6:51 am | 1 Comment » |
by Bernhard Schlink
Vintage Books, 1998.
This is a tremendous book that pulls in the reader, timidly at first and then full tilt
into an excellent story. Set in post war Germany, the book recounts the story of
15-year-old Michael Berg who becomes ill and is rescued by 30 something Hanna Schmitz who
later becomes his lover. Their affair ends when she disappears without a trace. The next
time he sees her he is a young law student and she stands accused of a terrible crime.
Michael relives his affair with Hanna while attending her trial and then becomes
reacquainted with her while she serves a lengthy prison term. The Reader is a tremendous
book, the story is moving, challenging and eminently readable. In the words of one
reviewer, “The reviewer’s sole and privileged function is to say as loudly as he is able,
“Read this” and “Read it again.” Do read it, you won’t be sorry.
1 Comment »
September 4, 2008
1:36 pm | 2 Comments » |
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Atria Books, Simon and Shuster, 2007.
This isn’t a book you’ll want to put down or, when you’re finished, it isn’t one that
will be easily forgotten. New Hampshire’s Jodi Picoult is a perennial on New York Times
bestseller lists and for good reason. She writes well, her characters are believable and
her dialogue is realistic. So too is her subject matter. Picoult poses moral dilemmas
inside intense and compelling narratives. Her books make one think about the bigger
societal issues of our time. Nineteen Minutes continues in this vein. It is the story of
Judge Alex Cormier and her daughter Josie and of what happens when one of Josie’s former
friends can no longer take the bullying he’s been subjected to for most of his life. It
isn’t an unfamiliar tale but in the hands of Picoult it is both important social
commentary and exceptional storytelling.
2 Comments »
August 14, 2008
10:56 am | 1 Comment » |
For me, one of the best parts of our Mobile Library service is discovering it stopped in other communities. Sure, it’s the same vehicle and the same staff but it seems a bit clandestine somehow, like a guilty pleasure. The other night my children and I were in Chester, killing some time before a soccer game, and there was the Mobile – parked at the corner of Valley Road and Highway #3. We parked and went in.
When I find the Mobile in communities outside my own, I try to pick at least one book that I wouldn’t ordinarily choose. Something I can’t judge by the cover, that’s not on the best seller list and is not by one of my favourite authors. I browse. Instead of immediately going for the authors I’ve read before, as I do when I’m in a rush in my home community , I take a few moments to see what surprises are on the shelves.
The other night I chose Evelyn, A True Story by Evelyn Doyle. It’s the story of an Irish father who loses his job and then his wife when she deserts him and their six young children on Christmas Day. He is advised to put his children in the care of the State industrial schools temporarily while he finds work. He does both. When he returns to get them he’s horrified to learn that his kids have been consigned to State care until they are sixteen. The story is told by his oldest child, Evelyn, who was seven years old at the time.
It was a compelling story, and having two children close to the same age myself, I can’t imagine how heart wrenching it must have been for father and daughter. I read it non stop in about 3 hours but was left feeling a bit disappointed, not so much by the story but by the story that wasn’t written. What happened to her five younger brothers? Did the baby, who was badly scalded at one point when the mother neglected him, recover fully? Did she reunite with her brothers? And what of the Mom? Although the story does explain that Evelyn meets her mother again in her twenties, only to be abandoned a second time, the book doesn’t follow through with the emotional impact of that meeting.
Even with the unanswered questions it was a good story to choose and an evening well spent reading it. I can’t wait for the next surprise Mobile visit.
1 Comment »
July 24, 2008
11:28 am | No Comments » |
A novel that came to life in Lunenburg will be front and centre Saturday, August 23rd at the
Lunenburg Library at 1:30 pm. A Song of Songs by Jennifer Chapin is a novel about the
return of Mary Magdalene at the end of time. It tells of her final incarnation as a young
woman named Jenna who is born with a birthmark over her forehead shaped like the
continent of Africa. It is also a story about the Cathars in the Languedoc area of
France. The Cathars believed in reincarnation and loved the Magdalene believing her to be
the beloved of Christ and the keeper of his teachings. Their story is interwoven with the
Knights Templar and with Jenna’s ongoing odyssey as she comes to full awareness of who
she is. Author Jennifer Chapin is a freelance writer and researcher in the legal field on
issues related to international law. A gifted photographer, with a passion for adventure
travel, she has self-published a travel anthology that spans several countries. A Song of
Songs is her first novel.
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July 10, 2008
10:58 am | No Comments » |
Just this morning I got an email from a colleague in the valley who took the time to compile a list of really cool book blogs for kids and teens. I thought others might be interested so I’ll list a few. The full list is available at: http://www.valleylibrary.ca/main/index.php?library=1&pagecontentid=1971&lang=
A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
What is Tea Cozy? It’s a discussion of books, movies, and TV shows; with an emphasis on books for children and teens.
Big A Little a
Children’s Books, Writing, and Life…
Exploring African American Picture Books and other Fanciful Topics.
Bookshelves of Doom
If you have a teenager, this is a good spot for book suggestions (and thoughts on those books).
Just One More Book
This one is a weekly podcast– great explorations of books for your young reader.
Discussion of nonfiction books.
Oz and Ends
Musings about fantasy literature for young readers.
Poetry for Children
About finding and sharing poetry with young people.
Written by 3 Teen Librarians– all YA*, all the time.*YA is librarian-speak for Young Adult, or Teen books.
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July 4, 2008
12:34 pm | 2 Comments » |
Earlier this year I mentioned to my co-workers that I was planning on tackling War &
Peace over the summer, as a sort of ‘life goal’. They quickly suggested that that goal
could be a summer program, and that I should co-lead the project.
So, not only am I actually reading War & Peace now (so much for slacking off on my own
goal), but I’ll be attending my first book club meetings as well. Speaking of which, the
first ‘Small Communities – Big Books’ meeting was on June 24th, and I had a great time!
There were ten people discussing the book, bringing with them multiple translations and a
great variety of thoughts, opinions, interpretations, and perspectives. We talked at
great length about the events, themes, and ideas presented in the book, not just in
isolation to itself but also how the book applies to modern society and current events.
I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly the book reads (I was expecting a tough,
dreary slog), and was equally surprised with how much I enjoyed the discussion. I can’t
wait to finish the book and see what everyone else has to say about it during the next
two sessions, and you are all welcome to join us!
The next meeting will be Tuesday, July 22 at the Lunenburg Library, beginning at 7 p.m.
2 Comments »
June 24, 2008
9:34 am | No Comments » |
Turns out we have winners in our midst.
So much has happened since my last post on June 2nd. Since then I have been involved in planning a celebration for the International winners of the 2007/08 Adopt-A-Library WOW Reading Challenge. I am pleased to announce that the students of Big Tancook Island Elementary won the Challenge by reading 632 books (per capita). Lahinch National School in County Clare, Ireland wins second place with 467 books read per child. In third place, it’s Furghlan National School in County Clare, Ireland with 397 books read per child.
The celebration was held on Monday, June 16th at the Community Hall on the Island. The students went to great lengths to decorate the hall and prepare to meet their guests; over 100 family and friends in addition to those on hand to present the awards and offer encouragement to the kids. Minister of Education Karen Casey, MLA Judy Streatch, RCMP Supt. David Fudge, Provincial Librarian Jennifer Evans, South Shore Regional Library’s Chief Librarian Cheryl Stenstrom, AAL founder Const. John Kennedy and Councillor Dianne Tanner were all on hand for the occasion. Megan Baker, grade four, led us in O Canada, the trophies were presented and the party was followed by a BBQ and, of course, cake!
Constable John Kennedy, founder of the Adopt-A-Library program, emceed the celebration. “ The Adopt a Library Literacy program is a long term crime prevention initiative based on the belief that if we teach our kids to read today we can keep them out of jail tomorrow. It is a partnership between public libraries the police and children. It is
affectionately referred to as fighting crime one book at a time. ” The Challenge is operated as part of Adopt-a-Library which is a partnership of police, public libraries, and the community. The goal is to fight crime at an early age through literacy.
Students from Newcombville, New Ross, New Germany, Mill Village and Dr. John C. Wickwire Schools also participated in the Challenge. Together they read a staggering 48,114 books.
Local students were not alone. 14,669 students from over 80 schools in four countries took part from November 13 to April 5, reading almost 1.1 million books. They were encouraged and motivated to read by regular visits from municipal police, RCMP, and public library staff. Community businesses provided support through donations of incentives and small prizes. School staff members ensured all children were reading at their age levels and also recorded the numbers of books read on the Adopt-a-Library website, www.fightingcrime.ca.
In Queens County, top honours go to Greenfield Elementary for reading the most books. Constable John Kennedy and South Shore Regional Library Public Relations Coordinator Teresa Workman presented the students with a plaque during a visit to their school on May 12. The students can be proud of their accomplishment, reading 163.4 books per child during the contest.
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June 2, 2008
11:47 am | 2 Comments » |
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Viking Canada 2007
Reading this book is like the sandstorms described by the author during which no matter
what you did or wore, or where you were, the sand penetrates your clothes, face, hair and
eyes. This book and its well-drawn characters take up residence in your mind and you
can’t escape them.
Like Hosseini’s celebrated first novel, The Kite Runner, this book is set in Afghanistan
from pre Soviet invasion to post Taliban rebuilding. It centres on two women thrown into
an uneasy living environment and tells the story of the evolution of their relationship.
Mariam and Laila begin as competitors, become friends, then allies, each other’s chosen
family and conspirators.
Hosseini draws the reader into his story, revealing the horror, educating about history,
art, literature, religion and politics. It is a fascinating glimpse into another world,
far removed from the Afghanistan Canadians hear about through news reports. It is a world
of brutality, repression and warfare. It is also a world filled with light, kindness and
humanity. Never an easy read it is nonetheless a compelling story.
This work, as with the author’s previous novel, is important literature because it is
telling westerners the story of ways of life of which many of us are unaware. The novels
reach people at a much different level than do news reports. They bring the repression,
physical danger and need to a human level, portraying real people in real situations.
Kabul becomes the city where Mariam and Laila live and Afghanistan is a country of great
contrasts and great suffering.
Hosseini has seen much of this suffering first-hand. Two years ago he was named a U.S.
(he now lives in California) envoy to the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency. Its
mandate: “to protect the basic human rights of refugees, provide emergency relief, and
to help refugees restart their lives in a safe environment.” (Afterword, A Thousand
Splendid Suns). He writes that working with this agency has been one of the most
rewarding and meaningful experiences of his life. Read this book and you will understand
2 Comments »
May 27, 2008
7:47 am | 1 Comment » |
Orion Books 2007
Ian Rankin’s 18th book has been billed as the end of his irascible, much-loved character,
Inspector John Rebus. After putting in his time, earning his share of beatings,
suspensions, hangovers and his continued irreverence toward the brass, Rebus is about to
retire. Exit Music takes place during his last week on the job, late November 2006. But
in true Rebus fashion, he’s not about to go without a struggle and there is that one more
murder to solve.
Since he made his appearance in Knots and Crosses, Doubleday 1987, Rebus has drawn a
solid fan base on both sides of the Atlantic. One can read a single novel in this series
and be satisfied but there’s so much more to be savoured by following Rebus’ career from
beginning to end.
Exit Music has all of the usual suspects and issues readers have come to expect from
Rebus and Rankin: Rebus’ arch enemy, Morris Gerald “Big Ger” Cafferty, the thug who
controls the drug trade and other nefarious activities in Edinburgh appears; there are
cops who may or not may not be dirty; there is much talk of Scottish nationalism, the
Scottish parliament and the prospect of an independent Scotland; Edinburgh’s rich history
and its historical buildings are cited; pubs from posh to working men’s joints are
explored; and there are the myriad references displaying Rankin’s seemingly exhaustive
knowledge of rock music.
The story begins when a visiting Russian poet is found murdered near an Edinburgh car
park. Rebus and Siobhan Clarke arrive at the scene of the crime and in doing so embark on
a murder investigation that takes more turns than an Edinburgh roundabout. The highlights
include international intrigue, the sordid underworld of high finance, missing poetry
recordings and more. Woven throughout is the possibility that one of Rebus’ older cases
may come back to haunt him. I
Exit Music is a great read. Rankin is the master who is, in the words of The Times,
“unmatched in the field of British crime fiction.” His many fans are hoping that this
novel isn’t the end of Rebus and Rankin isn’t about to let him go easily. In a surprise
yet not so surprising ending we, like Rebus, are left wondering what’s going to happen
next. Stay tuned for Rebus #19 sure to be in a library close to you next year.
1 Comment »
May 15, 2008
9:00 am | No Comments » |
The Bitch in the House
One of the perks of working in a library is the ability to stroll through carts full of new books day in and day out. The con is that there is little time to actually pick them up and take a peek inside as we are usually in a rush to get our regular work done. After a while we become immune to their presence and we no longer ‘see the forest for the trees’. Every once in awhile though, providence intervenes and the perfect book seems to jump into your hands. This happened to me last week with a donated book, destined for the shelves in Lunenburg Library I think.
The Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth about Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage is a self-explanatory title. The essays are short and punchy and cover everything from parenting (Crossing the line in the sand: how mad can mother get by Elissa Schappell), to visits from relatives (Houseguest Hell: my home is not your home by Chitra Divakaruni) and being at peace with ones self (The fat lady sings by Natalie Kusz). As I picked up the book it fell open to Atilla the Honey I’m Home by Kristin van Ogtrop. I was immediately drawn in by the similarities between my life and hers. The essay is a humourous and easy read and expresses the turmoil that many of us mothers feel as we’re pulled between work, motherhood, marriage and community, with not quite enough hours in the day to do any of them as well as we’d like.
I liked the book. I liked it so much, in fact, that I’m reading it again. But don’t despair, I’ll bring it back soon. In the meantime, the website listed on the back cover (www.thebitchinthehouse.com) offers more detail on the essays included and also highlights the next book, The Bastard on the Couch: 27 Men Try Really Hard to Explain Their Feelings about Love, Loss, Fatherhood, and Freedom.
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