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In Touch: Books about long-distance love

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

Girl on Vintage Telephone
Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Rainbow Rowell, 2015

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

The Notebook
By Nicholas Sparks, 1996

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

The Book of Strange New Things
By Michel Faber, 2014

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

Upcoming Books to Movies: Spring 2015

March 20, 2015 | Kelli | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Spring is here! While waiting for it to finally get warm outside, why not spend the time getting prepared for the spring movie season. Here are some of the books that have been made into movies, which will be released into theatres over the next few months. 


Insurgent, the second book in Veronica Roth's popular trilogy, arrives in theatres today. The story of Tris and Four which began in the book (and movie) Divergent continues with them now on the run and hunted by the Erudite leader, Jeanine. Racing against time, they must find out what Tris’s family sacrificed their lives to protect, and why the Erudite leaders will do anything to stop them. 

Also available in:


Prone gunman Longest ride Child 44 True story Far from the madding

The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette (Movie title is The Gunman)
Martin Terrier is a sniper on a mercenary assassination team. After he kills the minister of mines of the Congo, he is forced into hiding. Returning to the Congo years later, he wants out of the organization but becomes the target of a hit squad himself.

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
The story of a star-crossed love affair between the young Luke and Sophia. As their relationship is tested, Sophia and Luke make a connection with Ira, whose memories of his own romance with his beloved Ruth inspire the young couple.
Large Print
Talking Book (Restricted to print disabled patrons)

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
In Stalin's Soviet Union, former policeman and military hero, Leo Demidov, is arrested, demoted, and denounced, and suspects that a serial killer is in the midst of this turn of events. With only his wife at his side, Leo must find and stop a criminal that the State will not admit even exists.
Large Print
Talking Book (Restricted to print disabled patrons)

True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpla by Michael Finkel.  (Movie title is True Story)
In 2002, Michael Finkel was fired from the New York Times for fabricating a character in a story. Just as this was about to come out, he learned that a man named Christian Longo had stolen his identity. Sensing both a story and an opportunity for redemption, Finkel contacted Longo and initiated a relationship that would grow increasingly complex.
Talking Book (Restricted to print disabled patrons)

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her bold presence draws three very different suitors and each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life.

March is Umbrella Month

March 19, 2015 | M. Elwood | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

According to the good people at Days of the Year, March is Umbrella Month. People have no doubt been seeking shelter from the elements throughout the ages. Using large leaves as a means of shade may have led to the development of the parasol in Ancient Egypt about 3500 years ago. These early umbrellas were used by royalty to protect their skin from the sun. The idea of a waterproof umbrella comes from China in 11th century B.C.

Today umbrellas are available in a huge variety of colours and patterns. They even show up on book covers from time to time:

After it rains Beautiful foolds Buddha in the attic First sight One step too far

After it Rains by Bill Haugland
After 45 years as a broadcast journalist Bill Haugland has turned to writing. After it Rains is his first collection of short stories.

Beautiful Fools: the Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald by R. Clifton Spargo
Scott has been toiling away in Hollywood while Zelda has been in and out of mental hospitals on the East coast. This novel is a fictionalized account of a Cuban vacation they took together--their final vacation, as it turns out.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Large Print
Talking Book: CD Format (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)
The story of 8 "picture brides" who came to the United States from Japan in the early 1900s.

First Sight by Danielle Steel
Large Print
A busy fashion designer doesn't think she has time for love; then she meets a handsome French surgeon and reconsiders.

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis
Large Print
A woman leaves behind her comfortable suburban life to completely reinvent herself. What is she running from?

Please note that these books are only moderately useful protection from the elements and do not replace proper umbrellas. 

Rats! 5 Novels about the Unjustly Accused

March 9, 2015 | M. Elwood | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Two Black rats (Rattus rattus) in the Hagenbeck Zoo

Scientists in Norway have recently uncovered evidence that giant gerbils and not rats were responsible for the black death in 14th century Europe. Briefly, they examined climate data and discovered that the plague flourished in years where the black rat population would have declined due to unfavourable weather conditions. 

Innocent black rats, like the ones shown here, have been unfairly taking the blame for centuries.

These novels are about people falsely accused of crimes:

Big exit Crooked letter  crooked letter Dear daughter Never go back Wash this blood clean from my hand

The Big Exit by David Carnoy
Richie Forman spent 7 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Recently released, he becomes a suspect in the murder of the man who framed him and stole his girlfriend.

Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Large Print
Talking Book: CD Format (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)
When Larry Ott's high school girlfriend disappeared, the people in his small Mississippi town suspected that he'd killed her even though her body was never found. Now many years later, another young woman is missing and Ott is once again the prime suspect.

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
Large Print
Celebutante Janie Jenkins was convicted of the murder of her mother. Now released on a technicality, she is determined to find the real killer.

Never Go Back by Lee Child
Large Print
Talking Book: CD Format (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)
Jack Reacher has dinner plans but he arrives to pick up his date, she has been arrested on questionable charges. When he is accused of murder himself, Jack takes action, breaking them both out of jail so they can get to the bottom of things. 

Wash this Blood Clean From My Hand by Fred Vargas
In Quebec for training, Commissaire Adamsberg becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a young woman and must fight to clear his name.

Photo: By Kilessan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Dig A Little Deeper: Books About Subterranean Shenanigans

March 6, 2015 | Andrea | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Subterranean fiction as a genre has been around for a while, but the recent discovery of a mysterious tunnel in the Black Creek Parkland captivated Toronto's collective imagination and inspired countless conspiracy theories and Twitter jokes. Although the truth has come to light, here are some topical reads for the weekend:
The Innocent by Ian McEwan The King's Grave by Philippa Langley The Man Cave Book by Mike Yost Subterranean by James Rollins Tunnels by Roderick Gordon

The Innocent by Ian McEwan

A post-WWII spy thriller featuring a secret tunnel and some grisly plot twists along the way.

The King's Grave: The Discovery of Richard III's Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones

Sometimes, digging up buried things leads to the resolution of an ancient mystery. The fascinating true tale of forensics and history intersecting in the lost grave of a long-dead king.

The Man Cave Book by Mike Yost and Jeff Wilser

A collection of "man caves" and interviews with the men who built them. A reviewer on Goodreads notes, "A lot of them are over the top, but they are also very personal, and the pride of their owners shows."

Subterranean by James Rollins

Jules Verne meets Jurassic Park in this sci-fi adventure about a team of scientists exploring what lies beneath the Antarctic ice.

Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

The first book in this bestselling children's series follows a boy as he tries to find his father and stumbles upon an underground civilization instead.


Fiction about subways


Online Chat with Kim Echlin--Tonight!

March 4, 2015 | Book Buzz | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Kim EchlinTonight Toronto Public Library's online book club will be hosting a chat with Kim Echlin whose latest novel Under the Visible Life was published yesterday. Her previous novel, The Disappeared was nominated for the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize. 

Under the Visible Life tells the story of two women whose talent for music leads them to a powerful friendship. A Quill and Quire review calls it "nothing short of a masterpiece", comparing it favourably with Margaret Laurence's The Diviners. 

The chat takes place on Wednesday March 4, 7-8 PM.

It's easy to join our chat. Click the link below to open our chat site. You can participate from any Internet connection. 

Kim Echlin Online Chat

Curious about the process? Watch this very short video about online chatting with Book Buzz. 

Provocative or Perverse? Books that Push Boundaries

February 23, 2015 | Soheli | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Thought-provoking. Disconcerting. Provocative. There's a probably a thousand ways to spin it, but some books can make you feel downright uneasy.

With the recent buzz about Raziel Reid's GG-winning controversial book, When Everything Feels Like The Movies, I started thinking about the types of books we read, and just how much can feel like too much.

Here are six titles that some readers have found to have pushed the boundaries when it came to sex, violence and more.

Reader beware - these aren't for the faint of heart!

When Everything Feels Like The MoviesWhen Everything Feels Like The Movies
Raziel Reid, 2014

Inspired by a real-life tragedy, Reid's debut novel follows an openly-gay teen narrator as he explores his sexuality, school troubles, and family dysfunctions.

The first young adult book to win a Governor General's Award, Reid's explicit novel has invited a lot of attention - and not all good. While some have lauded his writing to be unflinching and authentic, others consider it gratuitious and vulgar.

TV personality Lainey Lui will be defending the novel later next month in CBC's Canada Reads debates.

My Loose ThreadMy Loose Thread
Dennis Cooper, 2002

If the odd, bloody cover doesn't make you feel slightly out of sorts (The two boys resemble creepy clowns in an intimate embrace), the synopsis will most likely do the trick: Larry, a high-school senior struggling with his sexuality, is paid to kill a peer and steal his notebook, which holds information on a number of students. Thrown in the mix is a strange relationship with his younger brother, Jim, who harbours secrets of his own. Told from Larry's point-of-view, the story holds little back when it comes to violence and the nature of dark obssession.


Alyssa Nutting

Another story inspired by real events, Tampa follows Celeste Price, a young, attractive junior-high English teacher. Celeste is married to a hot cop, lives in a nice house, and drives a fast car. She's got it all...including a singular taste for 14-year-old boys. Her entire life revolves around feeding this obssession. It's hard to feel even a little sympathetic for a pedophilic predator like Celeste, and even Nutting's eloquent (but sometimes revolting) prose can't make it happen. What you do get, however, is a twisted look into the mind of a deceptive woman who will do anything to get her way. But do you really want to peek in there?

The Ages of LuluThe Ages of Lulu
Almudena Grandes, 2005 (English trans.)

Lulu starts off as a precocious fifteen-year-old who is seduced by a family friend more than a decade her senior. This sparks a strange, and sometimes scary, sexual journey that finds Lulu blurring the line between decency and perversion as she explores the darker side of love and sex.

Translated from its original Spanish, Las edades de Lulú won the Sonrisa Vertical Prize for erotic literature in 1989 when it was first written.



Nelly Arcan, 2011 (English trans.)

In Montreal, in a not-too-distant future, desperate people can buy their own deaths. An obscure company designs customized suicides for those that can prove their desires to die are authentic and absolute: after all, there are no refunds for this service. Antoinette Beauchamp fulfills the criteria, but something goes wrong and her death wish leaves her a bedridden paraplegic instead.

The powerful commentary on life and death is only compounded when you learn author Arcan committed suicide just days after this original French title was finalized.

Tabitha Suzuma, 2011

Lochan and Maya have only had each other for support through years of neglect and abuse from their parents. They've always felt more like friends than siblings. When these feelings grow into something more, they struggle with their unconventional relationship and the desperate, all-consuming love that drives it. While certainly not as explicit as some of the other titles on this list, Forbidden explores tricky and taboo territory. It isn't new (think of the Dollangangers in Flowers in the Attic), but incestuous love stories don't quite make it to the standard romance shelves either.

Some other honourable mentions for this list include:

Wetlands by Charlotte Roche, 2009
Lolito by Ben Brooks, 2013

Wetlands  Lolito

Whether this list makes you want to go out and read them all, or simply know which ones to avoid, we can all be grateful that we have the choice to decide. This week is Freedom to Read Week (February 22 through 28) - it's a great time to celebrate whatever it is we're reading. Want some more ideas for reading this week? Check out the previous post of challenged titles.

If you'd like to share a provocative title you've recently read or would recommend, tweet us (@torontolibrary) or leave a comment!

You Can't Read That! Challenged Books for Freedom to Read Week

February 19, 2015 | M. Elwood | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Freedom to Read Week

February 22-28 is Freedom to Read Week. This annual event encourages all Canadians to celebrate the intellectual freedom that is guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is also important to recognize that threats to this freedom occur regularly. The Canadian Library Association conducts an annual survey of publicly funded libraries to identify challenges that have been received. 

These adult books have faced recent challenges but they're all available through Toronto Public Library.

Earth a visitor's guide Tales from the farm How evan broke his head The kid Killing kennedy

Earth (the Book): a Visitor's Guide to the Human Race
Talking Book: CD format (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)
The human race as viewed by Jon Stewart and writers for The Daily Show. Challenged in Ontario for nudity and insensitivity.

Essex County, Vol. 1: Tales from the Farm by Jeff Lemire
The story of an orphaned boy living on his uncle's farm was challenged in Ontario for offensive language.

How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets by Garth Stein
Evan's life is rocked by the arrival of a teenage son he's never met. The book was challenged in Alberta because of homosexuality, sexually explicit scenes and offensive language.

The Kid by Sapphire
Talking Book: CD format (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)
After his mother's death, 9 year-old Abdul Jones must fend for himself. Challenged in an Ontario public library for sexual explicit scenes, violence and offensive language.

Killing Kennedy: the End of Camelot by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
Large Print
Talking Book: CD format (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)
An examination of the 1963 assassination of US President John F. Kennedy and the significant impact of his death on American culture and society.
It faced a challenge in 2013 in Ontario for inaccuracy--specifically, the author's assertion that Kennedy was killed by a single assassin acting alone and not through a conspiracy.

Sophie crumb Styxx Warlord Wetlands What i meant to say

Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist
Artists A. Crumb and R. Crumb trace the development of their daughter’s artistic vision through an examination of her art from childhood to adulthood.
Challenged in an Alberta public library for nudity and sexually explicit images.

Styxx by Sherrilyn Kenyon
An ancient evil has been unleashed and Styxx may be the only one who can save human race.
An Alberta library patron challenged the book for its explicit sexuality and child abuse.

Warlord: an Alex Hawke novel by Ted Bell
Large Print
MI-6 agent Alex Hawke must save the British royal family from a terrorist threat. This book was challenged in Ontario for the following reasons: anti-ethnicity; insensitivity; racism; political viewpoint; inciting hatred.

Wetlands by Charlotte Roche
Hospitalized, an eighteen-year-old woman reminisces about her life and her sexual experiences in this explicit novel. The book was challenged in British Columbia by a patron who was concerned that the book would be mistaken by students for a biodiversity title.

What I Meant to Say: the Private Lives of Men
A collection of essays from 28 writers about their lives as Canadian men. It was challenged in Ontario for sexism.

Read more at Freedom to Read.

Celebrate your freedom to read every week!

Attend Freedom to Read events at Toronto Public Library. 

Colleen McCullough: 1937-2015

January 29, 2015 | Book Buzz | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Colleen McCullough was born in Wellington, Australia to Jim, an itinerant worker and Laurie, a New Zealander with a Maori background. McCullough described her early life as nomadic and unpleasant. "Mother and father hated each other but refused to separate. They fought constantly," she said. Following Jim's death in 1973, Laurie was accused of poisoning him. It was discovered that Jim had at least two other families and she was cleared of the charges. Both McCullough and her younger brother Carl vowed to remain single.

When Colleen was 12, the family settled in Sydney where she excelled academically in both arts and science. She felt that a career in science would be most suitable for a spinster so she studied neurophysiology. She was a well-respected scientist, working in Australia, England and the United States where she ran a research laboratory and taught at Yale University Medical School.

Thorn birdsBecause she was determined to remain single, she became concerned about supporting herself in her old age. Women scientists were paid about half the salary of their male counterparts during the 1970s. She envisioned herself as a "a 70-year old spinster in a cold-water walk-up flat with one 60-watt light bulb" and decided to write a bestseller. Her first novel, Tim, was published in 1974. It did not provide the financial security she had envisioned, so McCullough polled Yale students to see what they wanted to read. With their suggestions--romance, character, and plot--she tried again. Her second book The Thorn Birds was the bestseller she had wanted. By 1977, she was a millionaire and gave up her job at Yale.

She returned to Australia to write full time. Because their relationship was so strained that she did not want to live on the same continent as her mother, McCullough settled on remote Norfolk Island, 1400 km from mainland Australia. In 1984, she married Ric Robinson describing him as "nicest man I'd ever met".

She died of apparent kidney disease on January 29, 2015 on Norfolk Island.

Some of her books:

Angel Antony and cleopatra Bittersweet Independence of miss mary bennet The Prodigal Son


Antony and Cleopatra


The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet

The Prodigal Son

Canada Reads 2015: Breaking Down Barriers

January 25, 2015 | Book Buzz | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Canada Reads 2015

Canada Reads, the annual battle of the books, is challenging stereotypes, introducing new perspectives and breaking barriers with its 2015 competition. This year the contest will consider books about teenage sexuality, immigration and Aboriginal treatment. 

The debates, broadcast on CBC radio, take place March 16-19 and will be hosted by Wab Kinew. 

And the Birds Rained Down The Inconvenient Indian Intolerable Ru When Everything Feels Like the Movies

And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier, translated by Rhonda Mullins
A pair of octogenarians who have cut ties with civilization to live in Northern Ontario have their solitude interrupted by a photographer who is searching for survivors of a horrific fire many years earlier and an elderly escapee from a mental institution. The winner of numerous awards, it will be championed by Martha Wainwright.

The Inconvenient Indian: a Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King
Talking Book: DAISY Format (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)
King explores the history of European settlement in North America from the earliest contact to the present, concentrating on the treatment of First Nations peoples. This witty, thought-provoking book was the winner of the RBC Taylor Prize in 2014. Craig Kielburger is its defender.

Intolerable: a Memoir of Extremes by Kamal Al-Solaylee
Talking Book: DAISY Format (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)
Born in Yemen, Al-Solaylee and his family went into exile in Cairo and Beirut before returning to their homeland. As the Middle East became more restrictive, Al-Solaylee, a gay man, realized that there was no place for him there. He received a scholarship to study in the UK and later emigrated to Canada. The memoir won the 2013 Toronto Book Award. Kristin Kreuk will champion the book for Canada Reads. 

Ru by Kim Thúy, translated by Sheila Fischman
Large Print
Talking Book: DAISY format (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)
Nguyen An Tinh enjoys a privileged childhood in Saigon but when she is 10 years old, her family flees Viet Nam and the war, landing first in a Malaysian refugee camp and then Canada. Based upon the author's own experiences, the novel won the 2010 Governor General's Award for French Language Fiction; the English translation was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2012. It will be defended by Cameron Bailey.

When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid
The novel, which won the Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature in 2014, was inspired by the true story of Lawrence Fobes King, an openly gay teen who was shot and killed by a classmate inside an Oxnard California high school. The book will be defended by Elaine Lui. 

Join broadcaster Mary Ito at Toronto Reference Library for the launch of Canada Reads on March 4, 2015, 7-8 PM.

Tickets and more information 

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