Tag Archives: fiction

Reading My Nightstand

One of the best things about working at a library is the fact that you are surrounded by so much reading material. While I tend to read one thing at a time, every now and then, a whole bunch of books make their way into my life at once and my bedside table becomes overcrowded with options. This latest group of books is particularly eclectic, ranging from fiction and non-fiction to poetry and a play. I hope something catches your eye, as it did mine!

There There is an amazing debut novel by Cheyenne and Arapaho author Tommy Orange. I started reading this book last fall and while I fell completely in love with the story and the writing, I didn’t finish it before its due date. I’ve picked it up again and it’s even more beautiful than I remember. The novel follows a large cast of characters living in the Oakland, California area who all end up at the same pow-wow. The further you read, the more you can piece together how these characters’ lives intersect. I cannot recommend this book enough, especially if you enjoy reading for language!

Written by Courtney Maum, I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You follows Richard Haddon, a British visual artist who is living in Paris with his wife, Anne, and their small daughter. Richard has cheated on his marriage and even considered leaving his family for the other woman. When the affair ends, Richard and Anne must grapple with each other’s actions, reevaluate their relationship, and fight for a second chance.

While I haven’t read a play since university, I couldn’t resist Drew Hayden Taylor’s Cottagers and Indians. Based on true events, this piece is about Arthur Cooper, an Anishnawbe man who decides to repopulate the lakes of his home Territory with wild rice. Disapproval from local non-Indigenous cottagers reminds us that land politics is as relevant an issue as ever.

I had the privilege of seeing Mohawk writer Janet Rogers perform spoken word in Winnipeg a number of years ago. When I stumbled upon her latest collection, As Long as the Sun Shines, I felt compelled to pick it up. Her poetry provides a stunning perspective on Indigenous culture, identity, struggle and womanhood.

In this concise piece of writing, David W. Lesch chronicles the history of modern Syria, from the Ottoman Empire to the current civil war. I’m certainly not going to retain every date or place mentioned in this book but I have been able to further understand Syria’s history and how current conflicts have come to be.

 

~ Stephanie

Spring fiction

Spring has sprung and the new fiction shelves are blooming with a heavy crop of new novels. Here are a few to get you started, or you can view the full list of New Titles for the last 3 months in our online catalogue.

In dog we trust
by Beth Kendrick
When Jocelyn Hilliard is named legal guardian for the late Mr. Allardyce’s pack of pedigreed Labrador retrievers, her world is flipped upside down. She’s spent her entire life toiling in the tourism industry and never expected to be living the pampered life in an ocean side mansion, complete with a generous stipend. But her new role isn’t without its challenges.

The bird king
by G. Willow Wilson
Fatima is a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain. Her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker, has a secret: he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as threatening sorcery. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

Queen Bee
by Dorothea Benton Frank
Beekeeper Holly McNee Kensen quietly lives in a world of her own on Sullivan’s Island. Her mother, The Queen Bee, is a demanding hypochondriac; to escape the drama, Holly’s sister Leslie married and moved away, wanting little to do with island life. Holly’s escape is to submerge herself in the lives of the two young boys next door and their widowed father. When Leslie returns to the island, their mother ups her game in an uproarious and theatrical downward spiral. A classic Lowcountry Tale–warm, wise, and hilarious.

Bunny
by Mona Awad
A darkly funny, seductively strange novel about a lonely graduate student drawn into a clique of rich girls who seem to move and speak as one. Samantha Heather Mackey couldn’t be more different from the other members of her master’s program at an elite university. A self-conscious scholarship student, she is repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort–a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other “Bunny.” But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation from the Bunnies and finds herself drawn as if by magic to their front door. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into Bunny world, the edges of reality begin to blur.

The snakes
by Sadie Jones
Driving through France, recently married Bea and Dan visit Bea’s brother at the hotel he runs in Burgundy. When her parents make a surprise visit, Dan can’t understand why Bea is so appalled, or why she’s never wanted him to meet them; Liv and Griff Adamson are charming and rich. Maybe Bea’s ashamed of him, or maybe she regrets the secrets she’s been keeping… Tragedy strikes suddenly, brutally, and in its aftermath even Bea with all her strength and goodness can’t escape.

The elephant of surprise
by Joe Lansdale
Hap and Leonard are an unlikely pair–Hap, a self-proclaimed white trash rebel, and Leonard, a tough-as-nails black gay Vietnam vet–but they’re the closest friend either of them has in the world. Amidst the worst flood East Texas has seen in years, they save a young woman from a mob hit, only to find themselves confronted by an adversary who challenges their friendship.

The paper wasp
by Lauren Acampora
Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, Abby Graven now works as a supermarket cashier. Each day she’s taunted by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet. When Abby encounters Elise again at their high school reunion, she’s surprised and touched that Elise still considers her a friend. Ever the supportive friend, Abby becomes enmeshed in Elise’s world, even as she guards her own dark secret and burning desire for greatness. As she edges closer to Elise and her own artistic ambitions, the dynamic shifts between the two friends–until Abby can see only one way to grasp the future that awaits her.

Danielle

The Right Book for the Right Time

three-body problemOver the last couple week, I’ve committed a librarian faux-pas. I recently read Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem and have been telling everyone to read it because they’ll love it. It’s so good; I don’t understand how someone could not love it! It’s compelling, imaginative, and suspenseful. Covering topics as broad as theoretical physics, Chinese political history, aliens, video games, with a sprinkle of social commentary, the author still succeeds in telling an engaging story.

The faux-pas I committed isn’t from being so excited about a book that I can’t stop talking about it—I highly encourage everyone to do this!—but rather, telling people they should read it without taking into consideration their reading preferences and interests, and hyping up the series so much that I promise they’ll love it. I end up taking responsibility for that person’s enjoyment of the book, and that is something I definitely can’t control. I’m usually more careful, but when a book is this good, my judgment gets clouded.

But when you come to the library and ask for a book recommendation, we’ll be much more professional. We’ll ask you a few questions to get a sense of what you like:

  • Which books have you really enjoyed in the past?
  • What sort of book are you looking for today?
  • Do you prefer books that are focused on character, plot, setting, or language?

the dark forestIt may take us a few minutes to figure out what to suggest, but know that we’re basing those suggestions on your reading preferences. We’ll usually give a few suggestions so you can figure out what works for you. Reading a book is a very personal experience and so much more than its subject or genre. Language is more nuanced than that and so to get the perfect book for the perfect moment we have to take into account different factors such as your mood, your level of engagement, your openness to different experiences, and so on. If you can’t make it into a branch for your next suggestion, make sure to check out our new Info Guide: Your Next Great Read for ways to discover new titles.

death's endThe stars aligned for me with The Three-Body Problem. Just before the holidays, I was reading a mystery novel more focused on the sense of place and character (P.D. James’ An Unsuitable Job for a Woman), but I was looking for something different – something fast paced to contrast the slow days of winter. I wanted a story that was plot-oriented yet more stimulating than the usual action-thrillers I go for. I overheard a friend losing his mind over this book called Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, recently translated into English and set in the same world as the Three-Body Trilogy. Intrigued, I picked up the first in the series at the library and subsequently lost my mind over the writing style, the mysterious plot, and Cixin Liu’s prediction of humanity’s response at finding out there is extra-terrestrial intelligence in the universe.

You should really read The Three-Body Trilogy. It’s exhilarating! But if it’s not for you, let us help you discover something that will excite you.

– Rémi

 

Faeries and Wendigos and Witches, Oh My!

I love reading short story collections featuring many different authors, especially the horror collections edited by Ellen Datlow. Short stories allow us to get a taste for an author’s writing style and if we enjoy their story we can look further for other books of theirs. Or if we aren’t enjoying a particular story, we can skip to the next one. Short stories are also great for delivering quick hits of suspense in just a short amount of time (you can usually finish one on a coffee break and not have to wait until your lunch break to find out what happens next). Needless to say I was very excited to hear that a collection of speculative fiction short stories was coming out, all stories written by Manitoba authors and all take place in Manitoba or are partly set in Manitoba as travelling to other realms/worlds/planes is inevitable in speculative fiction.

parallel-prairies

Image courtesy of Great Plains Publications Ltd.

 

The collection is titled Parallel Prairies: Stories of Manitoba Speculative Fiction and it is edited by Darren Ridgley and Adam Petrash who also contribute a story each. The 17 other authors who contributed to the collection are Chris Allinotte, Wayne Arthurson, Jonathan Ball, S.M. Beiko, Sheldon Birnie, Keith Cadieux, Jennifer Collerone, Gilles DeCruyenaere, Will J. Fawley, Chadwick Ginther, Kate Heartfield, Patrick Johanneson, Lindsay Kitson, J.M. Sinclair, David Jón Fuller, Craig Russell, and Christine Steendam. The best part of this collection is that it is has something for everyone and as each story uses the local landscape and landmarks, Manitobans are sure to be able to picture the setting perfectly and be in the know regarding certain Manitoba customs. Lest I bungle up a nice synopsis of the collection, I’ll let the book explain itself to you: “Get acquainted with baby dragons, killer insects, faery kings, infernal entities, and more; as 19 authors let the Manitoban landscape inspire weird and wondrous tales. You thought the prairies were flat, plain, and boring. You were wrong.” Does that not sound intriguing to you? As mentioned these stories feature faeries, wendigos, witches, dragons, folklore and everything in between so there should be something for everyone. Some of my personal favourites were The Comments Gaze Also Into You by David Jón Fuller which discusses cyberbullying in online message boards on news websites in a very unique way, Seven Long Years by Jennifer Collerone which follows a young woman and Wisp, a coyote, as they set out to complete a task that must be undertaken every seven years, and finally Eating of the Tree by Chadwick Ginther which explores Norse mythology in present-day Winnipeg. The other stories in this compilation are of course very good as well, but these three especially stood out for me.

If you are craving more Canadian short stories that are speculative fiction, we have a couple of collections available titled Imaginarium which may be right up your alley.

In other Canadian speculative fiction news, Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Testaments, is now available to request from Winnipeg Public Library so be sure to get your requests in, as it is sure to be a popular and talked-about read!

Happy Reading!

-Aileen

Motherhood Memoirs

All over the world women are finding their voices. From speaking out against sexual assault to workplace inequalities, we have reached a point where the great disparities among the sexes are being acknowledged and challenged.  Among these voices, we are hearing from mothers. For so long, there has been such a narrow definition of motherhood. A definition that includes only happiness and baby cuddles and lullabies. But what about those for whom this definition doesn’t fit? What about those, who, when they become a mother, find themselves unhappy or struggle with the immensity of this change? Is it any coincidence that now, when women are making themselves heard, we are seeing such a boom in motherhood memoirs?

Recently there is the Giller Prize nominated Motherhood by Sheila Heti. As with Heti’s other writing, this novel blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction as the narrator, a writer in her late 30’s and in a serious relationship, considers having a child. Though this is a huge, life-altering decision, it is rarely given much critical thought, but Heti’s narrator understands the immensity of this decision and carefully weighs her options, wondering if she’s willing to sacrifice her art for a child, and which is more important.

A lighter read, Meagan O’Connell’s And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready is a less heady, perhaps more relatable book for new mothers. Based on her experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood, O’Connell does not shy away from the messy, ugly, devastating parts of the topic while keeping her sense of humour intact.

In Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy, Angela Garbes writes about women’s bodies through a mix of science and personal experience. Her book offers fascinating facts about the placenta, the transfer of cells between mother and fetus, and the wonders of breastmilk. Garbes encourages women to trust themselves and ask questions of their health providers, allowing pregnant women and new mothers to make informed decisions.

Two classics in the motherhood memoir genre are Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year and Rachel Cusk’s A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother. Lamott’s book takes the form of a diary of her first year of motherhood. Told in a sarcastic and witty way, Lamott struggles as a single parent but has a community of friends and her faith to help her. Cusk’s book is more thoughtful and philosophical. She writes about sleeplessness and colic and breastfeeding, but also how to navigate this new identity for herself.

 

Whether you’re a new mother trying to find your footing or a seasoned pro, there is something so satisfying about recognizing your own experiences in someone else’s writing. As women become increasingly empowered to share their truths, I can only imagine the writing that is to come.

-Toby

 

 

 

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?

matchmaker

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.

sacred

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!

opening

 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!

wir2016image.jpg

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

 

 

 

The Scotiabank Giller Prize’s 2016 Shortlist!

The Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Canadian literary award announced each November, is a great way to compile a Christmas gift wish list – for friends or yourself. If you are interested in reading or promoting new Canadian literature this is a great place to start. This shortlist of 6 titles was chosen from a longlist of 12 books announced in September. (The 12, in turn, came from a list of 161 titles submitted by publishers from every region of the country.) And the 2016 winner will be announced at a televised ceremony hosted by CBC’s Steve Patterson on November 7. Which one would you nominate to receive the Prize this year? And which one will you consider giving to a loved one this Xmas? I have my eye on the Gary Barwin novel about the wise, satirical parrot!

awad-13-ways-of-looking-at-a-fat-girl.jpg 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

“Everyone loves Lizzie. She is the confidant, the late night go-to, and she is always there and hungry for attention. Lizzie becomes even more obsessed and needy when she no longer feels insecure about being overweight and it becomes painfully obvious that she will always feel bad about herself. A candid and sad look at how we mistreat people with different body types.”

barwin-yiddish-for-pirates.jpg Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin

“Yiddish for Pirates is a hilarious, swashbuckling yet powerful tale of pirates, buried treasure and a search for the Fountain of Youth, told in the ribald, philosophical voice of a 500-year-old Jewish parrot. Set in the years around 1492, the book recounts the compelling story of Moishe, a Bar Mitzvah boy who leaves home to join a ship’s crew, where he meets Aaron, the polyglot parrot who becomes his near-constant companion… Rich with puns, colourful language, post-colonial satire and Kabbalistic hijinks, Yiddish for Pirates is also a compelling examination of morality, memory, identity and persecution from one of this country’s most talented writers.”

donoghue-the-wonder.jpg

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

“A village in 1850s Ireland is baffled by Anna O’Donnell’s fast. A little girl appears to be thriving after months without food, and the story of this ‘wonder’ has reached fever pitch. Tourists flock in droves to the O’Donnell family’s modest cabin, and an international journalist is sent to cover the sensational story. Enter Lib, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale, who is hired to keep watch for two weeks and determine whether or not Anna is a fraud. As Anna deteriorates, Lib finds herself responsible not just for the care of a child, but for getting to the root of why the child may actually be the victim of murder in slow motion.”

whittall-the-best-kind-of-people.jpg The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

“George Woodbury, an affable teacher and beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults between denial and rage as the community she loved turns on her. Their daughter, Sadie, a popular over-achieving high school senior, becomes a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, assists in his father’s defense, while wrestling with his own unhappy memories of his teen years. A local author tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist attempts to get Sadie onside their cause. With George locked up, how do the members of his family pick up the pieces and keep living their lives? How do they defend someone they love while wrestling with the possibility of his guilt?”

thien-do-not-say-we-have-nothing.jpg Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien

“An extraordinary novel set in China before, during and after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Madeleine Thien’s new novel is breathtaking in scope and ambition even as it is hauntingly intimate. With the ease and skill of a master storyteller, Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations–those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-twentieth century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century. With exquisite writing sharpened by a surprising vein of wit and sly humour, Thien has crafted unforgettable characters who are by turns flinty and headstrong, dreamy and tender, foolish and wise…With maturity and sophistication, humour and beauty, a huge heart and impressive understanding, Thien has crafted a novel that is at once beautifully intimate and grandly political.”

 

leroux-the-party-wall.jpg The Party Wall by Catherine Leroux

“Catherine Leroux’s first novel, translated into English brilliantly by Lazer Lederhendler, ties together stories about siblings joined in surprising ways. A woman learns that she absorbed her twin sister’s body in the womb and that she has two sets of DNA; a girl in the deep South pushes her sister out of the way of a speeding train, losing her legs; and a political couple learn that they are non-identical twins separated at birth. The Party Wall establishes Leroux as one of North America’s most intelligent and innovative young authors.”

Enjoy!

Lyle