Blog - Library Services Centre

There is something comforting about reading a series. They afford us the opportunity to constantly revisit familiar characters and locations. Through our favourite characters we solve mysteries, travel through time, discover lost relics, etc... without ever leaving our homes, and there are seemingly endless stories to enjoy.

 

The Sentinel by Lee Child and Andrew Child / two highways crossing in an x.

Characters such as Jack Reacher, Alex Cross, Stephanie Plum or Stone Barrington continue to be popular with readers, and the authors dutifully come up with new stories to tell about them. So what actually constitutes a series? In broad strokes, it’s any sequence of books with characteristics in common that link them together. Where series become complicated is the different ways that they are organized.

 

A novel sequence set is a series that has themes, characters, or settings in common, but each book has its own title and can stand alone or as part of a series. All of the characters I referred to above are an example of this. Books may make reference to something that happened in a past book, but for the most part, the character changes very little. These can be numbered, or just grouped together like the Harlequin Romances. These make a great casual read because you can pick it up from anywhere and not have missed much. I like to start with the first book because it introduces the character, but it's not necessary.

 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon / a golden crown on a red field.The other type of series is a chronological series such as Song of Ice and Fire or Outlander where the characters go through changes and the books build on past events. A series like this needs to be read in order, and if you miss one, it can be very difficult to catch up.

 

Aside from these traditional series, there are trilogies (three books), books that are one novel split into multiple volumes such as Lord of the Rings, prequels and sequels.

 

The release of the next book in a beloved series is a big deal, especially in the JUV/YA market where the recent Hunger Games prequel and the forthcoming Twilight novel are big news. And should George R.R. Martin ever get around to finishing the next novel in the Game of Thrones series¸ you can only imagine the celebrations that will happen virtually or in person should that be a possibility by the time the book releases.

 

I have a love hate relationship with series. I love them for a few reasons. When an author creates a character or characters I really like, I love having a chance to revisit them in additional books. While there aren’t a lot of novel sequences that I currently follow in print, I do enjoy dipping back into the world of David Baldacci’s Amos Decker or Jude Deveraux’s Montgomery family when I get a chance. In the case of Deveraux, the stories span multiple time periods and generations, and I love reading about the Montgomery family past and present.

 

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory / a black woman and a white man hiding behind a menu sitting at a table while fireworks occur behind them I've also really enjoyed the romance novels of Jasmine Guillory who has written several loosley linked books featuring the same characters. Each book tells a different character's story, and only lightly reference events from the other books so they don't have to be read in order. 

 

My love for chronological series is less about the characters and more about the ongoing story. Sometimes there’s just too much story to tell in just one book, and the series format allows the author to tell a more detailed story from beginning to end. On the other hand, novel sequences can continue for as long as the author feels like writing about them which could be 10 books, 50, or 100. One such author has openly admitted his wish to kill off his character and end the series, but don’t worry—he’s not actually going to do it.

 

Chronological series are not without their frustrations, and this is where the hate part comes in. There can be long waits in between books (again, George R.R. Martin we’re looking at you), and unless you have the memory of an elephant, if too much time passes, you run the risk of forgetting what was going on unless you reread the previous books. Finding time to read the entire series can also be difficult, and in the case of both types of series, keeping track of all of the titles in a long-running series requires time and organization. 

 

When I was a kid, my grandmother lived around the corner from a Coles and she would keep a list in her purse of the next title in whatever series I was reading so she could pick it up when it came out. This was a great pre-tech way to keep up, but if she lost the paper, she’d have to wait until we were both at home so I could check my shelves and help her start the list over again.

 

Thanks to book tracking apps such as Goodreads and My Book Pledge, it’s a lot easier to keep track of which series titles I have or haven’t read, but it’s still something I have to check.

 

When it comes to chronological series, my preference is to binge read the whole series once all of the books are released. This is definitely easier to do when there aren’t ten 500 page books, but if I’m enjoying it and want to read the next book, I love being able to pick up the next one and continue without interruption. It’s torturous enough waiting a few months for the next season of an ongoing TV drama after a cliff-hanger ending, let alone waiting a year or two for the next book.

 

If a new series is generating a lot of buzz I might be compelled to pick it up and start it, but I’ve left a lot of series unfinished because I never get back to it after the second or third book. I always intend to, but there are just so many other books to read!

 

Whether you read them slowly and one at a time, or quickly and all at once, series get us excited and keep us engaged with reading, and what more can you ask for from a book?

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the LSC Weekly Update, 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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In recent years, the lines between young adult and adult fiction have grown increasingly blurry, and are growing blurrier still thanks to a number of bestselling adult authors such as Kelley Armstrong, Victoria Schwab, Meg Cabot, James Patterson, and Carl Hiaasen who successfully cross back and forth between categories.

 

In 2019/2020, a number of YA authors released their first adult books, hoping that their existing and maturing audience would follow them into the adult space, or better yet, that they’d find a new audience with adults who are unfamiliar with their YA works. But how much of a gamble is it? Judging by the estimated print runs for these new novels, their publishers believed it was a solid one.  

 

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo / a snake slithering through the titleLeigh Bardugo, a wildly successful YA author delivered her first adult novel Ninth House  to much excitement.  Bardugo is no stranger to success. Her books have collectively sold more than 3 million copies in English, have been translated into 41 languages, and are being made into a Netflix series. Ninth House opeed with a 350,000 copy print run, and a ton of marketing behind it.

 

To put it in perspective, other than high performing established authors such as J.D. Robb who see 750,000 copy print runs for their works, a popular author with this publisher might receive a 100,000-150,000 copy print run, while a debut or midlist author would be substantially less. Bardugo’s novel has received 4 starred reviews from prestigious book review journals such as Booklist, and Kirkus, and Stephen King has blurbed the book calling it the “best fantasy novel” he’s read in years. The title also received tremendous buzz on social media, and has appeared on a number of must-read lists.

 

Also from this past year was Stephen Chbosky’s first book since he published the highly Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky / a figure in the far distance walking into a beam of lightacclaimed young adult novel Perks of Being a Wallflower twenty years ago. Imaginary Friend is a horror novel with a child protagonist, and has been dubbed an homage to Stephen King. The book was chosen as one of 2019 best books by People, EW, LitHub, and more, and had blurbs from Emma Watson, Joe Hill, and John Green to boot.

 

2020 saw two even more highly anticipated adult debuts from Divergent author Veronica Roth, and Throne of Glass author Sarah Maas.

 

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth / vines twisted around the letters of the titleRoth’s novel The Chosen Ones released in April 2020, and of course, her fans were excited. While YA tends to examine what happens when teens take on adult burdens, Roth’s adult novel examines what happens to those teens once they become adults. The novel follows a group of twenty somethings ten years after saving the world in their teens who are pulled into a brand new quest when they discover the defeated Dark One was never really defeated at all, and still exists. 

 

Mass’s novel House of Earth and Blood is the first book in her new “Crescent City” trilogy, and is another superlead title for Raincoast with a 250,000 copy print run. Unlike her previous works, the novel is set in a modern world with technology similar to ours, but with all of the fantasy and romance elements thatreaders love about her other books. Since Maas’s YA novels already tend to feature more adult characters, writing an actual adult book isn’t a huge stretch, and her audience is sure to follow.

 

Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas / a young woman's face framed by a crescent moon, while a crow takes flight in the foregroundSo why are so many of these YA authors crossing over into the adult space? Partly because young adults aren’t the only ones who read them.  An estimated 55% of YA readers are adults, so it’s not a leap to think that they would get excited about an adult book written by one of these authors. YA has also become increasingly dark and sophisticated, and there is a lot more crossover than there used to be.

 

From the author perspective, writing for an adult audience isn’t that different than the YA stories they already tell. Yes, it does allow them a bit more freedom in terms of themes, but they are still telling a story that they want to tell with their own voices. As Maas explained in an interview with PW, writing an adult book wasn’t a conscious choice. It was simply a case of certain characters and ideas popping into her head, and her own realization that the characters were in their twenties and not teenagers.

 

Being one of those adults who still unashamedly enjoys YA novels, all four of these books were definitely in my reading pile last year, and as a trend I look forward to waht comes next!

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, on YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu.

 

In 2021, we will be transitioning the Green Memo into the LSC Weekly Update, delivered via MailChimp. If you want to continue to receive our weekly newsletter, and other notifications and updates, please take a second to update your profile.

 

Happy Reading!

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For me, there are few things more soothing than getting lost in a good book and drinking an enormous cup of coffee. So when you find yourself moving to a new city, like I have just done (in the middle of a pandemic, no less‽) I find that reaching for an old favorite and returning to a familiar time and place within a story can be really comforting.

 

This is Where You Belong by Melody WarnickThis Is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick is one of the many titles I will be picking to read over the next month or so. There is a ton of non-fiction out there to support all the feelings that come with moving to a new place. This Is Where You Belong looks at what makes people attached to a place, and what makes somewhere feel like home. It also gives some insight into how you can embrace that “I’m not happy here” feeling that sometimes accompanies a move, and turn that into “I never want to leave!” Along the same lines is Love Where You Live: How to Live Sent in the Place You Call Home by Shauna Pilgreen.

 

Braving the Wilderness by Brene BrownBrené Brown is wise in a most significant way, and since I’m such a huge fan of self-improvement books, I seek hers out over and over again, including Braving the Wilderness. As a research professor who studies courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, she believes that these emotions shape the way we interact with the world and each other. Packing up your life and moving to a city you’ve never been to before, all while starting a new job definitely takes courage. Her flair for storytelling, and sharing her own most vulnerable moments makes it easy to relate and in turn find our own strength to be vulnerable with others. I will definitely be reading this one again for some of Brené’s soulful advice.

 

My New Home by Marta AltesJust like me, children may benefit from a story to help understand tough topics or new emotions. If I think moving away from friends and family is scary, I can only imagine what that would be like for a kid who has only known one place. Luckily there are a ton of books out there about leaving home for a new one. There are so many fantastic titles to choose from but a few of my favorites are My New Home by Marta AltesAlexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean it) Going to Move by Judith Viorst, Bella and Stella Come Home by Anika A. Denise, and Kiss Goodbye by Audrey Penn. And I just know there’s some brilliant guidance in there that even adults (including myself) could use.

 

As a side note, did you know that Tom Hank moved ten times before he was ten? He credits always being the new kid to his developing his kind, unthreatening persona. And why he’s so good at acting, since with every move he had to slip into a new role.

 

Letters from the Country by Marsha BoultonNow, I didn’t move from the “big city” of Toronto to a rural Ontario farm like Marsha Boulton had, but reading about her struggles with adapting to farm life in Letters from the Country is so heartwarming and entertaining at the same. Documenting her experiences and hilarious mishaps through a series of short essay like entries really makes this book easy to pick up whenever I need a good laugh, or put down when I feel like stepping out my front door to explore. Each season on the farm comes with its own set of unique problems for her to solve, and makes me feel like discovering my fancy wine glasses not surviving the move isn’t the disaster I thought it was.

 

Home Again by Michael KiwanukaAt the end of the day, the song Home Again by Michael Kiwanuka I think sums it up nicely. Just like reading, music evokes emotion in all of us and can bring us comfort during challenging times. Having just taken this exciting step forward and settled into my new place, putting on a favorite album really makes things feel like home. And I think most of us can agree, there’s nothing better than music to make the unpacking go by faster!

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu.

 

In 2021, we will be transitioning the Green Memo into the LSC Weekly Update, delivered via MailChimp. If you want to continue to receive our weekly newsletter, and other notifications and updates, please take a second to update your profile.

 

Stay safe!

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Happy 2021!  Here’s to a better year going forward.  However, the year that was wasn’t all bad, so to celebrate, we asked our staff for their picks of the best books and AV from 2020.

 

In The Quick by Kate Hope Day / an astronaut against a pink backgroundMichael C. in Marketing has both a best book and a best movie.  In the Quick by Kate Hope Day is a sci-fi romance in the vein of The Martian and Station Eleven. June, an ambitious young astronaut, finds fiery romance while searching for her beloved uncle’s lost spacecraft and its crew. The Invisible Man, released all the way back in February, is Michael’s choice for best movie.  Directed by Leigh Wannell and loosely based on the H.G. Wells novel, this sci-fi horror features Elisabeth Moss as a woman trying to escape from her abusive former boyfriend, despite the fact that he’s already dead. Is it her trauma or something else haunting her?

 

Crosshairs by Catherine Hernandez / a burning pile of garbage with a cityscape on the horizonIn Cataloguing, Shannon O. has had a bumper year of reading and has really struggled to narrow down her choices of the best of 2020.  In adult fiction, her best of the best is Crosshairs by Canadian author Catherine Hernandez, a near-future dystopic novel where a queer Black performer and his allies fight against an oppressive regime and its concentration camps. In adult nonfiction, she chose The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole, a Canadian journalist and activist who brings to light the racism and inequality he and other members of minorities struggle with in just one year. 

 

Little Women dvd cover / A close up of Saoirse Ronan, a blonde woman in a blue shirtMoving over to Selection Services, manager Jamie Q. had many picks for just about every category, but narrowed it down to these. In the Half Room by Carson Ellis, a picture fiction book about the half things in the half room. Apartment by Teddy Wayne tells the story of an unnamed narrator who invites a charismatic classmate to live with him, but their living situation puts tension on their friendship. Finally, Little Women, the latest movie version of the classic novel, this one directed by Greta Gerwig and featuring Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh, among others. It was a highlight of her pre-lockdown 2020.

 

Midnight Library by Matt Haig / several orange items, including whales, books, and women, passing through small windows as though weaving in and out of the book coverFiction selector Rachel S. says, for adult fiction novels, she has two top picks: Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman. In Bookish Life, the titular Nina is a happy, book-reading loner – until the father she never knew existed dies and she’s expected to meet all her new family members while dealing with her attraction to her trivia nemesis, Tom. She also recommends Midnight Library by Matt Haig

 

The Barren Grounds by David Robertson / four figures walking through snow. Two are children, one is a human sized squirrel, and one is a human bear. Both animals are dressed as humans.Juvenile selector Sara P. has this to say about her selections: “Anyone who knows me well, knows I have a great dislike of squirrels so for me to pick a book for the Best of 2020 that features a squirrel means it must be an amazing story! The Barren Grounds: Misewa Saga Book 1 by David A Robertson is a must-read Canadian middle grade story that brings Indigenous culture, both past and present together within a fun fantasy world. I recently had the opportunity to read to a group of children and I picked up AAAlligator by Judith Henderson and not only was it super fun to read aloud but the kids absolutely loved it. The sign of a great book is when not a peep is heard while the librarian is reading. A unique twist to demonstrate acceptance and a community coming together to help someone in need.”

 

To round up our staff picks of 2020, Carrie P. in HR chose the album Slow Rush by the excellently-named Tame Impala.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu.

 

In 2021, we will be transitioning the Green Memo into the LSC Weekly Update, delivered via MailChimp. If you want to continue to receive our weekly newsletter, and other notifications and updates, please take a second to update your profile.

 

Happy new year!

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With the winter holidays looking a little different this year for most people, we asked our staff to share some of their favourite winter holiday books, movies, and music. 

 

cover of The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper / children on a snowhill running towards the sunsetJamie Q., Manager of Customer Experience and Selection Services, chose The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Carson Ellis. This juvenile fiction book celebrates the winter solstice and Yule through a poem written by Cooper.  The winter solstice happens every year on December 21st, celebrating the shortest day of the year, looking forward to the days getting longer and lighter.

 

cover of Idina Menzel's Christmas: Season for love / Idina hugging a coat tight to her, in snowfallContinuing in Selection Services, fiction selector Rachel S. and her partner traditionally watch The Sound of Music, the Home Alone movies, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  She notes that there isn’t a lot of Chanukah music by pop stars, but she likes Idina Menzel’s Christmas: Season for Love album, especially the cover of Joni Mitchell’s River.

 

cover of Anna and the Apocalypse / Anna in a school uniform holding a giant candy cane above her head, with zombies in the backgroundNonfiction selector Stef W. isn’t generally into Christmas movies, unless they’re offbeat and funny.  Some of her favourites include Anna and the Apocalypse, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Krampus (2015), and Rare Exports. At some point she will get over her childhood fear of gremlins in order to properly watch the movies. Christmas songs she enjoys include the soundtrack from Anna and the Apocalypse, The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, and Da vet du at det er Jul by Ylvis (yes, that Ylvis).

 

cover of How the Grinch Stole Christmas / the Grinch against an orange backgroundSara P., juvenile fiction selector, had this to say about her picks for 2020:

“Ever since my kids were little, we started a tradition of watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” on Christmas Eve while eating “fancy” appetizers (grocery store party pack). My girls love this short movie and even insisted on watching it the one year when my brother and family visited from the US and stayed past the appetizer dinner hour. The girls did not care that family was visiting. The movie went into the DVD player and we all HAD to watch it. We also own the book and will read it repeatedly leading up to the Xmas holidays; it never gets old or boring.

 

Now, I also have a personal tradition that I have had for at least the last 20 years (guessing here) and that is listening to Mary’s Boy Child from the Boney M Christmas album. As soon as Dec 1st hits, that song comes on in my car, my house, and during my run. I still own the CD but now also have the song on my phone for quick access. It is a classic that never gets old or boring to me.”

 

cover of Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White by Saumiya Balasubramaniam / a young girl kneels and plays in the snowCataloguer Shannon O. has spent the year reading everything she can get her hands on – over 450 books and counting. Narrowing down her favourites for children’s picture books, she chose Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White by Saumiya Balasubramaniam; Our Subway Baby by Peter Mercurio; and Snow Falls by Kate Gardner. For adult fiction, her favourite three are Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Sarah Morganthaler; Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur; and In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren .

 

cover of Hogfather by Terry Prachett / the personification of Death dressed as Santa, flying in a sleigh pulled by boarsFrom IT, software developer Mike Q. has a classic Terry Pratchett book as his favourite: Hogfather.  When the Disworld equivalent of Santa, the Hogfather, vanishes on Hogswatchnight, Death takes up the sleigh’s reins – meaning his granddaughter, gothic governess Susan, must unravel the mystery before Discworld loses its entire myth system.

 

cover of Black Christmas (1974) / a woman being suffocated by plastic, inside a Christmas wreath Carrie P. from Human Resources has two movies on her list of winter holiday favourites.  In the original 1974 version of Black Christmas, a group of sorority girls on Christmas break find they’re being stalked by a stranger.  Her second pick is a lighter one: 2015’s A Very Murray Christmas, in which Bill Murray worries that a snowstorm in New York will prevent the audience from showing up to his TV show.

 

cover of Muppet Christmas Carol / Kermit, Piggy, Gonzo and Robin dressed as Victorian charactersLast but not least, Michael C. in Marketing enjoys The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas 2148741, a collection of short essays by 42 secular celebrities, comedians, scientists, and writers on the meaning of Christmas – as it applies to an atheist.  His favourite Christmas movie is, of course, the classic Muppet Christmas Carol featuring Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, and Michael Caine as Scrooge.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu.

 

In 2021, we will be transitioning the Green Memo into the LSC Weekly Update, delivered via MailChimp. If you want to continue to receive our weekly newsletter, and other notifications and updates, please take a second to update your profile.

 

Merry happy!

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For several years now I’ve been tracking my reading on Goodreads, and as a result, the site offers me reading suggestions based on what its algorithms think I like, and they aren’t alone. Virtually every service that I use from Amazon to Netflix to Spotify uses increasingly sophisticated algorithms to figure out what I like and make purchasing/watching/listening suggestions based on that information.

 

As much as it disturbs me that they know so much about me, at least I have to make the choice to take them up on their suggestion. Amazon doesn’t just automatically send me stuff because they think I like it, and nobody can force me to watch/listen to something if I don’t like it. But what if they could?

 

QualitylandThis is the situation in Qualityland by German author Marc-Uwe Kling. The book is set sometime in the future where the third economic crisis within a decade has just ended, and upon consultation with Big Business Consultants the country (presumably Germany), decides to change their name to Qualityland. In their view, Qualityland just sounds like a prosperous and quality place. In keeping with the country’s new image, they also require the use of superlative adjectives whether they make sense or not. It’s not enough to call Qualityland a wonderful country. It’s the ‘wonderfullest’ country. A product isn’t good or even great. It’s the greatest.

 

As for the citizens, well they needed a total makeover too. Afterall, you can’t just have ordinary people living in Qualityland. The consultants decided that every boy would be given the surname relating to his father’s job, and every girl her mother’s occupation at the time that they are conceived. If your father/mother is a doctor or a lawyer, you’re laughing. Of course, there also ends up being names like Prisoner and Cleaner, but we don’t need to talk about them.

 

For all intents and purposes, Qualityland is a utopia. A universal ranking system determines your ability to find a job and your social standing.  Finding a partner is automated, and if your ideal match changes, the system will break up with them for you. Self-driving cars just know where you want to go, and you don’t need to worry about shopping for yourself anymore because TheShop (essentially Amazon) can do it for you. See something on TV that you like? Simply tell your Qualitypad (iPad) to order it for you, and boom- it will appear at your door in a flash. TheShop’s algorithm knows what you want without you even having to ask, and it’s automatically delivered to your door.

 

Unfortunately, the system doesn’t quite work for everyone. One day, Peter Jobless (you can guess what his father’s occupation was), who works as a machine scrapper in QualityCity receives a product from the shop that he is certain he neither needs nor wants. I won’t tell you what it is, but I’ll give you a hint- it’s pink, shaped like a dolphin, motorized, and definitely not for children.

 

Peter attempts to contact TheShop to return it, but discovers that this is practically impossible because machines don’t make mistakes. The algorithms are never wrong, and if they sent it, he most certainly must have wanted it. This leads Peter to start questioning the accepted norms, and how things work. Why are humans becoming less human while machines are becoming more so? What ensues, is a quest to meet with the head of TheShop to prove that they did in fact make a mistake and get a refund on the product that he very definitely does not want. The quest is set against the backdrop of an election where the choices are crazy right-wing celebrity chef and a hyper-intelligent, socialist robot.

 

Interspersed throughout the novel are news bulletins, guidebook entries, and of course comments from readers which results in the comment function being closed due to “a large number of idiotic comments”. Sound familiar?

 

The notion that machines can be mind-readers isn’t as crazy as it sounds. My entertainment apps already curate recommended lists based on what it assumes my tastes are, and I’m bombarded with suggestions from Amazon for products I might like based on what I’ve purchased in the past. If Amazon started sending me products based on what they think I want, I can’t even imagine what I might end up with. The problem with these algorithms is that in only ever showing me what I already know I like, I’m never exposed to anything new. The same is true of information, and this is the central point of the novel. If you’re only ever exposed to information and people who confirm your beliefs and opinions, it becomes a vicious circle. Our viewpoint becomes narrow and unchallenged, and anyone who doesn’t share those views has to be wrong.

 

The novel is a brilliant satire full of dark humour. Think 1984 but much more comical. The author has been aptly compared to Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut, and it offers a sharp commentary on capitalism, our dependence on machines to think for us, and celebrity culture. It also challenges the narrow internet bubbles in which we increasingly exist. It’s a novel that I haven’t stopped thinking about and one of those hidden gems that I would recommend everybody read.  HBO also recently announced that Mike Judge (Office Space, Silicon Valley) will be adapting the book into a limited TV series, which is another good reason to pick it up.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, subscribe to our new YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu.  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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So, there was an election south of the border, if you weren’t aware. Little thing, barely mentioned on the news *deactivates sarcasm filter*. Which gets me in the mood for presidents from history and from the world of fiction. And so, to add another distraction log onto the fires of 2020, I plunge into the backlist and think about past and pretend presidents of the elephant in the room.

 

How to Fight Presidents Daniel O'BrienA few weeks back, I mentioned one of my favourite comedy/history books, How to Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against the Badasses Who Ran This Country by Daniel O'Brien. This book, from a former Cracked writer and current writer on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, breaks down the reader’s ability to take every deceased president in a fight. It includes insights like, Grover Cleveland “was 5'11" and 250 lbs of president and his fists were described as “ham-like,” which might be delicious but is probably just scary and painful. He loved hunting and often carried around a rifle that he nicknamed “Death and Destruction” which isn’t a nickname a rifle earns for being pretty.”

 

It is a helpful guide should you ever travel back in time/be confronted with zombie presidents. It might be very important one day to know that you could have definitely taken Millard Fillmore in a fight, a man so hated that upon assuming the presidency after Zachary Taylor died (you also could have beaten Taylor in a fight) his entire cabinet resigned, his party abandoned him, and ultimately caused the downfall of the Whig party. “Please know”, O’Brien writes, “that after his presidency he also formed the Know Nothing Party, a political party that was sort of okay but mostly racist, and during his presidency he causally protected slavery. Because Fillmore wasn’t just boring and a bad president, he was a d**k.”

 

The Bully Pulpit Doris Kearns GoodwinStill on the historical side, but less on the funny is presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. I first came to know Goodwin from her many hilarious appearances on The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. While most know her work from her Lincoln biography Team of Rivals (which Spielberg later used as a source for the film Lincoln), I prefer The Bully Pulpit, her biography of the rise and fall of the relationship between Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft. Roosevelt is one of my favourite US presidents, and Goodwin makes a solid case that Taft is one of the most misunderstood. But the focus of the book is on their friendship, and the betrayal that Taft felt when Roosevelt put his ego in front of that friendship. It is also a fascinating glimpse into the world of the media, the titular bully pulpit, of the time, and seeing the first awakenings of a mass media that has evolved to become all-encompassing in our own time.

 

Hope Never Dies Andrew ShafferOne of the best pieces of surreal fiction in the past few years has been the Obama/Biden mysteries novels Hope Never Dies, and the sequel Hope Rides Again, by Andrew Shaffer. Described by Penguin Random House as "part noir thriller and part bromance", and "a mystery worthy of Watson and Holmes with the laugh-out-loud bromantic chemistry of Lethal Weapon’s Murtaugh and Riggs," the books see the democrat duo become a mystery solving team in the streets of Delaware and Chicago. With Biden the President-Elect as of this writing, I wonder if we'll eventually get an addition to the series seeing Kamala Harris join the team, like Rene Russo in Lethal Weapon 3.

 

Superman: President LuthorDid you know that in the world of DC Comics, Lex Luthor ran for and won the presidency back in 2000? The long time billionaire industrialist and Superman villain, an avowed anti-alien racist, who filled his administration with yes-men and people of questionable ability, had ties to corrupt and terrorist organizations worldwide, and is unable to escape his greatest motivation: his hatred of Superman. Eventually, before the end of his first term, his conspiracies and criminal activity while in power are revealed and his is removed from office, becoming a fugitive. I don’t know what made me remember all that. Weird. Anyhoo, Luthor’s term of office is chronicled in Superman: President Luthor.

 

The American President Aaron SorkinI think few could argue that the greatest fictional president is Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen in The West Wing. And while I am a huge WW fan, I am equally a fan of writer Aaron Sorkin’s previous political foyer, The American President, which starred Michael Douglas as President Andrew Sheperd. If we’re talking film presidents, than you also have to mention Kevin Kline in Dave, Terry Crews in Idiocracy, Harrison Ford in Air Force One, Bill Pullman in Independence Day, and Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact. Digging real deep into the long-forgotten box is a mid-nineties movie called My Fellow Americans, in which Jack Lemmon (fresh off his Grumpy Old Men resurgence) and James Gardner play bickering former Presidents who are the target of assassination, and hijinks ensue.

 

A Ballad of Songbirds and SnakesYoung people should definitely have options about at least one fictional President, that being Coriolanus Snow from the Hunger Games series. Snow, far from being anyone's favourite, having presided over the Games for multiple decades. The recent A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes covers Snow's early life as a mentor and his rise to power. For other less savory politicians, there are likes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer in VeepTony Goldwyn as Fitzgerald Grant III in Scandal, and Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in House of Cards. But I think most people have had enough of unsavory politics for a while. 

 

Which fictional presidents are your favourites? More than that, which fictional characters would you love to see run for president? Send your answers to mclark@lsc.on.ca.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. 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.

 

Fictionally Yours,

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I love a good ghost story, and so naturally I was drawn to The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix. As I was watching it, something about the story seemed familiar, and upon Googling it, I learned that it was yet another adaptation of Henry James’ gothic novella The Turn of the Screw. I originally read the book in University and loved it. It was spooky and suspenseful, and it had a big twist I never saw coming. 

 

The Turn of the Screw

If you haven’t watched the series or read the book, the story is set in a country house named Bly Manor, where a young governess is charged with the care of two orphans named Miles and Flora. Something doesn’t seem quite right about the house, however, and she becomes convinced the house is haunted.

 

In the hundred plus years since its original publication, the novel has become a cornerstone of gothic literature, and has been adapted several times into radio and film, including the recent film The Turning, the 2001 film The Others starring Nicole Kidman, and a 1961 film titled The Innocents, starring Deborah Kerr. I’m a big fan of horror in general, but especially Gothic fiction for the suspenseful and atmospheric elements of these stories.

 

If you’re not familiar with the genre, Gothic fiction and regular horror have some distinct The Castle of Otranto differences. Gothic fiction is a sub-genre of horror which combines horror, death, and sometimes romance. The term Gothic is generally associated with the Gothic architecture of medieval Europe which is the setting for many of the novels, and originated during the romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

 

Gothic’s origins have been attributed to the English author Horace Walpole and his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto. Books by Anne Radcliffe, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly, and Daphne Du Maurier further developed the genre, and examples of Gothic writing can be found in Russia, US, England, and Ireland, each with their own unique characteristics.

 

In her 1818 novel Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen parodied the genre by introducing a naïve heroine who read far too much Gothic fiction and begins to imagine herself as the heroine of a Gothic novel such as Anne Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. If you haven’t read Udolpho you can still appreciate Austen’s parody, but I suggest reading Radcliffe simply because she was one of the first to incorporate supernatural elements into her novel.

 

Right about now you’re probably wondering what makes a novel Gothic as opposed to straight up horror. The most obvious element is the setting. Almost every Gothic novel is set in an isolated estate, castle or house that is either said to be haunted or cursed. There are almost always secret passages, abandoned rooms/wings, and it is dark, possibly abandoned, and generally creates a sense of fear or foreboding. The weather is also unsettled, and it’s often foggy or raining.

 

A recent novel that is a great example of setting is Laura Purcell’s The House of Whispers which takes place in a sprawling house by the sea in Cornwall, Setting a novel in the UK isn’t a requirement, but the weather and the landscape make it a popular choice. The location of the house is remote and far from the city, and even comes with its own crazy lady in the attic. Cornish folklore plays into the story, and it’s exactly the kind of creepy that will keep you up at night.

 

Another major element is a character, often a woman, in peril. The character faces terrifying events, and often becomes trapped in the house, castle, etc.. In Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s new novel Mexican Gothic, the central character is socialite Noemí Taboada travels to High Place, an isolated house in the Mexican countryside and begins having visions of blood and doom in her dreams. The house contains many secrets, and if Noemi isn’t careful, she may find it impossible to leave.  

 

Also key to the story is something supernatural such as a ghost or a monster. The monster can be literal like Frankenstein’s monster, a vampire like Dracula, or even a mutant or cyborg. Graham Masterson’s House of a Hundred Whispers is a great example of a supernatural Gothic. Masterson’s novel is set in an isolated local in a Tudor mansion nestled in the English moors. The novel begins with the murder of the owner, the former Governor of Dartmoor Prison and just gets spookier from there. The author integrates elements of local folklore and witchcraft, and the story is a highly suspenseful haunted house ghost story.  

 

If you're interested in learning more about the major elements of Gothic horror, check out that link for a more detailed explanation. Meanwhile, if you plan to read any of the novels I’ve suggested, I have one piece of advice: Don’t turn out the lights!

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. 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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Over the summer, when I was trying to relax and not think about the global pandemic, I picked up a book that had been on my list for a while: The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. Toward the end of the book, he introduced to me a new emerging genre of fiction called Cli-Fi, or Climate Fiction. A genre whose name I hadn't heard before despite having read several recent novels that would fall under the heading.

 

The Uninhabitable EarthThe Uninhabitable Earth is not a book of die warnings; it is a book of dire facts. Wallace-Wells is a reporter, not a scientist, and not even a science reporter. The book is as if he were researching any other topic, bringing together reported incidents and expert analysis and presenting the clear truth of the matter. And the clear truth of climate change is increasingly, even if we meet the various accords and international agreements that no one seems inclined to ignore, change has happened. From here on out, it is just about mitigating the severity of climate change, not preventing it.

 

He introduces Cli-Fi as an example of how culture reflects the world around us. Fantasy fiction emerged in the early twentieth century, as science and exploration took magic out of the world and replaced it with facts. Science fiction emerged as a the space race turned the public attention toward the stars. So too, now that climate disasters and emergencies are a terribly regular part of our lives, they become setting for our fiction. Upon reading this new genre, my mind wheeled back to so many books I've read, an increasing number over the past five years, that would qualify.

 

New York 2140Wallace-Wells is quick to point out that while climate fiction tends to speculative, it tends not to broadcast centuries into the future. It is, what some call, "five minutes into the future." The fiction tends to look at what is happening now, and what might happen ten, fifty, one hundred years ahead. An excellent example of this is New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson, set a century from now in which New York City has been permanently flooded by extreme rising sea levels, creating a Venice-like metropolis where people live on the higher floors of skyscrapers.

 

The Windup GirlMaybe the first example I can remember of this genre was 2009's The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. A more extreme version of the genre, it is set in the Thailand of a distant future in which most nations have dissolved, replaced by mega corporations who control food production and therefore population. Biohacking is common, and long lost seed banks are the buried treasure that all executives hope to find and plunder. It is a dark, grimy, visceral, hard future to live in, let alone visit, and a book that has stuck with me.

 

The Disaster TouristRecent works like Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-eun have started to spin the genre more. In this Korean satire, the focus is on a travel agency specializing in tourism to destinations devastated by disaster and climate change. Much like Cli-Fi itself, rather than confront the realities and responsibilities of what is happening, this world has just folded it into the entertainment of the privileged masses

 

Marrow ThievesThe GG award winning Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline is an example of the genre through an Indigenous, Canadian and Young Adult lens. In a world ravished by climate change, all people except First Nations, have lost the ability to dream. While the book is as much a metaphor for the genocide of First Nations peoples that was committed in the past, it is also a reminder that climate change has and will continue to produce displaced peoples, refugees, and genocides.

 

Mad Max Fury RoadIt's not just written fiction that has started to reflect climate change as a setting or an adversary. In the 1970s, Logan's Run and Soylent Green were climate change affected worlds even if they didn't use that terminology to describe their dystopia. By the 1980s, Mad Max was roaming a desolate wasteland brought about by car-culture created climate change. In the mid nineties, Kevin Costner floated across a flooded earth in Waterworld.

 

SnowpiercerAnd in the new millennium, perhaps the most famous of the Cli-Fi movies, The Day After Tomorrow saw Jake Gyllenhaal seek shelter in the New York Public Library when New York freezes over into a glacier. More recent films that have used Climate Change as their push to adventure include Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, and my personal favourite Snowpiercer from Parasite writer/director Bong Joon-ho, in which the remains of humanity cross a frozen world on a super-train. Even Pixar has entered Cli-Fi, while introducing us to the lovable Wall-e.

 

Climate change isn't going anywhere, and it seems like Cli-Fi isn't either. While in the past we might have escaped to Narnia or any number of strange, new worlds, this genre keeps our feet planted on increasingly disappearing earth. For libraries who might be interested in identifying more books of this genre, and growing this new collection, we've put together Slist 43859 to get you started. 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. 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.

 

Fictionally Yours,

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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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