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Today, let's take more than a moment of silence to remember and reflect on the brave and valorous individuals who have fought and sacrificed, across history and the world. May they never be forgotten.

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If you’ve turned on the news lately, you may have heard of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist who’s been making waves with her passionate speeches.  In August 2018, Greta began to protest climate change by sitting outside of Sweden’s national legislature, the Riksdag, with a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate).  Her protests have inspired countless similar protests throughout the world, and Greta herself has been invited to speak on many global stages, including here in Canada.

 

Greta and her family will be releasing their autobiography, Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis, at the end of April 2020.  For those who can’t wait for more information, however, Jeannette Winter has published a nonfiction picture book with the same title.  Other books featuring Greta’s story include Greta and the Giants by Zoe Tucker and No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta herself.

 

Fortunately Greta isn’t the only one concerned with both the environment and our world as a whole.  Youth activism is on the rise, according to author and scholar Jessica Taft.  In the United States, the survivors of the Parkland school shooting have been campaigning for better gun control.  Malala Yousafzai has been working on behalf of girls and women since 2009, even surviving an assassination attempt.  Here in Canada, we have our own youth focusing on a range of topics, from Stella Bowles in Nova Scotia – whose juvenile nonfiction book My River: Cleaning up the Lahave River was recently nominated for the Forest of Reading – to Metis-Jamaican Larissa Crawford, and LGBTQ2+ activist Fae Johnstone.

 

Human impact on the environment and climate change have been big topics over the past few years.  In our recent election, climate change was second only to health care among Canadians polled by Ipsos.  The book world has seen a number of publications focused on the environment, climate change, and the plight of the natural world and its animals.  At the beginning of October, Kari Jones published Ours to Share: Co-Existing in a Crowded World as part of the Orca Footprints series.  The book focuses on the growth of the human population – from just a few hundred thousand people to our current population of nearly eight billion – and our impact on the world around us.  It’s a positive book, however, highlighting how we can share with our neighbours and what kids can do to help better the world.

 

One of the bigger issues in the climate change discussion is the issue of plastic.  Some steps have been taken to reduce our plastic waste – like encouraging reusable bags at the grocery store and charging for plastic ones – but there’s a glut of information out there that people may struggle to sort through.  The Plastic Problem by Rachel Salt. Written by a producer for the YouTube channel AsapSCIENCE, the book breaks down the issues and lays out solutions.  For younger readers, there’s also Join the No-Plastic Challenge by Scot Ritchie, part of the Exploring Our Community series.

 

We’re headed into winter now and the forecast for the year is milder but stormier.  While I can’t say I’ll particularly miss the dreaded polar vortex, unpredictable and stormy weather is still a sign of climate change.  According to NASA, the rising ocean temperatures are likely to lead to an increase in extreme rainstorms.  In the winter, despite the colder temperatures, the increase in evaporated water can also lead to heavier snowfall.

 

All hope isn’t lost, though.  Many people all over the world, including youth activists like Greta Thunberg, are working towards reducing our carbon emissions, pollution, and plastic garbage.  This past spring and summer, the #trashtag challenge went viral, encouraging people to clean up an area near them and post before and after photos.  Much better than throwing slices of plastic cheese onto your baby.

 

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!

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LSC is closed today, to celebrate that most unifying of life's experiences: food. Grab yourself a slice of pie, enjoy the brisk chill in the air, peep some leaves before they fall, and give thanks for all things but especially libraries. They are awesome places, filled with awesome people. 

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In the 1800s, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the world to his "consulting detective." As Sherlock Holmes is described, he is a private citizen who puts his powers of deduction and his network of allies and informants to work solving the crimes of England and beyond. Now, in 2019 another detective has emerged, this time in the real world, helping to bring unsolved crimes to a close using technology and deduction. Enter: Billy Jensen.

 

Jensen began his career as a crime beat reporter in New York, but he quickly grew disillusioned with the dispassion involved in the industry. Show up, jot down the facts that the police can divulge, and whether it gets reported on depends on how sensational the crime was. This kind of reporting was not helping to solve crimes, only to melodramatize the effects of crime on certain portions of the population.

 

Jensen likes a mystery. He likes to see all the pieces of a mystery laid out, and to work through the process of drawing connections and solving the mystery. This might be exemplified by his taking on a decades old missing person case in his spare time: who is an actor in the original Star Wars movie. In an early scene, Obi-Wan interacts with essentially an extra briefly. The character has no lines, just a shrug. He received no credit in the film. However, this being Star Wars, this character has a name - BoShek - and extensive back story, and action figures. Yet the man who played him was a day player, and his identity was unknown.

 

Jensen began his investigation conventionally, but hit dead end after dead end. The identity of this actor remained illusive. Finally, Jensen posted the materials he had gathered online. He lacked some piece of critical information that would unlock the key, and he hoped that the internet might be a tool that could be used to fill in the gaps of his knowledge. And it paid off. A family member of the actor - now known to be Frances Tomlin - saw the post and reached out to Jensen. Definitive proof was provided. The mystery was solved. And there the methodmight have withered on the vine, were it not for another tragedy.

 

In 2016, Michelle McNamara died. She had spent years investigating (and naming) the Golden State Killer when the case had long presumbed to have gone cold. After her death, Jensen along with Paul Haynes and McNamara's widower Patton Oswalt finsihed the book she had been writing, later released as I'll Be Gone in the Dark. And inspired by her focus on bringing this case back to the surface and the killer to justice, Jensen began to wonder if there were other crimes that could be solved by a consulting detective. What if the internet could be used to solve actual crimes, not just identify unknown science fiction actors?

 

In an era of where everything is crowdsourced - medical costs, pet projects, films, video games, arts and crafts, the naming of NASA rovers and tugboats - the idea of using the captive audience of the internet is no different than the idea of Sherlock Holmes using his network of homeless people to gather information. I personal might not know anything about sports, but there are people out there who are experts on every minor aspects of every concievable sport. Jensen's idea was to leverage that expertise to solve crimes.

 

So he began, finding street level crimes that the police had reached a dead end on. Cases where video evidence was available, but all leads had gone cold. Jensen examined the evidence and picked out elements that could be used to generate new leads. A partical glimpse of a getaway vehicle? Post it to a car forum on Reddit, and someone will be able to identify the design of the bumper down to the production line. Have a good shot of sneakers? Someone knows how many pairs of that shoe were made, and where they were sold. Jensen took it a step further, and started using Facebook ads to push footage to people who lived within blocks of where crimes happened, as many crimes are committed by locals. 

 

The methods and successes of this Crowdsolving has been put into a new book, Chase Darkness with Me. Want to follow along as Jensen solves minor crimes, and works his way up to investigating the murders of the Allenstown 4? Want to learn how to solve crimes on your own, using the powerful potential of the internet and social media. Jensen lays out the rules, the things to avoid, and what hasn't worked for him. So we can all be the Sherlocks of our Baker Streets.

 

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.

 

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Have you ever asked someone what they are reading only to have the answer be accompanied by a sheepish apology for reading it? “Oh, it’s my guilty read” they say, as though they were a 12-year-old caught reading  50 Shades of Grey.

 

Somewhere between learning to read and adulthood, the language we use to describe genre fiction changes and the general attitude towards it becomes outright snobbish.

Critics wrinkle their noses at ‘women’s fiction’, romances, or sci-fi as if they are somehow inferior to the ‘literary’ fiction’ title that is beautifully written but virtually unreadable.

 

And yet, while being nominated for an award or a strong media campaign definitely increases the popularity of some of these literary titles, for the most part, those aren’t the books that are receiving print runs in the hundreds of thousands, or flying off the shelves in bookstores and libraries.

 

In a 2014  New Yorker profile, bestselling author Jennifer Weiner, author of the recently released Mrs. Everything,  noted the disparity in how books like those that she writes are treated in comparison to perceived literary titles.  And yet, Weiner has a a degree in English literature from Princeton University, and her books have sold over 4.5 million copies.

 

To call Weiner's books fluffy and lightweight because she writes women's fiction is supremely unfair. Weiner’s characters are women with complex emotional lives who challenge stereotypes. Weiner writes these stories with charm and humour, and readers (including myself) respond in droves.

 

So why is there such a bias against genre fiction? One theory for the different treatment is the invention of the mass market paperback during WWII. Obviously, a hard cover book isn’t practical to stick in your pocket, and mass markets were cheap to produce, lightweight, and easy to carry around.

 

When paperbacks started outselling hardcovers, publishers started producing the more popular genre fiction in this new format to further bolster sales. As a result, genre fiction unfairly earned the reputation of being lesser than the realistic fiction being published in hardcover.

 

Speculative- fiction also suffers from a similar bias, with critics dismissing the genre as inferior and unbelievable. Believe it or not, when The Hobbit was first published in 1937, despite receiving a glowing review from Narnia author C.S. Lewis and The New York Times, Time Magazine didn’t review the U.K. or U.S. edition at all. When Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings books a little over a decade later, they received a similar reception, not receiving much critical notice until the sales of paperback reprints exploded on college campuses.  

 

I’ve always been a strong reader with varied tastes and I’m also a huge genre fiction reader. I read Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Robert Sawyer, all of whom are among my favourite authors, and whom I consider to be really great writers. 

 

Recently I read a really great  romance called Waiting for Tom Hanks. The heroine of the story is obsessed with the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom-coms of the 90s, and is waiting for her own Tom Hanks (a sweet, sensitive, romantic  hero)  to come along. The story reads like a 90s romance movie, and it was a quick, fun read that will appeal to romance fans, and to anyone who has ever wished for their own romantic movie hero.

 

It’s the kind of book that is usually dismissed with words like “light”, “breezy”, and “fluffy”, or with the phrase “it’s totally unrealistic but…”  and this is the kind of language that really drives me crazy.

 

When I read I want to be engaged ,and I want it to make me want to know what happens next. I want a good story with 3-dimesnional characters and good writing, and most importantly, I want to be entertained.

 

We all live busy, stressful lives and we have to work at fitting in time to read. Why shouldn’t that time be spent reading something we enjoy, and why should anybody be allowed to shame us or make us feel badly for reading it?  Who cares if the book is commercial or if it’s not going to be nominated for a prestigious award?

 

There are an estimated 7.4 billion people in this world, and countless cultures and tastes. Not everybody enjoys John Grisham any more than everybody will enjoy Washington Black. For that matter, there are few books that my mom, my dad, my brother and I have all read and enjoyed.

 

I’m certain that my dad will love Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens because it will appeal to his sense of humour, but it’s definitely not something he’ll be passing along to my mom or my brother. My brother really enjoyed Kite Runner, but my mom couldn’t get into it and found it depressing.

 

Just like anything else, not all books are created equal. There are good books and bad books, but genre has nothing to do with it. Whether it be romance or mystery or sci-fi, if that’s what you like, read it, and don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of answering the question “what are you reading?”

 

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!

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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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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

 

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