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Extraordinary Tales: A Reading List Inspired by Christopher Lee (1922-2015)

June 19, 2015 | Andrea | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Extraordinary Tales, an animated anthology featuring the voice of legendary actor Sir Christopher Lee, is the latest adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's stories. But the true extraordinary tale is that of Lee, who passed away on June 7 at the age of 93, a man who led an amazing life that included remarkable careers in the military and in heavy metal music. Audiences were thrilled by his portrayals of Dracula and Frankenstein's Creature in the heyday of Hammer horror, and he was introduced to another generation of viewers as Count Dooku and Saruman. Here is a small fraction of his filmography represented in books. 

The Devil Rides Out Gormenghast The Man with the Golden Gun The Three Musketeers The Wicker Man

The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley

The 1968 horror movie written by Richard Matheson (one of Lee's own personal favourites) is based on this 1934 novel of black magic.

The Gormenghast Novels by Mervyn Peake

In the BBC adaptation of the Gothic fantasy saga, Lee played the gaunt, spooky Mr. Flay who serves the lord of the castle.

Lee played the titular villain, one of 007’s most famous foes, opposite Roger Moore as James Bond.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Lee sported an eyepatch as the sinister Rochefort in the 1973 adapation of Dumas’ classic tale of swashbuckling spirit.

The Wicker Man by Robin Hardy and Anthony Shaffer

Lee was justly proud of his disquieting portrayal of Lord Summerisle. This novelization by director Robin Hardy and screenwriter Anthony Shaffer is not the same as David Pinner's Ritual, the original book on which the cult classic is based. (Ritual is currently available to read in the library at the Toronto Reference Library and the Merril Collection.)

Check out some of his other film and TV work. In addition, you can find out more about Lee’s astounding life by reading this tribute in the Guardian, penned by Alex Hamilton, the journalist who co-wrote his autobiography, Lord of Misrule.

Always a Good Reason to Read

June 5, 2015 | Soheli | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

100 Reasons

The Toronto Public Library recently launched its 100 Reasons campaign. With so many great reasons to love the library, it’s hard to pick just a few faves, but here are four of my own, with a reading treat to match. Not to pat ourselves on the back, but, psst, I’m a pretty big believer in Reason #24!

Pride flag, waving.
Reason #25
Lots of LGBT material. And proud of it.


Along with our other booklists on all sorts of topics, we regularly publish a Pride list every year. Whether you're looking for non-fiction that narrates the challenges of coming out, or more classic love stories, there's a book for you.

 

Reason #79
Say ‘I do’. Get married at the library.

When tito loved claraIt’s true. You can actually book the lit-chic Appel Salon at Toronto Reference Library for your wedding or other event. What better place to unite book lovers? Here’s a book I loved that looks at love and librarians too.

When Tito loved Clara
John Michaud, 2011
 
Clara has done her best to separate herself from her chaotic Dominican roots, but when a former flame reappears, she’ll have to question her new life.

 

Reason #64
Literary Map of Toronto. Books from the ‘hood. Represent!

This probably goes without saying, but we’re pretty proud of this one. Check out the expanding list of books set all across our city. Poetry more of your thing? We’ve got that covered too.

Toronto skyline (2012)Toronto Skyline image used on a CC license.

Reason #8
Bookmobiles. Vroom, vroom.

Bookmobile

Our bookmobiles help keep the library and its users connected – no matter where they are. We try to keep our bookmobiles drama-free, but some lending libraries get into a little more trouble. Here's a book-within-a-book recommendation:

The bad book affair: a mobile library mystery
Ian Sansom, 2010

Israel Armstrong lends the library's copy of American Pastoral to a troubled teenage girl and soon she disappears. Israel thinks there may be a connection, but he needs figure out what it is and find the girl, all while dealing with the trauma of a breakup and his impending 30th birthday.

These are just a few of the reasons to read your heart out. Have a fave? Share with us!

Marina Endicott: Online Chat Transcript

June 4, 2015 | Book Buzz | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Read the transcript from our Book Buzz chat with Marina Endicott. It was a wonderful conversation. 

Close to hugh
Her latest novel, Close to Hugh, was released on May 26. It takes place over seven days in Peterborough, Ontario. Hugh Argylle is an art gallery owner in his fifties. His mother is in a hospice and Hugh doesn't know how he'll manage when she dies. On Monday, he falls off a ladder; later at a party, he uncharacteristically punches an insufferable actor friend of his surrogate brother and falls again--down a flight of stairs this time. Hugh finds himself tuning in to the suffering of those around him in a way that he hasn't in the past. The people in his life include people his own age as well as contemporaries of his mother and high school students. 

It's a compelling look at age, ageing, relationships, life changes and art. The Toronto Star compared it to the works of Carol Shields. 

Marina Endicott
Marina Endicott won the Commonwealth Prize for Canada and the Caribbean in 2009 for Good to a Fault which was also on the Giller Prize shortlist. Open Arms was a finalist for the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award. The Little Shadows was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award. She also writes poetry, short stories and the screenplay for Vanishing Point.

Marina Endicott Chat Transcript

June 4 is Hug Your Cat Day

June 3, 2015 | M. Elwood | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

There is not much to say about Hug Your Cat Day. It's a day when cat owners are encouraged to hug their furry friends. Well, sure. Sounds great. 

Here are a few cat-loving authors:

Coraline Handsome man's deluxe cafe Jack of spades Let's pretend this never happened Wind up bird chronicle

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
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Gaiman often includes cats in his books. This is a quote from Coraline:

The cat wrinkled its nose and managed to look unimpressed. "Calling cats," it confided, "tends to be a rather overrated activity. Might as well call a whirlwind.”

The Handsome Man's Deluxe Café by Alexander McCall Smith
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In a Guardian article about cats and writers David Barnett writes "Alexander McCall Smith seems to want to make his cat the main subject of any photo he appears in".

Jack of Spaces by Joyce Carol Oates
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An extremely prolific writer Oates once credited her productivity to her cat--"a fairly hefty, warmly furry cat on my lap who would not budge for hours" leaving her "no alternative but to write".

Let's Pretend this Never Happened: a Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
Blogger and author of this very funny memoir, Lawson is open about her struggles with anxiety and depression. In a recent post, she shared tips for coping when she's having a bad time. The list includes "hiding in blanket forts with my cats".

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
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A young man searches Tokyo for his wife's cat and finds himself in increasingly odd situations.
Murakami has said:

I collect records. And cats. I don’t have any cats right now. But if I’m taking a walk and I see a cat, I’m happy.

May 29, 1453: The End of the Middle Ages

May 29, 2015 | Kelli | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

On May 29, 1453, a event occurred of such significance that some historians mark that day as the end of the Middle Ages. On this day, the city of Constantinople fell to the armies of the Ottoman Empire. This ended the thousand year-old Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire and began the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the city that we know today as Istanbul.

Historical fiction is my favourite way to learn more about history. If you are interested in finding out more about Istanbul, here are some titles set (at least partially) in that historic city.  

A place called armageddon Architect's apprentice Baudolino My name is red Sheen on the silk

 A Place Called Armageddon: Constantinople 1453 by C. C. Humphreys
The story of the fall of Constantinople told through several characters, including Sultan Mehmet II, the Greek mercenary and exile Gregoras  and Leilah, a powerful mystic and assassin. Canadian author. 

The Architect's Apprentice by Elif Shafak
In 1540, twelve-year-old Jahan, an animal tamer in the sultan’s menagerie, falls for the sultan’s beautiful daughter, Princess Mihrimah. A palace education leads Jahan to the empire’s chief architect, who takes Jahan under his wing as they construct some of the most magnificent buildings in history. 
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Baudolino by Umberto Eco and translated by William Weaver.
It is April 1204, and Constantinople is being sacked  by the knights of the Fourth Crusade. After saving high court official from certain death, Baudolino tells his life story, from his birth in northern Italy, his adoption by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and his arrival in Constantinople.
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My Name is Red by Orphan Pamuk
In sixteenth-century Istanbul, the Sultan starts a furor when he commissions the most acclaimed artists to create a controversial illuminated manuscript.   When one of the miniaturists vanishes, panic erupts among the artists while the only clue to the mystery lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves.
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The Sheen on the Silk by Anne Perry
Arriving in Constantinople in 1273, Anna Zarides sets out to prove the innocence of her twin brother, Justinian, who has been exiled to the desert for conspiring to kill a nobleman. To accomplish this goal, Anna disguising herself as a eunuch and uses her skills as a physician to get close to the people who have Justinian's fate in their hands.
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Just a Bunch of Heels: Books for Cannes

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

The Cannes Film Festival has been criticised this week for insisting that women attending screenings wear high heels. 

Here are some book covers that might meet their approval.

Afterburn & Aftershock Escaping reality Killer ambition Shopaholic to the stars

Afterburn: Aftershock by Sylvia Day
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Escaping Reality by Lisa Renee Jones
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Killer Ambition by Marcia Clark
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Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella
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Festival organizers have denied the allegations so here are some flats, too:

Footprints in the sand Love overdue Roost She wore red trainers

Footprints in the Sand: a Piper Donovan Mystery by Mary Jane Clark
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Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi
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Roost by Ali Bryan
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She Wore Red Trainers: a Muslim Love Story by Na'ima bint Roberts

Ruth Rendell, 1930-2015

May 2, 2015 | Book Buzz | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Ruth RendellBritish crime writer Ruth Rendell was born Ruth Barbara Grasemann in London on February 17, 1930. Her parents were both teachers. Their marriage was tempestuous and as a result Rendell's childhood was not a happy one. After completing studies at County High School for Girls in Essex, she became a newspaper reporter but resigned after it was uncovered that she fabricated a story. (She reported on a local tennis club's annual dinner without attending and without realizing that one of the speakers had died during the event.)

She married fellow journalist Don Rendell in 1950. Their son Simon was born three years later. They divorced in 1975 but later remarried and remained together until his death in 1999. She had a number of relationships as a widow, including two marriage proposals, but said that she had all the companionship she needed from her cats. 

From doon with death No man's nightingale

Her first novel, From Doon with Death was published in 1964 and introduced her beloved detective Inspector Wexford. Wexford would appear in 24 books including the 2013 release No Man's Nightingale.

Girl next door Saint zita society Archie and archie Child's child

She also wrote numerous stand alone novels under her own name and psychological thrillers under the pseudonym Barbara Vine.  Her most recent releases are the stand alone novels The Girl Next Door (2014), The Saint Zita Society (2012),  and the  2013 children's book Archie and Archie all published under Ruth Rendell. A Barbara Vine novel The Child's Child was released in 2012.

Stephen King has written that "[n]o one surpasses Ruth Rendell when it comes to stories of obsession, instability, and malignant coincidence".

Ruth Rendell died on May 2, 2015. She had been ailing since suffering a stroke in January. 

(Photo Credit: Crime writer Ruth Rendell was at the Helsinki Book Fair 2005 by Anneli Salo, Creative Commons Licence) 

Weekend Read: The Damned

May 1, 2015 | Soheli | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

You may recall that I fell hard for Gone Girl a while back. While I thoroughly enjoyed the madness of that book, I was a little hesitant to get so wrapped up in yet another book with another insidious female character. There's only so much chaos you can handle at a time, right?

The Damned by Andrew PyperNevertheless, I found myself picking up The Damned by Andrew Pyper earlier this week. Pyper is no stranger to telling horrifying tales (you may have read The Killing Circle) and The Damned looks just as good.

The Damned follows Danny Orchard, a shy young boy who grows into a quiet man, tortured by the death of his picture-perfect twin sister, Ashley. He's not tortured in the way you'd expect though. He's not still mourning her untimely demise because he misses her. Rather, she's actually torturing him: her malevolent spirit just won't leave him alone. Pyschotic Ash isn't very happy that she perished in a the fire that Danny just barely survived and she's hell-bent on making sure he knows it.

 

I've only just begun reading this, but Ashley's character is already building up to be a memorable one. While the blonde haired, blue eyed twin is the vision of perfection in public, her family knows better. Danny, in particular, is privy to her twisted thoughts because as her fraternal twin, he says, "you just know".

Danny knows other things too. He knows what's on the other side of death. When Ash died, Danny did too. But somehow, mysteriously, he made it back. Years later, he writes and publishes a book about his experience and becomes somewhat of a celebrity expert about the afterlife.
While Danny is glad he returned to to the land of the living, he's a little weary of who he may have accidentally brought along with him on his ride back...

So far, The Damned is a creepy read that explores the connections between siblings and how scary it can be to have a sociopath living right under your roof. Danny's mother and father, both acutely aware of their daughter's dangerous mind, spend most of their time trying to stay out of her way.

If you're looking for a dark read from a Toronto writer that knows how to weave a gripping story, try out The Damned with me. Already read it? Let me know what you think: is it a hit or miss? Would you recommend it to an avid reader of the creepy/horror/supernatural genre? Leave a comment to share!

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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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.
Armenian

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.

Tips for Getting Over a Reading Slump

April 17, 2015 | Melanie | Comments (7) 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? 

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