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Chernobyl 30 Years Later

April 25, 2016 | Andrea | Comments (1)

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. On April 26, 1986, a reactor at the nuclear power plant in Pripyat exploded, spreading radioactive material across Ukraine and the rest of the continent, the effects and ramifications of which are still plainly seen and keenly felt. A great deal of the conversation during Earth Month revolves around preservation, sustainability and preparing for tomorrow, and nothing throws the future into more devastating relief than looking to the past. The fragility and resilience of life is demonstrated in Chernobyl's cataclysmic wake, but danger remains: the seeping radiation, and more nebulous threats posed by bureaucracy and greed. Today, a new steel sarcophagus nears completion and a government-sanctioned wildlife preserve is in the works, but rebuilding efforts are hindered by political turmoil and illegal logging, fishing and poaching. Learn more about the current situation in this Scientific American article.

Telling stories about terrible events can help fulfill a human need to understand, process and move on from tragedy. Here are four books, both fiction and non-fiction, covering the incident at Chernobyl and its aftermath in different ways:
 

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon   Visit Sunny Chernobyl by Andrew Blackwell   Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Aleksievich   Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith



All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon 

The lives of a surgeon, a dissident and a child piano prodigy converge when the incident at Chernobyl sets the world aflame and burns away everything they thought they knew. This literary debut novel is a coming of age story, a romance and a work of historical fiction mapping the decline of the Soviet Union and the plight and suffering of its people. 


Visit Sunny Chernobyl, and Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell

When you think of environmental tourism, the Great Pacific garbage patch probably isn't the first destination to come to mind. Blackwell takes his readers off the beaten path, journeying to some the most polluted places on Earth, including a computer recycling plant in China, a poisonous river in India, and even the tar sands of Canada. Described as "a love letter to our biosphere's most tainted, most degraded ecosystems," this unusual travelogue/guidebook explores the uglier aspects of our planet, including Chernobyl's Exclusion Zone. (Yes, it's open to sightseers!) Read more about the day tours in this article from The Guardian. The less adventurous can opt for a virtual reality tour, as the BBC reports here

Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

Alexievich, a Belarusian journalist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2015, listened to the stories of hundreds of people whose lives were shattered by the disaster and recounts them in this harrowing book. The interviews, compiled in monologue form, are intensely personal and offer a heartbreaking look at a turning point in history through the eyes of villagers, scientists, teachers, soldiers, firefighters, politicians — all citizens, all people, all irrevocably changed by Chernobyl. 



Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith

World-weary detective Arkady Renko investigates the death of a Russian billionaire who seemingly committed suicide. But why was radioactive salt found at the scene? The mystery leads Renko into the ghost town of Chernobyl's Exclusion Zone, contaminated but still inhabited by scientists, scavengers and other shady characters. An eerie atmosphere and the underlying conspiracy make for a gripping read.


Other Earth Month-related posts:
Cli-Fi, A Fiction Genre for Climate Change
Fragile Planet: DVDs for the Weekend
Our Fragile Planet: Magazines to the Rescue
It’s Earth Month

2016 Baileys Women's Prize Shortlist

April 12, 2016 | Book Buzz | Comments (0)

The Baileys Women's Prize shortlist was announced on April 12, 2016. Six books are competing to win the prestigious award which will be revealed on June 8. The winning author receives £30000 and a bronze sculpture.

This year's finalists are:

Glorious heresies Green road Improbability of love

Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

The Green Road by Anne Enright
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Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild
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Little life Portable veblen Ruby

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
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The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
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Ruby by Cynthia Bond
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For April Fools Day: Books About Pranks Gone Wrong

April 1, 2016 | Kelli | Comments (0)

Many people celebrate April 1st, otherwise known as April Fools' Day, by playing practical jokes on friends and family. The joke is revealed by calling out "April Fools", which is hopefully followed by lots of laughter by everyone.

Sometimes even respected broadcasters, such as the BBC, get in on the fun. On April 1, 1957, the BBC aired a short documentary on the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. As spaghetti was still new to the UK, and given the fact that the short report was aired by a respected broadcaster, many people were fooled by the hoax.   

Here is the April 1, 1957 report on the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest by the BBC:

Some consider this the best April Fools joke ever. 

Practical jokes are not always so tame as the BBC's fake documentary. Here are some novels where pranks have had unexpected consequences:   

April fool dead Dead simple The Keep Longings of wayward girls Kickback

April Fool Dead: A Death on Demand Mystery by Carolyn G. Hart
Annie Darling, owner of the Death on Demand bookshop, has created an ingenious promotional scheme for the upcoming visit by mystery author Emma Clyde. Offering a free book to anyone who can solve a series of clues about popular whodunits, she distributes flyers all over town. She soon discovers that a prankster has created a counterfeit flyer, offering clues to several lethal local "accidents" that have occurred lately, including the drowning of Ms. Clydes own husband.
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Dead simple by Peter James 
It was meant to be a harmless stag night practical joke. Michael Harrison's friends decide to celebrate his upcoming marriage by burying him alive (with a breathing tube and a walkie-talkie) for a couple hours. When the friends are killed by an oncoming vehicle shortly after leaving Michael buried, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called in to find the missing groom.

 

The keep by Jennifer Egan
After two decades apart, two cousins, Howard and Danny, are brought together to work on the renovation of an isolated and creepy medieval castle.  Their estrangement was caused by a cruel prank when they were kids and Danny is worried that Howard has never forgiven him. 
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The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown
When she was 13, Sadie and her best friend Betty were always getting into mischief. That is until they played a prank on another girl who subsequently disappeared. Twenty years later, the disappearance is still unsolved. After a boy from her neighbourhood returns to town, Sadie is forced to relive that summer as the mystery begins to unravel. 
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Robert B. Parker's Kickback by Ace Atkins
When Dillon Yates set up a prank Twitter account for his vice principal, he didn't expect to be brought up on criminal charges. In Blackburn, Massachusetts, Judge Joe Scali has a zero tolerance for minors getting into trouble. Dillon's mother, who knows other Blackburn kids who are doing hard time for minor infractions, is determined to protect her son from the same fate and hires Spenser to find the truth behind Judge Scali's harsh sentencing.
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The Man Booker International Prize Longlist

March 24, 2016 | Book Buzz | Comments (0)

When it was created in 2005, the Man Booker International Prize was awarded every two years to an author from any country, for their entire body of work, as long as their writing was available in English. Canadian writer Alice Munro won the prize in 2009.

Changes were made after the Man Booker Prize, previously restricted to writers from Commonwealth countries, Zimbabwe and Ireland, expanded its focus to authors around the world. In 2015, the Man Booker International Prize announced that it would merge with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and "encourage more publishing and reading of quality works in translation". 

Beginning in 2016, the International Prize will now be presented for a single work that has been translated into English. The £50,000 prize is shared between the author and translator. 

This is the 2016 longlist:

Cup of rage Death by water Four books General theory of oblivion

A Cup of Rage by Raduan Nassar, translated from the Portuguese by Stefan Tobler

Death by Water by Kenzaburō Ōe, translated from the Japanese by Deborah Boliver Boehm
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The Four Books by Yan Lianke, translated from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas
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A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn

Ladivine Man tiger Mend the living

Ladivine by Marie NDiaye, translated from the French by Jordan Stump

Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan, translated from the Indonesian by Labodalih Sembiring
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Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal, translated from the French by Jessica Moore
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Story of the lost child Strangeness in my own mind Tram 83

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein
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A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk, translated from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap
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Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, translated from the French by Roland Glasser

Vegetarian White hunger Whole life

The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith

White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen, translated from the Finnish by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah
        Not currently available.

A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler, translated from the German by Charlotte Collins

A shortlist will be announced in April and the winner will be presented in May. 

2016 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist

March 21, 2016 | Book Buzz | Comments (0)

The Baileys Women's Prize longlist was revealed on March 8, 2016. Twenty books were nominated from both big names including Geraldine Brooks and Kate Atkinson and from debut novelists like Becky Chambers who used a Kickstarter campaign to finance her novel, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. Petina Gappah is the first Zimbabwean author nominated for the award. Gappah, who works as a trade lawyer in Geneva, Switzerland, is planning to quit her day job and write full time. 

This year's finalists are:

Anatomist's dream At hawthorn time Book of memory Dictionary of mutual understanding

Anatomist's Dream by Clio Gray
        Not yet available in Canada.

At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison

The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah
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Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton
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Girl at war Glorious heresies God in ruins Gorsky

Girl at War by Sara Nović
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Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
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Gorsky by Vesna Goldsworthy

Green road House at the edge of the world Improbability of love Little life

The Green Road by Anne Enright
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The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester
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Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild
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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
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Long way to a small angry planet My name is lucy barton Pleasantville Portable veblen

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
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Pleasantville by Attica Locke
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The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
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Ruby Rush oh Secret chord Whispers through a megaphone

Ruby by Cynthia Bond
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Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
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Whispers Through a Megaphone by Rachel Elliott
        Not yet available in Canada.

 A shortlist of six titles will be released on April 11 and the winner will be announced on June 8, 2016.

Get Over It on March 9

March 9, 2016 | M. Elwood | Comments (1)

This is the latest in my seemingly endless series on crazy holidays that I connect in a tenuous way to books. Here we go:

Today is Get Over It Day, a holiday invented in 2005 by a man who was having trouble moving on after breaking up with his girlfriend. It is intended to be a day when people meet adversity with humour. 

These books about revenge would be a lot shorter if their characters had celebrated Get Over it Day.

Charlie johnson in the flames Electrico Little friend Orange grove

Charlie Johnson in the Flames by Michael Ignatieff
In 1998, while covering a story in Kosovo, war correspondent Charlie Johnson is shattered by the violent death of a woman who had given him shelter. Unable to cope with his guilt, he begins a quest for both vengeance and absolution.

Eléctrico W by Hervé Le Tellier
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In Lisbon to escape his failing relationship, a journalist discovers that the photographer he is working with is having an affair with the same woman. He decides that breaking her heart by having the photographer fall in love with someone else is his best chance for revenge. 

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
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The unsolved murder of nine-year-old Robin Cleve Dusfresnes destroys his family. Now 12 years later, his sister Harriet, only a baby at the time of the crime, decides that the best way to rectify the damage is to solve the crime.

The Orange Grove by Larry Tremblay
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When a bombing kills their grandparents, twin brothers set out to avenge the deaths but must make a devastating sacrifice in the process.

Scrapper Sisters brothers Tea rose The third child

Scrapper by Matt Bell
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While salvaging for scrap metal in an abandoned building, a man finds instead a kidnapped child and, after the police fail to find the perpetrators, vows to solve the crime himself and exact revenge.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
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Charlie and Eli Sisters are gunslingers instructed to hunt down and kill a man who has turned against their employer. As the task proves difficult, Eli begins to question the necessity of their task. Winner of the Rogers Writer's Trust Fiction Prize, Governor General's English Fiction Prize and the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. 

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
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Young sweethearts Fiona and Joe plan to open their own shop one day but tragic events (including Jack the Ripper!) force them apart. Fleeing to New York to save her life, Fiona becomes a successful business woman but never stops planning revenge against the people responsible for ruining her life.

The Third Child by Marge Piercy
Melissa is lost and neglected between her politically important parents and her overachieving siblings. At university, finally free of her difficult home life, she begins an affair with a student destined to horrify her family; however she is unaware that the young man is planning retribution against her family for reasons of his own.

International Women for International Women's Day

March 8, 2016 | M. Elwood | Comments (0)

Celebrate International Women's Day with one of these novels about international women and girls.

American woman Boston girl Dead women of juarez English german

American Woman by Robert Pobi
Crime fiction

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
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Historical fiction

The Dead Women of Juárez by Sam Hawken
Crime fiction

The English German Girl by Jake Wallis Simmons
Historical fiction

English girl Girl from krakow Girls from corona Goat woman of largo

The English Girl by Daniel Silva
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Espionage

The Girl from Krakow by Alexander Rosenberg
Historical fiction

The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe
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Coming of age novel

The Goat Woman of Largo Bay by Gillian Royes
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Crime fiction

Irish country girl Lost girls of rome Swedish girl Woman in jerusalem

An Irish Country Girl by Patrick Taylor
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Historical fiction

The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi, translated by Howard Curtis
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Crime fiction

The Swedish Girl by Alex Grey
Crime fiction

A Woman in Jerusalem by Abraham B. Yehoshua, translated by Hillel Halkin
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Contemporary fiction

Simon and Schuster to Launch Salaam Reads

March 4, 2016 | Soheli | Comments (14)

Major publisher, Simon & Schuster, recently announced plans for Salaam Reads, a children's imprint that will be the first to focus on Muslim stories and characters.

With growing movements like #WeNeedDiverseBooks, this comes as a much needed progression for a large publishing house. This will be the first major imprint of its kind. Executive editor Zareen Jaffery commented:

"Our aim with the Salaam Reads imprint is in part to provide fun and compelling books for Muslim children, but we also intend for these books to be entertaining and enriching for a larger non-Muslim audience.”

In a diverse city like Toronto, this is a welcome development as we find more and young readers searching to relate to characters in the books they're reading. Consider the impact and popularity of Ms. Marvel, the first Pakistani-American Muslim female teenager to headline her own Marvel series. Not only are titles featuring Muslim characters compelling for a growing audience, but they sell too. This is in direct contradiction with some of the general notions that diverse books don't necessarily make money for publishers because people don't buy them.

Canadian children's author, Rukhsana Khan, who is best known for picture books including Big Red Lollipop and King for a Day, is one who is excited about these upcoming changes. It took nearly a decade for Khan to find a publisher to take on her first title, Bedtime Ba-a-a-lk. “To write it as a Muslim story changes the whole perspective," Khan notes in a recent Macleans article. "It goes outside the mainstream. People in publishing are open-minded, but I think they worried about the audience.”

Ms Marvel

Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel - just your average teenaged, gum-popping superhero. No big deal.

Toronto Public Library consistently works to include diverse and representative books for all ages and abilities in its collection. However, with a large-scale publisher on board, it definitely makes our job selecting high-quality items a little smoother. Here are some examples of fiction titles we already carry focusing on Muslim characters and experiences.

Books for Adults and Older Teens

  

  

  

In The Language of Miracles
Rajia Hassib, 2015

Painted Hands
Jennifer Zobair, 2013

Ms. Marvel
Willow G. Wilson, 2014-2015

American Dervish
Ayad Akhtar, 2012

The Harem
Safia Fazlul, 2012

The Submission
Amy Waldman, 2011

American Taliban
Pearl Abraham, 2010

Boy vs. Girl
Na'íma bint Robert, 2010

Skunk Girl
Sheba Karim, 2009

Fashionably Late
Nadine Dajani, 2007

I Dream of Microwaves
Imad Rahman, 2004

Books for middle-school aged kids and younger teens

 

 

The Garden of My Imaan
Farhana Zia, 2013

Many Windows
Rukhsana Khan, 2008

Ask Me No Questions
Marina Tamar Budhos, 2006

Does My Head Look Big In This?

Randa Abdel-Fattah, 2005

 

Books for younger kids


Nabeel's New Pants: an Eid Tale
Fawzia Gilani-Williams, 2010

My First Ramadan
Karen Katz, 2007

The Best Eid Ever
Asma Mobin-Uddin, 2007

The Hundredth Name
Shulamith Levey Oppenheim, 1995

Salaam Reads has several children's books already in the works. Based on a New York Times article, some of the upcoming titles include:

Salam Alaikum, a picture book based on a song by the British teen pop singer Harris J.

Musa, Moises, Mo and Kevin, a picture book about four kindergarten friends who learn about one another’s holiday traditions.

The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand by Karuna Riazi, about a 12-year-old Bangladeshi-American who sets out to save her brother from a supernatural board game.

Yo Soy Muslim, a picture book by the poet Mark Gonzales.

 

Salaam Reads is set to officially launch its first list in 2017. 

Downton Abbey's Final Episode

February 26, 2016 | Kelli | Comments (6)

As most Downton Abbey fans know, the final episode of this popular series will be aired on PBS next Sunday, March 6th.  Will fans be happy with how writer Julian Fellowes has ended this popular series?  Most importantly, will poor Lady Edith finally find happiness??

If you enjoyed Downton Abbey and are impatiently waiting for the new series, The Gilded Age, by Fellowes, you can keep in the spirit of the times by picking up some novels set during the period of the Downton Abbey, from the years just before World War One through to the Roaring Twenties.

One highly anticipated book that is to be published very soon is Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson (author of the delightful Major Pettigrew's Last Stand):

Summer before the warSet in the small village of Rye, East Sussex in the summer of 1914, the novel starts with the arrival of Beatrice Nash, the new Latin teacher. Beatrice is soon to find that her job is not as secure as she thought, as some of the villagers are in an uproar at the idea of a woman teaching Latin.  While relatively young, Beatrice is very qualified for the position and has Agatha Kent, wife of an official in the Foreign Office, as her mentor and chief advocate.  Agatha's two grown nephews have also arrived for the summer. Daniel the poet and Hugh the medical student. They soon befriend Beatrice and help Beatrice to keep her position in the school.  As Beatrice settles into village life, she meets some of the other town residents and she gets a taste for teaching by tutoring three local boys. Yet, as the summer progresses, the upcoming war is looming. Daniel, Hugh and other young men in the village start talking of enlisting. After it begins, refugees from Belgium arrive and life in the village is to be changed forever. 

 Summer Before the War is currently on order. Go ahead and place a hold for a copy in regular print, or one these other formats:

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While you are waiting for your hold on The Summer Before the War to arrive, check out the books by Toronto author, Jennifer Robson.    

Somewhere in franceIn Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War, Lady Elizabeth "Lilly" Neville-Ashford is fighting her mother's expectation that she live the life of an aristocrat and marry someone 'suitable'.  Instead, Lilly is determined to have a life full of purpose and to marry for love.  When World War One starts, Lilly's battles with her parents escalate and after a huge confrontation, she breaks with her family and leaves home for good.  With her title and everything that goes with it behind her, Lilly moves to London and gets her first job.  When she hears about the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (W.A.A.C.), she immediately signs up. After a few weeks training to become an ambulance driver, she volunteers for a field hospital in France.  Yet, the call to duty is not Lilly's only reason for going to France. Already at this field hospital is the handsome Scottish surgeon, Robert Fraser, her brother Edward’s best friend and the man Lilly has dreamed about for years.  

 Somewhere in France is also available in:
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Robson's second book, After the War is Over is the story of Lilly's friend, Charlotte Brown, during her post-war life in Liverpool. Moonlight Over Paris, the third book in this series of interconnected stories, was just published.  If you are unfamiliar with this author, have a look at the recent article in The Globe and Mail, Jennifer Robson: The most successful Canadian author you’ve never heard of.  Ms Robson will be visiting Palmerston Branch for a talk about her new book in April.

 

Of course, if you truly are not ready to leave the Dowager Duchess and the rest of Downton Abbey residents behind, you could enjoy it all again by watching all six seasons in DVD. Enjoy once again Lady Violet ask"What is a weekend?"

DA Season 1 DA Season 2 DA Season 3 DA Season 4 DA Season 5 DA Season 6

 Related posts:

 

Freedom to Read Week: February 21-26, 2016

February 24, 2016 | M. Elwood | Comments (0)

My mother says that my love of words began when I was a baby and she held me while reading stories to my older sister. Three of my grandparents were teachers so I figure I was doomed from the start. Car trips always involved word and alphabet games. To this day, I spend subway rides rearranging the letters on the posters.

Everyone figured out pretty early that I was less annoying if they just left me alone with a book so no one tried to limit my reading except for one thing. My mother would not let me read comic books because she said they were full of spelling mistakes. Right. As an adult I have a dual love affair with graphic novels and spell check.   

I read whatever I could get my hands on; I managed to corrupt my entire grade 8 class with a Harold Robbins' book. I regret this only because the sex in the book, while graphic, was not particularly good from a female perspective. 

Essentially, my reading life was unimpeded until high school. In grade 10, one of the assigned novels was a book called Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford. Although I had yet to crack it open, we'd been discussing it for about a week when we were suddenly told to give it back. When pressed the teacher told us that a parent had complained about racial slurs in the book. This was when I discovered that although I resented assigned reading, it was even worse to be told you couldn't read something. 

Here are a few books that have been banned or challenged but that I love anyway:

Children's Books:

Captain underpants Stupids take off Thomas snowsuit

The Adventures of Captain Underpants: the Epic First Novel by Dav Pilkey

The Stupids Take Off by Harry Allard and James Marshall

Thomas' Snowsuit by Robert Munch    

Adult Books: 

Catch 22 Color purple Handmaid's tale

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
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The Color Purple by Alice Walker
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
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Persepolis Slaughterhouse five To kill a mockingbird

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Slaughterhouse-Five, or, The Children's Crusade: a Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
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February 21-26 is Freedom to Read Week. Celebrate by reading anything you like!

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