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Powerful Stories: Novels about the Armenian Genocide

April 24, 2015 | Kelli | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

On April 24, 1915 several hundred Armenian intellectuals were rounded up, arrested and later executed. This event is generally viewed as the beginning of the Armenian genocide. Over the next few years, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were either massacred or deported from the former Ottoman Empire.  Overshadowed by World War 1, much of the world was unaware of the tragedy that was happening in Turkey at that time. Every year, Armenians around the world mark April 24th as a day of remembrance. This year is particularly poignant as it marks the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of the massacres. 

Reading historical fiction can be a great way to learn more about historical events. This recently published, debut novel by Aline Ohanesian, set partially in Turkey during the massacres, is receiving positive reviews

Orhan's inheritanceWhen Orhan's brilliant grandfather, Kemal, is found dead in a vat of dye, Orhan inherits the decades-old rug business. Other provisions in Kemal's will are much more surprising. Kemal has left the family estate to Seda, a stranger living thousands of miles away in a retirement home in Los Angeles. Orhan's family has no idea why Kemal left their home to this woman rather than to his own family.   Intent on finding answers,  Orhan boards a plane to Los Angeles. There he unearths a story that has the power to unravel Kemal's legacy and Orhan's own future. The Toronto Public Library has Orhan's Inheritance on order, so place your hold now.



While you are waiting, here are some other novels about the Armenian genocide:

Bastard of istanbul Gendarme Sandcastle girls Skylark farm Summer Without Dawn

Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
From one of Turkey'’s most acclaimed writers, this the story of Asya, her mother and her three aunts who all live together in Istanbul. When the step daughter of Asya's estranged uncle arrives from the States, a secret is uncovered that links the two families and ties them to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres.
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The Gendarme by Mark Mustian
At age 92, Emmett Conn has had amnesia for 70 years, caused by his WWI injuries. Following surgery for a brain tumour, his past returns through disturbing dreams. There he relives his actions as a Turkish gendarme in the forced death march of thousands of Armenians into Syria and his obsession with a beautiful young Armenian girl, Araxie. After these revelations, Emmett decides that he must find Araxie and beg her forgiveness.

Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
When Elizabeth Endicott accompanies her father to Syria, to bring aid to the Armenian deportees, she meets Armen Petrosian. In spite of the loss and horror around them, they fall in love. In a parallel story, Laura Petrosian, Elizabeth and Armen's great-granddaughter, discovers some letters and photos and begins to piece their story together.
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Talking Book (Restricted to print disabled patrons)

Skylark Farm by Antonia Arslan, translated from Italian by Geoffrey Brock
In May 1915, Yerwant, after spending 40 years in Italy, is planning a long-awaited reunion with his family in Turkey. But then Italy enters the Great War and closes its borders. At the same time, his family begins a brutal odyssey of forced marches and prison camps at the hands of the Young Turks. They must struggle to survive as they set out to reach Yerwant, and safety, in Italy.

A Summer without Dawn by A. J. Hacikyan and Jean-Yves Soucy, translated from French by Christina Le Vernoy and Joyce Bailey
In the summer of 1915, days after the beginning of the deportation, Armenian journalist Vartan Balian is separated from his family and imprisoned. After a daring escape, he becomes a fugitive and begins the search for his wife and their young son.

If you prefer to read history over historical fiction, there are many non-fiction books on the Armenian genocide available to borrow.

This Blessed Plot: Books for Earth Day

April 22, 2015 | M. Elwood | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

"The last sound on the worthless earth will be two human beings trying to launch a homemade spaceship and already quarreling about where they are going next."

William Faulkner

April 22 is Earth Day, celebrated in 192 countries, it is the largest environmental event in the world. In 2015, Earth Day Canada is launching its Earth Day Everyday campaign to encourage all Canadians to commit to reducing their carbon footprints by 20% before 2020.

Here are some books about climate change for Earth Day:

Climate changed Don't even think about it Field notes from a catastrophe Thinking persons guide to climate change Waking the frog

Climate Changed by Philippe Squarzoni
While looking at Jacques Chirac's environmental policies for another book, artist/journalist Squarzoni realized that he was not well informed about climate change himself. Guided by his love of nature, Squarzoni sets out to learn more.

Don't Even Think About It: Why our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall
Marshall investigates why people have such diverse views on climate change and considers what part biology and evolution may play.

Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert
In 2006, Kolbert travelled around the world investigating the ways that climate change is affecting the environment. This 2015 revised edition contains three new chapters.

The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change by Robert Henson
Written for non-scientists, Henson breaks down and explains environmental issues.

Waking the Frog: Solutions for our Climate Change Paralysis by Tom Rand
Why aren't we working harder to fix things? Rand looks at the issues from psychological, financial, and economic perspectives.


"The earth has music for those who listen."

                               George Santayana

In addition to these and other books, the library also offers lots of environmental programming.

Pot of Gold: 5 Books for 420

April 20, 2015 | M. Elwood | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

April 20, known as 420, has become a counterculture holiday, a date when many people celebrate cannabis and promote its legalization.

Heart of dankness Hidden harvest Humboldt Short and tragic life of robert peace Smoke

Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup by Mark Haskell Smith
The Cannabis Cup is held every November in Amsterdam where judges select the year's best varieties. Mark Haskell Smith became fascinated by the competition while researching his novel Baked.

Hidden Harvest: the Rise and Fall of North America's Biggest Cannabis Grow-Op by Mark Coakley
An abandoned Molson brewery near Barrie became the unlikely site for the largest grow-op in North America. It operated inconspicuously between 2000 and January 2004 when a police raid uncovered 30,000 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $30-million leading Barrie mayor Bob Hamilton to note that "[e]ven the bad guys realize Barrie is a great place to do business".

Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier by Emily Brady
Journalist Brady immersed herself in the Humboldt County region, a community that has depended on illegal marijuana cultivation for its survival. With decriminalization imminent, the citizens face new challenges.

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: a Brilliant Young Man who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs
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Robert Peace was not a typical drug dealer. A brilliant student and star athlete who grew up in poverty, he graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biochemistry. He taught school for a short time then used his scientific knowledge to earn $1000 per day growing marijuana hydroponically -- a decision with tragic consequences.

Smoke: How a Small-Town Girl Accidentally Wound Up Smuggling 7000 Pounds of Marijuana with the Pot Princess of Beverly Hills by Meili Cady
An aspiring actress in Los Angeles to pursue fame and fortune, instead Meili Cady is befriended by the glamorous, wealthy Lisette Lee. When she becomes Lee's personal assistant, Cady has no idea that the opulent lifestyle is supported by an extensive drug smuggling operation and is unaware of her own role in the process.

Tips for Getting Over a Reading Slump

April 17, 2015 | Melanie | Comments (6) Facebook Twitter More...

I've always been an avid reader. The only time I didn't read for leisure was when I was in university, because I was too busy reading for school. I would occasionally read books during my summer vacation, but I didn't start reading for myself until after I graduated. Once I started working in the library, I began reading even more. Usually I would read a book or two a week, and at the end of the year I would have read anywhere from 70-90 books. 

Over a year ago I started a new hobby: knitting and crocheting. I know some people can read and knit, but I am definitely not good enough at knitting and crocheting to be able to multitask. I use Goodreads to keep track of the books that I've read, and at the end of 2014 I'd only read nine books, and seven of which were audiobooks. This reading slump was the longest that I've had in many years, so I made it my 2015 goal to read 12 books - one a month.  There are some helpful articles that I've found about how to get over a reading slump, but here are some tips that worked for me. 

1.  I set a page or time limit.

When I read I give myself a goal that I will read this for the next "40 pages" or "30 minutes". I keep reading until I've finished that time or the amount of pages I've set. Often I get drawn into the book and I just keep reading, long past the goal that I've set.  

2.  I stick to physical paper books.

I really loved my  Kobo e-reader and iPad for reading, but for some reason I get easily distracted by reading with them. The iPad also has a glow on the screen that makes it harder to read. Personally, I find I can read for longer periods and concentrate better when it's a paper book. 

3.  I read only books that interest me or that I'm enjoying reading. 

Before my slump, I would usually make every attempt to finish a book, even if I wasn't enjoying it. This was especially true of books that are more "literary", which I sometimes found to be a bit of a reading challenge. I would often try to finish them, just to be able to say that I've read them. Now I will only read whatever interests me, which brings me to my final tip:

4.  Don't worry if you don't finish a book. 

It's perfectly find to read only one chapter, or half of a book. If it doesn't interest me right away, I move on to another. I can always read it again at some point!

Keep in mind these are the tips that personally worked for me. What works for you may be totally different!

Here are some books that I really enjoyed this year (and actually finished):

Station elevenStation Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

A really great post-apocalyptic book that is set in Toronto. The book moves back and forth in time, and is about what happens before and after a worldwide flu pandemic in which most people on the planet don't survive, and human civilization is radically changed. 



We were liarsWe Were Liars, by E Lockhart

This dark YA title is narrated by the wealthy Cadence Sinclair, who is recounting her summers spent at the family's private island on Martha's Vinyard. The book was a real page turner - I was quite shocked by the final secret the was revealed at the end of the book.




All the lightAll the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

This is an historical novel that takes place in WWII, and has two interconnected story narratives. One is about a blind girl who's father works at the Natural History Museum in Paris, and the other is about a poor German boy who has a talent for fixing radios.  The stories don't come together until towards the end of the book, but I really enjoyed reading this book.



Olive KitteridgeOlive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

 When I learned that this was being made into an HBO miniseries with two of my favourite actors; Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins, I just had to read the book before I saw the series. This book is a collection of short stories that focus on the character Olive Kitteridge. This is one of the best books that I've read in a long time, and I can't wait to watch the show!



What are some reading slump tips that have worked for you? 

Catherine Gildiner Live on Book Buzz

April 15, 2015 | Book Buzz | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Catherine gildiner
Tonight Book Buzz welcomes author Catherine Gildiner for a live chat. 

Coming Ashore, released in October is the third in a trilogy of memoirs following Too Close to the Falls and After the Falls which told the story of her childhood. Coming Ashore picks up her story in 1968 when, after a brush with the FBI, Gildiner decides to leave town. A convenient scholarship to Oxford provides her with a ticket out. 

Oxford University is unlike anything Cathy had ever experienced and she tells wonderful stories about this time of her life. Following her time in England, Gildiner returns to the United States where she teaches at a Cleveland school. 

It should be a fascinating conversation. 

Please join us on Wednesday, April 15, 7-8 PM online at:

Catherine Gildiner Live Chat

A Justified Reading List

April 10, 2015 | Andrea | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

The series finale of Justified, the best TV show your friends aren't watching, airs this coming Tuesday. The paths of federal marshal Raylan Givens and his outlaw nemesis Boyd Crowder are soon to converge (like the aligning of the planets, to borrow a line from the penultimate episode), and after the "frenemies" face down each other one final time, who will leave Harlan alive?

The critically acclaimed crime drama, taking inspiration from Elmore Leonard's masterfully plotted books, has twisted and turned through six seasons of complex storylines like a crooked trail through the wild Kentucky hills. Its unique blend of western tropes, film noir and black comedy is ending on a high note, but feelings of melancholy are... well, justified! To help soothe the pain of the impending finale, instead of a glass of Mags Bennett's apple pie, how about some books?
Justified and Philosophy edited by Rod Carveth and Robert Arp  Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham  Pronto by Elmore Leonard  Raylan by Elmore Leonard  Riding the Rap by Elmore Leonard

Justified and Philosophy edited by Rod Carveth and Robert Arp

Are Raylan's trigger-happy antics really justified? Part of a series examining pop culture through a philosophical lens, this book delves into issues of crime and punishment, law and morality.

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

Erudite criminal Boyd Crowder, who quotes science fiction writer Isaac Asimov and economist John Maynard Keynes with equal aplomb, is seen reading this classic in Season Two. A semi-autobiographical novel of love and yearning, chock full of cathartic emotional turmoil.

Pronto by Elmore Leonard

In his first outing on the page, our cowboy hero Raylan pursues a fugitive bookie all the way to Italy.

Leonard's final novel features many familiar characters fans may be glad to see again when the show ends.

Riding the Rap by Elmore Leonard

The sequel to Pronto involves dim-witted kidnappers and a psychic, a plotline loosely adapted on the show. Riding the Rap is also available in this eBook collection along with Pronto and the short story "Fire in the Hole," on which the pilot episode is based.


Remembering Elmore Leonard (October 11, 1925 – August 20, 2013)
Snapshots in History: August 20 Remembering Elmore Leonard

Birds Do It, Bees Do It: 5 Books about Animal Reproduction

April 9, 2015 | M. Elwood | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

The famous Cole Porter song, Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love, doesn't mention pandas. Perhaps this is because pandas in captivity tend to lose interest in mating, leading zoos to resort to artificial insemination as the primary means of reproduction.

Recently Lu Lu, a panda at Sichuan Giant Panda Research Center, achieved Kim Kardashian level fame by participating in two epic sex sessions with female companions.

Here are some science books about animals and their reproductive habits:

Dawn of the deed Nasty brutish and short Nature's nether regions Odd couples Sex on six legs

Dawn of the Deed: the Prehistoric Origins of Sex by John A. Long

Nasty, Brutish and Short: the Quirks and Quarks Guide to Animal Sex and Other Weird Habits by Pat Senson

Nature's Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell us about Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves by Menno Schilthuizen

Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom by Daphne J. Fairbairn

Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love, and Language from the Insect World by Marlene Zuk

Curiosity is a good thing but if you aren't interested in exploring this aspect of the natural world, Toronto Public Library staff can help you find books on other topics. 

Meanwhile, please check out my favourite version of Let's Do It on the CD Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson.

Scandinavian Storytellers Scintillate

April 2, 2015 | Lynn | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

In the last decade or so mystery readers have started to take notice of Scandinavian authors as readers are looking for new authors and writing styles.  A few examples of these authors taking the world by storm are Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, Jussi Adler-Olsen and Henning Mankell. The characters in these books are not the tidy English detectives or tough American cops that most mystery readers are familiar with, but rather are twisted, dark characters with a more bleak outlook on the world.  

Jo Nesbo is known for his extremely popular series starring Harry Hole, a police inspector based in Olso with a number of personal demons. Nesbo also writes stand alone novels. 

  Police  The Son  Cockroaches


Police officers are found dead at an old murder scene and a man is in a coma at the hospital under police guard, and the Oslo police are without their top investigator.

The Son

The police are puzzled by a model prisoner's escape, the prisoner needs to learn more about his father's death, what will be discovered?


Harry Hole goes to Bangkok to solve the murder of Norway's ambassador, but is running into difficulties at every turn.

This April, Jo Nesbo will be releasing a stand alone novel featuring Olav, a fixer in Oslo. Olav has been happy with his choices until he meets a woman, now he must reconcile these two worlds, but can he?

Blood on Snow

Steig Larsson exploded onto the world scene with his trilogy of conspiracy that spawned translations and movies.

The girl with the dragon tattoo  The girl who played with fire The girl who kicked the hornet's nest 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

A disgraced publisher is offered the chance to investigate the family that sued him for evidence in a disappearance from the 1960s and comes across a potential serial murderer in the process.  With the help of a hacker, will he discover the truth or be silenced?

The Girl who Played with Fire 

Lisabeth Salander continues to rely on her hacking skills to defend those who need help. In this instance it's about sex trafficking in Sweden due to a mysterious figure named Zala. Salander's life is exposed to the press, but there is a three year gap, what happened?

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The final book in the trilogy focuses on Salander's upcoming trial and dealing with the Secret Police trying to protect themselves and discredit everyone else.  It's a race against time to prove Salander's innocence.

An addition to this series, written by David Lagercrantz, is due to be published September 1, 2015.  It is based on notes made by Steig Larsson, and it will be his fans who decide if it fits into the series.

Jussi Adler-Olsen is a Danish crime novelist who write the Department Q series with Detective Carl Morck who investigates cold cases.

The Keeper of lost causes  The absent one  A conspiracy of faith

The Keeper of Lost Causes 

Carl Morck is placed in charge of cold cases due to a professional misstep, but will Morck renew his faith in himself with this lacklustre department?

The Absent One 

Detective Morck has been given a closed case, which in of itself makes no sense. He learns of a homeless woman named Kimmie, who may know something, but he is not the only person looking for her.

 A Conspiracy of Faith 

Detective Morck finds a letter in a bottle written in blood and a woman trapped in a loveless, terrifying marriage and the detective must find the connection.

The next book in the series is set for release September 8, 2015 and is entitled The Hanging Girl.

Henning Menkell has written more than 40 novels over his career and many fans know him for Wallander, the police officer facing violent crimes on a daily basis. This series has had 3 different actors play him on the screen.

The troubled man  The dogs of Riga  The pyramid and four other kurt wallander mysteries

The Troubled Man 

This was the first new Wallander book in 10 years and it lived up to expectations. Wallander agrees to look into the disappearance of his daughter's father-in-law and quickly finds himself surrounded with conspiracies and his own failing health.

The Dogs of Riga 

Wallander travels to Latvia to help solve the grisly murder of two Latvian nationals that were found in a raft on the Swedish coastline.

The Pyramid and four other Kurt Wallander mysteries

These short stories help to fill in how Wallander became the type of police officer he is, from his earliest days on the police force.

Wallander on Screen

Kenneth Branagh as Wallander series 1, 2, 3 

Krister Henriksson as Wallander Episodes 1-3, Episodes 4-6, Episodes 7-9, Episodes 10-13 

Mats Bergen as Wallander  series 1, 3

April is National Poetry Month

April 1, 2015 | Book Buzz | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

National poetry monthNational Poetry Month was established in 1998 by the League of Canadian Poets to celebrate poetry and to acknowledge the important role it plays in the country's culture. During this month, Canadians are invited to participate in events throughout the country. 

George Elliott Clarke, Toronto's Poet Laureate, will be involved in numerous programs this month including a very special function at Toronto Reference Library. On Wednesday April 15, 2015, Dr. Clarke will launch the new Toronto Poetry Map, an online map that geographically situates Toronto poems, created in partnership with Toronto Public Library. In addition to a demonstration of the map, there will be poetry readings, a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Toronto Public Library's Young Voices publication and performances by Pan Am Poetry Slam team members. The event starts at 6 PM. All are welcome.

The quality and variety of poetry in Canada is astonishing. These are a few recent award winning collections:

Alongside anne compton Lake of two mountains Meeting the tormentors in safeway Red doc Survival rate of butterflies in the wild

Alongside by Anne Compton
Winner of the 2014 Raymond Souster Award. 

Lake of Two Mountains by Arleen Paré
Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for English Language Poetry.

Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway by Alexandra Oliver
Winner of the Pat Lowther Award, presented by the League of Canadian Poets for the best book of poetry by a Canadian woman.

Red Doc> by Anne Carson
Winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize

The Survival Rate of Butterflies in the Wild by Murray Reiss
Winner of the 2014 Gerald Lampert Award for the best volume published by a first time poet.

Toronto Poetry Map Launch
Toronto Reference Library, Atrium
Wednesday April 15, 2015, 6-7:30 PM.
All are welcome.

In Touch: Books about long-distance love

March 27, 2015 | Soheli | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Girl on Vintage Telephone
Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

On March 27th, 1884, the first long-distance phone call was made between Boston and New York. While that was considered pivotal in its time, our long-distance communications have grown quite a bit since then. Now we've got not only long-distance phone calls, but emails, texts and sessions on webcam too.

Here are some books that explore the challenges that come with keeping in touch with loved ones, no matter where you are.

Falling Blossom: A British officer's enduring love for a Japanese woman
By Peter Pagnamenta, 2006

Arthur Hart-Synnot was posted in Japan and fell in love with a local woman, Masa. As a British officer, he was forced to move multiple times over his career. Despite seeing each other only for short periods over the course of a decade, Arthur and Masa kept in touch through letters that fueled their dedication to each other until the very end. This is a tragic true story that includes many of their original letters, translated from Japanese.

The Geography of You and Me
By Jennifer E. Smith, 2014
(Also available in eBook)

When teens Lucy and Owen meet on an elevator in Manhattan in the midst of a blackout, there's an immediate spark. But as they both go back to their homes - Lucy to Scotland, and Owen out west - their connection is put to the test. A trail of emails and postcards charts their relationship over the course of a year in this thoughtful young adult book.

By Rainbow Rowell, 2015

Georgie and Neal's marriage has been slightly strained for a while. When she puts her career ahead of their family Christmas - with only two days notice - things really start to fall apart. But when Georgie discovers a way to communicate with the past version of her husband in a strange take on time travel, she thinks there might just be a way to make their love whole again.

The Notebook
By Nicholas Sparks, 1996

If you've yet to read a Nicholas Sparks' novel, and would like to try one, this is required reading (a big box of tissues is optional). It's got lost lovers, forbidden romance, and of course, a stack of love letters that Noah Calhoun writes to Allie Nelson while they are separated by circumstance and societal pressures. 

The Book of Strange New Things
By Michel Faber, 2014

I've recommended this book before, but it warrants a repeat mention, in case you missed it the first time around. In the not-so-distant future, Peter, a pastor, is offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to travel to a planet light years away to spread the gospel. The mission doesn't come without a price, however. His beloved wife, Bea, is left behind, waiting for him to return. Through inter-galactic transmissions, they share their vastly different experiences. Can their marriage survive planets apart?

Welcome to The Buzz...About Books -- the official blog of Book Buzz, Toronto Public Library's online book club.