Sunday, 21 December 2014

Sunday December 21, 2014 Have you heard about Serial?

Podcasts – and one podcast in particular – are having a moment in pop culture. Serial, the non-fiction show from NPR that explores one story week by week, has prompted think pieces everywhere from CNN and Time Magazine to Buzzfeed, at least two “recap and review” podcasts, and became the first megahit podcast to reach 5 million downloads or streams on the iTunes chart. Devout listeners wait eagerly every Thursday morning for the latest instalment to be uploaded and the conversations to begin. For the first time, there is podcast “water cooler conversation” and never-ending discussion threads dotted around the internet about what is, in essence, a radio program.

So what makes it so gripping? Well, Serial follows journalist Sarah Koenig as she investigates a fifteen year old murder – one that is, technically, not a cold case because someone was charged and convicted of the crime. Koenig was contacted by a friend of the convicted inmate Adnan Syed, who requested that she investigate the case in an attempt to clear his name. Week by week and episode by episode, Koenig unspools and analyzes information. Due to the intimate and personal style of the podcast, listeners feel like they are working with Koenig to find the answer. We drive in Koenig’s car with her as she plots the geographic timeline presented by the prosecution, listen in on just some of the hours of phone calls between Koenig and Syed, and question ourselves just as she does: can we tell when we are being lied to? Koenig’s opinion on Syed’s innocence seems to waver week to week, and ours does as well.  The case rests primarily on the testimony of another teen and is essentially a “he said-he said” situation. Unless there is some major revelation, ultimately it comes down to whose story we believe.

True crime has never been one of my reading interests, and I’m not even a fan of crime shows like CSI and Law & Order. Originally, I didn’t think Serial would interest me. However, I’ve clearly been converted and find myself with a new interest in investigations and the justice system. Luckily, TBPL has a great selection of materials on the topic. These are just a few of the titles that I am planning to pick up.

One reason why the show is so engrossing to me is the involvement of Koenig in her topic. Clearly, she is personally involved in the story, bringing her own bias to the questions she asks and what weight she gives information. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt is another story where the author/narrator is deeply embedded in the narrative. Shortly after he moved to a sleepy little Savannah town, someone was killed: was it murder or self-defense? This non-fiction memoir reads like an engrossing suspense thriller, and we gradually learn new information alongside the narrator just as with Koenig.

There are many books analyzing cases of the wrongfully convicted. In Convicted for Being Mi’kmaq, Bill Swan examines the facts to illustrate where racism played a role in the case of Donald Marshall Jr. Other true crime books recounting miscarriages of justice include Hélèna Katz’s Justice Miscarried: wrongful sentencing in Canada and the Paradise Lost trilogy by directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky about the West Memphis 3 case.

To download the Serial podcast and check out supplementary information, visit – and be sure to comment on our Library Detective blog with your thoughts about the case!

Laura Prinselaar

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Sunday December 14th, 2014 City of the Poppy

Thunder Bay Public Library is a partner in the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project which brings together a number of organisations in the city to remember the Great War and also to create a lasting legacy. Did you know, for example, that Thunder Bay is the City of the Poppy – so named because it was here, at the Prince Arthur Hotel, that the Canadian Poppy Campaign was launched in 1921. This makes our city unique at a time when the whole world is recalling the tragic events of 1914-18. 

So what was happening 100 years ago? The early events of the war were captured in the book 1914 by Lyn MacDonald in her vivid, unforgettable portrait of the first months of fighting. 1914 was a year that saw warfare enter the modern age; war became depersonalised, as heroic notions of glory and sacrifice vanished in a smoky haze of death. In this book Lyn Macdonald lets the British soldiers of 1914 tell their own moving, and often tragic, stories. They were professionals, disciplined by hard training, bronzed by long marches under tropic skies, toughened by fighting and manoeuvring on the frontiers of an Empire that stretched halfway around the globe. 

Unlike the volunteers who rushed enthusiastically to the colours when war broke out, they did not go to war with heroic notions of glory and sacrifice, but because it was their job. Their only weapons were rifles, which they handled so skillfully that the Germans meeting their rapid fire believed they were being mowed down by machine guns. But the ‘Old Contemptibles’ (from the Kaiser’s description of the British forces as ‘a contemptible little army’) were standing in the path of the main German advance, and they were outnumbered, often ten to one. By the end of the year they had sustained 90% casualties, and it was the end of the Old Army. 

Lyn Macdonald’s research has uncovered a wealth of eyewitness accounts and new or little-known material – letters, diaries, official papers and reports – which she has woven together into an engrossing and moving picture of what it was like to be a soldier in the British Army in 1914. The relentless marches, the punishing shellfire, the hardships and deprivations – as well as the unexpected moments of light relief that made life bearable – all are graphically described and set within their military framework in 1914, a book which made a major contribution to the history of World War One. 

I particularly liked the perspectives of civilian observers such as Madame Deron who recorded events in her diary. Gaston Degardin and Andre Betrancourt (both aged 12) who give a child’s-eye view of the conflict.  Father Camille Delaere describes the destruction of Ypres and its many fine buildings, including the beautiful Cloth Hall. Lyn Macdonald has written a number of other books about the Great War which are well worth reading, including Somme (a history of that legendary and horrifying campaign of 1916), The Roses of No Man’s Land (the story of the medical teams who nursed battlefield victims), and They Called it Passchedaele (an account of the notorious Third Battle of Ypres in which so many Canadians lost their lives).

Check out the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project site and keep an eye out for regular updates. If you have any materials which you would like to share – letters, diaries, newspaper cuttings, ephemera – please let us know at

John Pateman

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Sunday December 7th, 2014 The Origins of Santa Claus

When you’re out and about during the month of December, you are sure to come across Santa Claus. While today Santa is a fairly well-known figure, he wasn’t always. Have you ever wondered where he came from? Then look no further - the library has the answers.

One of the most well-known origin stories is that St. Nicholas became Santa Claus. We don’t know a whole lot about St. Nicholas the man beyond a few basics, like that he was born in Asia Minor around 280 AD. He came from a wealthy family, but ended up giving a lot of his money to charity and becoming a bishop at a young age. When the Roman Emperor Diocletian declared himself a god, St. Nicholas and the other Christians were imprisoned for refusing to worship him. When Diocletian resigned several years later, the new Emperor, Constantine, released them. So how did a holy man like Nicholas become Santa Claus? After his death, people began telling stories about his generosity and the miracles he performed. In one story, he anonymously gave a man money for his daughters’ dowries. In another, he flew through the sky to calm a storm and save a ship. Even the name “Santa Claus” comes from the Dutch word for St. Nicholas (“Sintaklaas”). All of this and more can be found in James Cross Giblin’s book The Truth About Santa Claus.

St. Nicholas isn’t the only gift-giver who evolved into Santa Claus. If you flip through George Ouwendijk’s Santas of the World, you’ll discover a whole bunch, including the Finnish Joulupukki, the French Pere Noel, and Japan’s Hoteiosho. One particularly interesting gift-giver is the German Christkindl. Germans believed that gifts were brought by the Christ child. Over time, the Christkindl’s name became simplified to Kriss Kringle, which was later associated with Santa Claus thanks to the movie Miracle on 34th Street.

Another interesting Santa-figure is Father Christmas. The original figure of Father Christmas became popular in England after people there stopped worshipping St. Nicholas. While you may think this makes Father Christmas a relatively new gift-giver, he is in fact older than St. Nicholas! Father Christmas comes to us from the Roman god, Saturn, who presided over their winter feast. Over time he evolved into Father Christmas, who in turn is evolving to resemble the modern, North American version of Santa Claus.

Santa Claus isn’t the only Christmas figure who has evolved. Before Santa had his elves, reindeer, or his wife, he was followed by Black Peter in Holland. Black Peter was believed to be the devil, who was defeated by St. Nicholas and had to serve him. He carried a trunk for St. Nicholas full of presents for the good children and birch rods for the bad children. Black Peter is similar to the German Knecht Rupprecht, who was also known as Pelznickle or Ru-Klas. In Austria, there is a similar figure, known as Krampus. Krampus was originally a demon who wandered the Austrian forests. But he became the companion of St. Nicholas, who punished the bad children with his wooden stick. Luckily St. Nicholas is compassionate and will spare any children the wrath of Krampus if they promise to be good.

Of course, these facts are just the tip of the iceberg. If you flip through either Santas of the World or The Truth About Santa Claus, you’ll find far more than I’ve mentioned here. And we have many other books on how Santa Claus came to be, including Santa Claus: a Biography by Gerald Bowler on Overdrive, The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guin on Hoopla, and The Story of Santa Klaus by William Shepard Walsh in Reference.

Shauna Kosoris

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Sunday November 30th, 2014 Themed Cooking with Kids

Some of my best childhood memories are of spending time cooking and baking with family members. I’m not sure how helpful I actually was, but at the time I thought I was saving the day when I ran into the kitchen with my little apron, chef hat and plastic spatula. I can’t remember many cooking shows on tv but I don’t know if any could have held a candle to Pasquale’s Kitchen. I can remember my very first kid’s cookbook, My First Cookbook by Rena Coyle, and wanting to try out each recipe. Perhaps the beginning of a future culinary career, or maybe just impatient, curious and always hungry!

Kids these days have many more options when they begin to take an interest in cooking and baking; our shelves are full of fun and age appropriate cookbooks for kids of all ages. These are some of our awesome character based kids cookbooks:

C is for Cooking, Recipes from the Street by Susan McQuillan
This book is great not only for recipes like Easy Cheesy Waffles, Grover’s Chicken and Couscous with Juice-Juice and Oscar’s Quick Dip in the Mud but before you dive into the recipes there are notes about related topics such as nutrition, safety and allergies. One great feature of this book is that each recipe contains at least one highlighted task that can be done by a young child. This is not only a helping hand for parents, but it also gives kids a task they can look forward to performing. And of course I have to mention that the book is filled with everyone’s favourite Sesame Street characters.

Pinkalicious Cupcake Cookbook by Victoria Kann
Even as a trained pastry chef I had no idea you could do so many things with a cupcake! The book only has a few recipes at the beginning, but it’s these cupcakes that are used throughout the book to make star wands, castles, Christmas trees, snowmen and so many other cute confections. This book would be a fantastic foundation for a Pinkalicious themed birthday or tea party.

Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook by Georgeanna Brennan
How could any children’s book review be done without including Dr. Seuss? I’m not actually sure what to say about this book other than it’s fantastic! Of course I haven’t actually tried any of the recipes yet, but my to-make list includes Blueberry Bumplings with a side of Glunker Stew (but please hold the oysters), Cat in the Hat Tub Cake, Cindy-Lou Who-Wreaths and of course Who-Roast Beast. Each recipe is accompanied by a picture of the corresponding book and most include a quote from the book. While the recipes range from simple to more advanced each recipe has at least one small task that a child can complete on their own or with minimal adult help.

Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes by Roald Dahl
This was one book that I did not browse for very long, due to rather unappetizing titles and pictures, but I’m sure most Dahl fans would disagree. They might even enjoy Snozzcumbers, Mosquitoe’s Toes and Wampfish Roes Most Delicately Fried, Mr. Twit’s Beard Food and Stink Bugs’ Eggs. I have to give credit where it is due and say that although the titles (and often pictures) are not the most appealing the book is very well done and does a great job of following Dahl’s characters and storylines.
These are just four of the many kids cookbooks we have waiting for you on our shelves. So next time you have a hankering for Yots in Pots, Big Bird’s Spaghetti Pie, Fresh Mud Burgers or for a Teeny Tiny Pinky Cupcake or just have a kid interested in exploring the kitchen, you know where to turn.

Chelsea Cernjul-Marsonet

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday November 23rd, 2014 Have you heard the hoopla?

Have you heard the hoopla about the library’s newest digital product? Coincidentally, it’s called hoopla!  So what is it exactly? It’s online access to thousands of movies, television, music and audiobook titles, free to you with a Thunder Bay Public Library card. You need to have an email address and set a PIN on your library card. Download the free hoopla digital mobile app on your Android or IOS device or visit on your PC, set up your account and away you go. Here are few details about the service.

Loan periods vary. You can enjoy most movie and TV content for 72 hours (3 days) after borrowing (a very small number of movie titles are available for 48 hours). Music albums are available for 7 days, and audiobooks are available for 21 days. And you don’t have to worry about fines as these items are automatically returned.

Limits exist. You can borrow 8 items per month (based on a calendar month). But the really good thing is it that there’s no waiting – access is 24/7 with no “holds” lists. Please note that returning a title early does not give you additional borrows for that month.

It’s kind of like Netflix. The look is similar but the content is different. Hoopla offers an extensive catalogue of education materials, children’s titles, foreign films and other hard-to-find content in addition to mainstream movies, TV and music. Best of all, you get same day release of popular music albums. And hoopla puts together themed collections. Right now there’s Festive Family Flicks in movies, Cozy, Contemporary Christmas in music and Holiday Stories in audiobooks.

Content changes. New material is added weekly but due to copyright limitations some titles don’t last long. Get it while it’s hot!

Downloading is temporary. Borrowed titles are only available for temporary download on mobile devices, such as iOS (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch) and supported Android phones or tablets. All titles are streamed so you do need an Internet connection, at least to start.

Help is available. There is an extensive section in hoopla itself: plus our personal technology assistant is ready to help as well. Just call Margaret at 345-8275 (extension 7251) or email to make an appointment.

No privacy worries. No one can see what titles you have borrowed.  As an added bonus, there are no ads either.

Like what you’re hearing? You can get to hoopla right from the library’s webpage ( by clicking on Online Stuff. You can also like hoopla on Facebook at, follow on Twitter at @hoopladigital, and subscribe on YouTube at I’m sure you will indeed find something you like with hoopla!

Sylvia Renaud

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Sunday November 9th, 2014 And the Giller goes to...

On Monday November 10, the annual Scotiabank Giller Prize will be awarded to one of six shortlisted Canadian novels. This year’s festival will be hosted by CBC’s Rick Mercer and adjudicated by writers Shauna Singh Baldwin, Justin Cartwright, and Francine Prose.

The Giller Prize was first awarded back in 1994 to The Book of Secrets by M.G. Vassanji, by Jack Rabinovitch in honor of his late wife Donna Giller. The award celebrates the best and innovative in Canadian literature, from both well-established and independent publishing houses. In the past, writers as diverse as Rohinton Mistry, Mordecai Richler, Alice Munro and Joseph Boyden have all been awarded this prestigious prize.  

This year’s nominees for the Giller showcase an exciting array of fiction. Fortunately for all dedicated readers, all of the shortlisted titles are available at your Thunder Bay Public Library. Here is a brief synopsis on the breadth of talent competing for this year’s Giller Prize. 

All My Puny Sorrows, the latest from Miriam Toews, follows two inseparable but very different sisters, Elf and Yoli; Elf a celebrated concert pianist with a loving family, but living with a strong urge to end her life, and Yoli, a meandering freelance writer bouncing from one disastrous relationship to the next. After the death of their father by suicide, Yoli takes it upon herself to save her sister from a similar fate.

David Bezmogzis’ The Betrayers is at once a serious and comical meditation on coincidence, morality and (hence the title) betrayal. In the course of 24 hours, a former Israeli politician, after being exposed by his political opponents for betraying his wife, takes refuge in Crimea with his young mistress where he meets a former colleague who betrayed him to the KGB. Throughout the tightly wound plot, The Betrayers explores the themes of betrayal, forgiveness and reconciliation. 

Similar in narrative scope is Padma Viswanathan’s The Ever After of Ashwin Rao where we follow a psychologist who interviews family members who had lost loved ones in the Air India flight 182 in 1985. As Ashwin Rao conducts his research on the comparative grief of family members, we come to learn that Rao himself had family on that fatal flight. Viswanathan’s novel is itself a study of how we cope with loss and tragedy, how it can tear and unite us.

As with Viswanathan’s novel, the examination of human intricacies and behaviour continues in the latest from Francis Itani. Tell an ambitious novel set in the wake of World War I weaves interlocking stories of the inhabitants of Bay of Quinte. Through the vivid characters that Itani creates, she explores how secrets of the heart can both bind and render us.

In Heather O’Neil’s The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, we meet Nouschka Tremblay, along with her twin brother Nicolas, trying desperately to escape the spotlight cast on them as a result of their father Etienne, a beloved folk singer in Montreal. As Nouschka tries to gain independence and control over her life, her brother decides to take the backseat approach, waiting for a solution to come to him.

Sean Michaels second effort, Us Conductors takes on the challenging task of telling the history of the musical instrument “theremin” while incorporating the life events of its inventor Lev Terman. Michaels’ introduces us to Terman, Russian inventor, scientist and spy, sharing his life history with Clara Rockmore, love of his life and in his mind the greatest theremin player in the world.

For more information on the Scotiabank Giller prize, visit their website and stay tuned to CBC television at 9:00 pm on November 10 when the Giller prize will be awarded. Visit TBPL’s online catalogue to locate or reserve any one of these novels.

Petar Vidjen

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Sunday November 2nd, 2014 TBPL and IFOA

Since its inception in 1974, The International Festival of Authors has played an important role in the cultural life of Canada. IFOA presents international novelists, poets, playwrights, short story writers and biographers, and provides them with an internationally recognized forum in which to present their work.

Thunder Bay Public Library, Lakehead University, Northern Woman's Bookstore and Thunder Bay Art Gallery are pleased to host the fourth annual IFOA Ontario reading, with Lisa Laco of CBC Radio as Master of Ceremonies. Come and join authors Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Alison Pick, and Michael Winter as they read from their latest novels at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery on Thursday November 6 at 7 pm.

Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer is the author of the novels Perfecting and The Nettle Spinner, as well as the story collection Way Up. On Thursday Kuitenbrouwer presents All the Broken Things, a captivating novel about loyalty and acceptance and the ties that bind us together. The story follows fourteen-year-old Bo from Vietnam, who lives in a small house in a Toronto neighbourhood with his mother. He has a younger sister who is disfigured and whose future he takes upon himself to protect. It is written in a way that is both sad and hopeful. Each branch of TBPL has a copy of this book, published in 2014 by Random House of Canada in Toronto. 

Alison Pick is the author of Far to Go, named a Top 10 of 2010 Book by NOW Magazine and the Toronto Star. Pick presents a memoir entitled Between Gods, Published by Doubleday Canada in 2014. The book is a memoir of her life journey. Born in the 70’s and raised in a loving family, she discovered a secret when she reaches her teens that changed her life.  She learns that her grandparents were Jewish, had escaped from the Czechoslovakia during World War II, and that many members of her family had suffered and subsequently died in concentration camps. She struggles with this truth which takes her a lifetime journey to accept so that she can at last look forward to the future.  

Michael Winter is the author of many well-known novels, including The Architects Are Here. Recipient of the Writers' Trust Notable Author Award, Winter presents his first non-fiction book, Into the Blizzard: Walking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead, a gripping story of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during the Battle of the Somme in World War I, one hundred years ago. This extraordinary narrative follows two parallel journeys. The first is of the young men who came from Newfoundland to join the regiment that led many of them to their deaths at Beaumont-Hamel during the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916. The second journey is the author’s, taken a century later as he walks in their footsteps to discover what remains of their passage through memory. Published by Doubleday in 2014, there are two copies on order for the Thunder Bay Public Library. 

If this sounds intriguing, pick up your ticket(s) at the Waverley Library, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, or the Northern Womans’ Bookstore then head over to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery at Confederation College, 1080 Keewatin Street for 7:00 pm this coming Thursday. You can call the Waverley Library at 684-6811 for more information.  This event is made possible in part by a grant from the Ontario Arts Council’s Ontario Touring Program. 

Caron E Naysmith

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Sunday October 26th, 2014 Halloween @ Your Library

Halloween is almost here, though it may not seem that way with Christmas decorations already appearing in local shops and flyers. By now the candy has been stockpiled, costumes organized, and trick or treating plans made. With a centuries old history behind it, Halloween is one of the few holidays to have transformed time and time again. According to Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween by Lisa Morton (2012), “what began as a pagan New Year’s celebration and a Christian commemoration of the dead has over time served as a harvest festival, a romantic night of mystery for young adults, an autumnal party for adults, a costumed begging ritual for children, a season for exploring fears in a controlled environment and, most recently, a heavily commercialized product” (p. 7).

Some of the more popular trends around Halloween in recent years are theme crafting and zombies, often combined for extra effect. If going full throttle on the fear factor isn’t your style, start with something a bit tamer, and much cuter. Monster Knits For Little Monsters by Noriya Khegay (2013) features 20 original designs and patterns for animal themed accessories for children ages six months to three years. Featuring bears, owls, frogs, foxes, sharks, robots, dinosaurs, bunnies, and even Shrek-like ears these items are easy to create and designed to stay put on active kids.

More sophisticated interests will enjoy an Artful Halloween by Susan Wasinger (2012). These creepy but stylish collection of over 30 Halloween inspired costume and decorating projects are described as “scary beautiful” and guarantee to give your home a spooky, sophisticated look. Zombie aficionados can now Knit Your Own Zombie with Fiona Goble (2012). Create the original design and then take advantage of the fact that each piece is stuck together with Velcro and start removing body parts and creating fresh, horrifying creatures.

Mix and Match zombies are not a feature in book one of Nowadays by Merk and Martell (2012), but I will hold out hope for book two. This graphic novel introduces the reader to a zombie epidemic that is sweeping across the Thunder Bay area. Inspired by real settings, locations, and people, don’t be surprised if you recognize some of the true faces of the undead in this tale.

While trends come and go, what would Halloween be without a classic childhood story to rely on? It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz (1980) – the title may speak for itself. But if you haven’t read it, or have children who are in the spirit of Halloween, you should check it out and enjoy the time spent together.

Jesse Roberts

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Sunday October 19th, 2014 World Building through Graphic Novels

As graphic novels become more mainstream and popular, the entertainment industry of books, film, and television has seized on the format as a way to tell expanded or more elaborate versions of stories, the same tale from a different character’s perspective, or fill out the details of a beloved character’s life. Not all graphic novel adaptations include new information; like the novelizations of the past, some simply retread the same ground as the original work. However, they are still an alternate entrance to that work’s world and can also act as a memory refresher prior to starting the newest season or picking up the latest installment in a long-running series.

Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books have been popular for years, but the recent television series has made them even more appealing. Maybe you’ve already read the series and want to spend more time with Jamie and Claire, or maybe the thick historical novels look a bit intimidating. Luckily, Gabaldon has provided readers with another avenue into her world: graphic novel The Exile, which tells part of the first Outlander novel from the perspective of Jamie Fraser. This addition is part of the official canon, written by Gabaldon herself and featuring gorgeous illustrations (based on character descriptions, not the show cast).

The Game of Thrones acclaimed television show is based on a series of equally acclaimed fantasy novels. However, fans of the show (or potential fans) who aren’t interested in reading an 800+ page fantasy saga can try the graphic novel. Based on the novels rather than the HBO series, it’s a great way to spend more time getting to know Jon Stark without the time commitment required by the novel.

Unlike The Game of Thrones and Outlander graphic novels, which adhere closely to the books, the two True Blood graphic novels are entirely new stories. Set in the world of the HBO show rather than Charlaine Harris’ book series with character descriptions based directly on the actors, these steamy stories offer more Sookie Stackhouse stories to readers disappointed that both the book and television series have officially come to an end.

Young adult series are regularly adapted to the graphic novel format, generally based on the original content rather than new stories. Erin Hunter’s Warriors, James Patterson’s Witch and Wizard, Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and others are all available. Generally, these books are not written by the original author but are still another valid way to explore these titles.

The Star Wars universe is an expansive playground for writers, and there have been many novels and graphic novels set in this world since the theatrical release of the original trilogy. Perennially popular in the Thunder Bay Public Library system, recent graphic novel series include Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi, which takes place 25,000 years ago when Jedis were just beginning to understand their connections to the force, and Star Wars: Legacy II, the adventures of a descent of Leia and Han Solo named Ania Solo. While there is an established continuity in the world of the graphic novels, filmmakers have already stated that the new Star Wars movies will not include the so-called “Star Wars expanded universe.” Nonetheless, if you are a Star Wars fan, the many graphic novels and novels available are a lot of fun to delve into.

Not all graphic novel adaptations are of movies, films, or prose books – a few are from video games! The popular game The Last of Us has prompted a graphic novel, and Halo, Dungeons and Dragons, and other video-game based graphic novels can also be found in our collection. 

Laura Prinselaar

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Sunday October 12th, 2014 What Authors Recommend

Back in February, the Thunder Bay Public Library’s blog TBPL Off the Shelf started interviewing authors. At the end of each interview, they’re always asked what book or author inspired them to write. One of the authors, Karen Autio, didn’t recommend anything in particular; instead she thought that everyone should read “regularly and widely.”  This sentiment was echoed by many of the others, although they also added books that particularly spoke to them.

Joseph Nassise was the first author to be interviewed. He wrote the amazing fantasy book Eyes to See. Nassise is a huge fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series, which starts with A Princess of Mars (and inspired the 2012 Disney movie John Carter). He was also inspired by Clive Barker, Robert McCammon, and Dean Koontz, and recommends John Connolly’s Every Dead Thing, the first in Connolly’s Charlie Parker series.

Phillipa Ballantine is a podcaster and the author of the Books of the Order and the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. She says it was C. J. Cherryh who inspired her. In her words, “Not only was [Cherryh] a magnificent example to me as a teenager of a woman making it as a writer, she also wrote flawed, powerful, and sometimes terrifying female characters.”  Of course, Ballantine is herself no stranger to writing such characters, as she demonstrated with the deacon Sorcha Faris in the Books of the Order.

Jon Sprunk, author of the Shadow Saga and Blood and Iron, the first in his Book of the Black Earth series, has a self-professed “man-crush” on Steven Erikson’s Malazan series, which starts with Gardens of the Moon. He also recommends reading Tolkien, Tolstoy, Robert E. Howard, Glen Cook, Fritz Leiber, and H.P. Lovecraft.

Sharon Irvine echoed Sprunk’s recommendation of Tolkien’s books. In particular, this local poet thinks that everyone should read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings as they are totally engaging, no matter your age. For poetry, Irvine was inspired by T.S. Eliot, but is also very fond of Don McKay’s work.

Kevin Hearne wrote the Iron Druid Chronicles, which was a real hit with library staff, particularly at Brodie. The series stars the cute Irish druid Atticus O’Sullivan and his lovable Irish wolfhound, Oberon. Hearne strongly recommends reading Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which he says has amazing voice.

Jessica Young is the author of the cute picture book My Blue is Happy and the forthcoming Spy Guy. She has many excellent children’s book recommendations including Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library stories, James Marshall’s George and Martha, Tomi Ungerer’s Crictor, the Lisbeth Zwerger-illustrated version of Gift of the Magi, Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting, and C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. But it was On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier that inspired her first “real” attempt at writing, inevitably leading her to My Blue is Happy.

Chuck Wendig is the Taco Pastor and Priest of Pineapple Parish of the Holy Taco Church. While not talking about and eating Mexican food with other writers (including Tacopope Picante I, aka Kevin Hearne), Wendig manages to find the time to write. A lot. He is a screenwriter, author, blogger, and game designer. His books include the Heartland Trilogy, the Miriam Black series, and the Mookie Pearl series, among others. He heartily recommends that everyone read his books. Failing that, he recommends Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon.

So that’s what the first eight authors we’ve interviewed recommend. If you’d like to read more of what they have to say, be sure to check out our blog at, which also has books TBPL staff recommend.

Shauna Kosoris

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Sunday October 5th, 2014 Scandinavian Crime Fiction Round-Up

There’s been a lot written over the past five years about the burgeoning popularity of Scandinavian mysteries, but where can you find new to you authors?  Well, here of course.  Many of us have read Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy and are familiar with Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, and Karin Fossum, and with these names we have only scratched the surface of Scandinavian Crime fiction.

For starters let’s look at Anne Holt a Norwegian lawyer and former Minister of Justice.  Holt started the Hanne Wilhelmsen series in 1993 with Blind Goddess, the series first came to North America with 1222 (the eighth book in the series) in 2012.  This is not unlike Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series that was also picked up by a North American publisher part way into the series.  Subsequently both these authors have had their entire series released in North America so you can start from the beginning.  Other Norwegian authors to check out include:  Karin Fossum and Thomas Enger.

Moving from Norway to Iceland we find Yrsa Sigurdardottir writing the Thora Gudmundsdottir series.  As with Holt’s Hanne Wilhelmsen we are presented with a strong female character.  Thora is a single mother and attorney, in the first novel Last Rituals Thora is tasked with investigating a young man’s death.  The police have made an arrest, but the family of the young man are not satisfied that the right person has been apprehended.  While there are many more Icelandic crime authors many have not been translated into English.  You will also find Arnaldur Indridason in our collection and stay tuned for more Icelandic writing.

We’ll make a quick pit stop in Denmark to visit Jussi Adler-Olsen among others before continuing on.  Adler-Olsen was the first Danish crime author that came to my attention with The Keeper of Lost Causes.  This first volume in the Department Q series introduces us to Carl Morck, the only one staffing Department Q.   Throughout the series Morck works on the coldest of cold cases with fascinating results.  Keep an eye out for Leif Davidsen and Christian Jungersen, with hopefully more authors to be translated in the future.

Sweden really seems to dominate the Scandinavian crime writing scene, at least when it comes to authors who have been translated into English.  There are of course the aforementioned Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell as well as Camilla Lackberg, Liza Marklund, Asa Larsson, Ake Edwardson, Lars Kepler, and Kristina Ohlsson.  One of the less well known authors from the Swedish camp is Hakan Nesser.  Nesser’s Inspector Van Veeteren mysteries combine police procedural and psychological thriller for a truly satisfying read.

Please do not think I’m neglecting the wonderful Finnish crime writers.  As it happens most of the Finnish crime fiction we have at the library is in Finnish.  This is a great service to our Finnish population, but does present me with a challenge in sharing information about our Finnish crime authors as I cannot read them.  The only one I was able to find in our collection and translated into English was Nights of Awe by Harri Nykanen; it is now on my reading list.

I hope you truly enjoy these marvellous authors and the rest of our great crime fiction at your Library.

Ruth Hamlin-Douglas