Blog - Library Services Centre

John Hodgman has described himself as a former weird 13 year old, who has made a career appealing to the weird 13 year old in all of us. For many of us, he remains the belligerent personification of the failings of Microsoft products. For others he is the cool voice of absurd reason in our ear-buds every week. The through-line in all of this has been his sardonic, laconic wit, put on display in four previous books and this October he will add a fifth as he achieves Medallion Status.

 

Hodgman has said that he never expected to become famous. He was the last person to every expect to be famous. No one expects a bespectacled, bookish, nerdy type to become a national icon. Such people were not prepared for the nerd revolution that gripped the early millennium, of which Hodgman became a patron saint. A native of Massachusetts, he grew up an only child imbued with, as he tells it, all the selfishness that that situation permits. He has described his parents more as old roommates, who happily shared their favourite movies and books with this increasingly weird kid who happened to be in their home. 

 

His career started as a literary agent, where he represented horror movie icon Bruce Campbell among others. Through this job he began writing columns and small humorous essays for McSweeney's. This inspired in him to write a book that had been long simmering in his brain, a book inspired by the weird 13 year old he had curled up inside him, a book of lies masquerading as facts delivered with the straight face and earnestness of a bookish New Englander. This was An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled with Instructive Annotation and Arranged in Useful Order by myself, John Hodgman, a Professional Writer, in The Areas of My Expertise, which Include: Matters Historical, Matters Literary, Matters Cryptozoological, Hobo Matters, Food, Drink & Cheese (a Kind of Food), Squirrels & Lobsters & Eels, Haircuts, Utopia, What Will Happen in the Future, and Most Other Subjects. As the title might suggest, absurdity ran amok.

 

Here things might have ended for this whimsical nerd, were it not for an opportune interview on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart called his chapter on 700 hobo names, which lists the 700 most common hobo names, a "kind of genius," and Hodgman conducted the appearance in "character" as John Hodgman, Expert, for whom certainty is absolute. The segment was a hit, and Hodgman was invited to join The Daily Show as it's Resident Expert, appearing from time to time to lampoon whatever craziness was happening in the news as though it were normal and natural, and above all, Known To Be True.

 

Hodgman's international recognition came from his role as PC in the incredibly popular Apple "Get A Mac" ads, alongside Justin Long's Mac, where PC would flounder at simple tasks while Mac looked on with pity. These ads brought fame and fortune to Hodgman, and an unexpected, mid life career as a Famous Minor Television Celebrity, the character through which he wrote his second book and direct follow up to Expertise (the page numbers continue from the original, as though it were a single tome, For Your Consideration, The Firms of Dutton & Riverhead Books Present in the English Language: A Further Compendium of Complete World Knowledge in "The Areas Of My Expertise," Assembled and Illumined by Me, John Hodgman, A Famous Minor Television Personality, Offering More Information Than You Require On Subjects as Diverse as: The Past (as There Is Always More of It), The Future (as There Is Still Some Left), All of the Presidents of the United States, The Secrets of Hollywood, Gambling, The Sport of the Asthmatic Man (Including: Hermit-Crab Racing), Strange Encounters with Aliens, How to Buy a Computer, How to Cook an Owl, and Most Other Subjects

 

In these waning days of the aught decade, social media became prevalent and Hodgman used his Minor Fame to develop a large following on Twitter (@Hodgman) and later Instagram. As the Mac ads came to end, he began acting in earnest, appearing in small rolls in niche series like Flight of the Concords, Battlestar Galactica, and Bored to Death. During this period he took on a new character, a Deranged Millionaire, and in this guise wrote the final book of complete world knowledge, That Is All, which while still featuring the absurdest humour of the others is also a meditative and somber examination of sudden and unexpected fame. He released a Netflix comedy special to promoted the book, Ragnarok, which has since been removed to avoid confusion with the most recent Thor movie. As Jon Stewart left the Daily Show, so too did Hodgman. And then he did as many white dudes in the 10s were want to do: he started a podcast.

 

Judge John Hodgman is a comedy justice podcast, set up like court TV shows like Judge Judy. Real people submit petty and hilarious disputes on which Hodgman listens to their arguments, cracks jokes, and issues rulings. For nearly a decade, he has dispensed swift justice weekly from his chambers in Brooklyn on the Maximum Fun network. And through his Fake Internet Court he has built up a large backlog of Settled Law: hotdogs are not sandwiches, about which he debated Stephen Colbert; weird dads are the font of all embarrassment to children in the world; and husbands always come up with systems to make things easier which in practice never make things easier and are nearly always the wrong way of doing anything. 

 

In the last decade, Hodgman has continued to be a part time actor, most recently appearing in the second season of Amazon's The Tick, but he has largely dropped the characters of his past and is now just Hodgman, a weird 13 year old turned Weird Dad. He wrote of these experiences in 2017's Vacationland, which began as a one man show and series of essays on his teenage children, the summers that his family spend in Maine (a world of Painful Beaches), and losing his parents at different times in his life. The book is his personal crisis of discovering the "awful truth of my life, which is that I am a strange, white, male monster with bad facial hair staring down what... I hope is the beginning of the second half of my life and not the brief, final tenth."

 

This month he releases a companion volume, Medallion Status in which he details his new career as a professional Delta Airlines passenger while crossing North America on book tours, taking acting jobs, and dispensing Live Justice for performances of the his podcast. Where Vacationland looked as this personal life as an aging man, Medallion Status will examine the second act of a career he never expected to have and still is uncertain if he earned, as objectified by his Delta medallion status and access to the privileged and secretive Delta Sky Club (which, I highly recommend his appearance on the Dough Boys podcast in which they review the buffet of the Sky Lounge).

 

Those near to the GTA have the opportunity to see some Live Justice this November, as Judge John Hodgman and his bailiff Max Fun founder Jesse Thorn come to the Danforth Music Hall for a night of good clean rulings and musical accompaniment. I have seen Hodgman live three times, and his wit is no less weird, his delivery no less straight, but his empathy so much more on display. 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

In February 2017, journalist Robyn Doolittle and the Globe and Mail published their Unfounded investigation.  The result of 20 months spent interviewing sexual assault survivors and gathering data, the series showed that, across Canada, 1 in 5 complaints of sexual assault were dismissed as ‘unfounded’ – an official police code that closed the case with no investigation.  In the wake of the report, over 37,000 cases were put under review, the Federal government pledged $100 million towards a national strategy to prevent gender-based violence, and the RCMP reviewed their unfounded policies.

 

This month, Robyn Doolittle publishes her follow-up book, Had It Coming: What’s Fair in the Age of #MeToo? Originally coined in 2006 by American social activist Tarana Burke, #MeToo became a global phenomenon in October 2017, spreading virally on Twitter and Facebook thanks to actress Alyssa Milano and the allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein.  The movement has helped change the view on sexual assault and enabled women to speak out about their experiences, resulting in a number of resignations across the world.

 

Also published this month is She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who originally broke the Harvey Weinstein story in the New York Times.  The book follows not only their Weinstein investigation, but looks at Christine Blasey Ford and her testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh – and the results of her allegation.  Not only was Kavanaugh still confirmed to the Supreme Court, but Blasey Ford received death threats, has been forced to move multiple times, and has been unable to resume her teaching job.

 

These kinds of consequences are what keep many victims silent about sexual assault and harassment, but with the global spread of the #MeToo movement, this is beginning to change.  And it’s not just women speaking out; male victims, including actor Terry Crews, have shared their stories, and many men are looking at how they can be allies and shut down sexual harassment when they see it.  In the book world, we’ve had a number of books on how to raise boys to become men who value consent, including Raising Boys Who Respect Girls by Dave Willis, Decoding Boys by Cara Natterson, and Boys: What It Means to Become a Man by Rachel Giese.

 

The focus on women has also resulted in many books on forgotten female heroes, feminism, and women’s rights.  In October, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton will publish The Book of Gutsy Women, focusing on stories of the female heroes who have inspired them.  These heroes include Malala Yousafzai, who published We Are Displaced at the beginning of 2019; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who published Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions in 2017; and LGBTQ pioneer Edie Windsor, whose posthumous book in also publishing in October: A Wild and Precious Life.

 

Here in Canada, #MeToo spawned AfterMeToo via a Globe and Mail symposium featuring, among others, actresses Mia Kirshner and Freya Ravensbergen, and film producer Aisling Chin-Yee.  AfterMeToo calls for change in the entertainment industry, including creating reform and improving current policies, in cooperation with the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

 

In January, Lisa Dalrymple published Fierce: Women Who Shaped Canada, detailing the forgotten women from Canada’s history. In May, Orca Books published two entries in their Orca Issues series: I Am a Feminist: Claiming the F-Word in Turbulent Times and My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights.  In August, Kelly S. Thompson published her memoir, Girls Need Not Apply, about her time serving in the Canadian Armed Forces – a traditionally masculine culture.  And at the end of this month, Jessica McDiarmid will publish her account of B.C.’s Highway 16, Highway of Tears, where for decades Indigenous women have vanished or been found murdered, with little done to protect them.

 

The publication of these books, and others, helps bring the focus onto women and our experiences, both positive and negative.  #MeToo and the other movements it’s helped spawn have created a global conversation around women’s rights and the sexual assault and harassment that happens to far too many people.  While we still have a way to go, I’m hopeful that society as a whole will continue to shift towards a world where both women and men feel safe, supported, and valued.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

I love a good sci-fi-dystopian thriller, and especially one that makes me think. Recently I read an advance copy of Rob Hart's forthcoming book The Warehouse and it's one that I can't stop thinking about. 

 

Like most of you, I’ve grown so accustomed to the presence and availability of things like cloud technology and online shopping that I scarcely give using it a second thought. If I can order something online from the comfort of my home and get it cheaper and faster than shopping in a store I will.  

 

Let’s face it. Bit by bit we are moving our lives online. From communication to shopping to entertainment, there is almost nothing the internet can’t give us.  With some companies now offering same day delivery, we barely have to wait for anything. But what if Amazon/Google ruled the world and our survival depended on them? This is the world Rob Hart imagines.

 

In a near future dystopian world, a megacorporation called “The Cloud” is everything. Big box retailers and independent businesses have almost entirely disappeared. Outside of the Cloud people are starving and unemployed, crime is so high nobody wants to go outside anymore, and the world is in shambles.

 

Getting a job at the Cloud is the best option for survival. It provides employees with shelter, housing, and entertainment, all paid for with credits to be used in the Cloud. Need something right away? Order it on the Cloud and it will be delivered to your door immediately. There  is nothing that the Cloud can’t give you as long as you work hard and follow the rules.

 

Assuming you pass the interview process and get hired, you’re sorted into an employment stream that management feels suits your abilities and experience. Maybe it’s not the one you were hoping for, but there are no bad jobs at the Cloud!

 

 All employees wear a wristband tracker that is a cross between an Apple Watch and Big Brother. It knows where you’ve been, where you are and what you’re doing. It opens doors, tracks when your shift begins and ends, and you can never take it off. Well actually, you can for a brief period of time at night while it charges, but it also knows if you’ve had it off too long. And don’t think about trying to cheat the system by handing it off to someone else, because it's specifically coded to you. 

 

Work performance is strictly monitored and ranked from 1 to 4 stars. Drop lower than 3 stars and next cut day, you’re out. No second chances, no explanations. Just out. Since there are pretty much no other options for work, you can imagine the pressure. Rank 4 stars and you live to work another day and get some perks or even a promotion. 

 

Disagree with his bullying approach to doing business? The market dictates as Gibson would say. The Cloud customer wants the lowest price possible. If a company wants their product sold on the Cloud, work with them to bring the pricing down to what they ask. If not, the Cloud will engineer a cheaper version and drive you out of business.

 

The novel alternates between two different voices, with each chapter beginning with a blog post from Gibson. From his viewpoint, he and the cloud have solved many of the world’s problems and are working on solving more. If the outside world is a dystopia, life inside the Cloud is a utopia. Gibson is dying, and he teases readers with a forthcoming announcement about who his successor will be.

 

One of the voices belongs to Paxton, a former prison guard and man who was driven out of business when he couldn’t meet the deep discount that Cloud was asking for his product.  His plan is to bide his time until his patent comes through, and then try again. When Paxton gets invited to be part of a special task force to uncover a drug smuggling operation within the cloud, he jumps at the chance. 

 

The other voice is Zinnia, an industrial spy who has been hired by a mystery employer to penetrate Cloud’s technology and figure out how things work.  It's a job she's done many times before, and it's money, so why should she care?  As the story progresses, their missions converge in unexpected ways all leading up to a shocking conclusion.

 

This is not your typical dystopia. This is a cautionary vision of the future that makes a statement about the danger of corporate power and greed and it terrified me! Google and Amazon already know my interests and my shopping habits. They know what items I’ve looked at online and tailor advertising to those specifications.

 

Amazon already has a frightening amount of power over its customers and its suppliers. Physical retailers are disappearing, and the future pictured in this book doesn’t seem so implausible. The author also touches on sexual harassment in the workplace and #MeToo when a creepy supervisor threatens Zinnia's position unless she gives in to his advances. 

 

This is book is receiving huge buzz. Film rights have been optioned by Ron Howard, excerpts have been printed in EW and online, and it was recently featured at Book Expo/BookCon in New York. If you’re looking  for a thriller that is riveting, fast-paced, and will make you ponder the future, this is for you!

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

I was working in a high school library just as teachers were beginning to appreciate the educational value of graphic novels. They finally understood what I had long known; they aren't just picture books, they are an expressive, immerse form of storytelling that is very appealing to readers who struggle with a page full of words. To someone who doesn't have personal experience with them though, they can be intimidating to choose from (because there are so many titles) and to keep up with (because there are so many volumes). But when students, teachers, and librarians ask me where they should start, I don't hesitate: Hellboy.

 

The title is goofy, and I understand why it might keep people away. In the books, the characters even recognize this, that Hellboy is a goofy name considering the arch heroism of his actions. But just as we were once warned not to judge books by their covers, I caution people from judging books by their titles as well. Hellboy, at first glance, is a goofy name. And it betrays a goofy original concept. Creator Mike Mignola just wanted to draw a demon punching nazis and gorillas and monsters and junk. It was a loving tribute to 1950s B-movies and pulp fantasy.

 

Hellboy began as just sketches and drawing that Mignola did not intend to do anything with. In 1993, these evolved into a series of short stories, six to ten page mini adventures in which much punching of nazis or monsters occurred. In 1994, Dark Horse published the first issue of an ongoing Hellboy series, which ran intermittently until 2011, and has since been collected into 12 volumes. It was here that Mignola began to craft a back story, an emotional centre, and a depth for the character. It was here that Hellboy became a classic tragic mythological hero. 

 

The backbone of the Hellboy stories is folklore. Mignola is an admitted myth junkie, collecting stories throughout his life, and weaving them into eventual Hellboy adventures. A trip to Europe and hearing a legend of the ghost of a gambler became The Vampire of Prague. A session of Greek myth make-believe with his daughter became The Hydra and the Lion. A half remembered Japanese folk story became Heads. Mignola used Hellboy to explore these cultural touchstones from a new perspective. Plus, they provided a lot of monsters to punch (or explode).

 

Somewhere along the way, the Worlds Greatest Paranormal Investigator (as HB was known) allowed Mignola to build his own mythology. The Hellboy stories can be fairly evenly divided between short fist fights with beasts and trolls, and a longer arc dealing with the character's destiny. Following in the footsteps of Tolkien, Mignola builds an entire universe from origin to apocalypse, with Hellboy the fulcrum of machinations by evil wizards, desperate gods, and the occasional alien. Drawing inspiration from Arthurian legends and the terrors of Lovecraft, Mignola’s stories are an ode to myths from around the world, and a poignant eulogy for old world paganism.

 

Summoned to Earth by Rasputin in the closing days of WWII, to bring about the end of the world, Hellboy is adopted by the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) and from 1952 until the late nineties worked as a government agent investigating and punching ghosts, vampires, and all manner of foul creature. His right hand though, the Right Hand of Doom, is a carved stone wanted by heaven, hell, and man for it is the key to summoning a great ancient Elderich horror from the abyss. As the story develops, Hellboy is confronted by, and rejects, the destiny others define for him. He doesn't want to destroy the world; he likes it too much. He just wants to live a simple life eating pancakes. His tragedy is that no matter his actions to avert his destiny, it seems unavoidable. Over the course of his story, his apathy turns to torment turns to anger. 

 

So, the short stories allow for easy digestion of action oriented fun, and the longer arcs draw the reader into a deeply realized world and the pathos of a character struggling against what is expected vs what they actually want. But those aren't the main reasons I recommend these books. I do so because, 1) they are very funny, and 2) they are gorgeous. Mignola seeds humour throughout his stories, usually in the form of other characters being very serious and Hellboy being very flip. His usual retort is to call whatever he's fighting "you horrible thing!" He complains about his back hurting after getting knocked around by Anubis, God of the Dead. He can't shoot straight. Mignola also draws on the absurdity of the situation, painting as often as possible the red demon with an apocalypse hand as the only sane man. 

 

Mignola, who was an artist before he was a writer, lavishes his works with nonverbal story telling. Entire pages will often feature only one brief piece of dialogue (or none at all), letting panel after panel of minimalist art pull you along. The lack of detail in the drawings accentuates the importance of elements, and sparse flashes of colour draw the eye to where it needs to linger. Mignola's style is wholly unique (so unique that Disney brought him in to help design Atlantis: The Lost Empire in the last nineties).  He fills the page, but he fills it with as little as possible. 

 

Hellboy was the favourite comic of director Guillermo del Toro, so much so that he made two Hellboy films in the 2000s. They are wonderful. A reboot film came out last year, starring Stranger Things' David Harbour. It is not wonderful. Two animated movies have been made adapting some of the short stories, and the comic series remains one of Dark Horse's most successful properties.

 

It has had multiple spinoffs, including BPRD, featuring the merman Abe Sapien, firestarter Liz Sherman, homunculus Roger, and ghost Johann Krauss. This series expands on the human perspective of the foretold apocalypse. Hellboy's early adventures are currently being chronicled in Hellboy and the BPRD, set during the fifties. And a host of other minor characters from the Hellboy world have gotten their own books, like nazi hunter Lobster Johnson, or Victorian Witchfinder Edward Grey.

 

Each book strikes its own tone, checks the box of a different genre, but are all united by the vision that Mignola originally set in Hellboy. If all you want to do is see a demon punch nazis, the series gives you that. If you want to do a deep dive and immerse yourself in the world of Anung Un Rama, there is material enough to last you ages. 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

 

*all images are the copyright and property of Dark Horse Comics and Mike Mignola.

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

A couple years ago, I was in Michaels looking for something that I could make my Nanny as a present for Christmas, as there’s only so many gift sets one woman needs.  Wandering through the aisles, I came across a small section containing cross-stitch kits and various supplies.  I figured, can’t be too hard to do a kit; everything is included and besides, I had a vague memory of doing one back when I was eight or so.  If a child could do it, surely a 30-something alleged adult could too.

 

So I bought a lovely little kit featuring goldfinches and lilacs, took it home, opened it up, and stared in horror at the graph.  There was a grid and a lot of symbols and apparently I needed to be able to count to do this arts and crafts project.  I put it on a nearby surface and that year, my Nanny got gift cards for gas and Tim Hortons.

 

This whole cross-stitch thing stayed in the back of my mind, however.  Sometime in the new year, I was back in Michaels and ended up in the cross-stitch aisle again.  This time, I chose a kit that said it was specifically for children, took it home, and promptly did it completely wrong because reading directions is for other people.  Two days later (after reading the directions this time), I’d redone it correctly and it actually looked pretty good.  More importantly, I’d gotten the bug and I got it bad. 

 

Fast forward to the end of 2019 and I know all the terms: Aida cloth versus linen, DMC versus Anchor, cross stitch and half stitch and quarter stitch and back stitch.  My apartment is covered in embroidery floss in piles and little baggies, and draped over my spare monitor.  I have an entire box full of kits, supplies, picture frames, and random related things my mother (bless her) picked up at garage sales and thrift stores.  I know that removing stitches when you make a mistake is called frogging... because you rip it, rip it.

 

Cross-stitch as represented in media and in the public consciousness is usually pastel flowers and religious sayings, done by 50s housewives and your local grandma.  Modern cross-stitch can certainly be that (and there’s nothing wrong with it), but it can also be subversive (2641425), feminist (3475227), and the poop emoji.  Anyone of any age can pick it up if they have the money for a little kit and the time (and patience) to repeatedly stab a needle through tiny holes. Personally, I like lots of bright and contrasting colours and basically any subject, though I prefer images over text.  Everyone in my life gets finished projects as presents now, and if they’re really lucky, I’ll even frame it for them.

 

In a fast-paced world with constant bombardment of everything that’s going wrong at any given time, I find cross-stitch to be soothing.  In the evenings after work, I put something on Netflix and I spend a couple of hours working on a project.  I even have a project at work that I can spend my breaks on when I need to stop looking at a computer screen for fifteen minutes.  I’m also one of those people who bounces around projects so I’ve got half a dozen on the go most of the time and switch depending on my mood.  I’ve been told that I’m (finally) becoming domestic, but really it’s just the pleasure of doing something with my hands and creating.

 

Crafts of all kinds are on the rise.  In the UK, Hobbycraft reports that craft sales are rising each year: jigsaws by 10%, paint-by-numbers by 80%, and crochet patterns by a whopping 179%.  I’m even seeing it in my work here at LSC, with requests from multiple libraries to increase and refresh their crafting collections, with a focus on quilting and knitting. To see our selection of unique and modern cross-stitching materials, click here

 

I’m not the only one who uses cross-stitch for mental health.  According to hobbyist site The Spruce Crafts, the benefits of cross-stitch include calmness, increased focus, and stress reduction.  I can confirm that when I’m cross-stitching, I don’t have time to focus on worries; I’m too busy trying to figure out how I managed to count 5 stitches instead of 6, throwing off my entire pattern.  Sometimes I can fix it and no one will ever know, unless they happen to be a cross-stitcher working on the same pattern.  Most times it needs to be frogged, but that’s okay; as long as I have the floss, I can redo it as many times as needed to get it right.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

 

*pictures of cross-stitched items by the author

 

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

I have always enjoyed mysteries. I sleuthed alongside the Famous Five, Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden as a kid, and Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot and even Perry Mason as I got older. Mysteries play to our natural curiosity.  We love suspense, but we also hate not knowing the answers to all of our big questions. People are inquisitive by nature and we love having something to puzzle over and figure out.

 

When I moved into the adult fiction space after having done juvenile purchasing for my entire career, the term “cozy mystery” was something I hadn’t really encountered before. After quickly Googling the term, I discovered that they were basically Murder She Wrote in a book, and I LOVED that show. The show has been off the air for decades, but the book series is up to #49 so Jessica Fletcher Lives on. ​

 

 

Today, cozy mysteries are one of the most popular sub-genres of the mystery category, and they sell like hotcakes! Writers like Rhys Bowen, Alan Bradley, M.C. Beaton, Joanne Fluke and Alexander McCall Smith are consistent bestsellers, and there are new series and authors breaking through every day.

 

Mysteries are appealing because as bestselling author David Baldacci explained, in these stories, questions get answered, bad guys get caught and punished, and unlike real life which is perpetually messy and full of loose ends, everything gets tied up in a neat little bow.

 

In a cozy mystery, readers not only get all of the above, but there’s the added satisfaction of seeing an everyday person work tirelessly to solve a crime and find the answers we crave. The protagonist of a cozy mystery could own a garden shop, a bookstore, or a bakery. They could be a mystery writer, a librarian, a nurse, or work in a coffee house.  There is no limit to how the sleuth from a cozy mystery might occupy their time as long as they are amateurs and they have a flexible schedule with lots of free time to solve mysteries. These (largely) women have no special training as detectives, but they are smart, tenacious, and use logic and common sense to find and interpret clues.

 

Whenever I read one of these cozies, I always think about how great it would be to live in one. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to just wander through an idyllic community like Cabot Cove solving mysteries like Jessica Fletcher.  Even better, I’d like to be in a British cozy where all of the murders take place in a picturesque village  with pretty gardens, old manors, or sweet little cottages.  I imagine myself interviewing the victim’s friends, families and acquaintances, finding out information that they wouldn’t or couldn’t reveal to the police while sipping tea or lemondae and eating fresh-baked cookies or scones. 

 

There will probably be a few red herrings or false leads that initially throw me off the trail, If I get stuck, not to worry- I can talk it out with my faithful animal sidekick named something clever and cute who will point a paw at the real clue, and together, we’ll get back on track.

 

I share the clues I’ve unearthed with local law enforcement, giving them leads when their investigation is at a stand still. Since they all take place in small communities where everybody is connected, they not only know me, but are probably a friend/relative who will gently admonish me for interfering in their investigation, but ultimately be glad for the assistance. 

 

Since there is a killer on the loose, I know that there is some risk of danger, but I’m not that worried about it because I’ve taken self-defense classes and know how to take care of myself. By the time law enforcement rushes in to save me from my impending doom, I’ve already subdued the killer. If I’m really lucky, the killer was more than happy to explain exactly how and why they committed the crime. This person is no serial killer or psychopath. He or She is probably someone who lives in the community who felt completely justified in committing murder because the victim wronged him/her and probably a lot of other people too. In fact, nobody really liked the victim anyway, so they kind of did everybody a favour. 

 

Now that the crime has been solved, and justice has been served, everything goes back to normal. The crime quickly fades from the collective memory of the people, I go back to my day job, and I can finally take time to pursue the romantic interest I met during the investigation. Not a bad fantasy right? In real life I live in a large city of nearly 3 million people, and I can’t imagine the city police being particularly receptive to some random person trying to crime-solve. But then, thats why we have books, isn't it?

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

LSC is closed Monday, August 5th for the Civic Holiday, which has a variety of names across Canada. So, Happy British Columbia Day, New Brunswick Day, Saskatchewan Day, Natal Day, Terry Fox Day, Heritage Day, Colonel By Day, George Hamilton Day, Joseph Brant Day, Founders' Day, McLaughlin Day, Alexander Mackenzie Day, James Cockburn Day, Peter Robinson Day, John Galt Day, or Simcoe Day. To anyone who doesn't get the day off... Labour Day isn't far off.

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

At LSC, we endeavor to ensure that Canadian libraries have unparalleled access to Canadian content, whether that be materials by Canadians, about Canadians, or what is important to Canadians. Part of that commitment is improving access to materials by Indigenous Peoples. Thanks to some recent initiatives, we now have additional tools to help with that.

 

Back in June BookNet Canada announced a research project they had undertaken, to generate a list of materials specifically dealing with Canadian Indigenous topics. As a starting point, they used BISAC codes to isolate the sales data on materials associated with Indigenous or Native American/Canadian headings. They were then able to see how these materials have sold compared to other English language materials. Happily, from 2016, there have been consistent gains in sales for Indigenous themed material. Next, they pulled just the data from Junes 2018 to 2019, identified the top sellers and broke down the results into Fiction and Non-Fiction categories for Adult and Juvenile. The resulting four lists they are calling the Bestselling Indigenous Books in Canada.

 

They are quick to point out that only two of the forty items were not written by Canadian or Indigenous authors. They also point out that Canadian publishers are responsible for most of the items on the list. This is all to say, this list represents a collection of books in which Indigenous Peoples are telling their own stories, a critical and foundational aspect of decolonization.

 

For a more complete breakdown of their methodology, see their announcement post here. For your ease, we’ve put all four lists together into one single Slist, from which you can purchase the items directly. The Adult Fiction list includes recent favourites by Joseph Boyden and Thomas King, as well as brand new books like There, There by Tommy Orange, and Starlight by Richard Wagamese. The Non Fiction list is a fantastic list of items that would bolster any collection, including All Our Relations by Tanya Talaga, and Indigenous Relations by Bob Joseph.

 

The children’s lists consist of many items that I know are already being used in many elementary schools, including Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and The Sharing Circle by Theresa Meuse. As well as newer titles that will hopefully find their ways into the hands of more young Canadians, like The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette and Go Show the World by Wab Kinew and Joe Morse.

 

In addition to this, the UN General Assembly has designated 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. This resolution came about as “40 per cent of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages were in danger of disappearing— the majority belonging to indigenous peoples.” They hope to raise awareness of these languages and the cultures they represent internationally. You can see the full scope of their initiative here

 

Map: Chris Brackley/Can GeoIn Canada, 2011 census data shows that there are 60 active Indigenous languages, belonging to 12 root language families, spoken by 213,000 people across the nation. Canadian Geographic has put together a wonderful graphic mapping these languages, which can be viewed fully here (Image credit: Chris Brackley/Can Geo.)

 

To support this Year of Indigenous Languages, LSC has put together a list of recent and prominent Indigenous materials. This list of 101 items is a mix of Fiction and Non-Fiction, Adult and Juvenile, English and French. The items are all by Canadian Indigenous authors, again ensuring that people are telling their own stories. These items would form a powerful foundation to an Indigenous collection, and satisfies two of the UN’s five key action areas: “Increasing understanding, reconciliation and international cooperation”; and “Elaborating new knowledge to foster growth and development.”

 

LSC is committed to helping libraries decolonize and increase the representation in their collections. Indigenous languages are part of that commitment. We list Southern Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibway among the languages available through our World Languages program. We are constantly looking out for new materials from new and existing publishers, in Indigenous languages. As demand for this material grows, so will supply, and LSC will be there to help libraries build the best collections for their customers.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

While summer probably feels short for most people (myself included), it is always guaranteed that it will at least come with a long list of must-see movies. We’ve come a long way from July 4th being the start of blockbuster season; this year it kicked off with Avengers: Endgame in April! Whenever the tent poles start appearing in theatres, this summer like most summers offers blockbuster movies in a wide variety of genres - Horror, Comedy, Action, Fantasy, Family and many more. 

 

I have already crossed a few of these off my list, the most recent being Midsommar. Where do I even begin when describing this movie? Horror, mystery, suspense, psychological thriller?  This movie has all of it. While it has enough violence and nudity to give it a rating of 18A, it has all the elements of an Oscar winner. The costumes were amazing, the setting of the film was beautiful, and the actors were incredibly convincing. The movie itself? Terrifyingly mind-blowing. A must-see, but definitely not for the weak of heart.  This movie is still in theatres, and watch for its release on Blu-ray 3723218 and DVD this fall. 

 

Releasing on Blu-ray and DVD on July 30th is the new romantic comedy Long Shot, starring Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron. Everyone knows fellow Canadian Seth Rogen from his hilarious (and usually raunchy) films such as Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, This Is The End, and The Interview just to name a few. While this role is a bit different than his usual comedy, it seems to work. The film is rated 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, and critics are loving it. Charlize Theron plays a Presidential candidate who hires Rogen’s character as her speechwriter, and well, it’s a romantic comedy so we all know how this one will end. Regardless, it looks like this would be a great way to spend a cool evening indoors.

 

An exciting title for the family is coming out on August 6th. The long awaited Pokémon Detective Pikachu is coming out on Blu-ray and DVD. Voiced by another incredibly funny and talented Canadian, Ryan Reynolds plays the voice of none other than the world’s most famous Pokémon - Pikachu. In a deerstalker cap. The movie is based on the video game of the same name, released in 2016, and follows Pikachu and a Pokémon trainer (Justice Smith) while they look for the trainer’s missing father. A must see for families and Pokémon lovers of all ages.

 

The controversial film Unplanned is set to release on DVD August 30th. This is the story of Abby Johnson, the youngest clinic director in the history of Planned Parenthood, who later became an anti-abortion activist.  While the film is not getting great reviews, it seems to be an incredibly divisive topic in the media. Many people are referring to the film as ‘hate propaganda’ or ‘anti-abortion propaganda’, while others see the film as art.  Protests were held at movie theatres across Canada, by Pro-Choice groups and others who see the film as harmful to women. The film is currently being shown in 56 theatres across Canada, and Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob has released a statement defending the decision to show the movie in theatres, saying that it is ultimately up to the viewer to decide. Likewise, when it comes to DVD, libraries will be making the same decision.

 

One of the breakout films of the year has unquestionably been Booksmart, the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde. It was heralded upon release as the touchstone film of a generation, joining the likes of Heathers, Clueless, and Superbad as a film that perfectly captures the youth of the day. The film follows overachievers Amy and Molly as, on the brink of graduating high school, they embark on a single night of partying in an effort to have some of the fun they’ve missed, and some of the opportunities they missed out on. With strong, positive female perspectives and LGBTQ themes, this film truly is a snapshot of the modern day. It is out on DVD and Blu-ray August 6th. 

 

No summer would be complete without superheroes, and this summer we’ve had two of the biggest superhero movies ever. Avengers: Endgame blew every record except one out of the water when it was released this spring, and is currently only $8 million shy of being the highest grossing movie of all time. Bringing an end to eleven years and more than 20 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Endgame is also the final appearances of Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man, and Chris Evans’ Captain America. Not to mention, concluding the cliffhanger of last year’s Infinity War. It comes to DVD and Blu-ray on August 13th.

 

Serving as an epilogue to Endgame is Spider-man: Far From Home. Spider-man continues to be the most popular superhero in the world, despite this being the 7th solo film for the webslinger in the last twenty years, not to mention his appearances in other recent Marvel movies (despite it being only the second in the MCU spidey series, this is actor Tom Holland’s fifth appearance as the character). It will swing onto DVD and Blu-ray later this fall.

 

What might have skipped by your notice was a smaller superhero movie, Brightburn. This film, starring Elizabeth Banks and produced by James Gunn, has a simple premise: what if Superman were a bad guy? Brandon is a mild mannered preteen, living with his parents on a Kansas farm. Until he begins manifesting strange powers and discovers his extraterrestrial origins. Instead of using his powers for good, he does what any teen likely would: he does what he wants, and no one can stop him. This horror movie twist on truth, justice, and the American way wasn’t in theatres long, but has a connection to Gunn’s previous vigilante movie Super, and will be on DVD and Blu-ray in August.

 

August has traditionally been the slow down month, where studios burn off the also-rans and maybe drop in a few surprises (remember when Guardians of the Galaxy made a splash a few years ago). The fall is a quieter time for us to reflect on all the computer generated mayhem and gratuitous violence. All to get us more in the mood for… Award Season, when movies make us think, make us cry, and make us try to figure out who is playing Churchill under all that make up this time.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy watching!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

One of the reasons my bookclub fellows and bookworm friends keep me around is for the book recommendations. They know I have the inside track on what is currently popular, but also what is coming. And that is a great perk of working in libraries: knowing months in advance what books are to be published. But who do librarians turn to for reader advisory? That’s where Loan Stars comes in.

 

Loan Stars, for those who don’t know, is an amazing reader’s advisory program. Run in conjunction by BookNet Canada and the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, this service aggregates the recommendations of working library professionals into monthly lists. And unlike some commercial lists, which focus on bringing existing books to the public’s attention, Loan Stars is focused on the future. Their monthly lists consist of the most recommended items that will be published within the following month.

 

How does it work? Anyone working in a library in Canada can sign up for a free CataList account. Then, so long as you are logged in, you will see a “recommend” button next to eligible titles. Click the button, and that’s it. At the end of every month, the super computers and clever folk at Loan Stars tally the results, and the ten books with the most recommendations are added to one of two lists: adult and juvenile.

 

This is a fantastic way to get the word out about books that people haven’t heard about yet. At LSC, we swim in the galley proofs that are sent to us by publishers, and from my days in libraries, I know the case is true there too. And it is a (nerdy) thrill to have the inside track on a book that no one else will be able to read for months. I’m sure we’re all the same, when you read a good book, all you want to do is tell people they should read it. Loan Stars is one of the best ways to tell colleagues across Canada what they should keep an eye out for, or get the jump on and order in advance.

 

We all use things like the New York Times Best Seller list, or Canada Reads to build our collections, but those are reactive lists, and much of the demand for those items is driven by patrons. Loan Stars gives you the chance to get ahead of the rush on items no one has heard of yet, but will want. What I like about it is, it’s not just the best sellers. Those books are going to be popular regardless, they barely need our help. These are recommendations coming directly from staff; their actual opinions, not just what they think will be popular but what they think should be popular.

 

Take a book like Vessel, by Lisa A. Nichols, or Grass, by Kuem Suk Gendry-Kim. These are not books that would usually end up on conventional lists. But enough of your peers across the country liked them so much, they ended up on recent Loan Stars lists. It has effected my personal reading; every month there is at least one book that catches me by surprise and that I immediately put on hold at my local branch. I don’t know if I would have found No Country for Old Gnomes, by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne, without it.

 

 

 

What’s on their lists for August? Some choice morsels include:

  • Translated from Gibberish, by Anosh Irani, is a collection of short stories exploring his life and experience as an immigrant. Knitting together his life through seven tales set in India or Canada, with wit and heart, Irani presents a raw – if not entirely truthful – autobiographical journey.
  • Snow, Glass, Apples, by Colleen Doran and Neil Gaiman, is a graphic novel adaptation of Gaiman’s original short story from Smoke and Mirrors, itself a twisted version of the story of Snow White. As only Gaiman can, the story weaves melancholy and pathos with vampirism and necrophilia. This volume pairs that with Doran’s crisp style which blends clean characters with conceptual layout design. This is their second collaboration, having recently also graphically adapted Gaiman’s Troll Bridge (one of my personal favourites).
  • Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me, by Anna Mehler Paperny, is a frank, honest, and at times absurd memoir detailing her time in a psych ward after her first suicide attempt, and her journey through the long-term treatment of living with depression. While not unique to the experiences of those whose life is touched by depression, Paperny’s perspective is a uniquely Canadian one in publishing. There are few books that touch on the Canadian Health Care system, the Canadian pharmaceutical system, the Canadian Mental Health system as it relates to depression, which are far more relevant to Canadian readers than anything coming up from south of the border.
  • Code Like a Girl: Rad Tech Projects and Practical Tips, by Miriam Peskowitz, is a great resource for kids who want to learn how to code, and offers step-by-step instructions for actual projects, like building a motion sensor for their room, or creating smartphone gloves.
  • And, I would be remise in my duty as a professional and a connoisseur of fine literature if I did not point out that Does It Fart: A Kid's Guide to the Gas Animals Pass, by Nick Caruso, absolutely made this month’s list. As well it is should.

Now, you’re asking yourself, “how do I read these monthly lists?” There are two ways. One is to sign up for the Loan Stars monthly email, which has the lists delivered direct to your inbox. However, if you want to be able to see the list and immediately purchase the items on it, LSC creates an Slist version of every Loan Stars list, so you can view and add the items to your cart in our catalogue. Here are the links to the most recent Adult and Juvenile Loan Stars lists for August, and you can find older lists under the “Special” heading in the Slist page

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Contributors

Michael Clark
8
September 23, 2019
show Michael's posts
Stef Waring
8
September 16, 2019
show Stef's posts
Rachel Seigel
10
September 9, 2019
show Rachel's posts
LSC Library Services Centre
7
August 5, 2019
show LSC's posts
Karrie Vinters
3
July 22, 2019
show Karrie's posts
Dale Campbell
1
June 24, 2019
show Dale's posts
Sara Pooley
3
May 13, 2019
show Sara's posts
Angela Stuebing
1
March 25, 2019
show Angela 's posts

Latest Posts

Show All Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

Everything Adult Fiction Adult Non Fiction Children’s Fiction Children’s Non Fiction Graphic Novels AV Multilingual Services Announcements Holidays Social Media Events