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Bah Humbug! Books for Scrooges and Grinches

December 23, 2015 | Soheli | Comments (7) Facebook Twitter More...

If you're reading this, chances are, you're probably hiding in a corner with your laptop, actively trying to avoid the company of less-than-favourite relatives, or already dreading the post-Christmas lineup at stores to exchange gifts you didn't like. Welcome, my friends. You are my people.

Since Halloween ended, haven't you felt the chill in the air? Felt the hustle bustle and the anxiety of dealing with pushy store clerks? What about the endless stream of lousy Christmas music blaring at every corner? It's enough to make this girl an outright Scrooge.

Grumpy Cat is not in the festive spirit.

If you're with me and would rather escape the holiday buzz, here's a few books to curl up with by the fireplace (glass of eggnog optional!)

The Dreaded Feast: Writers on Enduring the Holidays
Michele Clark and others, 2009

The Dreaded Feast

Writers reflect on the downside of the holidays. Extended family, buying presents for people you don't like, neighbours who put their lights up in October and don't take them down till March...and how to survive it all.

Wrapped in Seduction
Lisa Renee Jones and others, 2009

Wrapped In Seduction

Tired of the typical feel-good Christmas tale? Why not try a different type of feel-good story? (Sorry, that's terrible. I know.)
In this sizzling collection of holiday-themed erotica, you've got titles like Hot For Santa, Wrapped in Holly, and Mistletoe Bliss.
You probably won't be needing that fire to keep you warm after all.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Dr. Seuss, 1957

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

A classic tale of the original Grinch. It's hard not to admire him, no? I mean, he got sick of the darned spirited Whos down in Who-Ville and he made it a mission to steal their joy. You may not want to go that far (please don't trip any mall Santas!) but this vintage read may have you cackling and rubbing your hands together in evil glee. Settle down with the kids and have a go at this one. Be careful, though: heartwarming ending ahead...ugh.


Holidays on Ice
David Sedaris, 2008

Holidays On Ice

Called one of "the funniest writers alive", David Sedaris shares holiday pain and joy (but mostly pain) in a collection of stories, including Santa Land Diaries, a semi-autobiographical account of his time working as one of Santa's elves in a department store. Picture runny-nosed brats, brawling shoppers, and an elf costume not designed for comfort.


The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Barbara Robinson, 1972

Here's another classic kids' book that is worth (re)reading. The Herdmans are the worst bunch of children in the history of the world. No, really: they're a bunch of lying, thieving arsonists that have no qualms about smoking your cigars and slapping your kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant. Any idealistic notions of a calm, serene Christmas just went out the window...


Whether you're a true Grinch or just get slightly grumpy around the holidays, be sure to make the best of it. I hope you avoided the mall crowds and shopped online, ditched taking on the big family dinner alone and did a jumbo potluck - whatever works best! Be sure to also check out Maureen's write-up of Christmas reads too (complete with store elf encounter!) After all, 'tis the season to be jolly...or so I've heard. 


Best of 2015: Staff Members' Favourite Reads 2

December 22, 2015 | Book Buzz | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...


The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq by Emma Sky
What went wrong and what went right in the Iraqi invasion and occupation? As a British civilian working as a Political Advisor to US General Ray Odierno, and Petraeus, Sky was an insider who never lost her initial resistance to the war. She was there from the premature declaration of victory, through the success of the Sunni awakening to the disastrous withdrawal in 2010, and writes frankly about the work, the people and the problems.

My dog bobFaye:

My Dog, Bob by Richard Torrey
Bob likes breakfast, car rides and digging for bones. Unlike other dogs, Bob can make his own breakfast, drives the family in their family car and other unusual things.

Find out what else Bob can do.





The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis
A steampunk alternate history in which the Dutch have become the dominant colonial power through enslaved alchemical-mechanical golems called Clakkers. There are epic battles between human and machine and good and evil, spies, treachery, explorations of identity, free will, and immortal souls, and some very creative swearing thrown in for good measure.


Challenger deepChallenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
A desperate and terrifying dip into the mind of a teen named Caden with mental illness, this YA novel is based on the author's son's experience with schizophrenia. It pulls no punches; delusions and hallucinations are scary and the treatments are difficult and life-long, but Caden's story helps to humanize people suffering from mental illness.

A raw but very important read.


Fifth seasonThe Fifth Season: Every Age Must Come to an End by N.K. Jemisin
Orogenes are people with the ability to control the movement of the earth on this catastrophically seismic planet; they are universally feared whether controlled by the shady organization called the Fulcrum, or living on the run in secret. Pick this up if you like your fantasy very dark and filled with fabulous world-building, beautiful writing, and intense characters diverse in skin colour, gender, and sexual orientation.


Related posts:

Best of 2015: Staff Members' Favourite Reads 1

December 17, 2015 | Book Buzz | Comments (7) Facebook Twitter More...



The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
Talking Book (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)

Alyson really liked The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld for its unusual, lyrical, fairytale-like way of describing a terrible place.

An unnamed death-row inmate narrates a story about life on death row in a rundown prison he calls "the enchanted place", focusing on a woman researching the life of another prisoner in an attempt to commute his sentence even though the man wants to die. The author herself has worked as a death-row investigator.

At the water's edge


At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
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Talking Book (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)
While her husband, Ellis, and his friend try to find the Loch Ness monster in an attempt to win back his father's good graces, Maddie is left on her own in World War II-era Scotland.

Book of speculation

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
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Talking Book (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)
Simon is a librarian, who receives a mysterious old book from a bookseller. The book tells the story of a traveling circus and appears to be connected to his family. Does this book hold family secrets? Why do so many women in his family drown and could his sister be next?

March 2

March. Book Two written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; art by Nate Powell
The second volume in the civil rights leader/congressman's graphic book memoir covers the Freedom Rides and March on Washington. It's an incredibly moving series.



Rest of us just live here
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
A lovely YA novel about a group of teens who are not among the "chosen ones". While other high school students in town are fighting with or falling in love with vampires or trying to save the world from the undead, Mike and his friends are just trying to finish high school with their friendships and dignity intact.


We have always lived in the castle


We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
A haunting story about two sisters living in a town where everyone hates them since four members of their family died of arsenic poisoning. Merricat, Constance and Uncle Julian coast along trying to avoid the town folks until a visit from cousin Charles changes everything.


Related posts:

Minor Characters, Major Roles

December 4, 2015 | Andrea | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

"They may be minor characters, but they are major characters in my heart!" This sentiment may strike a chord with you if you've ever found yourself wanting to know more about a character in a book or TV show or movie, and yet the writers have different ideas. Judging from the popularity of a paraphrased text post version of this quote making the rounds on Tumblr, you are not alone in your affinity for minor characters who inevitably do not get enough screen time (or worse, get killed off to serve the plot, despite your lamentations that you did not receive flashbacks and a full backstory).

Many authors, fascinated by characters who play small roles in another work, are compelled to tell that character's story by making them the protagonist of their own book. These works of fan fiction, aside from expanding the story universe and offering intriguing new perspectives, often serve to give voices to marginalized groups as well. Here are five examples of minor literary characters given major roles: 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Wide Sargasso Sea Mary Reilly The Red Tent The Penelopiad

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

Hamlet's childhood buddies are bit players in Shakespeare's tragedy and didn't even get to die onstage, but they get starring roles in this absurdist play.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

This prequel to Jane Eyre is a postcolonial take on Charlotte Bronte's classic, telling the story of the first Mrs. Rochester.


The title character is literally a random housemaid with no speaking lines in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — talk about an Ascended Extra! This novel creates an entire past and story arc for her, weaving it into Robert Louis Stevenson's original story. 

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Told from the point of view of Dinah, one of the lesser known women of the Bible, this perennial book club favourite was adapted into a Lifetime movie. 

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

What else was Penelope doing aside from spending her days waiting for Odysseus to come home? Her version of events features a diverse array of narrative styles plus a chorus of dead maids.


Buy Nothing Day, Borrow a Book Instead

November 27, 2015 | Lynn | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Yesterday was America's Thanksgiving, which makes today Black Friday, a chance for consumerism to run rampant. Not all people choose to run out and shop like mad, some people choose to celebrate this day as Buy Nothing Day, which makes a visit to the library perfect. For those who may not know, Buy Nothing Day was started by a Canadian in 1992 and has spread to a number of other countries. On this day why not visit your local library and borrow a book or DVD or magazine instead of buying one.  We are always adding to our collections, such as new adult fiction, mysteries, ebooks and titles for teens and children.


by Marissa Meyer

This is to be the final story in a futuristic take on fairy tales. Marissa Meyer has already written stories Cinderella, Little Red Riding HoodRapunzel and this one is Snow White.  

Crimson Shore
Crimson Shore
by Preston and Child

This is book number 15 in the Aloysius Pendergast series. It is a series full of intrigue, potential mystical aspects and many thrills. A great read for those who enjoy a mysterious protagonist.

Even dogs in the wild
Even Dogs in the Wild
by Ian Rankin

I have been a Rebus fan for many many years and I get excited for any chance to revisit this seriously flawed police officer with a serious love of music and alcohol. Ian Rankin recently was recently at the Appel Salon talking about his new book, so be sure to watch the full interview on our YouTube channel soon.

SPQR A history of ancient rome
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
by Mary Beard

This is a revisionist take on Ancient Rome exploring how a small Roman city grew to conquer much of the known Western world all the way to the British Isles. What is fact and what is fiction and what is pure myth that surrounds this ancient global power.

I survived the Great Chicago Fire
I survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871
by Lauren Tarshis

This is a great series for kids who enjoy a little history mixed in with some adventure. The series covers such events as the Titanic sinking, the Hindenburg and tornadoes.These books can be great reads for reluctant readers, and boys love the action.

Big nate welcome to my world
Big Nate: welcome to my world
by Lincoln Peirce

Big Nate continue to be funny and a huge hit with boys and girls of all ages. This series offers a funny take on how to handle the struggles of school and friends, something everyone can relate to.

Scholastic 2016 book of world records special edition epic wins and fails
Scholastic book of world records, 2016: special edition: epic wins and fails
by Jennifer Corr Morse

Who doesn't like a year in review book with fun facts. This is a great book to read over the holidays or to just browse through to see what some people can do.

Success Stories from National Novel Writing Month

November 16, 2015 | M. Elwood | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

During National Novel Writing Month, people around the world are encouraged to stop thinking about writing a novel and actually do it. Between November 1-30, participants complete a 50,000 word novel. In Toronto, 1,655 writers are hard at work on their books. To these people I say: you're doing great! Keep it up!

If you get frustrated while you're writing think of these stories:

Art of crash landing Fangirl Forest of hands and teeth Lock in

The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo
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Melissa DeCarlo stopped writing when she turned 40 and had not yet had a book published. In 2009, one of her friends told her about NaNoWriMo and she participated. More important than the quality of her work (she describes it as "craptastic") was that the experience rekindled her love of writing. Her very well-reviewed debut novel was published in September 2015. 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Rowell had written two books before November 2011. She was worried that NaNoWriMo would be too intense and stressful, but she decided to participate anyway. Fangirl is the result.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
First time novelist Ryan began her bestselling zombie trilogy for National Novel Writing Month in 2006. She did not complete 50,000 words during the month, but she was inspired to keep writing and completed the first draft of the book the following April.

Lock In by John Scalzi
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Faced with a December 1 deadline for a novel he hadn't written, award-winning Scalzi participated in NaNoWriMo in 2013. During the month he wrote the bulk of his bestseller, Lock In. He has said that the thought of writing 2,500 words each day made the idea of completing his novel more manageable.

Night circus Shades of milk and honey Water for elephants Wool omnibus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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Talking Book (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)
Erin Morgenstern participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2003 when she was only able to finish 15000 words. She tried again in 2004, "winning" that time with what she describes as a "sprawling mess". In 2005, she was stumped about what her characters should do next, so she sent them to the circus. The circus idea resonated with her and the following two Novembers she expanded upon it, producing much of her popular novel.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Shades of Milk and Honey, Kowal's first published novel, was written during November 2006. After spending 10 years on her first (unpublished) novel, she realized that having a deadline and setting a goal of 2,000 words per day, focuses her mind on the writing process. Shades of Milk and Honey was nominated for Best Novel at the 2011 Nebula Awards. 

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Talking Book (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)
Gruen spent two National Novel Writing Months perfecting her book about a Depression-era circus.

Wool by Hugh Howey
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Although he had published one book through a small publisher, Howey had planned that Wool would be a short story and released it on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing. It was a great success and readers began asking for more. During NaNoWriMo he completed the next three stories in the Wool Omnibus.

Purists will quibble that most of these writers broke the rules of NaNoWriMo by expanding upon previous writing efforts--taboo in this challenge--but I find it inspiring that their books were written and that NaNoWriMo was responsible.

Visit NaNoWriMo for additional information and the complete list of works written during the challenge that have been published either by traditional publishers or self-published. 

Climate Fiction: How Climate Change Will Effect Us

November 13, 2015 | Kelli | Comments (6) Facebook Twitter More...

Climate fiction, sometimes called "cli-fi", is a literary genre that deals with the impacts of climate change. According to a recent articles in the Atlantic  and Wired, the term 'cli-fi" was coined in 2007 by climate activist and writer Dan Bloom who was looking to spice up the dull name 'climate fiction' and raise awareness about global warming. In this genre, authors take climate change predictions to their logical conclusion and explore how people may survive. Climate fiction (and its related eco-fiction) is considered a subcategory of science fiction.  Popular authors of this genre are Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi and Kim Stanley Robinson.  

With the United Nations Conference of Climate Change being held soon, from November 30 - December 11, 2015 in Le Bourget, France, this is a great time to try one of the many books in this growing genre.

Here are a few 'cli-fi' books:

Forty signs of rain Gold flame citrus Memory of water Oryx and crake Water knife

Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson
Senate environmental staffer Charlie Quibler must find a way to get a skeptical Washington administration to act on climate change before it's too late. His wife, Anna, who works at the National Science Foundation, comes across a proposal for a revolutionary process that could solve the problem of global warming. However, when a race to control the budding technology begins, the stakes only get higher and fate is about to create a twist that will place them at the heart of an unavoidable storm. 

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
Unrelenting drought has changed Southern California. In this barren world most "Mojavs," prevented moving to lusher regions, have allowed themselves to be evacuated to internment camps. Two young Mojavs, Luz and Ray, squat in an abandoned mansion subsisting on whatever they can loot or scavenge. When they cross paths with a mysterious child, they begin to thirst for a better future.

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta
In the far north of the Scandinavia, in the power state of New Qian, Noria Kaitio studies to become a tea master. It is a position that holds great responsibility and a dangerous secret. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that once provided water for her whole village. Nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2015.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
In this first book of the Maddaddam trilogy, Snowman is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human. He embarks on a journey through the lush wilderness that was recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride.
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Talking Book (Restricted to print disabled patrons)

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
In an American Southwest decimated by drought, Angel Velasquez is working as a water cutter, ensuring through violence that lush, luxurious developments have access to water.  Sent off to investigate a new source, Angel meets journalist Lucy and migrant Maria. The three work together when they find themselves used as pawns, but in this world where water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like the sand. 
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If you prefer to learn about climate change from non-fiction books, have a look at the Readings on Mother Earth blog post for some suggested titles to get started.

Note: Both Atlantic and Wired are available for free (with a library card) through Zinio, the Toronto Public Library's eMagazine service.

André Alexis Wins 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize

November 11, 2015 | Book Buzz | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Fifteen dogs André Alexis

This year, the lucrative Scotiabank Giller Prize has been awarded to André Alexis for his novel Fifteen Dogs: an Apologue. In the novel, 15 dogs are granted human intelligence by Apollo and Hermes in order to settle a bet about whether intelligence is an important factor in happiness. The novel recently won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. It was also shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award. 

Fifteen Dogs: An Apologue by André Alexis

This year's other finalists are:

Arvida Daydreams of angels

Martin john


Arvida by Samuel Archibald
• eBook
Arvida by Samuel Archibald describes life in his hometown Arvida, Quebec, a planned community built in the 1920s as a model town for employees of the Alcoa Aluminum Company and their families. The collection of short stories was published in French in 2011 and won Quebec Prix Des Libraries and Prix Coup de cœur Renaud-Bray. 

Daydreams of Angels by Heather O'Neill
Heather O'Neill was also on the Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist in 2014, for her novel, The Girl who was Saturday Night. Daydreams of Angels is a collection of quirky and inventive short stories.

Martin John by Anakana Schofield
Anakana Schofield has told the CBC that "it was quite terrifying writing this book". Martin John profiles a severely disturbed sexual offender. 

Outline by Rachel Cusk
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Rachel Cusk was born in Toronto and now lives and works in London. In Outline, a writer spends a week in Athens teaching a writing workshop. The book is a series of conversations she has with the people she encounters during the trip. The novel was nominated for the Goldsmiths Prize, Bailey Prize, Folio Prize and Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction.

André Alexis Named Winner of Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize

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

Alexis-fifteen-dogs Andre

André Alexis' novel Fifteen Dogs: an Apologue has been nominated for several awards this year including The Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Toronto Book Award. On November 3, 2015, the novel was named winner of the Rogers Writers' Trust Award for Fiction. The award, first presented in 1987, celebrates the year's best Canadian fiction and considers short story collections as well as novels. As winner, Alexis receives $25,000. The each of the finalists receives $3500.

Fifteen Dogs: An Apologue by André Alexis

The other finalists were:

Confidence150 His whole life 150 Jaguar's children150 Red jacket

Confidence by Russell Smith

His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay

The Jaguar's Children by John Vaillant
Talking Book (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)

Red Jacket by Pamela Mordecai


Scary Stories Part II

October 30, 2015 | Andrea | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Picking up from where we left off last week, here is a selection of books for the spookiest season of the year:

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin Carrie by Stephen King Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson 

The shadow of Hill House looms large over all the other haunted buildings in the genre. This eerie 1959 ghost story is the psychologically fraught tale of a group of paranormal investigators who decide to spend a summer at the titular house. (What did you do during your summer vacation?) If you’re looking for something extra spooky and Gothic after seeing Crimson Peak, check out John Harwood’s unsettling Victorian tales!

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin 

A woman experiences a strange pregnancy in this 1967 novel, and begins to suspect her husband and neighbours of conspiring against her. 


Considered by many to be the king of contemporary horror, the prolific author produced an impressive list of iconic works which have led to countless adaptations. His first published novel, concerning a teenage girl with telekinetic powers who has the worst prom ever, inspired four movies and even a Broadway musical. 

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice 

1976 was a good year for horror. Film versions of Carrie and The Omen hit the screens, and Rice’s first novel was published, unleashing the vampire Lestat upon the world. 


The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker 

The 1986 novella from which the Hellraiser film franchise sprung is a bloody and brutal tale about the dark desires of the human heart.


The Passage by Justin CroninAnd now for some of my personal favourites from this decade! The Passage by Justin Cronin starts slowly, taking its time to sink its teeth into the dark parts of your imagination. Government experiments with a bat virus were supposed to lead to the creation of super soldiers, but alas, the human trials go terribly wrong. The first part of the book has a dread-building intensity, followed by a time jump into a post-apocalyptic future where human survivors live in colonies — disorienting at first, but gripping once you get into the world-building aspects. This is the first book of a trilogy; the second one I confess I didn’t enjoy as much, but I’m still looking forward to the last book, which is expected to be published next year.





The Troop by Nick CutterStephen King blurbed The Troop by Nick Cutter, saying it scared the hell out of him. I feel you, Stephen King! A troop of boy scouts go on a camping trip to a remote uninhabited island, because that’s going to end well, and sure enough, a stranger shows up one night, looking rather sickly and wasting away… The combination of body horror and literary style could be described as Alien meets Lord of the Flies, with a dash of The Ruins and 28 Days Later. Trigger warnings for animal abuse and self-mutilation, and that doesn't even cover a scene that still makes me feel slightly ill when I think about it, and I read it more than a year ago. Nick Cutter apparently knows exactly how to tap into and then fuse all my fears (in The Deep, bees and nightmare clown faces show up at the bottom of the ocean) so I would not be surprised if his next book contains more invertebrates plus an antique doll collection thrown in for good measure.





While we're on the subject, I would also recommend The Library at Mount Char, which I rave about in this post, and The Girl with All the Gifts, which my fellow librarian raves about here.

What are you reading this Halloween?


Related posts:
20 Best Horror Films on DVD
Beyond Honey Boo Boo: Scary Little Monsters in Fiction
Hallowe’en: Fun and Scary
Spooky Stuff: Ghosts and Haunted Houses in Fiction
Vampire Fiction for the Shortest Day of the Year
Z is for Zombie

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