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I read an article in Publishers Weekly which wondered whether or not publishing has become too reliant on bestsellers. The article discussed how top tier authors are taking over marketing budgets and shelf space in retailers (which also extends to libraries), and how what we call ‘midlist’ suffers as a result.

 

A long time ago when I was just out of university I worked in the box office for the National Ballet of Canada. Now you’re probably wondering what ballet has to do with bookselling, but stay with me here and you’ll see where this is going.

 

I remember a top executive explaining that while internally the staff and the dancers generally hated The Nutcracker, it’s the bread and butter of the company and the revenue generated from this holiday classic helps fund the more modern works that challenge and excite the dancers. Personally I love the full-length classical ballets, but those also need to be refreshed with new choreography, costumes, and staging which are also partially paid for by revenue from The Nutcracker.

 

The same logic applies to publishing. While some of us may roll our eyes at seeing the same group of authors on our bestseller list all of the time, those authors are like a publisher’s version of The Nutcracker. In theory, they generate enough revenue that the publisher can afford to take a chance on a special book that the editor loves, or a debut author whom they hope will find similar success.

 

To some extent that’s true. A publishing house is not made on midlist authors alone, but when bestsellers start drowning out midlist, it creates a vicious cycle where few new titles can break through. If you’ve read my blogs, you probably know that I’m a veracious reader, and while I try to read widely, it’s a lot easier to go back to the authors I know and love rather than spend my precious reading time on someone I don’t know and who I’m not sure I’ll like.

 

That being said, I do have a tremendous appreciation for unusual and original books, and if something catches my eye when I’m sorting through seasonal catalogues, or through online/social media channels, I will often request the title and give it a shot.

 

Recently I read a wonderful fantasy debut titled The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by New Zealand author H.G. Parry. It caught my attention because it’s been labeled Inkheart  for adults, and I love that book. I’ve also seen references to an adult sci-fi series Libriomancer by Jim Hines, which I’m definitely going to check out.

 

Charley Sutherland has a gift. He is what they call a Summoner, which means he can read the characters out of books. That alone sold me. Who wouldn’t love to be able to spend time with their favourite literary characters from time to time? From early childhood, Charley could make mischief with the Cat in the Hat, have tea with Sherlock Holmes, solve mysteries with a Millie Radcliffe-Dix, a Nancy Drew-like character, and hosts of others, and when when he's done, he returns them to their book. 

 

One night, he frantically calls his older brother Robert explaining that he accidentally read Uriah Heep (the villain from David Copperfield) out of the book and he’s escaped. Heep is a pretty dastardly villain, and Victorian or not, you really don't want this guy running around loose in the world.

 

In their pursuit of Heep, they uncover a hidden Victorian street where they meet other literary characters who have been living there in secret, including the White Witch from Narnia, Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray who handles the secret world’s finances and tech, four Mr. Darcy’s from Pride and Prejudice. As it turns out, most people inadvertently summon a character at one time or another, and the version of the character that appears is subject to the reader’s interpretation. Darcy, not surprisingly, is a fairly often imagined character which is why there were four of them. Somehow, all of these ‘summoned’ characters have found their way onto the street, and they live there to keep themselves from being detected, and keep from being sent back into their books.

 

The brothers also discover that the street was created by another Summoner with Charley’s powers and malicious intent who needs to be stopped. All of the characters are aware of the other summoner's plans for a new world, but they don't know who he/she is, or exactly what that means for themselves or the real world.

 

I love books that reference other books, and I really enjoyed seeing different literary characters popping up in the novel. It’s also a wonderful tribute to the power that books and characters have over us, and still manages to poke a bit of fun at the literary theory we were all forced to study in English class. It’s smart and funny and original, and it’s one of my favourite books of all time. If like, me, you’re getting a bit tired of seeing the same old/same old on your bookstore/library shelves, give this one a try and I’m sure you’ll be as enchanted as I was. Or, if you were a fan of the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, you'll at home in these pages.

 

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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Grace Kelly was one of Hollywood’s most glamorous women, and her marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956 captivated the world. She was one of Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite actresses, won the admiration of women everywhere for appearing as close to her natural self in her films and rejecting the “studio look”, and she was a fashion icon. Combine all of this with a somewhat mysterious persona (she didn’t enjoy publicity or talking to the press), and her tragic untimely death, and it’s easy to see why people are still so enamoured with her decades later.

 

I love reading about Hollywood actors and actresses from Hollywood’s Golden Age. It was an era of true movie stars, glamour and style. I personally couldn’t carry off the iconic dresses that Grace Kelly wore, but I love looking at them, and like so many others, I find her life fascinating.

 

What I especially enjoy is reading  novels that portray real people such as Grace Kelly. I learn something about an interesting figure from history while still getting caught up in a story.  That’s why I was delighted to discover one recent and two forthcoming novels where Grace Kelly appears or features  as a character in the story.

 

The first is Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb’s 2019 novel Meet Me In Monaco, which received a rave review in The New York Times, and was listed as one of In Style’s and PopSugar’s recommended summer reads. The story is set in the 1950s in Cannes, using Grace Kelly’s romance and wedding to Prince Rainier as a backdrop for a romance between two fictional characters parfumeur Sophie Duvall and British tabloid photographer James Henderson.

 

Both characters are inadvertently connected to Grace Kelly. Sophie offered her sanctuary from the photographers while James meets Sophie when he follows Grace into her shop. The narrative shifts between James’ and Sophie’s points of view, and is interspersed with news reports about Grace Kelly and the upcoming wedding. Both fans of Grace Kelly and fans of improbable love stories will love this book, and it’s hard not to be drawn into the glamourous and exotic setting.

 

The other two novels were released in early 2020. From February, the title was The Girl in White Gloves: A Novel of Grace Kelly by Kerri Maher. Grace Kelly is the star of this biographical novel, and the author takes readers behind the scenes to look at the private life and struggles of Kelly to not lose herself in her Hollywood identity, and to manage the expectations of her family and her new royal obligations. The chapters alternate between a young Grace just starting out, and the older, more experienced Grace and is filled with rich historical detail. I’m looking forward to reading this and learning a little bit more about the woman beneath the crown.

 

From March came The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz. Similar to The Gown by Jennifer Robson, this novel focuses on her famous wedding dress and three generations of women tied to the dress, beginning a young seamstress who is tasked with sewing a copy of the gown. The book is about love, family, creating and keeping traditions, and how a dress can fulfill impossible dreams. 

 

I love generational stories, and they’re something I relate to.  My maternal grandmother eloped, and I’m several inches taller than my mom and my grandmother so there was never any opportunity for a dress to be handed down, but there have been other things that they've passed down. For as long as I can remember, both my grandmother and my mother have shared their family traditions with me and my brother, and have emphasized the importance of not letting them die. In the years I’ve been with my partner, we’ve created our own traditions as well, and they are ones which I hold dear.

 

The Grace Kelly Dress is the perfect book club book, and the author has a discussion guide, links relating to the book, information about writing the book, and an essay about her inspiration for the novel on her website if you or your reading group would like to learn more. This is definitely high up on the "to-be-read" pile.

 

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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Books scare people. That might seem like an outlandish statement, but it’s true. Not the physical item per se, but the content that’s in them. Throughout history, books have been a popular target of censors. Whether it be because of, sexual situations, racial or religious issues, violence or political viewpoint, People have tried and continue to try to remove books from school and library shelves. Luckily, few books actually get banned in Canada, but many still get challenged.

 

When I was in high school, I was extremely lucky to never have encountered any kind of censorship (that I knew of). I had the privilege of taking many genre courses with really interesting reading lists that included frequently challenged titles such as A Clockwork Orange and The Color Purple. We were also never challenged on what personal reading material we brought to school or choose for independent study with the exception of evaluating its suitability for the project.

 

The other day I read a fantastic YA novel titled Suggested Reading which is a story about standing up to censorship and fighting against banned books. The protagonist learns that the school has banned a list of 50 YA novels such as Speak, Catcher in the Rye, and Perks of Being a Wallflower, and decides to start an “underground library” in her school of these banned books. The book reminds us of the power of words to transform, educate, and challenge us in ways that we often can’t predict.

 

We are very fortunate in Canada that intellectual freedom is guaranteed to us under the Charter of Rights and Freedom. Intellectual freedom is our right to seek out information from all points of view without restriction, and free access to ideas.

 

Libraries are a key part of how we exercise this right. A library provides ideas and information to the public in a variety of formats with the goal of allowing people to educate themselves about these different ideas regardless of how the librarian or individual feels about it. I learned very early on in my role as a selector to keep my feelings out of it. I can like or dislike a book or author for my own reasons, but I have no right to withhold a book on that basis.

 

In Canada, Freedom to Read Week is celebrated annually in the last week of February as an affirmation of our right to intellectual freedom, and several events are held in libraries across the country throughout the week. In honour of this event, I thought I’d highlight a few common titles by Canadian authors that have been banned or are frequently challenged in Canada, many of which I read in school, and some of which might surprise you.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

 

I first read this iconic novel in University and was both feared it and loved it. I feared it because I was just starting to understand the debate on women’s rights and what we label “right wing” politics. I loved it for its brilliance and for making me think. Not surprisingly, it’s on the ALA’s top 100 banned books of the decade for the 90s and 2000s. At its core, dystopian fiction is a warning about where the author fears we’re headed but it’s also about freedom.  The freedom to think, say, believe and live what and how we want. These books aren’t meant to be comfortable, and perhaps that’s why they are so frequently challenged. Handmaid’s Tale (and recently the graphic novel) has been challenged for violence, offensive language, and sexual content, and it definitely falls into the “because it scares people” category.

 

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler

 

This classic Canadian novel put Mordecai Richler on the map, but in 1990, a group of parents in Essex County wanted the book removed from high school reading lists due to sexual innuendo, vulgarity, and sexual expression. Notable Canadian authors defended the book, but the board advised teachers and principals to avoid using potentially controversial novels in class.

 

The Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Monroe

 

When Alice Monroe published this coming-of-age novel about a young woman’s passage into adulthood and sexual experience in 1971, she made waves. The book met a highly publicized challenge in Peterborough, Ontario when the school board banned the book due to “explicit language and sex scenes”.  Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye were also included on that list for similar reasons. According to CBC, this censorship attempt was the catalyst for the creation of Freedom to Read Week.

 

The Diviners, Jest of God, and Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

 

At the same time that Alice Munroe was facing challenges for Lives and Girls and Women, Margaret Laurence was also facing challenges and subsequent bans in numerous schools due to what Christian Fundamentalists deemed “blasphemous" and "obscene”.  The Diviners is widely considered to be the author’s masterpiece and to be one of the greatest Canadian novels ever written, but it has continued to face challenges over the years. Laurence, who was already dealing with depression and alcoholism was deeply disturbed by the public attacks on her books, but she didn’t speak out until she was faced with a new round of censorship in the 80s.

 

The Wars by Timothy Findley 

 

Timothy Findley’s 1977 novel The Wars was one of those life-changing books for me when I was in high school. I did my O.A.C. author study on Findley, and I think that his portrait of a 19-year-old Canadian officer fighting in WWI was one of the first books that really made me understand the horrors of war. It’s undeniably a difficult book to read, and Findley presented the war in all of its brutality. In 2011, a group of parents in Bluewater District School Board in Owen Sound, Ontario fought to have the book removed from school shelves, complaining about the violence and sexual descriptions. The novel also faced pre-publication censorship with attempts by the publisher to remove a homosexual rape scene. Findley was also vocally opposed to censorship, and defended other authors like Laurence whose works were challenged.

 

As long as there are books, there will always be somebody who steps up to object to them and attempt to impose to limit our access to potentially valuable and powerful material, and the best way to combat that is to resist by reading and discussing those books.  As Alice Munro said, “I think that as soon as one step is taken you have to start resisting because that makes the next step easier.” For more information on Freedom to Read Week and details on events across the country or how to get involved, visit their website.

 

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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Whether we realize it or not, books are not just a solitary activity. Book lovers love to share their thoughts about the books they are reading, and to recommend books to friends, family and colleagues. Seldom do we just shelve a book immediately after reading, never to think about it again. Instead, we share our reading choices on Social Media, mention it in conversation, or give it to a fellow book lover to read.

 

Book clubs have existed in some form since at least the 1630s when Puritan groups got together to discuss the bible, and have taken many forms since then.  In 1727, Benjamin Franklin organized the Junto Literary Society to discuss philosophy, morality, and science. In 1840, the first bookstore sponsored book club in the United States began in Boston, and they have continued to grow and evolve.

 

According to Booknet Canada, as of September 2018, 7% of Canadian adult book buyers belong to a book club, 28% of readers belong to a book club or reading group (whether they buy books or not), and 8% of those surveyed said they found their last read through a book club.

 

Traditionally, book club picks were selected by members of the group, the library, or the book store, and members would meet in person to discuss the book.  This changed in 1996 when Oprah Winfrey, the queen of daytime television used her power and influence to “get the whole country reading again”, and launched a televised book club.

 

Beginning with Jaqueline Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean, she invited viewers to read the book, and then hosted the author on her show a few weeks later. In the 15 years of her original club, she recommended 70 books, many of which have become bestsellers.

 

In 2012, Oprah launched the 2.0 version of her book club in conjunction with her magazine, and television network, this time incorporating social media platforms. Later this year, she’ll be officially reviving her book club again, this time on the new streaming platform Apple TV+.

 

In many ways, celebrity book clubs are one of the best things to happen to publishers and authors since the founding of the book-of-the-month club in 1926. Prior to the onset of bookstore chains, a book-of-the-month club selection was one of the best ways to get wide distribution for your book.

 

Today, having a celebrity such as Oprah recommend your book can increase sales by the millions. Oprah has 15 million followers on Instagram and 4.4 million followers on twitter, and her endorsement is publishing gold. Recently, she announced The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates as her latest pick, and the book will almost certainly land on bestseller lists.  

     

Two other celebrities influencing readers are actresses Sarah Jessica Parker and Reese Witherspoon. Parker is a voracious reader, and recently completed a two-year term as honorary chair of Book Club Central for the American Library Association. She is also the editorial director for her own imprint SJP for Hogarth, where she acquires books that appeal to her own taste as a reader.

 

Witherspoon launched her book club in 2017, and it was born out of her love of reading. Witherspoon is an avid reader, and she casually started posting pictures of the books she was reading on her Instagram. The club grew into something more formal from there, and now has 1.1 million members.

 

Since 2017, Witherspoon has selected  28 titles, many of which have landed on the New York Times Bestseller list, Her 2017 selection of debut author Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing is currently #9 on the Globe and Mail Bestseller list, has spent 54 weeks on the NYT bestseller list, and was the top selling print book in the U.S. for the first half of 2019.

Would the book have been a bestseller regardless? Possibly, but it’s more likely that the 1.1 million U.S. sales can be attributed to the power of Witherspoon’s endorsement.

 

Witherspoon’s September 2019 pick The Secrets We Kept by Laura Prescott was inspired by the true story of the CIA’s mission to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the U.S.S.R. where nobody would publish it, juxtaposed with the love story between author Boris Pasternak and his mistress Olga.

 

Naturally the book has rocketed to bestseller status, and film rights have been acquired. The publisher reportedly paid $2 million for rights, signaling that they expected big things from it, but being a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick has almost certainly helped.

 

Normally, celebrities don’t influence me to read a book, but this one intrigued me, and I ended up really enjoying it. I learned something about a period in history I knew nothing about, and I was invested in the characters and the story.  I confess I’ve never read Zhivago, but after reading this, I want to. It has also made me take notice of Witherspoon’s other picks, a number of which I’m interested in reading.

 

While enjoying this one title doesn’t mean that I’ll actively seek out future celebrity book club recommendations, as a book lover I appreciate what they do for discovery and exposure, and anything that gets millions of people reading and talking about books is good with me!

 

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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When it comes to categorizing fiction, mystery, thriller, and suspense are words commonly used to define genre, but if you’re anything like me, you might have trouble defining exactly what the difference is between them.

 

While the three do overlap a great deal, they are actually separate genres. To make matters more complicated, the terms tend to be used so interchangeably, that identifying where in your library they belong, or even making a recommendation to a patron eager for one or the other becomes a challenging task.

 

In recent years, the mystery, thriller and suspense genres have been grouped under the crime fiction umbrella. In these genres, authors write about a crime that has happened or is about to happen, there’s an investigation of some kind, and a resolution where at least some of the reader’s questions are answered. So with all of these commonalities, how do you know which is which?

 

Let’s start with mystery. A mystery story is one where a crime is committed at the beginning, and the rest of the novel is devoted to figuring out the truth about the crime. Regardless of what kind of mystery it is, there is someone investigating the crime. That person can be a traditional detective, a police officer, or an amateur sleuth with a day job.

 

The novel is also basically one big puzzle, with all of the “pieces” needed to put it together being contained within the novel. Readers of mystery novels typically enjoy trying to solve the crime alongside the investigator, and personally, I get a certain amount of satisfaction from figuring it out before the investigator does. 

 

Shari Lapena’s novel An Unwanted Guest is an example of the locked room type of mystery that was perfected by the Queen of Crime Agatha Christie. In a locked room mystery, the murder is committed under circumstances where it would be seemingly impossible to get in or out of the crime scene, includes a number of suspects with no way to leave or be rescued, and the plot is resolved at the end.at the end. Christie's famous novel And Then There Were None is one of the bestselling crime novels of all time, and Lapena’s book has a similar feel.

 

The guests arrive Friday night for a weekend stay at an Inn in the Catskills and are immediately snowed in with no way to leave, no phone service or internet access, and no power. One of the guests is murdered, and naturally, the murderer has to be one of them. As the weekend progresses, the bodies start piling up, and it’s a race against time to figure out who the killer is before it’s too late.

 

Thrillers are a bit more difficult to define- especially since many thrillers can also be something else. The protagonist is in danger right from the outset, and the plots are extremely action driven. Thrillers are high stakes, non-stop action, contain plot twists, and move at a rapid pace. In these stories, solving the crime is less important than the obstacles placed in the hero’s way, and how they overcome them.

 

Thrillers can be psychological, crime, mystery, action, military, legal, or spy, and illicit an intense reaction from the reader.  Series like Jack Reacher, and Alex Cross or Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects are examples of popular thrillers, the latter being a good example of the psychological subset.

 

Suspense novels are also tricky to define as they tend to be more subtle. Suspense novels are about the build-up and the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you know something is about to happen. Reading a suspense novel is like cranking the handle on a jack-in-the-box and waiting for the figure to pop out when the melody is done. You know before you start turning the handle that the joker is going to pop out, but you still jump when it does.

 

Adrian McKinty’s The Chain is a great example of a suspense novel.  On a day that starts out like any other, Rachel receives a phone call informing her that her daughter was kidnapped while waiting for the school bus. The caller is the parent of an already kidnapped child, and informs her that she is now part of something called the chain.

 

Rachel has 24 hours to follow specific instructions that will get her daughter back which includes kidnapping another child to keep the chain going. If she fails to do what she's told or tries to involve the police or anyone else, they will kill her and her daughter and find a new target. Who is behind the chain is secondary to what Rachel must and will do to get her daughter back. It’s intense and terrifying, and the kind of novel you read in one sitting.

 

Regardless of which genre you prefer, there is one key component that is present in all successful mystery/suspense/thrillers and that’s suspense. The author makes the reader feel excited and/or anxious about what’s going to happen next. Suspense is what drives me to stay up all night reading because I can’t put it down, or has me so engrossed that I miss my bus stop (which I have numerous times) and don’t hear the phone or the doorbell when it rings. That feeling is what draws me to these genres over and over again, and why the world will always embrace them both on the page and on screen.6 

 

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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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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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 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!

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It’s a sad fact that even our favourite authors are mere mortals, and whether we like it or not, they will eventually die. All hope is not lost however!  These days the death of an author doesn’t necessarily spell the end for our favourite characters. In some ways, the authors become characters themselves. 

 

On occasion, the author’s publisher or estate can contract another author  to continue a popular series or just keep publishing under that author’s name. James Bond and Sherlock Holmes live on in books written by bestselling author Anthony Horowitz; Hercule Poirot has continued solving mysteries under the skillful hand of Sophie Hannah; and Eric Van Lustbader took over writing the Bourne novels after Robert Ludlum’s death in 2001, having published 11 more books beyond Ludlum’s original trilogy. Even the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy continued beyond the death of Douglas Adams, when Eoin Colfer wrote And Another Thing... in 2009.

 

The first time I ever encountered this dead author trend was back in my teens when I noticed that the copyright of a V.C. Andrews book I was reading said “V.C. Andrews Trust”.  I learned that V.C. Andrews had died a few years before that, but her novels sold so well that her estate hired a horror writer Andrew Neiderman  to continue her books. Publishing this August is Beneath the Attic, a prequel to Flowers in the Attic, which will tell the story of the Dollanganger grandmother Corrine as a young girl. I haven’t read Andrews in years, but having read all of the Flowers in the Attic books growing up, I’m curious.

 

Tom Clancy, who died in October 2013, was best known for creating popular characters Jack Ryan and John Clark. At the time of his death, seventeen of Clancy’s titles had been bestsellers and several had been turned into movies, video games, or television shows. For at least the last decade, authors such as the New York Times bestselling author Mark Greaney, Mike Maden and Jeff Rovin have continued his series. The new titles continue to be bestsellers, and Jack Ryan lives on in an Amazon Prime series.

 

Swedish author Stieg Larsson died before any of his books reached publication, and never saw the international success that they would achieve. The first three books in the Millennium series were published posthumously in Sweden in 2005, 2006, 2007, and by March 2015, had sold over 80 million copies worldwide. The author had planned for ten books in the series, but died having completed just three full manuscripts. So what’s a publisher to do? Unlike the Tom Clancy and V.C. Andrews books, there wasn’t an immediate transition. It wasn’t until 2013 that Larsson’s Swedish publisher hired Swedish journalist and author David Lagercrantz to write a fourth book in the series.

 

The book was published in 2015 to mostly positive reviews, landed on international bestseller lists, and broke sales records. Book 5 was published in 2017, and book six, The Girl Who Lived Twice, will publish in August 2019. Lagercrantz has announced that book six will be the last book that he’ll write in the series, but whether or not that also spells the end for Lisbeth Salander is undetermined.

 

This is an interesting pheonomenon. Other than a movie/television series, which still continue with a new director, new writers, and new actors/actresses playing a main character (how many Bonds have there been?), there are few other industries that can do this. In cooking, music, or art, there is only one of that chef/musician/artist, and they can only claim to be in the style of the original. 

 

From a publishing perspective, it can be a huge risk. What if the ghost writer or new author fails to accurately recreate that character or isn’t as skilled at writing as his/her predecessor? An author can create a skilled imitation, but it may never be as good as the original or elicit the same reader/critical response. If Diana Gabaldon or George R. R. Martin were to unexpectedly pass away without completing their series, how easily could another writer jump in and finish what they started? For that matter, how easily would fans accept it if they did?

 

J.D. Salinger was so personally entwined with Holden Caulfield that he was as or more protective of him than his own children. While he was alive, he successfully managed to block the North American publication of a so-called sequel to Catcher in the Rye. He vehemently refused all pleas to adapt the book to film because in his mind, nobody but him could be that character (and he was too old to play him). I have no doubt that he’ll roll over in his grave when the book enters public domain and the character is fair game. 

 

As for Flemming, Doyle, Ludlum, or Larsson, would they be happy to know that their characters live on through these other writers, or would they be disappointed in what they have become? It’s hard to say what they would have thought, but as long as readers are still interested, their characters can continue indefinitely. 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, 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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Lately I’ve been in a reading rut. Just by fluke, I’ve read a number of books recently that I was either neutral about or vehemently disliked. Some of those books were for evaluation as part of one of my committees. While I always approach these review titles with an open mind, it just happens some rounds that the books fall flat and I struggle to find anything that is noteworthy let alone worth a starred review.

 

Others of those titles were books of my own choosing by authors I have liked in the past, and those are the most disappointing. One of these authors traditionally writes romances but ventured into cozy mystery territory. I’ve read a number of the author’s romances and loved them, and a couple of them rank among my favourite books. I’m not typically a cozy mystery reader, but since it was by someone I like, I was willing to give it a shot. It took me about two chapters to solve the mystery, I felt nothing for any of the central characters and didn’t really buy into the romance. To make matters worse, I thought the writing was terrible, and that’s just something I have little tolerance for as I get older.

 

The second is a book by a popular mystery writer whom I’ve read on and off since high school and I’m also finding it disappointing. The plot feels clichéd and forced, the characters are weak, and the writing is also poor. My impression is that the author was attempting to use a topical subject to frame the mystery, but it’s one that’s totally overdone and isn’t handled as well as about 20 others with similar plots.

 

After coming off of so many 'meh' reads in a row, I started questioning my taste in books. Were the writers always that bad, or has the pressure to produce annually (or even bi-annually) caused a drop off in quality. I also wonder if it’s me and if I’m being too picky. Is it possible that I’m judging the books on an overall distaste for the particular genre or subject? Maybe, but if they’d been really good, I’d be holding them up as amazing books that are strong examples of the genre.

 

So how do you get out of a reading rut? In my case, I picked a book at random that I’ve heard a lot of great things about by an author I’ve never read before. When you have a lot of books qued up, sometimes it’s fun to open one without too much thought and take a chance. The worst that happens is I don’t enjoy it, and I am still looking for that great read that will shake me out of my reading rut. The best is that it turns out to be a great book and it’s exactly the medicine I need to get the bad taste of the last few disappointments out of my mouth. Luckily, The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff was the latter, and I loved it!

 

The novel is a dual story about Grace, a young war widow who finds a suitcase in Grand Central Station one day on her way to work, and that of Eleanor Trigg, the suitcase’s owner, who was tragically hit by a car earlier that morning and killed outside the station.  Eleanor helped establish and run the women’s unit of the SOE, training them as radio operators and sending them into occupied Europe to help the allies.  When someone betrays them, the field agents disappear, and are presumed to have been killed by the Nazis. At the end of the war, all but twelve of the women were accounted for, and Eleanor is determined to not only find out what happened to those lost girls, but also to find out who betrayed them. Through the photographs, Grace’s and Eleanor’s stories become intertwined, and Grace becomes desparate to finish what Eleanor started and bring closure to Eleanor, the lost girls of Paris and herself.

 

Jenoff’s book is pretty far from my usual type of read. It’s not that I don’t like historical fiction, but a lot of it tends to be either too didactic or too depressing for me (historical romance is something entirely different, and I do enjoy that quite a bit.)  It’s also a book that’s doing a pretty good job of selling itself, and since bestsellers don’t need my help to end up on library shelves, I only read them when they’re by an author I know and like.

 

That’s why this novel was such a pleasant surprise for me. Among a slew of WWII era titles, Jenoff brilliantly covered an aspect of the war that I knew nothing about and found fascinating, created extremely compelling characters, and seamlessly wove together the stories of Grace (the girl who found the suitcase), Eleanor, and Marie - one of the radio operators. I couldn’t put this book down and I stayed up way too late one night trying to finish it. I can’t remember the last time I did that, so I promise you that coming from me, that’s high praise!

 

If you’re thinking that this isn’t something you’d usually read and isn’t really your style, I urge you to reconsider. The writing is excellent, the story is engaging, and you’ll be as caught up in it as I was. I don’t know what my next read will be, but I think I try the experiment again and choose  a random book that I wouldn’t normally read. Who knows what other gem I might discover!

 

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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