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    Book Club in a Bag

    All Men Are Liars

    by Sonya - 0 Comment(s)

    ...is the title of a novel by Alberto Manguel:

    Set in Madrid in the late 1970s, Manguel's novel focuses on a group of refugees from the Argentinian Dirty War. At the center is first-time novelist Alejandro -Bevilacqua, who, shortly after the publication of his acclaimed In Praise of Lying, escapes in a panic from a publication party and later falls from a balcony to his death. The book takes the form of a series of journalistic interviews with several people who knew him. (Library Journal)

    Distinguished author Alberto Manguel will be speaking at the library on March 27th! This event is co-presented by the Calgary Public Library and the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program at the University of Calgary.

    When I visit his website, the words that jump off the screen refer to the power of words and the power of reading. This promises to be a fascinating evening for fans, readers, writers and... does that leave anyone else?

    If you'd like to discover (or rediscover) this author before you meet him, here are a few of your many choices:

    Discover Alice Munro

    by Sonya - 0 Comment(s)

    I first discovered Alice Munro through her classic short story collection The Lives of Girls and Women. Several stories from this collection were on my assigned reading list for English class in high school, and I remember being drawn in by the perfect portrayal of the characters' inner lives. Although I have always preferred full length novels, Alice Munro is an exception. It is so exciting to see a Canadian winner of the Nobel prize, and one so deserving!

    Throughout her long career, Alice Munro has produced numerous brilliant stories and never stagnated as a writer. Even though she has announced her retirement from writing at the age of 82, her work continues to dazzle readers and critics alike. If you're new to Munro, or haven't read her work since high school, take the opportunity to celebrate her achievement by reading one of her many short story collections. Her latest title, Dear Life, was published in 2012—add your name to the hold list today. Will it be her last collection? We can only hope not.

    More from Alice Munro:

    If the waiting lists for Alice Munro's collections are too long for you just now, try some of these other authors whose short stories I love:

    Book Review: Habibi by Craig Thompson

    by Sonya - 0 Comment(s)

    Habibi by Craig Thompson

    Whether you're a regular reader of graphic novels or someone who has never picked one up before, Habibi by Craig Thompson will draw you in, and the gorgeous illustrations will stick with you long after putting the book down... I had read a number of good reviews of this title, then placed my hold (at that time it was still on order) and waited. Finally, long after I had forgotten why I wanted to read this and what it was about, it showed up for me, like a surprise gift showing up in the mail. It was worth the wait!

    From the book's description:

    From the internationally acclaimed author of Blankets ("A triumph for the genre." -- Library Journal), a highly anticipated new graphic novel. Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth--and frailty--of their connection. At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.

    The graphic novels I enjoy the most are usually memoirs or those that recreate the magic of fairytales and highlight the joy of a beautiful page or a wonderful storyteller. These are a few of my favourites:

    Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

    The Arrival by Shaun Tan

    Maus by Art Spiegelman

    Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie

    The Rabbi's Cat by Joann Sfar

    Zahra's Paradise by Amir & Khalil

    Fifty Shades of Summer

    by Suzen - 1 Comment(s)

    Unlike many of my colleagues, I didn't get a chance to take a traditional vacation this summer. While everyone else was jet setting to exotic locales like San Francisco, Orlando and Edmonton, I didn't even make it past the downtown core, never mind leave the city! Truth is, I didn't mean for my summer to turn out this way. I had big plans to take a road trip through the Rockies, even ride my bike through Regina, or go shopping in Montana but I unintentionally turned into one of "those people" I vowed never to be. You know the type of person that tries to juggle a million different things at once and constantly forgets to take time for herself until the entire summer has gone by and she doesn't even have a tan to show for it. You know, one of those...

    The closest I came to taking an actual vacation was to put my brain on one by reading the most popular adult fiction book of the summer: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Along with the other books of this trilogy, Fifty Shades has been on the New York Times Fiction Bestseller List for past 27 weeks and counting. The Calgary Public Library consistently has over 750 patrons on the wait list, including normal paperback, large print and electronic formats. And any retailer that sells books – be it Chapters, Costco or Walmart – has hundreds upon hundreds of the prolific but unassuming black and white covers lining the shelves.

    Fifty Shades of Grey by EL JamesFifty Shades has saturated the adult reading market, grabbing the attention of avid readers and occasional readers alike. I picked up the trilogy in ePUB format after weeks of fielding requests for the novel at the information desk. I had no idea what the book was about when I picked it up and at page 150, I still had no idea what it was about. Even now, after finishing it, my comprehension of the plot is still quite hazy. Here's what I know:

    Fifty Shades of Grey introduces our socially awkward heroine, Anastasia Steele, a recent university graduate who is as hopeless with computers as she is in love. Ana meets a man that completely turns her world upside down, Christian Grey - a mysterious 20-something billionaire who, despite his designer clothes, aloof demeanour and casual use of the company helicopter, has noble philanthropic inclinations. As the story meanders along, Ana and Christian become tied together in a predictable "opposites attract" dynamic. Ana, annoyingly insecure in her appearance and sexual prowess, channels her "inner goddess" to crack Christian's painfully constrained outer shell. As their relationship slowly progresses, Ana falls in love while Christian remains at an arm's length, expressing his affection through aggressive and controlling behaviour. The constant push and pull between Ana and Christian goes nowhere pretty quickly, the emotional tension lifting only by the barest of measures during their sexual encounters which are, at times, long winded and emotionally tiresome.

    From what I can figure, Fifty Shades of Grey has a character-driven plot but the characters are so devoid of depth that it is impossible to decipher any plot at all. It's my opinion that the driving force behind this otherwise plotless romantic story is sex. Like many books in the contemporary romance genre, steamy love scenes are integral to the progression of the story and often the primary reason we're drawn to such escapism. What makes Fifty Shades different from the majority of popular contemporary romance is the taboo nature of such steamy love scenes which are less about "lovemaking" and longing glances from across the room and much more about sadomasochistic desires and being flogged for pleasure. Christian, an emotionally unavailable man, expresses his (un)affection with Anastasia by controlling everything she does - including what clothing she wears, what she eats, how she acts in public and her role in the bedroom. Granted, Ana doesn't take to the submissive role easily and repeatedly questions Christian's actions; but she ultimately resigns to the predictable romantic but ultimately self-destructive adage "If I love him hard enough maybe I can change him!". And we all know how that age-old story ends....

    While I pride myself in being very liberal minded and open to all sorts of subjects when it comes to my reading, I was put off not by the taboo nature of the story but how the book was written. I know I am not alone in my opinion when I say that Fifty Shades is not the most scholarly or poetic book ever written. All over the Internet you will find extensive reviews that center on this aspect alone. E.L. James, herself, admits to not being a writer and is genuinely surprised about how well this book (and it's sequels) are doing. There's an excellent interview on CBC Radio's Q with Jian Ghomeshi where James speaks candidly about her literary beginnings and the inspiration behind the trilogy. The author, a former television producer, caught the writing bug after reading Stephanie Myer's Twilight series and decided to write her own version of the vampire saga but with non-supernatural characters. The book, first self-published online as fan fiction, received a cult-like readership and eventually garnered attention from publishers before catching on like wildfire across the world. Yet, despite it's unprecedented popularity, Fifty Shades of Grey is meandering and repetitive, and would have benefited greatly from a critical once-over by more than one editor. James' lack of experience as a fiction writer is so evident that the story feels as if it is just a vehicle for describing, in provocative and explicit detail, sexual encounters that are meant to shock readers as much as it is supposed to enrapture them. However, I suppose that is what erotic fiction essentially is, in which case E.L. James totally hits the mark.

    Now for all the criticism I've been giving this book, I should be completely honest with you: I read Fifty Shades from cover to cover in a matter of days. Sure, it may have been out of sheer stubbornness and the naive belief that maybe, just maybe, this book would get better as I read on, but I read it just the same. It is the epitome of a guilty pleasure read: guilty because I took so much pleasure in reading something I genuinely disliked from beginning to end. The experience can be equated to the cult-classic television show, Mystery Science Theatre 3000, where a man and his robot companions spend every episode watching terrible B-grade movies and make hilarious commentary about what they are seeing throughout the entire screening of the film. I received more enjoyment talking, criticizing, philosophizing, pondering and making fun of this book than I ever did reading it and I think that is where Fifty Shades of Grey gets its strength.

    This book has an uncanny ability to engage readers. Whether you loved it, despised it or couldn't care less, you probably have an opinion about it. So, I'll leave this forum open: What do you think about E.L. James trilogy Fifty Shades? What number are you on the wait list? Who should play Ana and Christian in the movie slated for production in the next few years? Give us all Fifty Shades of your opinion in the comments!

    All Things Royal

    by Suzen - 2 Comment(s)

    When I was a kid, we would have to sing “God Save the Queen” every morning; along with “O Canada” and the first and last verses of the “Ode to Newfoundland” (we were a very choral and nationalistic bunch). There was a large portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in the main foyer of the school and she’d peer down at us with those matronly royal blue eyes as if she was actually watching everything we did. There was a time when I had myself convinced her eyes actually followed me around the room, like one of those paintings on the walls of a haunted house. She was always watching…

    As Elizabeth II celebrates her 60th year of reign this month, I don’t feel like I should send her a card but I do find myself thinking about all the historical fiction I read that are set in within the varying eras of royal life in Britain. From Tudor England to the Victorian Age, the royal families are steeped in betrayals, secrets, lies and unceasingly complicated plot twists. And the best historical novels, while grounded in fact, take liberties to expose the human side of those famous historical figures.

    So, to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, I present to the court the following list of royally inspired novels. May you read them with a hot cup of tea and a stately sense of self!

    The Queen of Last HopesThe Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham

    Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England, does not want immortality. She does not need glory. All she desires is what rightfully belongs to her family – and that is the throne of England. Her husband the king cannot rule, but the enemies who doubt her will and dispute her valor underestimate the force of a mother’s love. Her son is the House of Lancaster’s heir and last hope, and her fight for him will shake the crown forever. (Back cover)

    The Flaw in the BloodA Flaw in the Blood: a novel of suspense by Stephanie Barron

    Windsor Castle, 1861. For the second time in over twenty years, Irish barrister Patrick Fitzgerald has been summoned by the Queen. The first time, he'd been a zealous young legal clerk, investigating what appeared to be a murderous conspiracy against her. Now he is a distinguished gentleman at the top of his profession. And the Queen is a woman in the grip of fear. For on this chilly night, her beloved husband, Prince Albert, lies dying. With her future clouded by grief, Fitzgerald can't help but notice the Queen is curiously preoccupied with the past. Yet why, and how he can help, is unclear. His bewilderment deepens when the royal coach is violently overturned, nearly killing him and his brilliant young ward, Dr. Georgiana Armistead, niece of the late Dr. Snow, a famed physician who'd attended none other than Her Majesty. Fitzgerald is sure of one thing: the Queen's carriage was not attacked at random--it was a carefully chosen target. But was it because he rode in it? Fitzgerald won't risk dying in order to find out. He'll leave London and take Georgiana with him--if they can get out alive. For soon the pair find themselves hunted. Little do they know they each carry within their past hidden clues to a devastating royal secret...one they must untangle if they are to survive. From the streets of London to the lush hills of Cannes, from the slums of St. Giles to the gilded halls of Windsor Castle, A Flaw in the Blood delivers a fascinating tale of pursuit, and the artful blend of period detail and electrifying intrigue that only the remarkable Stephanie Barron can devise. (Syndetics)

    The Bones of AvalonThe Bones of Avalon: being edited from the most private documents of Dr John Dee, astrologer and consultant to Queen Elizabeth by Phillip Rickman

    A country divided. A newly crowned, desperately vulnerable young queen. Can one man uncover the secret that will save her throne? It is 1560, and Elizabeth Tudor has been on the throne for a year. Dr. John Dee, at 32 already acclaimed throughout Europe, is her astrologer and consultant in the hidden arts... a controversial appointment in these days of superstition and religious strife. When dangerous questions of Elizabeth's legitimacy arise, the mild, bookish Dee finds himself summoned before William Cecil, who tasks him with an important mission. Along with Robert Dudley, Dee's daring friend and former student who is also rumored to be the Queen's secret lover, Dee must travel to the famously mystical town of Glastonbury to find the missing bones of King Arthur. Once these long-lost relics, the embodiment of a legacy vitally important to the Tudor line, are ensconced in London, doubts as to the Queen's supremacy as the rightful Tudor heir will be dispelled. But the quest quickly turns deadly--Dee and Dudley arrive in Glastonbury to discover the town mourning the gruesome execution of its abbot, and more death soon follows at the old abbey. Racing to uncover the secrets buried there, Dee finds himself caught in the tangled roots of English magic, unexpected violence, the breathless stirring of first love... and the cold heart of a complex plot against Elizabeth. (Syndetics)

    The Uncommon ReaderThe Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

    Briskly original and subversively funny, this novella from popular British writer Bennett (Untold Stories; Tony-winning play The History Boys) sends Queen Elizabeth II into a mobile library van in pursuit of her runaway corgis and into the reflective, observant life of an avid reader. Guided by Norman, a former kitchen boy and enthusiast of gay authors, the queen gradually loses interest in her endless succession of official duties and learns the pleasure of such a "common" activity. With "the dawn of her sensibility... mistaken for the onset of senility," plots are hatched by the prime minister and the queen's staff to dispatch Norman and discourage the queen's preoccupation with books. Ultimately, it is her own growing self-awareness that leads her away from reading and toward writing, with astonishing results. Bennett has fun with the proper behavior and protocol at the palace, and the few instances of mild coarseness seem almost scandalous. There are lessons packed in here, but Bennett doesn't wallop readers with them. It's a fun little book. (Publisher’s Weekly Review)

    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.

    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.

    Did The Hunger Games leave you a bit peckish?

    by Suzen - 0 Comment(s)

    America Pacifica by Anna NorthSo I’ve been on this pretty major dystopian fiction kick. It’s an on-going theme – storylines beginning in the not too distant future when the environment has crumbled under the weight of humankind, the government has become a totalitarian regime and the protagonists are hell-bent on revolution. My recent obsession started with The Hunger Games, a wildly popular trilogy by YA author Suzanne Collins that’s presently being developed into a series of huge blockbuster films. I devoured (ha, ha) the books in a matter of days and became so invested in the characters’ fight for survival that I felt a little lost when the story ended. Immediately, I began scavenging for more books within the genre and found America Pacifica, the debut novel from author Anna North.

    America Pacifica is one of many in a genre of dystopian futures. In this book, North introduces us to Darcy, a young woman who lives in the grim replica of North America located on a small island in the South Pacific Ocean called “America Pacifica”. Overcrowded and divided by the unequal distribution of wealth, the island is dissolving into the sea from toxic pollution and on the verge of civil war. Our heroine, Darcy, works as a cook and nurse’s aide at World Experiences, a retirement residence for the island’s first inhabitants, and is completely ambivalent to the problems of the island. That is, until her mother disappears and Darcy’s safe and private world is thrown into a tailspin.

    The novel follows Darcy’s desperate search for her mother through the island’s most troubled districts where she is acutely suspicious of everyone she meets. The small world she had come to know as a child dangerously expands to include mute nuns with talking parrots, circus folk with missing limbs, bug-eyed solvent addicts and rich kids with too much free time. There are very few acts of kindness in this world and Darcy quickly learns that everything comes at a severe emotional, financial and physical cost. As the secrets of her mother’s past and disappearance come to light, Darcy finds herself the unwitting heroine of a revolution set to overturn everything she has ever known.

    Like The Hunger Games, this book shares a similar character-driven storyline set in a future not terribly far off from our own, where the struggle for freedom is a matter of life or death and survival tests our most vulnerable of human virtues. America Pacifica is a fast-paced and a very quick read, and if you can forgive the author’s often long-winded use of dialogue, this novel is a great compliment to other dystopian reads. While some readers may think the genre a bit morbid, I’ve always appreciated the perspective it gives to our current political, social and environmental climate. If things are bad now, how much worse could it get? While America Pacifica does take a fantastical approach to the imagined fate of North America, at its core I found myself relating to Darcy and her plight, contemplating how I would respond in similar situations. Would I run or would I stay and fight?

    I would recommend this book to anyone fascinated by the end of the world. If you enjoyed similar titles such as The Hunger Games, A Handmaid’s Tale or 1984, you’ll definitely quench your dystopian appetite with America Pacifica.

    Similar titles:

    When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

    Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood

    Children of Men by PD James

    What Were YOUR Favourite Books from 2011?

    by Shannon S - 5 Comment(s)

    It’s that time of year when we look back at our favourites of 2011! We read a lot of great books this year – and we have an even bigger pile of ‘meant-to-reads’ from this year. We thought we’d reveal some of our picks for Best of 2011.

    And…we’re asking for YOUR picks for Best Reads of 2011.

    In fact if you comment on our Facebook page or on the blog posting with your picks we’ll do up a new post with a compilation of all of YOUR recommendations. Wouldn’t that be a great list to start 2012 off with?!

    So we’ll show you some of ours…and you can show us some of yours!

    The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

    After he crashes his plane into Lake Champlain, killing most of the passengers, Chip Linton moves into a new home with his wife and twin daughters and soon finds himself being haunted by the dead passengers, all while his wife wonders why the strange herbalist denizens of the town have taken such an interest in her daughters. This atmospheric and creepy story will keep you up far past your bedtime!

    A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

    Discovering a magical manuscript in Oxford's library, scholar Diana Bishop, a descendant of witches who has rejected her heritage, inadvertently unleashes a fantastical underworld of daemons, witches and vampires whose activities center around an enchanted treasure. This literary paranormal romantic mystery is sure to have something for everyone!

    Embassytown by China Miéville

    Retaining a tenuous peace on a distant planet in the far future, humans and aliens work together through a mutually beneficial economic arrangement that is threatened by the arrival of a new group of humans that destabilizes the world's balance. A challenging but oh-so-worth-it read! Miéville is a brilliant storyteller.

    Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

    The Bigtree children struggle to protect their Florida Everglades alligator-wrestling theme park from a sophisticated competitor after losing their parents. From the far-out and bizarre—alligator wrestlers and ghost-possession-romance—to the emotional landscapes we all face—sibling and family dynamics, dealing with loss, Swamplandia! has it all… what will draw you in and keep you riveted, though, is the way Russell perfectly captures all those intangible moments in the lives of her characters that you will recognize from your own life.

    A Red Herring Without Mustard by C. Alan Bradley

    When a Gypsy woman is wrongly accused of kidnapping a local child, precocious young Flavia de Luce draws on her encyclopedic knowledge of poisons and Gypsy lore to discern what really happened while investigating the mystery of her own mother's fate. We love precocious 11-year-old Flavia de Luce the central character of Bradley's award-winning mystery series and you should too!

    What are your picks for Best Book of 2011?

    *Annotations courtesy of CPL staff and NoveList, a database that recommends fiction and non-fiction books by author, plot, setting and topic and includes book reviews.

    If you want to use this resource for great reads, just click here and log on with your Calgary Public Library card.

    Disaster!

    by Shannon S - 0 Comment(s)

    Lots of people love disaster novels. What’s not to love –they’re often filled with drama and high stakes. Whether they show people dealing with the unfolding disaster or living in its aftermath, there is something compelling that always makes you think about how good you’d be in that situation. Would you have what it takes to survive? Here are a few of our favourite disaster reads – what are yours?

    The Strain by Author Guillermo del Toro

    A vampiric virus infects New York and spreads outward, threatening the city and then the world, as a CDC doctor and a Holocaust survivor fight to save humanity.

    Blindness by José Saramago

    A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" whose victims are confined to a vacant mental hospital, while a single eyewitness to the nightmare guides seven oddly assorted strangers through the barren urban landscape.


    The Plague by Albert Camus

    Chaos prevails when the bubonic plague strikes the Algerian coastal city of Oran.


    The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    In a novel set in an indefinite, futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, a father and his young son make their way through the ruins of a devastated American landscape, struggling to survive and preserve the last remnants of their own humanity.

    The Stand by Stephen King

    A monumentally devastating plague leaves only a few survivors in a desert world who move toward the ultimate confrontation of good and evil, in the expanded original version of King's novel.

    *Annotations courtesy of NoveList, a database that recommends fiction and non-fiction books by author, plot, setting and topic and includes book reviews.

    If you want to use this resource for great reads, just click here and log on with your Calgary Public Library card.

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