Month: October 2015

World War II Non-fiction Reads

In honour of Remembrance Day, the book display in the lobby will be focused on World War II. Here are a few highlights:

AndNoBirdsSangAnd No Birds Sang, by Farley Mowat

Perhaps Mowat’s finest work, this memoir of a callow young Canadian bloodied by the Allied invasion of Italy is unforgettable. At first gung-ho and filled with patriotic duty, Mowat champs at the bit to get at the Nazis. Then as the reality of the fighting sinks in he comes to realize the appalling cost of fulfilling that duty. Striking and graphic, this memoir is not to be missed.

Rescue at Los Banos, by Bruce HendersonRescueAtLosBanos

Over 2,000 civilians had been interned by the Japanese at Los Banos in the Philippines, and as the war in the Pacific wound down, these captives were in grave danger of death by starvation or outright murder. This is the account of the 11th Airborne Division’s remarkable rescue mission told through the stories of the prisoners and the paratroopers who (with help from Filipino guerrillas) were tasked with saving them.

GreatEscapeThe Great Escape: A Canadian Story, by Ted Barris

You’ve seen the movie starring Steve McQueen, now find out the real story behind the Hollywood hype. Barris tells the tale through the back-stories of the participants, their capture stories and escape plan tasks – the resourcefulness and determination of the prisoners is truly amazing. The result is a retelling of this famous escape seen through the eyes of those who actually experienced it.

War in the St. Lawrence, by Roger SartyWarStLawrence

Between 1942 and 1944, German U-boats destroyed or badly damaged twenty-five ships in the St. Lawrence killing 360 people. It was the only battle to take place within Canadian boundaries in the twentieth century. Sarty draws vivid pictures of the combat and interweaves these events with political developments in Ottawa, Washington, and London, bringing to life an important slice of our history that has largely been forgotten.

IBMHolocaustIBM and the Holocaust, by Edwin Black

How did the famously efficient Nazis keep track of the racial, religious, and location details of their victims? IBM punch cards were widely used in the Third Reich despite war-time prohibitions forbidding American corporations from doing business with the enemy. Additionally, staff of their German subsidiary serviced the machinery situated right within the concentration camps. This is not a light read, but it raises important questions about corporate greed and responsibility which remain relevant today.

Patricia’s Picks for Halloween Horror

I almost couldn’t write this post today.  One of the things that is so wonderful about horror is the catharsis and that accompanying rush of joy you get when a beloved fictional character has lived despite the odds.  The flip side of that is the punched-in-the-gut feeling you get when that character doesn’t make it.  Walking Dead fans you know what I’m talking about.  While the Internet debates whether he lived or did not live (please let him survive this!), please enjoy my 2015 Halloween Horror Picks:

The Border by Robert McCammon

First Line: The boy who was running ran into the rain.

Setting: Earth — in the midst of a war between two alien factions.

Nature of Evil: Gray Men – cannibalistic mutants

For fans of: Stephen King’s The Stand and The Walking Dead

Red Winter by Dan Smith

First Line: The village cowered with doors closed and windows shuttered.

Setting: 1920s Russia

Nature of Evil: Koschei the Deathless

For fans of: Russian folk and fairytales, Catherynne Valente’s Deathless

Cauchemar by Alexandra Grigorescu

First Line: Hannah waited exactly seven minutes before touching Mae’s cold body.

Setting: Louisiana swamp

Nature of Evil: supernatural forces

For fans of: Southern gothic horror like Donald Ray Pollock’s The Devil All The Time

The House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill

First Line: As if by a dream Catherine came to the Red House.

Setting: The Red House, the former house of “Britain’s greatest taxidermist” [Because, why not?]

Nature of Evil: The aforementioned Red House

For fans of: The Woman in Black, Joe Hill

Happy Halloween all! May Glenn be safely returned to us before my next post.


Colleen’s Recent Reads – Books in Series

In these picks, instead of spending time with these great fictional characters in just one novel, I get to enjoy them for multiple books!

 ShadowOnCrownShadow on the Crown and The Price of Blood, by Patricia Bracewell (historical fiction)

Bracewell’s two novels Shadow on the Crown and its sequel The Price of Blood are the story of Emma of Normandy, who as a frightened 15 year old was sent to England to marry a king. It was a complex time of change in English history, just prior to the Norman Conquest. Few stories of women have come down to us, but this novel is based on Emma’s own story which she arranged to be written down before her death.

The Ghost Fields, by Elly Griffiths (mystery)GhostFields

Archeologist Ruth Galloway lives by the seacoast in Norfolk, England, nearing middle age as a single professional woman, and with a cohort of friends including a Druid. She’s a likeable, ordinary woman who falls in love with an unsuitable man. In The Ghost Fields, Ruth’s life is threatened as she helps to solve a World War Two murder mystery. Seventh in the series.

MaliceAtPalaceMalice at the Palace, by Rhys Bowen (historical mystery)

Lady Georgiana Rannoch is thirty-fifth in line to the British throne – but her blue blood brings no money! Struggling to make ends meet in 1930’s London, she is forced to accept yet another paid assignment from her royal relatives, this time to teach a foreign bride-to-be how to behave, with very funny events along the way and a murder to solve. This is the ninth and latest of the series that began with Her Royal Spyness. I so enjoy Lady Georgie who can resume her nobility at will and then be an everyday citizen again.

Nightfall Over Shanghai, by Daniel Kalla (historical fiction)NightfallShanghai

Local emergency doctor Daniel Kalla has written a terrific series about the Jewish community in Shanghai, China. Starting in The Far Side of The Sky, after fleeing the Nazi takeover in Austria, the Adler family ends up in Japanese-occupied Shanghai to begin a new life. Shanghai-born Sunny joins their family and through the two sequels, Rising Sun, Falling Shadow and Nightfall Over Shanghai, they endure loss and hardship through to 1945 when at last they hope to live freely once again. There is talk of a movie and/or television series based on this trilogy and I can even see an opening for a fourth book.

Now back to my book: presently enjoying Tides of Honour by Genevieve Graham.


While I love living here in BC — where winter means sometimes having to zip your coat all the way up — there’s a part of me that will always miss Russia.  Every autumn without fail, as soon as there’s a morning cool enough to make getting out of bed more challenging, I long for the streets of Moscow.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this longing creeps into my reading habits, suffusing them with long-unsolved mysteries, grand duchesses who met tragic ends, and houses that walk on chicken legs.  If you love Russia too, you might want to read these:

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

Fleming’s The Family Romanov is a multiple award-winning work of narrative non-fiction.  It guides the reader through the lives of the hopelessly out-of-touch Romanovs, juxtaposing their extravagant reality with the much harsher daily life of the everyday poor.

Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar

In 1959 a group of experienced hikers set off from modern day Ekaterinburg for a ski-hike in the Ural mountains.  All nine died.  Some were found outside, far from their tent, without shoes.  Others had high levels of radiation on their clothing.  Yet another was missing her tongue.  What killed the Dyatlov hikers?

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire

I am a huge fan of Russian folklore influenced fantasy, and Maguire’s novel does not disappoint.  Elena is a poor village girl.  Ekaterina is a wealthy girl, about Elena’s age, who is part of the nobility.  When Ekaterina’s train pulls into Elena’s village, Elena soon finds herself en route to St. Petersburg, while Ekaterina is left behind.  Then Baba Yaga enters the picture.

I find myself returning time and again to works set in Russia?  What country has captured your imagination?


Michael’s Autumn Non-Fiction Reading List

autumn_leaves_PNG3601The days are noticeably shorter, the sun has lost some of its power, and  the kids are back in school (don’t forget to slow down in school zones). It’s time to pack away the sunscreen, return those summer reads to the library, and find something more serious to sink your teeth into. But serious doesn’t mean dull; check out a few of these great new non-fiction books we’re adding to the collection.

prisonbookclubcoverThe Prison Book Club, by Ann Walmsley

A book club without wine and cheese? No chitchat about career concerns and vacation plans? Ann Walmsley, a victim of violence herself, gets talked into helping out with a book club in a men’s prison. As she works through her own issues, she observes the transformative power of books and human connection in the lives of the men who participate.

ReasonYouWalkcoverThe Reason You Walk, by Wab Kinew

In this narrative of hope, healing and forgiveness, broadcaster and musician Wab Kinew tries to reconnect with his father, a distant aboriginal man recently diagnosed with cancer. Kinew revisits his own Winnipeg childhood, and travels to a reserve in Northern Ontario where he learns about his father’s traumatic experiences in a residential school.

AloneAgainstNorthcoverAlone Against the North, by Adam Shoalts

Shoalts, sometimes described as Canada’s real-life Indiana Jones, takes wilderness travel to a new level. The Hudson Bay Lowlands is a trackless waste with the Again River winding through. Questing for the headwaters, Shoalts finds edenic islands, a towering unmapped waterfall, and proves that the earth is larger than we often assume.

Dispatches from Pluto, by Richard GrantDispatchesFromPlutoCover

Grant, an English journalist and television host, moves to a former plantation deep in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. The culture shock he and his girlfriend experience is lessened by the welcome of the locals, who range from eccentric millionaires, to catfish farmers, blues musicians, and even a cookbook maven. More than just a fish-out-of-water tale, though, Grant discovers that the racist shadow of the area’s history persists.

TucoCoverTuco, by Brian Brett

This is the extraordinary story of Brett’s decades-long relationship with an African Grey parrot, coupled with an exploration of the history of birds and their relationship to humans. It’s also an exploration of the author’s own, often painful experience of being an outsider as an androgyne.

Patricia’s Fresh Picks for October 2015: Comics and Graphic Novels

I’ll read anything.  Anytime.  Anywhere.  I love literary fiction (and hit refresh on my browser several times today waiting for the Man Booker winner to be announced — Congratulations, Marlon James!); and I love YA and Children’s lit whether I’m reading to my children or on my own (Confession — it was very hard not to write this entire post fangirl-style about the 10th anniversary edition of Twilight, which we now have available through 3M).  And I get almost giddily excited on Wednesdays (aka new comic day) when I can go down to Big Pete’s and pick up the latest issues of my favourite comics.

Not everyone likes to read issue-by-issue though.  Sometimes it’s nice to devour an entire volume of five or six issues in a single sitting.  This month, my fresh picks are a selection of great comics and graphic novels that you can borrow from us.

Saga (Volumes 1 to 5)

Alanna and Marko are star-crossed lovers, soldiers on opposite sides of the war.  They are on the run because they have dared to break society’s greatest taboo by giving birth to their interracial daughter, Hazel.  The Star Wars-influenced story is lovingly brought to life through the vibrant art work of Fiona Staples.

Wayward (Volumes 1 and 2)

Wayward is like Buffy with creatures based on Japanese folklore.  Rori Lane is the teenage daughter of an Irish father and Japanese mother, now divorced.  When Rori moves to Japan she discovers that she has supernatural powers.  And she’s not alone…

Wytches (Volume 1)

Sailor’s family moves to Litchfield, NH to escape from Sailor’s past.  At her last school Sailor was bullied, and when her bully mysteriously went missing, vicious rumors circulated that Sailor was a murderer.  But Litchfield doesn’t offer Sailor the respite her family had been hoping for as it harbours menacing supernatural secrets.

Sunny Side Up

I love this middle grade graphic novel that is itself a love letter to comics, and my daughters love it too.  Sunny is sent to stay with her grandfather in his Floridian retirement community, while her family deals with Sunny’s elder brothers delinquent ways.  We particularly love the book’s humour and heart, but also enjoyed the pop culture details from a world gone by.  (Yes, girls these were real.)

As it’s not Wednesday yet, I still have time to sneak in a few chapters of Life and Death before it’s time to pick up my pull list.  Happy Reading!


Armchair Travel: Africa


The current non-fiction book theme in the lobby is Africa. Here are a few of the titles on offer – enjoy!

InArabianNightsIn Arabian Nights, by Tahir Shah

Vicariously experience Morocco in this narrative adventure. As Shah journeys across Saharan sands, explores medinas and visits ordinary Moroccans, he collects traditional stories – which he incorporates into the text. The result is a layered and complex portrait of a culture few of us will ever have the privilege of knowing well.

Cathedral of the Wild: An African Journey Home, by Boyd VartyCathedralOfWild

Growing up on a South African game reserve, the author’s childhood experiences were far from the norm: malaria, black mambas, a crocodile attack…. Despite this extraordinary beginning, though, Varty loses his way. This memoir recounts his spiritual quest, a reconnection with nature, and finally a rediscovery of life purpose in a place where man and nature strive for balance.

ConversationsWithMyselfConversations with Myself, by Nelson Mandela

This autobiography of one of the most inspiring people of our age draws heavily on original source material. Journals, draft letters, notebooks, recorded conversations, speeches, and correspondence, all drawn from Mandela’s personal archive, allow for insights into the thoughts and struggles of this great man at the time the events occurred – rather than recalled from the present vantage point.

An African Love Story: Love, Live and Elephants, by Daphne SheldrickLoveLifeElephants

Alive with compassion and humour, this memoir by the first person to ever successfully hand-rear newborn elephants, illuminates the author’s long quest to create sanctuaries for endangered animals in Kenya. It’s also a heart-breaking love story as Sheldrick’s husband, a famous park warden, dies young.