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P.D. James, 1920-2014

November 27, 2014 | Book Buzz | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

PD James Cologne

Phyllis Dorothy James was born in Oxford in 1920. She left school at 16 partly because her father did not believe in higher education and partly because the family needed income. She did clerical work at a tax office and later became the assistant stage manager for a theatre group. She married Army surgeon Ernest Connor Bantry White in 1941 and they had two daughters. After World War II, White suffered from mental illness and spent much of the remainder of his life institutionalized leaving James to support the family as a hospital administrator and later in the forensic science and criminal law departments of the Home Office.

Her childhood ambition was to become a novelist but she did not start writing until she was over 40; she regretted what she viewed as "wasted years".  Her first novel Cover Her Face was published in 1962 and introduced Adam Dalgliesh, the detective poet who is featured in 14 novels.

Best known for detective fiction, she also wrote The Children of Men, a dystopian novel. Her most recent book Death Comes to Pemberley, a murder mystery inspired by Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was published in 2011.

Novelist P.D. James died peacefully at her home on November 27, 2014. She was 94.

Some of her works:

Children of men Cover her face pd james Death comes to pemberley The private patient An unsuitable job for a woman

The Children of Men
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Cover Her Face
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Death Comes to Pemberley
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The Private Patient
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An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
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Picture credit: By Benutzer:Smalltown Boy (Diskussion) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Why you should judge a book by its cover.

November 26, 2014 | Soheli | Comments (6) Facebook Twitter More...

I'm guilty of reading pretty books. Chances are, you've been sucked into that too.

I recently had the pleasure of listening to Peter Mendelsund, sought-after book cover designer, talk a little about what goes into the process of design. 

If you think you haven't heard of him or seen his work, think again:

Stieg Larsson Trilogy

Here is some of his Kafka art:

Kafka Covers by Mendelsund.

Looking familiar yet?

An avid reader himself, Peter describes the process of interpreting a book into a single look as sometimes exhausting, but a great chance to connect words and art to make sometimes simple, but memorable, covers. For The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, he drafted nearly fifty versions before he settled on the subtle swirls we now know so well.

As he's often asked to do covers for many works by a single author, he plays with thematic elements that become a thread through them all: note his use of the eye in his Kafka series. (Some of his art has become so iconic, it's even made it onto phone cases and tote bags, which Peter finds both "strange and awesome.")

With other covers, he will focus on the particular feel of a book rather than a straight forward representation of 'what it's about'. In his design of Lolita, he reminds us that the story is still often child-like, and as a reader, he could never quite shake the idea that lovely Lo is really just a little girl despite the very adult situations. The pink paper cut out, phonetic spelling, and girl-ish handwriting covers allude to that.

Pink paper cut out cover of Lolita   Spelling out Lolita and Handwriting

 A lot of thought goes into designing the jackets of these books. Many of the titles have been published before, so a designer's job is often attempting to re-interpret a story or character and appeal to a broad audience. If you want to check out more of Peter's eye-catching designs, take a peek at his latest art book, the aptly titled Cover. And as if it wasn't quite ambitious enough, he's also released another book, What We See When We Read, this year. You can also read a review from the National Post about it that explores how we visualize and create meaning when we read.

Cover by Peter Mendelsund  What We See When We Read

If you're feeling inspired by all of this book jacket eye candy and are suddenly re-thinking your current career path, Peter also offers an online design course.

Of course, there are tons of other memorable, distinctive and gorgeous book covers from all over. Maybe you've heard of a little something called Jurassic Park?

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

This easily recognizable cover art is courtesy of designer Chipp Kidd. He's also written a book for would-be designers called Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design

GO: a Kidd' s Guide to Graphic Design 

His design work is hugely diverse, with covers ranging from the deceptively simple...

The Antagonist  A Wolf At the Table
(The Antagonist by Canadian author Lynn Coady and A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs)

...to dazzling, colourful images that catch you off guard:

1Q84  South of the Border West of the Sun
Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 and South of the Border, West of the Sun (in eBook)


  Cool It
Cool It by Bjorn Lomborg

As Chip Kidd says, 

“Book designers responsibility is three fold. To the reader, to the publisher and most of all to the author. I want you [the reader] to look at the author’s book and say,

‘Wow, I need to read that.’” 

R.A. Montgomery, 1936-2014

November 21, 2014 | Andrea | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

You receive the news that the author of one of your childhood favourite series has passed away earlier this month. If you wish to read his obituary in the New York Times, visit this website. If you are saddened and filled with sudden nostalgia, pick up a Choose Your Own Adventure book (CYOA) to reread and reminisce.

Writer and publisher R.A. Montgomery leaves a legacy of interactive children's books that kept reluctant readers turning the pages. The second person point of view allowed you to be the protagonist of every story, an innovative format originally declined by other publishing companies. Montgomery recognized the fun of being able to choose the course of the plot by flipping to different pages. Each book had dozens of different endings, and you must choose wisely, else the outcome is often deadly... but the magic of the books was that you could always flip back and choose again. You can stop reading when you find the best possible ending, or you can read every single ending. It's up to you!

Choose Your Own Adventure books have sold more than 260 million copies around the world since 1977. You can find out more about the series on the CYOA website. Here are five early titles written by Montgomery himself:
 
Journey Under the SeaSpace and BeyondThe Lost Jewels of NabootiMystery of the MayaThe Abominable Snowman

Journey Under The Sea

You find the lost city of Atlantis.

Space and Beyond

You are an intergalactic traveler exploring the final frontier. TARDIS sold separately.

The Lost Jewels of Nabooti

Someone has made off with the (possibly cursed) treasure and it's up to you to track it down.

Mystery of the Maya

You dabble in archaeology and encounter aliens. (A film adaptation is apparently on its way, but wasn't this already an Indiana Jones movie?)

The Abominable Snowman

You and your best friend hunt a yeti atop the icy peaks of Nepal.

2014 Governor General's Literary Awards: Winners Announced

November 18, 2014 | Book Buzz | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

The Governor General's Literary Awards winners were announced on November 18, 2014. Awards were presented in fourteen different categories for both English and French authors and in categories for adults and children.

Drama:

Age of minority God in need of help Secret mask That elusive spark

Winner:

Age of Minority: Three Solo Plays by Jordan Tannahill

Finalists:

A God in Need of Help by Sean Dixon

The Secret Mask by Rick Chafe

That Elusive Spark by Janet Munsil

 Fiction:

The back of the turtle Juliet was a surprise My october The opening sky Sweetland

Winner:

The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King
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Finalists:

Juliet was a Surprise by Bill Gaston
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My October by Claire Holden Rothman
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The Opening Sky by Joan Thomas
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Sweetland by Michael Crummey
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Non-Fiction

The end of absence Know the night The oil man and the sea Up ghost river

Winner:

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris

Finalists:

Know the Night: A Memoir of Survival in the Small Hours by Maria Mutch

The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway by Arno Kopecky

Up Ghost River: A Chief's Journey through the Turbulent Waters of Native History by Edmund Metatawabin with Alexandra Shimo

Poetry:

Lake of two mountains Leaving howe island Light light Night vision Prologue for the age of consequence

Winner:

Lake of Two Mountains by Arleen Paré

Finalists:

Leaving Howe Island by Sadiqa de Meijer

Light Light by Julie Joosten

Night Vision by Christopher Levenson

Prologue for the Age of Consequence by Garth Martens

Five Books about Comets

November 17, 2014 | M. Elwood | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

The momentous news that the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft had successfully deployed a robotic lander on a comet was inexplicably overshadowed by nude pictures of Kim Kardashian last week. It's a shame. The arrival of lander Philae on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is far more rare.

The Rosetta was launched in March 2004 and has spent the past decade moving on a meticulously planned journey through space before landing on a moving comet, 300 million miles away from earth. That's mindblowing.

Philae transmitted sounds and pictures before its solar powered battery failed on November 15. It is hoped that the batteries will recharge in August 2015 when the comet will be closer to the sun.

Meanwhile, these are some books about comets:

Non-Fiction

Comets visitors from deep space Dreams of other worlds Near earth objects

Comets: Visitors from Deep Space by David J. Eicher
Learn all about comets in this book.

Dreams of Other Worlds: the Amazing Story of Unmanned Space Exploration by Chris Impey and Holly Henry
Profiles of several unmanned space missions that have increased our understanding of the universe.

Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them Before they Find Us by Donald K. Yeomans
Yeomans discusses the scientific efforts to find, study and track near-earth objects like comets and asteroids.

Fiction

Blood of flowers Night of the comet

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
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A comet is a sign of misfortune to a 17th century Persian town. Shortly after, a young girl's life is disrupted when her father dies and instead of the marriage she was planning, she becomes a servant to her wealthy rug designer uncle.

The Night of the Comet by George Bishop
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A coming of age novel set in 1973 as many people waited expectantly for the arrival of Comet Kouhoutek.

Remembering Those Not on the Front Lines

November 14, 2014 | Lynn | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

With Remembrance Day having taken place this week, it is important not only to remember those soldiers fighting on the front lines, but also those who worked to break codes and spy on the enemies.  These important figures can be forgotten by people because of national security and the public may never learn of their deeds until many years later, such as the work done in World War II by Bletchley Circle. These seemingly innocuous men and women worked tirelessly to break codes and their efforts weren’t acknowledged until 1974. Recently the BBC did a series focusing on these code breakers called Bletchley Circle.

All wars also produce spies, some more famous such as Mata Hari and the Rosenbergs, but most will never be known by the public for good reasons. These people could change the course of the war and we can only assume many did. One such example is a spy known as "Garbo" to the British and "Arabel" to the Germans. This famous double agent was credited with convincing the Germans that the Allies would land in Pas de Calais and not Normandy. Please explore our collections to learn more about these important figures in history to help us never forget their contributions.

 

Code Breakers

Churchill's War Lab           The Secret War            Secret Warriors

Churchill's war lab: code-breakers, scientists and the mavericks Churchill led to victory

The secret war: the inside story of the code makers and code breakers of World War II

Secret warriors: key scientists, code breakers and propagandists of the Great War

 

Bletchley Circle

Bletchley Circle           Bletchley Circle Season 2             The Lost World of Bletchley Park

The Bletchley circle cracking a killer's code

The Bletchley circle: season 2

The lost world of Bletchley Park: an illustrated history of the wartime codebreaking centre

 

Alan Turing

Alan Turing The Enigma             Alan Turing The Architect of the Computer Age              Turings Cathedral

Alan Turing: the Enigma

Alan Turing The Architect of the Computer Age

Turing's Cathedral

 

Spies

Garbo           Secret War Heroes    Unlikely Soldiers

Garbo: The spy who saved D-Day

Secret War heroes : Men of the Special Operations Executive

Unlikely soldiers How two Canadians fought the secret war against Nazi Occupation

2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize Presented to Sean Michaels

November 11, 2014 | Book Buzz | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

Us conductorsThe Scotiabank Giller Prize gala was held on November 10, 2014 in Toronto. 

This year's winner is Sean Michaels for his novel Us Conductors, inspired by the life of Lev Terman, a Russian scientist, inventor and spy, remembered for his creation of the theremin--the musical instrument with the otherworldly sound best known for its use in the Star Trek theme.

Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
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Novels and short story collections are eligible for this prize. The prize money this year has doubled and it is now the most lucrative of Canada's literary prizes. As the winner, Michaels will receive $100,000 and the other finalists each will take home $10,000.

Also nominated this year were:

All my puny sorrows Betrayers Ever after of ashwin rao

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
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The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
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The Ever After of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan
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The girl who was Saturday night Tell

The Girl who was Saturday Night by Heather O'Neill
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Tell by Frances Itani
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Related posts:

Her Story: Women in Politics

November 7, 2014 | Soheli | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

About a hundred years ago, on November 7, 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to the US Congress. Five years later, Canadians welcomed their first female member of Parliament, Agnes Macphail. Women have come a long way since then. Here are eight books to mark some of the memorable, (in)famous, and fierce women in politics.

 

Olivia Chow
My Journey

Although she lost the last election, Chow remains a strong voice for the New Democrats in Canada. Like Hillary Clinton, mentioned later, Olivia was also one half of a powerhouse political couple. My Journey chronicles her life, from a difficult transition from Hong Kong to Toronto as a teen to her rise on the #topoli scene.

 

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin
Going Rogue: An American Life
Love her or hate her, Palin became a household name in 2008 when she ran, unsuccessfully, for vice president in the US elections. She remained governor of Alaska until the following year. She later wrote Going Rogue. If you're feeling a little more irreverent, try Going Rouge: An American Nightmare.

 

Condoleezza Rice
No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington

 Rice served as the 66th US Secretary of State - the first black female to hold the position. Like most politicians, she's received her share of criticism, but is still a notable figure in the intersection of race, gender and politics in the US.

 

HRC state secrets and the rebirth of Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton
HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton

To have a list of women in politics and not mention Hillary? Just. Not. Possible.

 

Angela Merkel
The Chancellor and her World

Merkel has served as the Chancellor of Germany since 2005. She joins the ranks of other 'firsts' in political history: she's the first woman to hold the position. She also became the longest running head of government in the European Union as of 2014. No big surprise that she's been named Forbes' Most Powerful Woman in the World this year.

 

Benazir Bhutto
Daughter of the East

Bhutto was Prime Minister of Pakistan twice; first in 1988, then again in 1993. She's credited as being the first female leader of a Muslim country. Nicknamed the 'Iron Lady' because of some of her tough political stances, Bhutto survived a coup d'état in the mid 90s only to later be assassinated in 2007.

 

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
This Child Will Be Great: 
Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President

 Yet another woman to break the barriers down! Sirleaf is the first elected female head of state in Africa and she currently serves as the President of Liberia. In 2011, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in promoting the rights and safety of women in some of the most impoverished nations in the world. 

 

5 Books about Technology and Stuff

November 3, 2014 | M. Elwood | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Last Wednesday, Chevrolet executive Rikk Wilde presented a truck to World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, praising the truck's awesome "...um, technology and stuff". His comments quickly went viral because everyone loves technology and stuff.

Here are a few recent books about technology:

Dataclysm End of absence Glass cage automation and us The knowledge how to rebuild our world from scratch Smart cities

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When we Think No One's Looking) by Christian Rudder
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Co-founder of dating site OKCupid, Rudder uses online data to identify patterns demonstrating that things we do, say and search online provide valuable information about our personalities.

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris
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Although technology has provided many benefits, Harris' book questions what has been lost--things like solitude, ignorance and free time.

The Glass Cage: Automation and Us by Nicholas Carr
As more parts of human life are managed by machines, Carr suggests that people should take a closer look at what parts of our life are being controlled.

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch by Lewis Dartnell
Scientist Dartnell imagines the technological collapse of society and provides information about how to go about restoring the infrastructure that will ensure human survival.

Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia by Anthony M. Townsend
A discussion of how technology is changing the ways that urban citizens engage with their community.

Toronto Public Library also has a large number of books about stuff (and things). Drop into your local branch to check out the selection.

Halloween: Fun and Scary!

October 30, 2014 | Kelli | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Halloween is such a strange celebration. It has its fun side, with children dressing up and collecting candy and chocolate from family, friends and neighbours. On the other hand, the day can be quite spooky with all the jack-o'-lanterns, spiders, bats and other scary decorations.

Because of this dual nature, Halloween makes for a great setting for many books. Here are a few recently published books that are set just before or during Halloween:

Burn palace Devil's night Doomed Let me go Thorn jack

 

Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns.
When a Rhode Island nurse discovers that an infant left in her charge has been abducted, detective Woody Potter embarks on a baffling case with ties to a dead insurance investigator, a local Wiccan sect, a yoga center and a growling funeral director.
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Devil's Night by Todd Ritter. (Kat Campbell mysteries #3)
Summoned in the middle of the night to the site of an arson fire at the Perry Hollow museum, Police Chief Kat Campbell discovers the murdered body of the curator before glimpsing nemesis Henry Goll in the crowd and embarking on a dangerous investigation.

 

Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk.
In this sequel to Damned, Madison Spencer is back on Earth after her time in Hell and stranded there on Halloween, facing the prospect of spending an entire year as (shudder) a ghost among the living.
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Let Me Go by Chelsea Cain. (Archie and Gretchen thrillers #6)
Attending a masked Halloween party as part of his investigation into Jack Reynolds' drug enterprise, Detective Archie Sheridan recognizes the handiwork of killer Gretchen Lowell. When one of the guests is murdered, a situation that forces Archie to risk everything and reevaluate the people he most trusts.
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Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour.
Moving with her father to upstate New York after her older sister's suicide, Finn Sullivan, due to her curious nature, discovers that the town and its inhabitants wield a dangerous power, a tempting blend of good and evil, magic and mystery, that is shockingly linked to her sister's death.
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Related posts:

Never Too Old for Scary Stories
Spooky Stuff: Ghosts and Haunted Houses in Fiction

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