust their hearts in Hill’s passionate “A Gift of Love”; a chance meeting in Istanbul’s spice market turns into something more for a Christmas-phobic photographer and techie craft brewer when the fates and the weather get into the act in Farrah Rochon’s affecting “Holiday Spice”; and a hard-driving real estate mogul hires a health-conscious chef to improve his diet and lifestyle during a business trip aboard his yacht and gets more than he bargained for in K.M. Jackson’s pert “From Here to Serenity.”

 

We Wish You a Murderous Christmas by Vicki Delanywe-wish-you-a-murderous-christmas

In Delany’s second book in the Year-Round Christmas Mystery series (after Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen), Merry Wilkinson is content with life in Rudolph, NY, where she runs a Christmas shop. The town has reinvented itself as a holiday-themed tourist destination full of indie businesses. So when the owner of the Yuletide Inn lands in the hospital following a heart attack, and his son, Gord, swoops in to convert the inn into a franchise of a budget hotel chain and sell land to a big-box store, the community is in an uproar. They’re almost relieved when Gord is murdered, until their resident Santa, Merry’s father, is questioned. Now Merry will have to find the real killer before her dad ends up in jail and the holiday is ruined.

it-must-be-christmasIt Must Be Christmas by Jennifer Crusie, Donna Alward, and Mandy Baxter

Three novellas with a delightful assortment of settings sweep readers off their feet with stories that highlight a variety of holiday experiences. A university librarian and a professor of Chinese lit (with a secret agenda) trade barbs and kisses as they spend Christmas Eve searching for an elusive action figure for a five-year-old in Crusie’s nonstop chuckler “Hot Toy”; a small-town doctor and an ex-Navy SEAL dad are thrown together when they find a newborn in the Christmas crèche in Donna Alward’s insightful “Christmas at Seashell Cottage”; and a wealthy rancher who wants nothing to do with his late father’s money finds romance with the founder of a sports-related charity for at-risk kids in Mandy Baxter’s steamy “Christmas with the Billionaire Rancher.” Library Journal states: “spirited, refreshing, and brimming with holiday joy, this diverse trilogy delivers both sexy and sweet, providing a little something for everyone.”

The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Mary Jo Putney and otherslast-chance-christmas-ball

Eight romance authors (collectively known as the Word Wenches) walk into a Regency-era ballroom and wreak fabulous, shimmering holiday mischief all over the place. The Dowager Countess of Holbourne is hosting an extravagant Christmas ball, and the guest list includes some of the loveliest, loneliest people in high society. Publisher’s Weekly states: “The best of the stories woven around this premise are Joanna Bourne’s ‘My True Love Hath My Heart,’ in which a little larceny spices a long-smoldering romance; Susan King’s ‘A Scottish Carol,’ wherein snowbound lovers never quite make it to the ball; and a maiden’s romantic rescue from a young ladies’ seminary in Anne Gracie’s ‘Mistletoe Kisses.’ The characters are smart and attractive-so much so that it can be hard to believe the ball is their only chance to find love-and their stories are delicious and appealing.”

our-first-christmasOur First Christmas by Lisa Jackson, Mary Burton, Mary Carter, and Cathy Lamb

Join four of the most favorite romance authors for tales of Christmas romance to remember forever.   In Lisa Jackson’s “Under the Mistletoe,” Megan Johnson’s marriage is over—or so she thinks. When her husband Chris lands in the hospital, she remembers the unexpected joy of their first Christmas together. The holidays bring painful memories for history professor Marisa Thompson in Mary Burton’s “A Ranger for Christmas.” But agreeing to help Texas Ranger Lucas Cooper solve a case presents her with more than a distraction. In Mary Carter’s “A Southern Christmas,” reporter Danielle Bright is heading home to write about Christmas down south—and possibly win back her ex. But Sawyer, the sexy photographer, is determined to jingle her bells. Family is where you go after quitting your job, but Laurel Kelly isn’t prepared for the changes at home in Montana—or the fact that her high school boyfriend now owns the family land in “A Ranger for Christmas” by Mary Burton.

Deck the Hallways by Kate Carlisledeck-the-hallways

Contractor Shannon Hammer is back in Carlisle’s fourth “Fixer-Upper” mystery, an entertaining Christmas cozy. Shannon’s latest project is overseeing the remodeling of an old Victorian mansion into apartments for families in need. Since the bank donated the foreclosed house to the Holiday Homebuilders, company representative Mr. Potter is sent to keep an eye on the progress. However, he manages to harass and fight with several of the workers, including Shannon’s dad, then ends up murdered, leaving a long list of suspects. Hoping to keep her father off the list of potential killers and get the renovation back on track, Shannon does some amateur sleuthing.

trouble-with-mistletoeThe Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis

Fans of Shalvis’s Sweet Little Lies will surely want to pick up her second Heartbreaker Bay contemporary, which is also very accessible to new readers. The series’s cuddliness factor is amped up to 11 with redheaded Willa Davis and her San Francisco pet store, South Bark Mutt Shop. Willa’s single and happy that way; she gets her daily dose of love from half a dozen eight-week-old golden retriever pups and the other lost animal souls she tends. Then handsome Keane Winters, a man from her past, shows up with Petunia, a Siamese cat he’s nicknamed Pita because she’s a pain in the ass. Pita is his great-aunt’s pet, and he needs all the cat counseling he can get, but Willa, Christmas spirit notwithstanding, would just as soon he seek it elsewhere. Willa’s a gem, Keane’s a hunk-tool belt and all-and the two spar as only Shalvis’s characters can, fighting a losing battle against the powers of mutual attraction and the holiday season.

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morganmiracle-on-5th-avenue

As a surprise, Eva Jordan agrees to decorate for Christmas the apartment of the grandson of one of her events and concierge company’s oldest clients (even preparing frozen meals) and finds crime writer Lucas Blade lurking in the dark instead of in Vermont where he is supposed to be working. Recently widowed Lucas has hit a massive writer’s block and is hiding out at home. He certainly doesn’t want an effervescent, captivating, Christmas-loving woman disturbing his peace-although it’s exactly what he needs. A cynical novelist who doesn’t believe in love and an optimistic chef who thinks it’s more important than all else set the pages alight in a compelling romance that tempers the serious issues of loneliness, grief, and fear of commitment with the salutary joy of the season.

-Barbara

Our gift to readers

In our annual contribution to the season, Winnipeg Public Library staff have put our heads together to come up with a list of our favourite reads of 2016. Some of these books were published this year, some are older titles that we discovered recently; all of them come highly recommended.

Want to see how our previous choices stack up? Check out WPL’s staff picks for 2015 and 2014. And if that’s not enough for you, here’s an ever-growing annual compilation of hundreds of 2016 “best of” lists.

Fiction we loved

Brian chose The Lamentations of Zeno by Ilija Trojanow, a “sparse but deeply affecting novel” that takes the reader to the Antarctic through the eyes of an aging glaciologist turned cruise ship guide.

Carolyn has read Dexter Palmer’s Version Control twice and will probably read it again, finding it enjoyable from multiple angles: “intriguing time-travel plot, satisfying existential questions, and some almost understandable hard science.”

revenantAccording to Chris, The Revenant by Michael Punke (inspiration for the recent movie of the same name) grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let go until the final shot.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was Derek‘s favourite book–“a vivid, brilliant exploration of the devastating effects of war on the lives of two individuals.”

Jane says that Rules for a Knight (written in the form of a letter to his children by author and actor Ethan Hawke) provides a compass for living an upright and noble life and is “a perfect gem to slip into anyone’s stocking.”

Kim loves Zoe Whittall’s books and couldn’t put down her latest, The Best Kind of People, about a family’s experience of going from the “perfect family” to being ostracized by almost everyone in their hometown.

heartEvery Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire answered a question Melanie has had since she was a little girl: what happens to children who fall through portals to fantasy worlds after they return home?

Monica chose Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest for its dysfunctional, relatable family and New York setting.

breakMonique calls local writer Katherena Vermette’s first novel The Break “a story of family and community connections, trauma, and so much love… will leave anyone who reads it wanting more.”

 

Non-fiction of all kinds

Christian Bök’s poetry collection The Xenotext is “Ovid neo-structuralist hard-science futurism with bees” or, as Aaron puts it, “kinda weird.”

Elke considered Animal Factory by David Kirby “non fiction that reads like a thriller–a story about how the hunger for cheap meat and dairy has become a threat to the environment and public health.”

Franca enjoyed the wry sense of humour in Allen Kurzweil’s Whipping Boy, and how Kurzweil’s initial curiosity about what became of the schoolmate who bullied him turned into a decades-long search bordering on obsession.

According to Hugh, Capturing Hill 70: Canada’s Forgotten Battle is “a must for anyone with the slightest interest in Canada’s role in the First World War”, covering the key details of this lesser-known battle in which thousands of Manitoban soldiers fought.

lonelyJacqui says The Lonely City by Olivia Laing is “a thought-provoking blend of art history and memoir” that looks at loneliness in visual art, and how that feeling can be exposed by art as well as eased.

Julianna was inspired to reread the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic memoir Maus by Art Spiegelman after the recent Anne Frank exhibit at Millennium Library, calling it “especially potent given today’s hyperbolic and fearful rhetoric.”

Although The Book of Tea was written in 1906, Larisa found that Kakuzo Okakura’s thoughts on serious social issues associated with modernization, globalization, and the preservation of culture remain extremely topical today.

Melissa remembers Husband-Coached Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley as “a hilarious delusional read… a beautiful fairy tale that inspires hope.” (Sarcasm, perhaps?)

twoNadine appreciated The House with the Broken Two by Myrl Coulter, a very personal story of giving up her child by a woman who grew up in Winnipeg and became pregnant in 1967 out of wedlock.

 

 

For young(ish) readers

Brianna R. Shrum’s YA novel Never Never was Katherine‘s choice: a retelling of the story of Peter Pan in which James Hook follows Pan to Neverland, only to realize there’s no way back to London…

Lauren picked the YA graphic novel series Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson (and a host of talented artists) as “a sassy, clever, girl-powered adventure that can genuinely be enjoyed by all ages.”

applesApples and Robins by Lucie Felix is a charming and magical picture book using shapes to show an apple tree through the four seasons of the year. Lori says it will “make you smile and think of spring even in the midst of winter.”

Madeleine‘s favourite book this year was Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, a YA title set during WWII which tells the amazing and heart-wrenching story of a friendship between two young women, a spy and a transport pilot.

And Wendy chose Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier, “a thrilling adventure story complete with unlikely heroes, duplicitous villains, and magical tomes that can tell you things about yourself that even you didn’t know.”

Here’s to many more great new reads in the New Year!

Danielle

Truth in (Dewey Decimal) Numbers

Every once in a while I get asked the following question:  Why is x shelved in the non-fiction section?  With x being some poem or some play or some book on astrology.  The questioner usually has a glint in their eye and a smirk on their lips when they say:  “You know the events in Hamlet didn’t really happen?”

Melvil Dewey

So I tell them:  Melvil Dewey, the man who invented that silly string of digits that libraries like to put on the spine of books, was so incredibly smart that he knew that plays of one Bill Shakespeare so deeply explored the human condition that, if not empirically true, spoke to the soul in such a way that his plays NEEDED to be shelved in the non-fiction section.  Achieving the same through literature, he thought, was a fool’s errand.  Thus, fiction and non-fiction.

Of course, the previous paragraph is almost completely fiction. Melvil Dewy…yadda yadda… invented silly string… yadda yadda…–that part is true.  The rest, not so much.  The truth is a little inside baseball and kind of boring.  But since you asked… the Dewey Decimal System is actually capable of cataloguing fiction. Meaning, if we wanted to, we could attach silly strings of numbers to the spines of all your favourite novels.  Unfortunately, and you’ll have to trust me on this, the way Dewey works and because our fiction collections are so large, this would make it much harder for you to find the books you’re looking for.

Since the great librarian revolt of 1815 [not true], most public libraries have opted forsake Dewey for their fiction collections and sort them alphabetically by author [true].  The reason poetry and plays remain under Dewey rule, and again you’ll have to trust me on this, is that their collections are so small having Dewey numbers makes them easier to find.  In short, when libraries divide their collections into fiction and non-fiction they aren’t really making a judgement call on the veracity of the content of the books, they are really just trying to make books easier to find [also true].

While you’re pondering the meaning of fiction and non-fiction, here are a pair of books that skirt the line:

A Million Little PiecesA Million Little Pieces by James Frey

In terms of popular culture, this is probably the quintessential example of the conundrum faced in categorizing something as fact or fiction.  Originally billed as the memoir of a 23-year-old drug addict, it came to light that a number of the scenes represented in the book were fabrications.  This, of course, raises the question:  Does the liberal way in which the author tells his story affect the overall ‘truth’ of the book?  After all, it is a common societal practice for people to alter and exaggerate the way they narrate their lives to tell better stories.

 

The Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe GloecknerThe Diary of a Teenage Girl

I view this as kind of the opposite scenario as A Million Little Pieces.  The Diary of a Teenage Girl is categorized as a Fictional Graphic Novel, but has been described as autobiography or biography.  This book is a coming of age story told from the perspective of a 15-year-old girl and deals with heavy topics such as sex and drug use.  In being categorized as Fiction I wonder if it lessens the impact of the novel.  In the book we follow the main character Minnie as she faces many difficult and confusing situations.  I worry that being ‘fiction’ allows the reader to avoid grappling with many of the questions the book by dismissing uncomfortable situations as fictitious and thus not something 15-year-old girls might have to face in real life.

~Alan

“Fifty Shades of Tartan”

“I’ve seen the second episode, too. And then I had to be supine with a cold cloth on my head. That powerful, yes.” John Doyle, film critic for Globe and Mail

Feeling world weary and need some escapist entertainment?

The cover of Outlander Season One Volume Two

Look no further than the Outlander series on DVD  based on the best selling books by Diana Gabaldon. Part swashbuckler adventure, bodice ripping romance and time travelling fantasy, it features a resourceful and gutsy  20th century  heroine  who meets a handsome highland warrior in the 18h century. Claire Randall is a British Army nurse enjoying a second honeymoon in Scotland with her husband following World War ll. She time travels back to 1743 where she meets Jamie Fraser  a “braw” laddie fighting against English rule and she must attune her modern woman’s mindset with his 18th Century world view. The period costumes look authentic; the photography of the rugged landscape, castles, and crofts are lush; and the writing and acting are strong. Warning : scenes of  gruesome violence along with explicit eroticism may offend some viewers.

Hungry to know more about the Outlander world while waiting for the next season? Here are some spin off titles:

Cover of the Outlandish CompanionSynopses, commentary, controversies and more are covered in The Outlandish Companion . “The Methadone List” provides read alikes for readers “jonesing” for the next Gabaldon sequel.

 

 

 

 The Making of OutlanderCover of the Making of Outlander is a “fully illustrated companion that offers exclusive access to the behind the scenes world of The Outlander. Includes hundreds of set photos, production and costume designs, storyboards and insider stories.”

 

 

 

Cover of Highland Knits   Inspired by the romantic tale, Highland Knits is a rustic yet sophisticated collection of quick to knit projects from “Claire’s Rent Collection Shawl “ to the “Sassenach Cowl”. “All your favourite pieces worn by the beloved heroine are here waiting to be knit.”

 

 

Cover of Outlander Kitchen   “Take a bite out of Outlander with  Outlander Kitchen the  official cookbook from OutlanderKitchen.com. It retells Claire and Jamie’s story through the flavours of the Scottish Highlands and beyond.”  As the Scottish say ith do leor! Enjoy your meal!

 

So wrap yourself in a tartan shawl, mix yourself a Rusty Nail and be transported to a world that  “threatens life, limb, loyalty , heart and soul” * and is perhaps a wee bit more dangerous than life post November 8, 2016.

Slainte,

Jane

*credit to Doubleday

 

What’s in a Word?

 

Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity.
Yehuda Berg

Words and language are fascinating to me. I remember as a child feeling very smug about the British slang words I learned from reading Enid Blyton books, and how funny it was to me that my name sounded the same as the word for truck in the “Famous Five” books. That fascination has stayed with me as an adult, as I’ve seen the way we communicate evolve from rotary phones to Facetime. Some things haven’t changed all that much, though. Words still have the power to transform the world.

Humans on an individual level experience changes in language as a part of growing up, as we can see by the way babies  start out using babble and nonsense sounds as all-purpose tools to convey their needs and wants. Reading, talking and singing to babies is an integral part of developing language skills that will eventually lead to the use of words.

 

Chalk

 

Wordless picture books are a wonderful means to assist in language learning, as the story is told literally in the words of whoever is looking at the book.

 

 

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A fun twist on this format is the picture-less picture book, where the story strings together silly sentences to create a series of visual images that will be different for everyone who reads or listens to the book.

 

 

The effect that comic books and graphic novels have had on language is also interesting. While these formats primarily use images to tell a story, they have also  introduced some of the most enduring catchphrases in recent history.

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It’s a bird, it’s a plane….

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With great power comes great…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Shakespeare gave the world timeless images in his plays and poetry still influencing us today, but he also created many new words that are still in use. Where would we be without words like amazement, luggage and puking? I wonder what the audience thought upon first encountering these words, and if the reaction was much the same as we’re experiencing with the widespread use of abbreviations in text messages.

 

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Using abbreviations in texts has created a new form of language, one that requires a certain skill set to negotiate successfully. At first glance it would seem that this style of communication is purely utilitarian and very basic, but like any language there is nuance and a certain set of rules to follow in order to get your meaning across.

 

 

The widespread use of emojis and emoticons has also influenced our language. Some see this as evidence that people are losing the ability to use language, or that people are lazy and in too much of a hurry to write things out properly. However, just as new words are being continously added to language, other words drop out of use. When was the last time you asked for a “firkin” of something?

 

It’s something of a chicken or egg question as to whether transformations in language lead to changes in society or that changes in society lead to changes in language. In the end, it’s all about communication, whether you use archaic English on parchment, a microprocessor, or a string of emoticons on your smartphone. Everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard.

-Lori

 

 

 

 

New Perspectives on the First World War (and its memory)

 

Cover image for Canada's Great War album : our memories of the First World War

The direct living links to the First World War are no longer with us, but we are still living in the world that it helped shape perhaps more than any other event in the 20th century.  Popular interest in the conflict has seen a resurgence worldwide because of the Centennial commemorations, and this also led to the re-examining of what we really “know” and how we choose to remember the “War to End All Wars”.  Winnipeg has monuments  and plaques to commemorate the sacrifices of a generation, regimental museums preserve artifacts and records of past members of their units, and libraries (both ours and others) have many titles of both fiction and non-fiction works that helps preserve the history of the war for the living.
Though there are plenty to recommend from, two recent additions are personal favourites I would like to share.  The first is Canada’s Great War album : our memories of the First World War ,  which is an excellent source of information for anyone, no matter how knowledgeable you are on the subject.  It’s seventeen chapters are written by different authors, including historian Tim Cook and Peter Mansbridge who writes about how Canadians have chosen to remember.  This particular title covers a variety of topics and is filled with gorgeous photography, memorabilia, and personal stories from veterans or their relatives.  You will learn about the use of  animals on the frontline, innovations in battlefield medicine, and the Conscription Crisis.  The authors also discuss the nascent Canadian Navy and Air Force, how the mobilization of the home front permanently changed Canadian society, and much more.

 

Cover image for Band of brigands : the first men in tanks

Another book I discovered recently is Band of brigands : the first men in tanks by Christy Campbell, which uses diaries, letters, and personal accounts to tell the story of what was at the time a new breed of soldiers: the British Tank Corps.  This is actually not a very well covered part of military history, which might sound strange since Great Britain was the first nation to develop and field tanks in large numbers (which is why I found this book fascinating).  You can read about how tanks were developed specifically as a breakthrough weapon to overcome the network of trenches and barbwires of the Western Front, clearing the way for the infantry in an effort to end the bloody stalemate.  The men who trained and fought in those unfamiliar and unreliable machines faced miserable living conditions inside overheated metal boxes surrounded by fuel and explosives (such were the infernal conditions of being in an early tank that it required 36 hours recuperation for each day fighting in one).  However, their appearances in battle had a dramatic effect in France and Belgium, while changing the face of warfare forever.

 

Cover image for Capturing Hill 70 : Canada's forgotten battle of the First World War Cover image for The greatest victory : Canada's one hundred days, 1918

In Winnipeg, as in Canada, the First World War is part of the collective identity because we have linked our success to not only the battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917, but also our sense of Canada as an emerging fully-independent nation.  At the time, the Canadian Corps gained a reputation as an elite attack force and the victory raised the morale of allied forces in what had been a dismal year of bloody stalemate with no end in sight.  But what is forgotten was that Vimy Ridge was only a small part of a much larger Allied offensive, one in which Canadians continued to successfully contribute with a high cost of casualties.  This is why Serge Durflinger’s newly released book Capturing Hill 70 : Canada’s forgotten battle of the First World War is useful in highlighting an overlooked chapter in our military history.  In the early morning of August 15, 1917, the Canadian Corps successfully seized the high ground  near the French City of Lens and repelled twenty German counterattacks at a cost of 9,000 dead and wounded.
When we think of the First World War, we associate it with static trench warfare, because that was what the majority of combatants on the Western Front experienced for years.   This changed dramatically in 1918, as that was the year where soldiers on both sides exited the trenches and the war became mobile again.  Ironically this is also where the Canadian Corps took a central role in the final offensive that forced Germany to sue for peace.   The greatest victory : Canada’s one hundred days, 1918  by J.L. Granatstein is a well-researched and well-illustrated book that I recommend for anyone interested in learning more about Canada’s role in ending the war, as well as the innovation in training and tactics it helped invent.

 

Cover image for The long shadow : the legacies of the Great War in the twentieth century  Cover image for Antiques roadshow : World War One in 100 family treasures

In Antiques roadshow : World War One in 100 family treasures by Paul Atterbury, we have the opportunity to learn about the personal histories of the people who lived and fought through the war via the various mementos they left to their descendants.  When the famed television program launched an appeal for artifacts related to the Battle of the Somme in 2011, hundreds of families answered by bringing objects like postcards, keepsakes, artwork, photographs, military documents and decorations, from which  100 were selected for the book.  The personal stories of courtships, close brushes with death, and painful loss are quite poignant, helping  us relate to the world back then through the experiences of various individuals.  Some of the objects featured are quite unusual – a violin that was used as a diary, an egg that was used to communicate messages between two lovers, and a football that used to signal the start of an offensive.
The long shadow : the legacies of the Great War in the twentieth century by David Reynolds is an original book to read because it focuses on how American society was directly affected by the war.  As well, Reynolds discusses how the war has been commemorated but forgotten and mis-remembered over  the ensuing decades, largely fading from collective memory.  This is a dense read less suitable for the casual reader but it’s focus is quite relevant as we are in the middle of celebrating the war’s centennial.  We have seen a constant evolution over the decades of it’s mythology, choosing to emphasize lessons in addition to whose voices were heard.  Because the Second World War and the Cold War overshadowed the lives of the generations that came after, conflicting mythologies that had been created to justify the outcomes of the First World War were further distorted and changed to fit new narratives, a process that is still happening today.

 

Cover image for The great class war, 1914-1918

A case in point is the continuing debate of what we see as the root causes that caused the outbreak of the First World War.  In his new book The great class war, 1914-1918 , Canadian author Jacques Pauwels has challenged what he sees as the old widely held belief the European heads of state blundered into the war with reluctance and little idea of how things would escalate into an industrialised slaughter.  He takes the long view instead, noting many of the upper classes of the warring nations saw the war as a way to curb what they perceived as the rise of the lower-class that reversed the trends of liberalism and democracy that were challenging a century-long status quo – one that had benefitted them through nationalism and crushing “un-patriotic” dissent against a war fought mostly by the working classes of the warring nations.  Ironically, the war ended merely accelerating many of these popular movements, and lead to the birth of radical parties that would hasten the fall of the old order and gave birth to fascism and communism, and later the post-colonial movement.

 

Cover image for Testament of youth [DVD videorecording]
Vera Brittain was a young British woman planning to begin her studies at Oxford University.  She decided to enlist as a nurse when the war was declared at the same time as both her brother and fiancé fought in France and Italy.  They would all live through hellish events, and some would pay with their lives.  Vera published Testament of youth, a memoir of that period of her life, and it has now been adapted as a film under the same title with Alicia Vikander in the starring role.  This is a great example of how the film medium can help expose real historical accounts to a new generation.   While the film shines by the excellent acting and historical reconstruction, the real record of her experiences that are dramatized near the front, and the changing role of women in society (many countries saw the achievement of female suffrage as a direct result of wartime mobilization, including Canada) has long been considered a classic, and it is great that it is given this chance to keep the memory alive.
Louis-Philippe

 

 

BookFest! The Bookiest of Days!

[Yes, we know ‘bookiest’ isn’t a word – but we couldn’t find the perfect one, so we made one up.]

We are super excited to have put together a really special event – our first ever BookFest is just two weeks away on Saturday, November 19! What is a book fest? Well I’m glad you asked. It’s a smorgasbord of prairie book goodness taking over the second floor of Millennium Library, brought to you by Winnipeg Public Library as well as the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers, and generously funded by the Winnipeg Public Library Board. There are tons of things planned:

1-handwrittenBook Tastings

Like a wine tasting — but with books! We will provide small yummy samples of new and top titles in prairie fiction and non-fiction. A sure way to find new favourites, with one of the showcased books up for grabs at every ‘tasting’.
Running time is 11 am – 4 pm in the Anne Smigel Room (second floor, west side of the library).

Here are the 30-minute seatings:

11-11:30 am Life and Death: notable new memoirs & mysteries

12-12:30 pm Past and Present: compelling local history and military must-reads

1-1:30 pm Fact and Fiction: hot (and hidden gems) in non-fiction and fiction

3-3:30 pm Turtle Island Reads: new and classic Indigenous titles

2How to Judge a Book by Its Cover

I’ve started to notice a trend in what books pique my interest enough to pick them up (bold colours, retro photographs). What kind of cover makes you reach for a particular book? How does a publisher choose which cover to use? Why do so many book covers feature headless people, anyway? Charlene Diehl of the Winnipeg International Writers Festival will lead a discussion 2-3 pm in the Carol Shields Auditorium featuring cover designers from Doowah Design and Mel Matheson, Librarian Barbara Bourrier-Lacroix, and Jamis Paulson of Turnstone Press.

See what I mean by a headless cover?

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3-2Book Fair

Tables and tables and tables of local authors and publishers scattered around the second floor, with prize draws every hour! From 11 am to 4 pm.

number-4   Colour & Create

Anishinaabe artist Jackie Traverse will be showcasing her brand new Indigenous colouring book, Sacred Feminine. Colouring sheets will be available to try out. From 11 am to 4 pm in Wii ghoss.

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number-5-handwritten     Book Club Corner

We know you’re always searching for good book club picks and we’ve got titles your group will love (or love to discuss, at any rate)! Plus, enter to win a set of 10 copies of The Opening Sky and an appearance by its author Joan Thomas at your book club!

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 And Even More Books!

Just in case you weren’t already staggering under armloads and lists of to-read books, there’s still more! Displays of recommended reads on different themes will be stashed throughout the second floor, including a selection of titles personally curated (so fancy) by our Writers-in-Residence, Christine Fellows and John K. Samson!

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See you Saturday, November 19 all over the second floor, Millennium Library, 251 Donald Street!!