Sunday, 30 August 2015

Sunday August 30th, 2015 Summer Reading

Did you know that reading, even if it is only for twenty minutes a day, can significantly improve your well-being ? Besides the obvious benefits of learning something new, improving your linguistic skills, increasing your vocabulary and generally keeping your mind active and expanding in ways that will serve you well in all areas of life,  the most recent studies done on reading cite its huge benefits for improving empathy towards others and reducing stress.

We library staff who work with children and youth have the daily pleasure of interacting with young readers and helping them and their parents and educators to find the right title or titles for them to read. It is the most rewarding part of our job to see a child light up with enthusiasm when they discover that the Library has a book which can give them new facts on paleo-sharks, or how to care for a new puppy or a novel which will transport them into a world of fantasy or espionage or adventure.

Each summer we offer a summer reading program which encourages reading during July and August and helps children to maintain and improve their skills between school grades. It is part of the national program known as the TD Summer Reading Club and children receive small incentives for weekly reading, share their stories with us and have a grand wrap-up party at summer’s end.  In response to those who wonder if reading is a dying art or if books have all been replaced by technology, I wish you could have heard their amazing accounts of what they were reading and how they felt about it. But at least I can share with you that the registered children reported reading over 4,000 books this summer at your Library. When you realize that almost 300,000 children are registered across the province, you know that public libraries are helping children discover new books, improve their reading and improve their well-being on a grand scale.

Thanks to all the amazing Thunder Bay children who participated this year. To them, it may not have felt like they were doing all of these good things for themselves, because to them, it just felt like fun! And it was.

Angela Meady

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Sunday August 23rd, 2015 Vampires

Vampires. These blood-sucking monsters have captured our imaginations for years. But in modern times, many of the vampires we read about tend to be friendly. Stephenie Meyer gave us sparkling vampires. In urban fantasy, there are lots of brooding anti-heroes. And in romance, it’s vampire-lovers. While vampire mythology tends to suggest some of these things (maybe not the sparkling), modern stories sometimes overlook the fact that vampires are dangerous predators. So here’s a look at books that remind us of this fact.

The best place to start is of course Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Stoker is credited with giving us the modern form of the vampire with his gentlemanly mannerisms. And while Count Dracula is incredibly charming, make no mistake: he is a monster who wants to spread the curse of undeath. And spread the curse he did: Dracula greatly influenced the horror genre, paving the way for more contemporary authors like Stephen King to write Salem’s Lot. And in typical King style, the vampire isn’t the only monster in his small town setting; Salem’s Lot shows us the darkness that is hidden inside us all.

Thinking of monsters, David Wellington’s 13 Bullets has state trooper Laura Caxton and FBI agent Jameson Arkeley take on the undead. In the 80’s, Arkeley stopped a vampire rampage, killing all but one of them, who has been left in an asylum to rot. But 20 years later there is another attack, and Arkeley realizes the last vampire has found a way to spread her curse. And for some reason, the vampire wants Caxton. Be aware, while 13 Bullets is a great thriller, it is not for the faint of heart; the vampires often leave only gruesome remains of their victims.

Speaking of gruesome remains, in graphic novels we have Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night series. This is the story of Barrow, Alaska being overrun by Vampires. During Barrow’s winter, there is no sunlight for one month. It’s also an isolated community, making it an ideal place for vampires to have a feeding frenzy.

Robin McKinley’s Sunshine also makes a point of reminding us time and time again of how dangerous vampires are. In this book, humans know on an instinctive level that vampires are dangerous; when they smell them, their bodies immediately go into fight-or-flight mode. Of course, by then it’s often too late to escape. All of that goes through Sunshine’s mind when she gets attacked by vampires at the lake, a spot which should have been safe. Sure, she manages to find a vampire who is different from the others. But even he repeatedly warns her to stay away.

Moving away from Stoker’s version of vampiricism, there’s also a version where vampiricism is a disease or virus, which is what Richard Matheson used in I Am Legend. Matheson’s story is about the last surviving human in a world overrun by vampires; Robert Neville is immune to the virus, which makes him a very attractive target for a world of blood-sucking monsters. Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain also uses this virus idea. In del Toro’s story, a Boeing 777 mysteriously goes dead on the tarmac. The investigators find that everyone on board is dead. Or at least they should be; three people originally declared dead have somehow survived. When one of the survivors threatens legal action, the three are released, allowing them to spread the infection. The vampires in The Strain have been compared to the Reapers in Blade 2, so be prepared for nearly unstoppable monsters!

Both new and old, these seven books do an excellent job of reminding us of how terrifying vampires really are. To find these and more, stop by your nearest Thunder Bay Public Library branch!

Shauna Kosoris 

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Sunday August 16th Reader's Advisory

If you are a reader or someone who wants to return to reading after an absence, then the search for a “good” book can be a challenge. Every week thousands of books are released, both in physical and electronic format, so finding the right one is as daunting as finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.  I love to wander bookstores, seeing which covers catch my eye or noting the new release by a favourite writer, but frequently even I feel overwhelmed by the choices available.

One of my jobs at the library is to provide Reader’s Advisory. Reader’s Advisory is a quick and easy way to ask someone a few questions about what they liked or disliked in a book that they have read and use their answers as a guide in choosing similar books.  While no two authors write alike, many authors share some similarities so choosing something that supplies the reader’s desire for fast paced action, or witty repartee, or fantastical world building, is possible with little more than a good general knowledge of the library collection.

Sometimes though, asking a staff member isn’t possible so the library has provided a plethora of sites to help guide you to finding a great book similar to what you would normally read or assist you in discovering something entirely new.   Library staff write a review blog about our favourite reads at   Entries include book reviews, book news and interviews with numerous authors, both local and international.   Attached to TBPL Off the Shelf are a number of blogs and links that we recommend for finding your next read.

The gold standard of reading recommendation is Goodreads, (  Goodreads is a large, international community of readers who read, review and rate titles.  Anyone can rate a book and frequently opinions vary but it usually gives a strong overview of what any books strengths and weaknesses are.  A bonus feature to using the site is its ability to track a reader’s history of books and keep a list of titles the reader has selected as “to read” titles.

Other parallel sites you might wish to explore are The Millions (, which includes reviews, news and critical analysis. The site also offers advice to budding writers, quizzes, master reading lists and a cornucopia of quotes about readers, writers and reading.  Early Word, ( ), covers both book suggestions and looks at the business of words. If you want to know if your favourite book has been sold to Hollywood, this is a great site to check. Other great sites to try are Indiebound (, which concentrates on independent and self published releases or Readerly (, which is like reading an online magazine about books.

Beyond Goodreads, there are a large number of sites devoted to particular genres of fiction.  No matter what type of book you read, whether it’s romance, mystery, horror, or western or anything else, there is a website that addresses your passion.  Occasionally, if you have no idea where to start or you are in an unusual mood, try Which Book (, which selects books based on your series of emotional scales, or try a selection site called What Should I Read Next? ( Type in a book you loved and by process of elimination it will select the right book for you.  So whatever way you find your books, happy reading.  

Lori Kauzlarick

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Sunday August 9, 2015 Super fun with Superheroes

Most people agree - superheroes have officially invaded popular culture. They dominate at the box office, are slowly taking over tv screens, and their print adventures are holding strong with core audiences and regularly gaining new converts. Whether you are a life-long superhero fan or new to the fandom, TBPL has tons of heroic fun available.

Our graphic novel collections are always being updated with the latest adventures of the Marvel and DC super powered set. You’ll find many different characters, ranging from the well-known like Hulk and Batman to the more obscure or newly added, like Spider-Gwen and Grayson. There is a gradual movement towards more diverse heroes, which can be seen in excellent and very well-reviewed series like G Willow Wilson’s Ms Marvel and decisions like making biracial Miles Morales the official Spider-Man in Marvel continuity. Taking risks with creative storytelling is also in vogue: check out Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye vol 2: Little Hits for an entire issue told from the perspective of his one-eyed Pizza Dog. While superhero movies are heavily biased towards showing adventures of male heroes, superhero comics offer many great girl and young woman heroes for teens to explore. Comics like Ms Marvel and Ryan North’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl offer fresh and fun reads about empowered girl superheroes who live believably in today’s world. For those who prefer to read their comics online, we also have graphic novel issues from major publishers available through Hoopla for electronic download.

However, it’s not only Marvel and DC who are publishing super powered stories. Graphic novel publishing houses, like Dark Horse and First Second, have released lots of stories about heroes: try Battling Boy by Paul Pope or Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang. Even traditional publishers like Harper Collins are releasing books like Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, a graphic novel featuring a young shape shifter and her adventures trying to break into the evil villain game. This very original story has a medieval-esque setting with bits of the modern world mixed in and an unforgettable heroine rocking an amazing half-buzzed haircut and oceans of sass.

There has also been a huge boom in graphic novels for younger readers. From Marvel Universe series based on the Disney XD cartoons to ones featured de-aged versions of your favourite characters, like the Tiny Titans by Art Baltazar, there are plenty of kid-appropriate reads for young fans based on the heroes they know in our juvenile graphic novel collection. There are also tons of new heroes to meet, like Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space and Ben Hatke‘s Zita the Spacegirl.

This week, our summer programming at the library has a real super side. Kids aged 7-12 can register for Super TOONdo on Monday, August 10 at Waverley Library to enjoy some great stories and create their own superhero comic book. On Thursday, August 13, kids aged 4-10 can join the Library Avengers by attending the Superhero Training Academy at Brodie Library. Choose a superhero alias and practice your super skills to graduate as an official member! Costumes are welcome at both these programs; pre-registration is required. Please visit our online calendar for more information about these programs and another upcoming opportunity for creative kids: Cartooning with John Tuokko on August 18.

Also, keep an eye out for the Bat signal - Batman Day is arriving at the County Park branch on September 26. Watch our Facebook page or online calendar at for details!

Laura Prinselaar

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Sunday August 2, 2015 Travel with a Book

Summer is a time to kick back and relax, and take a break from routines.  Some folks go away on vacations, and some go on vacations via books!  I find that reading fiction books can create a special connection with places I have never visited in person, because they take you on journeys and let you live vicariously through their characters.  These are some books that did that for me.

And the Birds Rained Down, written in French by Jocelyne Saucier and translated by Rhonda Mullins, draws readers into the deep bush of Northern Ontario.  You will learn what it’s like to experience the horror of a raging forest fire, and meet an interesting group of hardy, creative folks who have chosen to live out their lives, and deaths, on their own terms.  A grow-op, love story, and curious photographer add to the richness of this book.

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens takes you to the dangerous side of a legendary mountain where a grandmother, mother and daughter set out on a quest and end up lost with a depressed teenage boy.  Their forced intimacy draws out inward struggles, unlikely connections and diverse family memories.  This book brings you up the mountain with the characters, and makes you feel their struggle to survive in all nature’s raw harshness.  

The Canterbury Trail by Angie Abdou is another story set on a mountain, but this one is in BC and it’s the end of the ski season.  This book provides insight into the “ski bum” lifestyle, spring skiing safety and how snowmobilers and snowshoers can get along.  Like Chaucer’s classic “Canterbury Tales”, the characters’ stories evolve as their journey progresses.

Girl who was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill transports readers to the streets of Montreal and into the lives of the teenage twins of a washed-up but legendary Quebecois folksinger.  It’s both  a peek behind the sequined curtain of celebrity, and the frayed lacy curtain in a loving Grandpa’s dusty apartment.

There’s something about islands that makes them intriguing, and the island of Nantucket, just south of Cape Cod on the east coast of America, is no exception.  I have read several books set there, the latest being The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand.  The reader is pulled in to the close knit community as the summer season begins.  Insight into island real estate, high-stakes gardening, teen angst under a small-town microscope and tested friendships are provided.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is a historical novel which tells a Bible story from the women's’ perspective.  It transports the reader in time, place and culture to reveal sacred bonds, twisted family ties and the power of tradition. 

Salsa Nocturna by Daniel José Older is a collection of spooky short stories set in New York City.  Older takes the reader to dark, gritty places, both physical and psychological.  These stories are fascinatingly creepy and elegantly written. They provide exposure to the dirty underbelly of New York City.

Richard Wagamese’s Medicine Walk takes you to the harsh and splendid backcountry of BC, where a teenage boy fulfils his estranged father’s wish to be buried in the traditional Ojibway way.  Family bonds, the shaping of lives and our need for resolution are explored.  Wagamese is a master storyteller who expertly weaves the magnificent setting into the complicated story.

What book has taken you to a new place?  Share your stories here on the blog or our Facebook page.

Joanna Aegard