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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. 

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.

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

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

Roost by Ali Bryan

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.

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? 

A Justified Reading List

April 10, 2015 | Andrea | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

The series finale of Justified, the best TV show your friends aren't watching, airs this coming Tuesday. The paths of federal marshal Raylan Givens and his outlaw nemesis Boyd Crowder are soon to converge (like the aligning of the planets, to borrow a line from the penultimate episode), and after the "frenemies" face down each other one final time, who will leave Harlan alive?

The critically acclaimed crime drama, taking inspiration from Elmore Leonard's masterfully plotted books, has twisted and turned through six seasons of complex storylines like a crooked trail through the wild Kentucky hills. Its unique blend of western tropes, film noir and black comedy is ending on a high note, but feelings of melancholy are... well, justified! To help soothe the pain of the impending finale, instead of a glass of Mags Bennett's apple pie, how about some books?
Justified and Philosophy edited by Rod Carveth and Robert Arp  Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham  Pronto by Elmore Leonard  Raylan by Elmore Leonard  Riding the Rap by Elmore Leonard

Justified and Philosophy edited by Rod Carveth and Robert Arp

Are Raylan's trigger-happy antics really justified? Part of a series examining pop culture through a philosophical lens, this book delves into issues of crime and punishment, law and morality.

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

Erudite criminal Boyd Crowder, who quotes science fiction writer Isaac Asimov and economist John Maynard Keynes with equal aplomb, is seen reading this classic in Season Two. A semi-autobiographical novel of love and yearning, chock full of cathartic emotional turmoil.

Pronto by Elmore Leonard

In his first outing on the page, our cowboy hero Raylan pursues a fugitive bookie all the way to Italy.

Leonard's final novel features many familiar characters fans may be glad to see again when the show ends.

Riding the Rap by Elmore Leonard

The sequel to Pronto involves dim-witted kidnappers and a psychic, a plotline loosely adapted on the show. Riding the Rap is also available in this eBook collection along with Pronto and the short story "Fire in the Hole," on which the pilot episode is based.


Remembering Elmore Leonard (October 11, 1925 – August 20, 2013)
Snapshots in History: August 20 Remembering Elmore Leonard

Scandinavian Storytellers Scintillate

April 2, 2015 | Lynn | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

In the last decade or so mystery readers have started to take notice of Scandinavian authors as readers are looking for new authors and writing styles.  A few examples of these authors taking the world by storm are Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, Jussi Adler-Olsen and Henning Mankell. The characters in these books are not the tidy English detectives or tough American cops that most mystery readers are familiar with, but rather are twisted, dark characters with a more bleak outlook on the world.  

Jo Nesbo is known for his extremely popular series starring Harry Hole, a police inspector based in Olso with a number of personal demons. Nesbo also writes stand alone novels. 

  Police  The Son  Cockroaches


Police officers are found dead at an old murder scene and a man is in a coma at the hospital under police guard, and the Oslo police are without their top investigator.

The Son

The police are puzzled by a model prisoner's escape, the prisoner needs to learn more about his father's death, what will be discovered?


Harry Hole goes to Bangkok to solve the murder of Norway's ambassador, but is running into difficulties at every turn.

This April, Jo Nesbo will be releasing a stand alone novel featuring Olav, a fixer in Oslo. Olav has been happy with his choices until he meets a woman, now he must reconcile these two worlds, but can he?

Blood on Snow

Steig Larsson exploded onto the world scene with his trilogy of conspiracy that spawned translations and movies.

The girl with the dragon tattoo  The girl who played with fire The girl who kicked the hornet's nest 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

A disgraced publisher is offered the chance to investigate the family that sued him for evidence in a disappearance from the 1960s and comes across a potential serial murderer in the process.  With the help of a hacker, will he discover the truth or be silenced?

The Girl who Played with Fire 

Lisabeth Salander continues to rely on her hacking skills to defend those who need help. In this instance it's about sex trafficking in Sweden due to a mysterious figure named Zala. Salander's life is exposed to the press, but there is a three year gap, what happened?

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The final book in the trilogy focuses on Salander's upcoming trial and dealing with the Secret Police trying to protect themselves and discredit everyone else.  It's a race against time to prove Salander's innocence.

An addition to this series, written by David Lagercrantz, is due to be published September 1, 2015.  It is based on notes made by Steig Larsson, and it will be his fans who decide if it fits into the series.

Jussi Adler-Olsen is a Danish crime novelist who write the Department Q series with Detective Carl Morck who investigates cold cases.

The Keeper of lost causes  The absent one  A conspiracy of faith

The Keeper of Lost Causes 

Carl Morck is placed in charge of cold cases due to a professional misstep, but will Morck renew his faith in himself with this lacklustre department?

The Absent One 

Detective Morck has been given a closed case, which in of itself makes no sense. He learns of a homeless woman named Kimmie, who may know something, but he is not the only person looking for her.

 A Conspiracy of Faith 

Detective Morck finds a letter in a bottle written in blood and a woman trapped in a loveless, terrifying marriage and the detective must find the connection.

The next book in the series is set for release September 8, 2015 and is entitled The Hanging Girl.

Henning Menkell has written more than 40 novels over his career and many fans know him for Wallander, the police officer facing violent crimes on a daily basis. This series has had 3 different actors play him on the screen.

The troubled man  The dogs of Riga  The pyramid and four other kurt wallander mysteries

The Troubled Man 

This was the first new Wallander book in 10 years and it lived up to expectations. Wallander agrees to look into the disappearance of his daughter's father-in-law and quickly finds himself surrounded with conspiracies and his own failing health.

The Dogs of Riga 

Wallander travels to Latvia to help solve the grisly murder of two Latvian nationals that were found in a raft on the Swedish coastline.

The Pyramid and four other Kurt Wallander mysteries

These short stories help to fill in how Wallander became the type of police officer he is, from his earliest days on the police force.

Wallander on Screen

Kenneth Branagh as Wallander series 1, 2, 3 

Krister Henriksson as Wallander Episodes 1-3, Episodes 4-6, Episodes 7-9, Episodes 10-13 

Mats Bergen as Wallander  series 1, 3

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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