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    Book Club in a Bag

    Guilty Pleasure Reads

    by Suzen - 1 Comment(s)

    I could tell you that I just finished reading a superb historical Canadian fiction, Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers. The heroine of the story, a young seamstress from France struggling to survive the Canadian wilds, gives remarkable insight to filles du roi, or The King’s Daughters – the 800 women sent overseas to help settle and populate New France under the orders of Louis XIV during the 17th century.

    I could also tell you about one of my favourite books, February by Lisa Moore, whose heart wrenching story paints a portrait of Helen, a woman struggling to cope with the drowning death of her husband during the sinking of the Ocean Ranger on the coast of Newfoundland in the early 1980s.

    Kiss of Crimson by Lara AdrianThe truth of the matter is I could spend hours talking about all the insightful, thought-provoking and inspirational books I’ve read and I can make myself sound really smart in the process. However, that’s not what I’m going to do today. I’m going to be completely honest with you, dear readers, and admit to something I rarely even admit to myself…

    I read paranormal romances.

    There. I said it.

    Sexy vampires, time-traveling highlanders and feisty quick-talking witches, even the odd sensual spiritual encounter - I like ‘em unpredictable, juicy and audaciously over the top. Right now I am obsessed with the Midnight Breed novels by Lara Adrian, an epic series that is filled with great action, suspense and seductive love stories. The series follows the men of the Order, a vigilante group of vampires who kill Rogues (vampires who have succumbed to a bloodlust addiction) and relentlessly fight to preserve the safety of vampire and mankind alike. The warriors of the Order are sexy and brutish men who love their women as fiercely as they fight their enemies. These books are dangerously addictive because of the fast-paced central storyline that threads through the series and the romantic side stories that flesh out all the characters. Think of it as a soap opera…a sexy vampire laden soap opera.

    I will admit that my proclaimed guilty pleasure reads don’t rate super high on my personal list of intellectually-stimulating books but isn’t that the point? I read paranormal romances because they are the literary equivalent to eating potato chips – they may not be the best thing for me but holy smokes are they deliciously addictive!

    I’m sure there are some of you out there laughing at me right now but I know that even if you won’t admit it, you have your own guilty pleasure reads too! Sure, they may not involve a 900 year old vampire living in an underground compound in present-day Boston who seems to spend his time either methodically killing rogue vampires or ravenously loving women with supernatural powers…but you know what I mean.

    I hope you’ll all stay tuned to the Readers’ Nook blog throughout the summer because there are more guilty pleasure reads on the way. If you have your own books that you hate to love, leave the titles in the comments so we can add them to our lists. Remember, there’s no such thing as a “bad” book!

    A Look Inside

    by Jasna - 0 Comment(s)


    The Murderer's Daughters

    Randy Susan Meyers


    Lulu and Merry's childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu's tenth birthday their father propels them into a nightmare. He's always hungered for the love of the girls' self-obsessed mother; after she throws him out, their troubles turn deadly. Lulu had been warned not let her father in, but when he shows up drunk, he's impossible to ignore. He bullies his way past Lulu, who then listens in horror as her parents struggle. She runs for help, but discovers upon her return that he's murdered her mother, stabbed her five-year-old sister, Merry, and tried, unsuccessfully, to kill himself.

    Lulu and Merry are effectively orphaned by their mother's death and father's imprisonment. The girls' relatives refuse to care for them and abandon them to a terrifying group home. Even as they plot to be taken in by a well-to-do family, they come to learn they'll never really belong anywhere or to anyone - that all they have to hold onto is each other.

    For thirty years, the sisters try to make sense of what happened. Their imprisoned father is a specter in both their lives, shadowing every choice they make. One spends her life pretending he's dead, while the other feels compelled - by fear, by duty - to keep him close. Both dread the day his attempts to win parole may meet with success.

    A beautifully written, compulsively readable debut, The Murderer's Daughters is a testament to the power of family and the ties that bind us together and tear us apart.



    A Look Inside

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    Luka and the Fire of Life

    Salman Rushdie


    In early reviews of this new Rushdie novel readers were warned not to approach Luka and the Fire of Life as Rushdie’s next ‘important’ work. This was merely another book written for his children, as 1990’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories was. For those of us who think 'Sea of Stories is one of the best novels ever, the arrival of Luka and the Fire of Life is incredibly exciting.

    Rushdie delivers a fast-paced adventure through a magic land that bursts with color, mythology and philosophy. Luka must steal fire from the 9th level of his father’s imagination to save the great storyteller’s draining life. Impossible as the mission seems, the hero-boy is accompanied by a cast of impressive and helpful friends, including a dog named Bear and a bear named Dog.

    Any other writer would need at least a thousand pages to tell this story. ‘Fire of Life comes in under 220. A reader has to suspend their disbelief to follow such deep, intricate imagination, but amidst the chaos it’s easy to have faith in Rushdie’s masterful prose. And the ride is definitely worth it.

    P. R.




    May is Asian Heritage Month...

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    ... so what better time to read a great book by an author of Asian descent, or set in Asia.

    With such a vast and rich tapestry of countries, cultures and languages, this is only the tiniest sampling of the compelling fiction available.

    The World we Found by Thrity Umrigar


    The acclaimed author of The Space Between Us and The Weight of Heaven returns with a breathtaking, skillfully wrought story of four women and the unbreakable ties they share. As university students in late 1970s Bombay, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were inseparable. Spirited and unconventional, they challenged authority and fought for a better world. But much has changed over the past thirty years. Following different paths, the quartet drifted apart, the day-to-day demands of work and family tempering the revolutionary fervor they once shared. Then comes devastating news: Armaiti, who moved to America, is gravely ill and wants to see the old friends she left behind. For Laleh, reunion is a bittersweet reminder of unfulfilled dreams and unspoken guilt. For Kavita, it is an admission of forbidden passion. For Nishta, it is the promise of freedom from a bitter fundamentalist husband. And for Armaiti, it is an act of acceptance, of letting go on her own terms even if her ex-husband and daughter do not understand her choices. In the course of their journey to reconnect, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta must confront the truths of their lives'acknowledge long-held regrets, face painful secrets and hidden desires, and reconcile their idealistic past and their compromised present. And they will have to decide what matters most, a choice that may just help them reclaim the extraordinary world they once found. Exploring the enduring bonds of friendship and the power of love to change lives, and offering an unforgettable portrait of modern India's nation struggling to bridge economic, religious, gender, and generational divides, The World We Found is a dazzling masterwork from the remarkable Thrity Umrigar.



    Custody by Manju Kapur

    When Shagun leaves Raman for another man, a bitter legal battle ensues. The custody of their two young children is thrown into question and Shagun must decide what price she will pay for freedom. Meanwhile, Ishita, a failed marriage behind her, finds another chance at happiness with Raman. But when the courts threaten the security of her new family, she decides to fight for it – whatever the cost. From prize-winning author Manju Kapur, Custody is an intimate portrait of marriages that disintegrate and intertwine, with heart-rending consequences.





    Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid


    At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting . . .

    Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite "valuation" firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his infatuation with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

    But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.



    After Dark by Haruki Murakami

    A short, sleek novel of encounters set in the witching hours of Tokyo between midnight and dawn, and every bit as gripping as Haruki Murakami's masterworks: The Wind-Up Bird, Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore. At its center are two sisters: Yuri, a fashion model sleeping her way into oblivion; and Mari, a young student soon led from solitary reading at an anonymous Denny's into lives radically alien to her own: those of a jazz trombonist who claims they've met before; a burly female "love hotel" manager and her maidstaff; and a Chinese prostitute savagely brutalized by a businessman. These "night people" are haunted by secrets and needs that draw them together more powerfully than the differing circumstances that might keep them apart, and it soon becomes clear that Yuri's slumber-mysteriously tied to the businessman plagued by the mark of his crime - will either restore or annihilate her. After Dark moves from mesmerizing drama to metaphysical speculation, interweaving time and space as well as memory and perspective into a seamless exploration of human agency - the interplay between self-expression and understanding, between the power of observation and the scope of compassion and love. Murakami's trademark humor, psychological insight, and grasp of spirit and morality are here distilled with an extraordinary, harmonious mastery.



    My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk


    From Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, the 2006 Nobel Prize laureat and one of the most important and acclaimed writers at work today, comes a thrilling new novel — part murder mystery, part love story — set amid the perils of religious repression in sixteenth-century Istanbul.

    When the Sultan commissions a great book to celebrate his royal self and his extensive dominion, he directs Enishte Effendi to assemble a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land. Their task: to illuminate the work in the European style. But because figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this commission is a dangerous proposition indeed, and no one in the elite circle can know the full scope or nature of the project.

    Panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears, and the Sultan demands answers within three days. The only clue to the mystery—or crime?—lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Has an avenging angel discovered the blasphemous work? Or is a jealous contender for the hand of Enishte’s ravishing daughter, the incomparable Shekure, somehow to blame?

    Orhan Pamuk’sMy Name Is Red is at once a fantasy and a philosophical puzzle, a kaleidoscopic journey to the intersection of art, religion, love, sex, and power.



    The Feng Shui Detective Goes West by Nury Vittachi


    Feng shui master C.F. Wong has never been to the West, but he knows he doesn't like it. It is unquestionably full of Westerners, with their large noses and their disgusting food and their habit-he has seen it many times in movies-of fighting with each other on top of speeding trains. And yet C.F. is going to England. The Family has been having a bad time. The Family needs a feng shui master. Only Wong can bring balance to Buckingham Palace.





    If you've read your fill and are looking for more cultural experiences,

    have a look at the ImaginASIAN 2012 events calendar for some great ideas!




    Spring is in the air

    by Suzen - 0 Comment(s)

    I don’t know how it happened but this winter I accumulated so many books you’d swear I was trying to insulate my house with adult fiction. Faced with the reality that there is no way I can read 50 books in a three week period, I have to weed my pile of great reads. So, in the throes of spring cleaning, I am airing out the “To Read” pile that keeps growing on my bookshelf to leave room for fresh, new-to-me reads that take me out of my literary comfort zone. Spring is all about fresh beginnings, after all…

    Thematically linked by their titles and not necessarily by content, here are a few great reads that made it through my rigorous spring clean. Who knows, maybe they’ll find a home on your “To Read” shelf, too!

    little bird by camilla way Little Bird by Camilla Way

    Three identities, no known name - and an obsessed pursuer from the past. Elodie grew up in the forest in France without speech. Snatched at the age of three by a troubled mute man, all she learns is bird song. When she is found as a teenager, the media frenzy brings ‘Little Bird' to a famous American linguist. So Elodie grows up in another country, with a new identity in a household sometimes more hostile than the forest she left. When violence strikes, Elodie flees again, to London. She is determined to put the past behind her and lead a normal life. But what happens if someone from her past won't let her go? What happens if someone falls in love with her? Little Bird is an extraordinary rich, wholly absorbing, psychological novel about identity, language and love.

    creationCreation: a novel by Katherine Govier

    In mesmerizing prose, novelist Katherine Govier explores this fateful summer in the life of a man as untamed as his subjects. Running two steps ahead of the bailiff, alternately praised and reviled by critics, John James Audubon set himself the audacious task of drawing, from nature, every bird in North America. The result was his masterpiece, The Birds of America, which he and his family published and sold to subscribers on both sides of the Atlantic. In June 1833, he enlisted his son and a party of young gentlemen to set sail for nesting grounds no ornithologist had ever seen, in the treacherous passage between Newfoundland and Labrador. Fogbound at Little Natashquan, he encounters Captain Henry Wolsey Bayfield of the Royal Navy, whose mission is to chart the labyrinthine coast to make it safe for sea traffic. Bayfield is an exacting and duty-bound aristocrat; the charismatic Audubon spins tales to disguise his dubious parentage and lack of training. Bayfield is a confirmed bachelor; Audubon is a married man in love with his young assistant. But the captain becomes the artist's foil and his measuring stick, his judge and, oddly, the recipient of his long-held secrets. In this atmospheric and enthralling novel, Katherine Govier recreates the summer in which "the world's greatest living bird artist" finally understood the paradox embedded in his art: that the act of creation was also an act of destruction.

    spring Spring by David Szalay

    James is a man with a checkered past – sporadic entrepreneur, one-time film producer, almost a dot-com millionaire – now alone in a flat in Bloomsbury, running a shady horse-racing tips operation. Katherine is a manager at a luxury hotel, a job she’d intended to leave years ago, and is separated from her husband. In 2006, at the end of the money-for-nothing years, their chance meeting leads to an awkward tryst, and James tries to make sense of a relationship where “no” means “maybe” and a “yes” can never be taken for granted. (Summary from back cover)

    birds in fall Birds in Fall by Brad Kessler

    One fall night off the coast of a remote island in Nova Scotia, an airplane plummets to the sea as an innkeeper watches from the shore. Miles away in New York City, ornithologist Ana Gathreaux works in a darkened room full of sparrows, testing their migratory instincts. Soon, Ana will be bound for Trachis Island, along with other relatives of victims who converge on the site of the tragedy. As the search for survivors envelops the island, the mourning families gather at the inn, waiting for news of those they have lost. Here among strangers, and watched over by innkeeper Kevin Gearns, they form an unusual community, struggling for comfort and consolation. A Taiwanese couple sets out fruit for their daughter's ghost. A Bulgarian man plays piano in the dark, sending the music to his lost wife, a cellist. Two Dutch teenagers, a brother and sister, rage against their parents' death. An Iranian exile, mourning his niece, recites the Persian tales that carry the wisdom of centuries. At the center of Birds in Fall lies Ana Gathreaux, whose story Brad Kessler tells with deep compassion: from her days in the field with her husband, observing and banding migratory birds, to her enduring grief and gradual reengagement with life. Kessler's knowledge of the natural world, music, and myth enriches every page of this hauntingly beautiful and moving novel about solitude, love, losing your way, and finding something like home.

    Maurice Sendak (1928 - 2012)

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    Off the Shelf: The Ghost Brush

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    A few months ago, I reviewed The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell, a novel about the Dutch enclave off the coast of Japan. The Shogun restricted the foreign concession to an island near Nagasaki in the eighteenth century. To my surprise, The Ghost Brush by Katherine Govier is a sort of literary twin because it describes the lives of the Japanese, with the Dutch making highly regulated visits to the mainland at the discretion of the Shogun. Although The Ghost Brush takes place over a hundred years later, the extreme control over the lives of the population is, if anything, more onerous.

    Oei is the daughter of a master Japanese painter, Hokusai, who gains international fame via the despised Dutch. However, in Japan art is a family craft.Oei and his apprentices all participate in the painting of Hokusai’s masterpieces. As Hokusai ages, Oei takes a greater role in her father’s painting, until in his very old age she paints new artworks in his style to raise funds to keep the household solvent. Oei is a ghost in the official records, barely seen behind the reputation of her father.

    Over the years, Oei develops her own style and gradually gains commissions for her own paintings. In a time when women were virtually obliged to be subservient and to marry, Oei stays on the dangerous path of artist. The Shogun’s officers declare and enforce sweeping laws against artists and publishers, correctly discerning that paintings and books contain barely disguised criticism of establishment figures. But even the officials need entertainment, so they hypocritically patronize the district of prostitutes, nightclubs and restaurants. Oei straddles this night-world and the slums where she and her father so often relocated his studio to hide from the officials.

    Katherine Govier entertains us with a magical story of historical importance, gleaned from ghostly records. Her beautiful language paints scenes in the seething city as well as in the forested countryside. The details that build the action convey how Japanese painting is done and why it is universally admired.

    Judith Umbach

    To boldly go....

    by Suzen - 0 Comment(s)

    Wario at Calgary Public Library!

    Last weekend was pretty exciting for all the self-proclaimed nerds in the city: it was the 2012 return of Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo! This was the biggest year yet, including the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, cameos by James Marsters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame and those Weasely twins from the Harry Potter movies. Along with a team of likeminded nerds, I attended the Comic Expo as a representative of Calgary Public Library where we showcased the great collections of sci-fi, horror, fantasy and graphic novels available in our catalogue. We got to meet hundreds of convention goers, most in elaborate costumes and super committed to the characters they were portraying – like Wario, Mario’s evil counterpart, who we managed to photograph at the Calgary Public Library table!

    I was super inspired after this comic-book fueled sci-fi weekend that I thought I’d pull together a list of great reads that showcase our collection. If you’re at all interested in exploring our sci-fi/fantasy, horror and graphic novel collection, hopefully this list will get you started!

    Aurorama a novel

    Aurorama: a novel by Jean-Christoph Valtat

    A startling, seductive literary novel that entwines suspense, science fiction, adventure, romance and history into an intoxicating new genre. 1908: New Venice--"the pearl of the Arctic"--a place of ice palaces and pneumatic tubes, of beautifully ornate carriage-sleds and elegant victorian garb, of long nights and vistas of ice. But as the city prepares for spring, it feels more like qaartsiluni , "the time when something is about to explode in the dark." Local "poletics" are wracked by tensions with the Eskimos circling the city, with suffragette riots led by an underground music star, with drug round-ups by the secret police force known as the Gentlemen of the Night. An ominous black airship hovers over the city, and the Gentlemen are hunting for the author of a radical pamphlet calling for revolt. Their lead suspect is Brentford Orsini, one of the city's most prominent figures. But as the Gentlemen of the Night tighten the net around him, Orsini receives a mysterious message from a long-lost love that compels him to act. What transpires is a literary adventure novel unlike anything you've ever read before. Brilliant in its conception, masterful in its prose, thrilling in its plot twists, and laced with humor, suspense, and intelligence, it marks the beginning of a great new series of books set in New Venice-and the launch of an astonishing new writer. (Syndetics )

    house of doors

    House of Doors by Chaz Brenchley

    The first in Chaz Brenchley's chilling new haunted house series - War widow Ruth Taylor arrives at RAF Morwood, the great house formerly known as D'Esperance, hoping that nursing badly wounded airmen will distract her from her sorrows. But almost as soon as she enters the house, she experiences strange visions and fainting spells, and the almost overwhelming sensation of her late husband's ghostly presence. For D'Esperance is a place of shadows and secrets -- and as the strange occurrences become increasingly menacing and violent, Ruth is forced to confront a terrible possibility: that her dead husband might be the cause... (Syndetics)

    night of the living trekkies

    Night of the living trekkies by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall

    Journey to the final frontier of sci-fi zombie horror! Jim Pike was the world's biggest Star Trek fan-until two tours of duty in Afghanistan destroyed his faith in the human race. Now he sleepwalks through life as the assistant manager of a small hotel in downtown Houston. But when hundreds of Trekkies arrive in his lobby for a science-fiction convention, Jim finds himself surrounded by costumed Klingons, Vulcans, and Ferengi-plus a strange virus that transforms its carriers into savage, flesh-eating zombies! As bloody corpses stumble to life and the planet teeters on the brink of total apocalypse, Jim must deliver a ragtag crew of fanboys and fangirls to safety. Dressed in homemade uniforms and armed with prop phasers, their prime directive is to survive. But how long can they last in the ultimate no-win scenario? (Syndetics)

    the death-ray

    The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes

    Teen outcast Andy is an orphaned nobody with only one friend, the obnoxious - but loyal - Louie. They roam school halls and city streets, invisible to everyone but bullies and tormentors, until the glorious day when Andy takes his first puff on a cigarette. That night he wakes, heart pounding, soaked in sweat, and finds himself suddenly overcome with the peculiar notion that he can do anything. Indeed, he can, and as he learns the extent of his new powers, he discovers a terrible and seductive gadget - a hideous compliment to his seething rage - that forever changes everything. The Death-Ray utilizes the classic staples of the superhero genre - origin, costume, ray gun, sidekick, fight scene - and reconfigures them in a story that is anything but morally simplistic. With subtle comedy, deft mastery, and an obvious affection for the bold pop-art exuberance of comic book design, Daniel Clowes delivers a contemporary meditation on the darkness of the human psyche. (Syndetics)

    Want more?

    For more great reads, head on over to the Readers' Nook homepage and subscribe to our NextReads monthly and bi-monthly newsletters, including genres like Fantasy/Sci-Fi and Horror. These newsletters let you in on what's new in our collection and give you bunch of suggested reads as well.

    A Look Inside

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    The Grave Doug Freshley

    (as revealed to John Hechinger and depicted by mpMann)

    When Shane McNally hired his childhood friend Douglas Freshley to help out on the McNally homestead, it was understood that half the job for the former schoolmaster would be tutoring the McNally s bright, but rambunctious boy, Bartholomew, called Bat. But the ruthless Delancey Gang ended Doug's employment in a cattle raid, killing Bat's parents, killing Doug himself, and setting the McNally homestead ablaze with Bat still inside. Not one to let a little thing like a bullet between the eyes stand in the way of meeting his personal and professional obligations, Doug returns as a walking corpse in time to save Bat. Together, they set out to deliver a little frontier justice to the ones that done them wrong. However, as they track down Hatch, Taz, Rocco and Ray Delancey, they find that Doug is being stalked by the Deadliest Gun in the West (Or Anywhere): the Grim Reaper hisownself. Equal parts Sergio Leone and Looney Toons, The Grave Doug Freshley is a comedy/adventure about the bond between a boy and the cowboy who wouldn t die because, after all, he'd made a promise.