Blog - Library Services Centre

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Yours, Fictionally

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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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June is Pride month. And every library deserves to have the best and latest materials created by, celebrating, and helping to create more allies of the LGBTQ+ community. This week's blog is a combination of efforts from our Selectors, who keep an eye out all year long for new material, and thankfully the amount being made is increasing every year. There are, happily, too many to talk about. We can however, bring attention to a few.

 

A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities, by Mady G., J.R. Zuckerberg, 

is a great starting point for anyone curious about queer and trans life, and helpful for those already on their own journeys! In this quick and easy guide covers topics like sexuality, gender identity, coming out, and navigating relationships through informative comics, interviews, and worksheets.

 

In graphic novels, we can recommend Bloom by Kevin Panetta. Ari meets Hector while interviewing him as his replacement at his family bakery. As they get to know each other, and as Ari's desire to get away from the life he knew overlaps with Hector entering his world, love rises like a fresh loaf of bread. Meat & Bone, by Kat Verhoeven, is set in Toronto, and follows three young women dealing with the modern world. One roommate wrestles with severe body image issues, another is trying to figure out how to navigate her new polyamorous relationships, while the third practically moves into the gym to work out her own problems.

 

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki follows Frederica Riley as she dates, then breaks up with, then dates again her high school dream girl Laura Dean. Except Laura might not be the best influence on Frederica. Kiss Number 8 by Colleen Venable is about Mads, who is so caught up in her personal discovery that she is less interested in Adam than she is in Cat, that she fails to notice that her dad is hiding something big--so big it could tear her family apart.  Finally, On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden takes place in two different time periods. In one, a ragtag crew travels to the deepest reaches of space, rebuilding beautiful, broken structures to discover the past. In the other, two girls meet in boarding school and fall deeply in love, only to learn the pain of loss.

 

In Children's, we start with It Feels Good To Be Yourself, a picture book by One Bad Mother podcast co-host Theresa Thorn. Inspired by her own young child's transition, this book simply helps young kids understand that some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither, or somewhere in between. In any case, they are people who are being themselves, and everyone is happiest when they are who they really are, and not who others say they have to be.

 

Michael Joosten has a pair of board books out, My Two Moms and Me and My Two Dads and Me, which follow happy, diverse LGBTQ+ families as they go about their daily - sometimes busy - routines. 

 

Jacob's Room to Choose by Sarah Hoffman is the sequel to Jacob's New Dress. In this encouraging story about gender expression, Jacob and his classmate Sarah both get chased out of the bathrooms they try to use because they don't dress the "usual" way. This starts a conversation at the school the many forms of gender expression and how to treat each other with respect.

 

For Young Adults, Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson is about technology, mental health, identity, and expression. Haley and Martin feel like they are the only ones who really get each other. Martin is willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. The problem is, they don't really know each other, only speaking over text, and its possible they are becoming addicted to each other.

 

In Non Fiction, Pride: The LGBTQ+ Rights Movement by Christopher Measom is the most in-depth visual tribute to the American LGBTQ+ pride movement ever created. Staring in post WWI bohemian subculture and marching up to the present day push for gender rights, the book features rare photographs, artwork, profiles of movement icons and heroes, activist speeches, and excepts from news reports and literary works. 

 

Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution by Rob Sanders is written to introduce children to the true story of the birth of the modern gay right movement during the Stonewall Riot on June 28, 1969, in time for the 50th anniversary. The police raid that night, the riot that followed, and the empowerment it inspired in members of the LGBTQ+ community sparked their demanding of equal rights.

 

And there is Antoni in the Kitchen. This cookbook comes from Montreal chef and one of the stars of of the Netflix smash hit Queer Eye, Antoni Porowski, and is all about the way to find success in the kitchen with stylishly accessible, few-ingredient recipes.

 

In fiction, there are several Canadian offerings. Song of the Sea by Jenn Alexander follows Lisa Whelan moving to her family's sea-side home to get over the grief of losing her newborn son. She's not expecting to meet anyone, and is caught off guard by the attraction she feels for Rachel, the part-owner of a local restaurant.

 

Even Weirder Than Before is the debut novel from Newfoundland author Susie Taylor. Daisy’s simple life is thrown into cataclysm when her father suddenly leaves and her mother breaks down. Add to that her increasingly confused feelings towards girls, and the drama of past boys that keep coming in with the tide. Our rep Michael Clark saw Susie read an except from the book recently, and it is a deeply personal, deeply funny book, which is garnering a lot of attention.

 

If, Then by Kate Hope Day is an unexpected character study. A quiet Oregon suburb is disrupted by the rumbling of a distant, dormant volcano. At the same time, people begin seeing visions of their lives - not as they are, but as they might be. Samara sees the mother she just lost alive and well. Cass, a new mother struggling with her life choices, sees a different life for herself. Mark sees a wild, homeless creature with his eyes. And Ginny sees a life of domestic bliss with her female coworker. What do these visions mean, and how will they change the lives of everyone in the shadow of the mountain?

 

This is but a scant few of the LGBTQ+ items available through LSC. Slists are available at numbers 41996, 41997, and 41998, and our selectors would be happy to discuss themes and put lists together for you, upon request. Please feel free to reach out to Rachel, Sara, Stef, and Angela for more.

 

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 Pride.

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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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Who among us wouldn't prefer to be walking the cobbles of Dublin, letting a day slip by in the fields of Cork, or getting in a pedantic argument about the occurances of snakes on the Emerald Isle? As much or more a sign of spring than waiting for groundhogs to make wild pronouncements about weather patterns, St. Patrick's Day is that time of year when we can all embrace a little Irish in ourselves. So, we went around the office and asked everyone, what are some of your favourite Irish authors, stories, and fictions?

 

Lesley H - Of course, the quintessential modern classic of Irish literature is Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt’s memoir following his family’s forced emigration from America back to Ireland. The book was an instant hit twenty three years ago, and was followed by a film adapation and two sequels: 'Tis and Teacher Man

 

 

Lee-Ann B. - The trinity of Great Irish authors are, of course, James Joyces, WB Yeats, and Jonathan Swift. If you are looking for the classics, these are the authors to look at first.

 

Linda F - I’d suggest Days Without End by Sebastian Barry.  It seems weird for this Irish author to be writing about the American West, but the book is wonderfully written, just so full of vigor and life despite the horrors it depicts (maybe sustained by the humanity of the narrator).  A short, muscular, intense book that seems very American in spite of its Irish author.

 

Carrie P - Dublin Murder Squad is a fantastic series, each focusing on a different detective in the Dublin police homicide division. And, written by an American living in Dublin. Brooklyn is an arresting period piece that was also adapated into a film. And anything by the master of wit, Oscar Wilde.

 

Karrie V - My family is very Irish, so I have grown up watching Irish movies. My favourite movie of all time is Darby O’Gill and the Little People, where Sean Connery sings! Some others that are good include Philomena, Quiet Man, Far and Away, HungerSecret of KellsMy Left FootWind That Shakes the Barley, In the Name of the Father, and Commitments.

 

Rachel S - I read Maeve Binchy for years- one of my favourites being Circle of Friends. And of course, the author of our favourite vampire Dracula - Bram Stoker

 

Nancy B - Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb, in which Eve Dallas' Irish vacation is disturbed by a murder.

 

Kirk O - For a historical fiction book about Ireland, I love Trinity by Leon Uris. Uris always has strong characters around pivotal historic events and this book delivers that as well.  From the Irish famine to the uprising in 1916, this tells the story of Conor Larkin and his family.  It was so good I have actually read it three times over the years, making a trinity myself.  And if anyone is planning a visit, as I did in 2018, and loves Guinness as I do, the tour of the St. James’s Gate Brewery was a highlight. A few pints overlooking Dublin is a great way to spend an hour. Perhaps reading Pint-Sized Ireland: In Search of the Perfect Guinness by Evan McHugh, an Australian travelling Ireland in search of a perfect pint.  

 

Michael C - I'm going to go way off the beaten path here and recommending Grabbers, a comedy horror film in which an idyllic remote Irish island is invaded by enormous bloodsucking tentacled aliens. I'm also going to recommend the works of director/playwrite Martin McDonagh; specifically the mobster dramedy In Bruges. Also his brother John Michael McDonagh's film Calvary .

 

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.

 

Sláinte mhaith!

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If you asked most people, the one thing they’d wish for other than more money is time. Regardless of your position in life, time is finite. There is only so much time in one lifetime and we always wish for more of it. From the time we are children asking to stay up for just five more minutes, there is never enough of it.

 

The exploration of mortality is a popular subjects in fiction, and was a central theme in the ancient Greek myths and epics, filled with immortal gods and demigods. In the 19th century, Bram Stoker gave us the immortal vampire Dracula, and Oscar Wilde examined the quest for eternal life in his gothic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian sells his soul in exchange for eternal youth and his portrait, not Dorian will age. Through his portrait, he comes face-to-face with his true self, and everything cumulates in a brutal but fitting end.

 

These themes have also extended to several recently published novels, and examine immortality from a more philosophical perspective. One of my favourite reads this year is the sleeper hit How to Stop Time  by Matt Haig. Thanks to a rare condition that has drastically slowed the aging process, 41-year-old Tom Hazzard has been alive for 439 years. While he could die from a gunshot wound, he’ll never get sick, and he could be a thousand years old by the time he could die of old age. 

 

This condition also means he has to start his life over somewhere else every 8 years or so when the people around him notice that he isn’t getting any older. He's also not allowed to fall in love. After all, forming attachments means he risks exposing not only his secret, but his heart.

 

One of the things I loved most about this novel was the way Haig explored the positives and negatives of being immortal. On the upside, he pretty much has all the time in the world to explore the things that interest him. How many times have you wished you had enough time to learn a particular skill or to pursue a hobby? Tom loves music, and having unlimited time has allowed him to master 30 instruments.

 

Tom has also lived history we can only read about. From the plague to wars to massive generational shifts, he’s seen it all. He’s played with Shakespeare, dined with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, sailed with Captain Cook, and encountered countless other popular figures in history. Fittingly, Tom’s current job is a history teacher, and not surprisingly, he’s pretty good at it.

 

There are also some lighter moments in the book such as when Tom muses over what birthdate to put on his Facebook profile, realizing that 1581 just isn’t going to work.

 

On the down side, being a literal old soul makes him an outsider and has effectively forced him into a permanent exile.  Anybody he once loved is gone, and he can’t get close to anyone because they would eventually realize that he didn’t look a day older and risk exposing him. Aside from the fact that most people would think he was certifiable if he tried to explain, there is a genuine danger that he could be turned into a lab rat and exploited by those who would try to profit from his condition.

 

The book really made me wonder if given the choice, would I choose to live forever. While I definitely wouldn’t want to be a child or a teenager forever, I wouldn’t mind being frozen in my 30s or 40s. Having all the time in the world to do everything I want to do (like making a substantial dent in my to-be-read pile) is an attractive prospect. I’d also love the opportunity to see how the world will evolve over the next several centuries, but not if I can’t share it with anybody. Not keeping any friends or putting down roots somewhere would be a deal breaker, as wood having to say so many goodbyes.

 

A new book called Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return by Debut author Martin Riker takes a different take on immortality, and it’s getting a lot of buzz.

 

The book starts with Samuel Johnson waking up in the body of the man who killed him. Unable to die, when one body expires he jumps to another, all the while searching for a way to get back to the son he left behind.

 

This idea fascinates me and it seems like a much more interesting and less lonely way to live forever. Sure, there’s always a possibility of getting stuck in a crappy body, but imagine being able to literally view the world through somebody else’s eyes! He’d also probably be the only person who could say he’s lived a thousand lives and mean it, which also has its perks. Comical and philosophical, it is a unique take on an old theme, and is worth checking out!

 

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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The adaptation of books to a movie or television format is tricky. On the one hand, there is an expectation that the movie should and will follow the original source material closely. On the other hand, a visual medium is a very different animal than print, and for a variety of reasons, it’s impossible to literally adapt a book word-for-word to film or television.

 

One of the biggest challenges of course is time. While there are no set limitations for the length of a book, there absolutely are for screenplays. The average movie runs two hours or less, and a 400+ page book isn’t going to fit in its entirety.  Movies force a streamlining that often results in sub-plots and minor characters being cut.

 

Another challenge of books-to-movies is finding a way to capture the interior monologue of a character, particularly when the story is told from that person’s point of view. Limited voice-over narration is great, but nobody wants to watch two hours of narration. That’s called an audio book- not a movie. This was a particular challenge for the TV adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Under the Dome, which had a lot of characters who spent a lot of time thinking. In the end, some characters were combined or left out, action was stretched out over months and not weeks, and the writers had to find ways to transform thoughts into something more visual.

 

Ready Player One took eight years to make it to the screenThe novel primarily takes place in a virtual reality world, and contains numerous pop cultural references to movies and video games (including to director Steven Spielberg’s own films) which had to be cut. Then there was the added difficulty of finding a way to faithfully recreate the book’s numerous locations. Trying to build sets for all of them would have astronomically expensive, but thanks to computer generated backgrounds and motion capture technology, they made it work. 

 

The 2018 Rom-Com Crazy Rich Asians is an example of a film that managed to stay loyal to the text, but author Kevin Kwan admits that the books delve much deeper into the world of the movie and the characters. There were also a few character changes, pared down plot points, and some added scenes that weren’t in the book, but all were done with Kwan’s approval.

 

Ann Patchett’s novel Bel Canto had a much longer path to the big screen (16 years), but the recent adaptation starring Julianne Moore stays pretty true to the book and has the benefit of an all-star cast and enduring source material.

 

I have a love/hate relationship with adaptations.  An adaptation can either be great (ie Harry Potter), or awful (such as the 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower). Adapting a book for screen is no easy feat, but if the changes are so drastic that it has nothing in common with the book except for the name, it’s disappointing for both the writer and fans of the novel.

 

Then there’s the question of whether to read the book before or after seeing the movie. If I read the book first, I go into the movie with complete familiarity with the story and my own vision of what the character should look like. If the casting is too far off (as many felt was the case with Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher) or if the story veers too far from the source material, it’s difficult for me to enjoy the film as its own medium.

 

Seeing the movie before I read the book allows me to enjoy the movie as a movie, but once I’ve seen the movie, I’m reading the book with the movie in mind, and I'm constantly comparing the two. At the same time, seeing a movie adaptation first can inspire me to read the book, and in that case, I've been introduced to a great book I might never have read otherwise. 

 

Once in a very rare while, a movie adaptation is considered to be equal to or better than the books. Many people view the movie version of The Princess Bride as being as good as or better than the book, despite being different from the book. William Goldman was an accomplished screenwriter and adapted his own work for the screen which helps, but it’s a perfect example of both formats being enjoyed and appreciated on their own merits.

 

I also much prefer the Swedish film version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to the book. I felt that the movie did a great job of paring the story down to the most important elements and had better pacing then the book. The novel is nearly 500 pages long, and it definitely could have been similary streamlined. 

 

This coming year, we can look forward to adaptions of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette, A.J. Finn’s Woman in the Window and more, and I know I will be watching every single one of them with a critical eye and comparing them to the book.  

 

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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The Holocaust is one of the most horrifying and devastating events in history, and while those who experienced it firsthand are fewer each year, Holocaust Education week is held annually in November and International Holocaust Remembrance Day occurs every January 27th  to ensure that the history doesn’t die with the last survivor.

 

Thankfully, as sales statistics prove, reader interest in the Holocaust endures for both modern and classic books on the subject. Elie Weisel’s memoir Night, chronicling his experience surviving Nazi death camps as a teenager is one such example.   

 

Since the original Yiddish publication in 1956, it has been translated into more than 30 languages, was an Oprah book club pick in 2006, and is widely studied in schools around the world. Today, it remains a fixture on the Publisher’s Weekly Biography/Autobiography bestseller list, and tops Amazon’s Jewish Biographies list. According to Publisher’s Weekly, the book has sold 209k copies as of November, 2018, and the book has sold more than 10 million copies overall.

 

My first introduction to the Holocaust was through Anne Frank's Diary. I still remember the first time I read it. I was around 8 or 9 years old and my teacher assigned it in school. I was way too young to fully grasp everything that Anne was talking about in her diary (particularly the stuff about sexuality), but I did understand the reason that she and her family had to hide and the tragedy of what happened to Anne and her family.  

 

When the movie Schindler’s List released 25 years ago this Christmas, it became a huge box office success, and brought fresh attention to Thomas Keneally’s Booker Prize-winning historical novel of the same name.  Oskar Schindler was a German man who found a way to save 1200 Jewish people from execution by employing them in his factories. It's a story of heroism and courage, and viewers/readers flocked to it. 

 

In recent years, the genre has become so popular that it now has its own category on Amazon and is mainstream in bookstores. From The Book Thief to this year’s hit The Tattooist of Auschwitz, these titles resonate with readers, so what is it about the Holocaust that appeals both to writers and readers?

 

I believe there are a few reasons. One is that the generation who fought in WWII and survived the Holocaust are in their 80s and 90s, and there is a renewed sense of urgency to share their stories before there’s nobody left to tell them.

 

Another is that good historical fiction on any subject allows readers to make connections between the past and the present. For children especially (and adults too), history can be highly abstract and it can be difficult to understand what something that happened so long ago has to do with them. I hated history when I was a kid because my teacher was dry and boring. She had obviously forgotten the most important part of the word history is ‘story”.  Holocaust fiction brings it to life in a way that most textbooks can’t, and makes facts matter.

 

Lastly and most importantly is the emotional connection. If there wasn’t someone to care about or root for, why would anyone keep reading? These characters persevere against all odds and in one way or another are heroes.

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is based on interviews that Morris had with the real Lale Sokolov in the three years before he passed away at age 90.

 

What makes this book successful is not just that it’s a Holocaust story, but a human story. It is a story of triumph, hope, resilience and love. Lale didn’t want to be the tattooist. It was a terrible task but one that he knew offered him a layer of protection and a chance to survive. When Lale inked the tattoo on Gita’s arm at Auschwitz, it was love at first sight, and he vowed to survive the camp and to marry her when the war was over.

 

Lale's story is like a beautiful flower in a barren wasteland. The fact that he and Gita survived at all is miraculous, let alone falling in love and finding each other after the war. It's about incredible courage, and love triumphing against all odds.

 

Readers want Lale and Gita to survive. They hope for the happily ever after. He is a hero for finding ways to help others when many wouldn’t, and for finding ways to give them hope. Gita was shipped out of the camp before he was, and all he knew was her name, not where she was from. At this point, it seemed like hope was lost and he’d never see her again, yet somehow they found each other. The couple was married in 1945, and were together until Gita’s death in 2003.

 

Some reviewers have criticized the book for focusing too heavily on the romance and of glossing over the horrors of the Holocaust, but I disagree.  In an age where the news is so bleak, we need hope. We need to be uplifted and to be reminded that even when things seem their darkest, something good can still exist.

 

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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Jodi Picoult got me my first job in this industry. Not literally, but indirectly.

 

Let’s start at the beginning. I have always been a voracious reader. My parents used to tease me that I was born with a book in my hand, and I learned to read at an early age. I was also that person who would not only hang out in a bookstore for fun, but couldn’t resist recommending something to people who were in the store. I also have a compulsion to fix shelves, but that’s another story.

 

Many years ago, when I was not that long out of university and still wondering what I could do with a degree in English literature, I saw a posting for a job fair at Indigo. Seeing as my philosophy was to buy 5 new books for every book I finished, so I decided to take a chance. I mean, I had to do something for money, and being paid to be around books all day seemed like a really good idea.

 

Fast forward to interview day. While I was waiting, for the manager to come out, I was drawn to a display table near the front of the store. On the table was The Pact and the summary caught my attention. Without even thinking about what I was doing, I opened it up to the first page and started reading. I was hooked!

 

I was about one chapter in when I was interrupted by the manager. She asked me what I was reading, and when I showed her, she told me that she was also reading that same book. I’d never met her before and I certainly didn’t know that this was her current read. I took it as a sign that I was meant to get that job. I also bought the book before I left the store because now that I’d started it, I had to keep reading!

 

If you’ve never read the book, the story follows the impact of the apparent murder-suicide pact between two teens on their families. What was happening in their lives that they felt driven to do something so drastic? How do the families reconcile this act with the kids they thought they knew? Twenty-years after its original publication, it’s still as relevant as it was then.

 

That experience not only launched my career in books, but has also made me a loyal reader of this author.  What I like most about her is her ability to address contemporary issues in accessible and interesting manner, and to make you think. How do you define normal when your Asperger’s child is accused of murder? If you are the grandchild of Holocaust survivors and your neighbor turned out to be a former Nazi SS guard, could you forgive him? What would it feel like to be a nurse and be told not to treat a patient because of the colour of your skin?

 

Her new title, A Spark of Light  asks readers to consider why a man would enter a women’s reproductive health services clinic, open fire, and take hostages. It is as thought-provoking and relevant as her previous books andI couldn't put it down. 

 

In honor of her new book, and new mass-market editions of her older titles, I thought I’d recommend  three other backlist titles that I most enjoyed.

 

I don’t think you can properly discuss this author without referencing My Sister’s Keeper. Of all her books, this is the most well-known, and probably her most popular. The book was made into a movie back in 2009 and really put her on the map. The story follows two sisters- Anna and Kate, and the moral conflict that comes with Anna’s family’s expectation that she be a permanent bone marrow donor for Kate, and Anna’s desire to lead a normal teenage life- even if it means her sister could die. Picoult is careful to make sure the reader can understand all the points of view, and you come out of it realizing that there are no simple choices.

                                                                                         

Sadly, school-shootings continue to be in the news and Nineteen Minutes, published a decade ago,  looks at bullying in high school, mental health, school violence, and how we can prevent incidents like this from happening. While she never tries to justify the shooter’s actions, she does look at some of the reasons why he did what he did, and looks at the impact of those horrific 19 minutes on not only the teens, but everybody in the town. This is a popular title in high school classrooms as well, and it’s heart-wrenching and riveting.

 

Leaving Time is a book that made me want to immediately go to the library and learn more about elephants. Unlike some of her more issue based books, it’s a story of a daughter’s grief for the mother that seemingly abandoned her years ago, and her determination to find out what really happened to her all those years ago. It’s amazing how many parallels there are between elephants and humans (did you know elephant’s grieve?), and it explores loss, grief, and the complex relationship between mothers and daughters.

 

There are countless other books by Jodi Picoult that I could put on this list, and a corresponding selection list of in-print Jodi Picoult titles is available on our website if you need to replace or fill in missing titles in your library.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. 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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According to Wikipedia, there are over thirty holidays, observances, and traditions celebrated world wide in the month of December. Some as ancient as Shabe Yaldā and some as new as Festivus. Most of them celebrating, in some manner, the shortest day of the year, and the turn away from the Bleak Midwinter. One holiday in particular nearly lapsed into obscurity until, a century and a half ago, it was rescued by some ghosts.

 

Last year saw the release of the film the Man Who Invented Christmas, telling the story of Charles Dickens and the mutual life support his A Christmas Carol gave to both himself and a fledgling celebration that had long since been dwarfed by Boxing Day. By the beginning of the 1800s, Christmas had already had a turbulent history. The Romans had celebrated Saturnalia at this time, but didn’t have to contend with snow. As they expanded into Northern Europe, they encountered the Germanic Yule, and other “pagan” celebrations happening at the same time, and merged those traditions with their own.

 

Time, as it likes to do, moved on, and Christmas largely remained an excuse to drink and be merry, with emphasis on the drinking. The rowdier elements of the pagan traditions did not sit well with the English Puritans, and Christmas was banned in England by Oliver Cromwell in 1645. It was restored along with the monarchy a few years later, but the wind was taken out of its sails, and for the next two hundred years the celebration in the UK was a much more subdued, private affair. No decorations, no presents, no carols or fanfare.  Just a goose, if you were lucky.

 

In 1819, Washington Irving (of Sleepy Hollow fame) wrote an account of Christmas celebrations, which were almost certainly fabricated. Irving was a notorious liar, who is also responsible for the myth that people before Columbus thought the Earth was flat. But Irving’s idea of a seasonal gathering which brought together people of all status, to celebrate a new year and enjoy the customs of the ancients caught the imagination.

 

In 1823, Clement Moore published The Night Before Christmas in New York (with its long Germanic and Dutch heritage, as well as healthy immigrant population), fully bringing the Germanic and Nordic traditions of St. Nicholas into the Christmas story. A few years later, back in the UK, a young Queen Victoria married the German Prince Albert and with him came more of the German traditions, still heavily influenced by the ancient pagan practices. Mistletoe, Holly wreaths, candles and carols came to England with the Prince. In 1841, a tree was decorated in Windsor Castle for the first time, illustrations of which made their way across England and over the ocean, cementing the Christmas tree as the centerpiece of the holiday home.

 

For more on the history of Christmas, and how it evolved over the centuries, check out the gorgeously photographed Christmas: from solstice to Santa by Nikki Tate.

 

Then came the ghosts. The Victorians were no strangers to ghost stories; they permeated much of their literature. As the Victorian age marched on and the Scientific Revolution began to take hold, spiritualism spiked. Charles Dickens wasn’t a spiritualist, but he did think of ghosts often. Not as the white sheeted frights of horror, but as the memories of those who have passed, especially in the last year (this being the Victorian era, and death common and indiscriminant). It was his belief that there was no better time of the year to consider the lessons ghosts might teach us then in the deep of the winter, when the trees were bare and the air cold, and candles danced shadows through long nights.

 

Having suffered a series of commercial failures, Dickens was desperate for a hit. But Christmas was a long shot at best. A holiday people barely made mention of was hardly the foundation for a best seller. His publishers were nervous, but Dickens had his ghosts to guide him, and wrote his Christmas Carol not based on any religious practice but on a common human decency. That Christmas was a time for families to come together, to celebrate and rejoice in their company, and toast the year to come. Most of this was – again – largely fictional. It made for a good story but shared little in common with a reader’s actual experience.

 

It struck a chord though. Upon publication, it was an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Readers saw in Dicken’s morality tale not what they had, but what they wanted and could have. Christmas as an idea exploded across the British Empire, heralded by ghostly warnings and promises. Ghosts never really took off as a Christmas staple – they lost their moral compass and became spooks over on Halloween. Thanks to Dickens though, they’ve never really left Christmas either. Each year more writers are inspired to tell their own paranormal tales - such as in the short story colletion Ghosts of Christmas Past, including the works of Neil Gaiman - usually featuring spirits seeking to put right what once went wrong.

 

This year we’ve put together two lists (40777 for fiction and 40653 for everything else) of recent and popular material the celebrate the holiday season. With more than thirty to choose from, there is surely something for everyone in the coming month. And if you’d rather skip them all, there are still roaring fires, hot cocoa, and thoughts of tropical beaches you’d rather be on to keep you warm. Whatever and however you celebrate being halfway out of the dark, if you happen to meet any ghosts along the way, mind what they tell you. They might be friendlier than they look.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you 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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