The Long Weekend has Passed, by Catherine Gillier

The long weekend has passed.  Summertime is supposed to be right around the corner.  But after cutting the grass and weeding the perennials, there is still time for the ritual of reading.  Park the lawn-chair in the shade.  Pour a cold drink.  And open the covers of a good book.

WOMAN NUMBER 17 is a book by Edan Lepucki.  This author is a keen observer of our modern world.  And she has drawn on her considerable talent to create a darkly tense and twisted novel.  Hollywood Hills is the setting.  But like the dust and smog that hover close by, the forces that take the gloss from a privileged life draw nearer every day.  The reader may find that the secrets in this book uncover profound questions about the ethics of life and of identity.  Through every turn in the plot, one can see that a dangerous game is being played.

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE by Elizabeth Strout is a work of fiction whose characters will live in the reader’s heart even after the last page is read.  Small-town characters find voice in their own stories of hope and loss.  Emotional isolation, solace in the company of the lonely, struggles with feelings of abandonment are all part of the human condition.  Perhaps somewhere amidst the threads of consciousness, stronger bonds of peace and obligation will be forged.

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE is a novel by Gail Honeyman.  This is a debut and an original literary creation.  The main character, Eleanor, struggles with social skills.  She says exactly what she thinks.  And tends to live voluntarily in isolation, with frozen pizzas and a little vodka.  But her cantankerous charm gets next to the reader.  This anti-social, anti-heroine may experience something in her life that will take her on a journey out of the dark shadows.  But whether part of the dark shadows or not, Eleanor will walk straight off the page and into the heart.

THE SPIDER AND THE FLY is a non-fiction book about a reporter, a serial killer, and the meaning of murder.  The author is Claudia Rowe, who is a journalist now at the Seattle Times.  She has covered social issues, race and violence.  This book catalogues her own obsession with a serial killer.  What she creates is a psychological thriller that is a self-revealing memoir, and a mirror into the potential evil that can turn the human being into a brutish fiend.  Is this an odyssey of dangerous adventure?  Foolish preoccupation?  Or radical discovery?

Take time for the ritual of reading.  Choose a book that calls into question your perception of normal.  Take a chance.  Read to connect and to encounter.  Walk to the library.  Open the door to so much more.

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The Flowering of May, by Catherine Gillier

The Lily of the Valley, the birth flower of May, pokes its head out from the warming earth.  And the library would like to share with patrons some of the newer books that are poking out from the shelves.

THE FIFTH LETTER by Nicole Moriarty is an intriguing and scandalous breakthrough novel.  Four women, now in their thirties, have been friends since the first day of school.  Their lives now include husbands, children and jobs.  But each of the four women wants to write an anonymous letter in order to express what is really going on in her world.  Then a fifth letter is found.  Among all four letters, anger, deceit and accusations raise themselves.  But the fifth letter contains a greater secret.  Is it ever possible to know anyone?

THE LAST NEANDERTHAL by Claire Cameron is a profoundly moving book that asks the reader to reconsider what it means to be human.  Forty thousand years in the past are joined to the modern day.  Two women are separated by millennia, but linked by a journey that transforms the evolution of the human race.  After reading this novel, the world will never look the same to you again.

CLASS by Lucinda Rosenfeld is a novel of satire about liberal hypocrisy.  The author takes a candid look at all classes, rich and poor, black and white.  When problems arise in an upstanding citizen’s life, the social and economic problems that she thought she understood, come back at her as an impasse.  Perhaps life as we live it, not as we like to imagine it, often unfolds into many shades of grey.

THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR by Jennifer Ryan is an historical novel told through letters and journals.  This book reveals to the reader the deceptions, affairs and triumphs of a village choir during World War ll.  The struggles of five choir members are brought to light.  The reader is able to see how the strength each of the five find in the choir’s collective voice reverberates in her individual life.  At the dawn of a most terrible conflict, the spirit of intrigue, romance and heartbreaking matters of life and death, draws the power of the Homefront together.

So, in this month of May, choose reading that inspires your imagination and allows you to travel to new places.  Discover a secret that has been hidden from your eyes for many years.  Understand the social and cultural history and geography of the human species.  Call into question the hypocrisy of seeing the world in black and white.  Realize the shades of grey that allow dialogue.  Learn how the strength and power of many is able to connect with and support the few, if they have the will to do so.  Come to the library.  Open the door to so much more.

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Cooking with Kids, by Sue Culhane

Educators have long used stories as a starting point for classroom activities. Children love to listen to a story whether it be from a book or a personal experience. Stories can be the starting point for a creative activity, a mathematical concept or an inspiration to the imagination. They can also be an inspiration for a recipe.

Cooking or preparing food with children has a multitude of benefits. There are many teaching points to be made and also might encourage picky eaters to be more adventurous. I recently came across a web page that listed 10 recipes inspired by classic children’s books.

The suggestions include Oatmeal Cookie and Marshmallow Moon Pies based on the book “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown. These are simple to make and look delicious. “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White is the inspiration for Chocolate Spider Cake Pops. These would be great Halloween treats. “Curious George” by Margaret and H. A. Rey inspired Chocolate Monkey Bread.

The traditional “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” is behind a delicious recipe for Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal. This is an appetizing and healthy breakfast dish. “If You Give a Mouse a Brownie” by Laura Joffe Numeroff is, of course, the springboard for Brownie-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies.

These are just a few ideas. But, of course, the possibilities are endless.

The Haileybury Branch of the Temiskaming Shores Library has all the books mentioned in its collection. We also have a number of cook books written especially for children.

There is a display by the circulation desk and we invite you to visit and check out the books and maybe have fun cooking with your children.

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April is the Cruelest Month, by Catherine Gillier

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

The transition from winter’s hibernation to spring’s first awakening is captured well in this Eliot verse.

Here at the library many books have shaken themselves out of the shelves and want to see part of the growing light of the spring.  THE DARK ROSE by Erin Kelly is a story of hidden secrets and guilt.  It explores obsessive love and desperation.  This is a novel that thrills to the last page.  The frightening and dramatic atmosphere hovers over the reader until the end.

Jacqueline Winspeare has written a Maisie Dobbs mystery entitled ELEGY FOR EDDIE.  The time is 1933 and the place is Covent Gardens.  Eddie, a kind man with a gift for understanding horses, has been killed in what appears to be an accident.  But Maisie asks questions.  She goes back to Lambeth where Eddie lived.  Can justice be done? Or will the grand lies and manipulation that Maisie uncovers remain a secret?

BY BLOOD by Ellen Ullman is a fiercely intelligent book whose prose weaves a dark and brilliant story.  A disgraced professor finds himself living next door to a psychiatrist.  Because the walls are thin, he is able to overhear one patient’s troubles.  Will he continue to eavesdrop to find out more?  Will he attempt to find answers to her plight?

Jo Nesbo has written a Harry Hole thriller called PHANTOM.  Harry Hole is back in Oslo, but neither the police nor the criminals want him back.  The case that brings him back to the city is apparently already solved.  But Harry doesn’t think so.  Someone is watching him.  Someone wants him silenced.  There is a trail of violent disappearances that the police seem not to notice.  What is really happening?

So maybe some long dormant roots of imagination and curiosity will be watered by stories of desperation, mystery, love and drama.  Let April’s spring rains help mix the memory of good story-telling with the drama of adventures. Come to the library.  Open the door to so much more.

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Eden Robinson, by Sue Culhane

The list of Canadian Best Sellers for the beginning of this month certainly reflects recent events in the literary world. Four of the top ten books were featured on the recent Canada Reads featured on CBC, two of the top ten are by Richard Wagamese who recently died and one was shortlisted for the Man Booker Award. Surprisingly, perhaps, one of the books is a book of poetry and the remaining two are by ever popular authors.

In previous contributions to this column the Canada Reads selections have been featured as has the work of Wagamese but there is another author on the list that is worthy of our attention. Eden Robinson is from Haisla First Nation, an Indigenous nation in British Columbia. She was born in 1968 and educated at the University of Victoria. Her first book, “Traplines” was published in 1995and was a collection of four short stories. Her second book, “Monkey Beach” published in 2000 was a novel and was short listed for both the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award. Her third book, “Blood Sports” was also a novel and was published in 2006.

Then nothing was produced until “Son of a Trickster” was published this year. Strangely enough this book started out as a very, very short story and ended up as the first in a trilogy. Robinson says she started writing this book in 2008. It is very interesting to read the author’s description of how this “short story” took on a life of its own. The antagonist of the book is a teen named Jared who is everything he shouldn’t be –he drinks and smokes too much and is generally bad news.

The Haileybury Branch of the Temiskaming Shores Public Library has this book in its collection and also many of the books on the afore mentioned best seller list. Feel free to ask a staff member for more information.

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Spring Renewal, by Catherine Gillier

It is the time of year when spring is in the air and signs of renewal are beginning to show all around.  Here at the library, some of the books have come down from the shelves to open their pages.

THE UPSIDE OF DOWN by Thomas Homer-Dixon speaks to catastrophe, creativity and the renewal of civilization.  This was written in 2006, and its intelligent, groundbreaking perceptions are relevant today.  The human predicament throughout the world is serious.  The trouble we face is serious.  When the stresses of climate change, power imbalances and energy scarcity all converge, the risk of breakdown rises greatly.  The author argues that, as a society, we can use our understanding of these complex and interwoven systems to avoid a cataclysm.  It is possible to work together to foster renewal and regeneration.

TALES FROM THE ELDERS TOLD: OJIBWAY LEGENDS by Basil H. Johnston is a written collection of stories that have been told and retold through generations of the First Nations people of Canada.  In this book, translated into English from the Ojibway, there are nine tales.  These stories hold profound and serious themes.  And the amusing and entertaining way that the stories are told enhance the truth that is contained within them.  The tales are illustrated with the paintings and drawings of the gifted Cree artist Shirley Cheechoo.

REDEMPTION by Howard Fast combines drama with a thoughtful examination of love.  A retired law professor saves a young woman from suicide.  But later, this same woman is charged with the murder of her abusive ex-husband.  As the trial begins, the law professor has to ask himself if he has been blinded by a feeling of love for the younger woman.  Was the abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex enough to allow her to turn to murder?  Is this gentle, religious woman really just wearing a mask?  The author will take the reader into the suspense of a great courtroom drama.

A TAP ON THE WINDOW by Linwood Barclay is, in the tradition of the author, a mystery and a thriller.  After the death of their teenage son, Cal and his wife drifted apart.  One night, while Cal is at a stoplight, a teenage girl taps on the car window and asks for a ride.  It’s raining outside, and Cal makes his first mistake by agreeing to let her inside the car.  They stop at a diner and Cal senses that something is wrong with the situation into which he has placed himself.  There are too many secrets in this small town.  Too many lies.  Too much to cover up.

So now that green leaves come up from the ground, remember that many aspects of life need to be renewed.  Integrated systems need to be examined and understood so that divides can be bridged.  The public good needs to be nourished.  Stories across generations must continue to be told and interpreted.  The drama and love that is part of the human condition needs to be appreciated.  We have an obligation to take risks for the gift of being alive.  Come to the library.  Open the door to so much more.

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Frank Delaney, by Sue Culhane

In recent weeks Canada has collectively mourned the loss of two great story tellers – Stuart McLean and Richard Wagamese. The question that comes to mind is why is story telling so important and why is it so enjoyable?

Long before man had the ability to read and write there is evidence of cave paintings in many different cultures. These painting give later generations information about a long ago way of life. The valleys of southern France provided favourable conditions for primitive cave dwellers who lived by hunting and gathering and it was in this region that the famous cave paintings of Lascaux, which date back to about 20,000 B.C., were found.

In 2008 author, Frank Delaney, published an epic novel titled “Ireland”. Delaney was born in Ireland but now lives in the U.S.A. The story starts in 1951 when an itinerant storyteller arrives at the home of nine-year-old Ronan O’Mara. In exchange for a meal and a place to sleep the unnamed man regales the family and their neighbours with stories about the history of Ireland. Ronan becomes absolutely fascinated with this man and devotes much of his life to finding him again. Also, flowing this narrative is Ronan’s own narrative and his quest takes him on a journey of self discovery.

Although the Haileybury branch of the Temiskaming Shores Public Library does not have a copy of this book it does have the talking book which is narrated by the author himself. What makes this so special is that Delaney has retained some of his Irish brogue which he puts to good use. The audio version provides the listener with twenty hours of entertainment and education. I thoroughly recommend it.

Story telling has the ability to arouse all the senses. A good story makes the listener smell, taste, feel, touch and see in a way that nothing else can. Stories are forever. As Thomas King says in his book “The Truth About Stories” “once a story is told, it cannot be called back. Once told, it is loose in the world.”

We encourage you come into the library and get lost in a good story.

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