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