Library Moments: Favourite Reads

Sherrill Sherwood, Collection Development: Hello, I’m Sherrill Sherwood from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.

This week Bessie Sullivan, Catherine Coles and I would like to share our favorite reads from the last few months with you. To add a learning curve to this, we will also explain what it is we think appealed so much to us about our book. One of the challenges library staff have in helping patrons choose their next read is that the patron doesn’t really know what they liked about their last favorite book. Was it the character, the atmosphere, the writing style, the storyline, the pacing… if you can put a finger on the most important appeal elements in your reading, you will be able to narrow the long list of books you may want to read down to the ones that will really wow you.

The Painted GirlsCatherine Coles, Branch Services Librarian: My favourite read in recent months was The Painted Girls by Canadian author Cathy Marie Buchanan. This novel follows the stories of two sisters growing up in Paris circa 1878. Their father has recently died and their mother is an addict who squanders her meager salary from the washhouse on absinthe. With few options for work, Marie is dispatched to the Paris Opéra, where for a scant seventy francs a month, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work as a stage extra. Both sisters quite quickly run into moral dilemmas: Marie finds herself in the uncomfortable position of posing for artists’ paintings for a bit of extra money while Antoinette becomes romantically entangled with a man who is most definitely bad news.

Personally, I am drawn to novels with interesting, imperfect characters and a candid narrative. I also am transfixed by books that manage to evoke a time and place, specifically dark or gritty settings where I would not otherwise travel. The Painted Girls has all of these elements this is why is worked so well for me.

Sherrill: My favorite read was Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens. At first I had to wrap my head around theRush Home Road location – it felt like it should be set in the southern States instead of southwestern Ontario. It is the story of Addy Shadd, who grew up in Rusholme, a fictional cousin to the many Ontario communities founded by fugitive slaves brought north by the Underground Railroad.  Raped as a teenager, forced to flee the family home, Addy makes her way on foot to Detroit, where she becomes the housekeeper for an elderly man and his grown son, both of whom develop a crush on her. When misfortune strikes again, she sets off to make a new life for herself back in Canada. Married, with a small daughter, tragedy leaves Addy alone in the world once more.

Now an old woman, she lives a quiet existence in a trailer park near Chatham. When a young mother asks her to babysit her daughter, it soon becomes apparent that the mother isn’t coming back. Addy is glad of the company, but not sure if she’s up to the job of mothering a five-year-old, nor how long she will live to help the child.

Lansens gift of writing, the kind that transports you to another time and place, kept me hurrying back for more and the story has stayed with me. The setting and the strong character of Addy were the most important features of this book for me. Another character driven novel set in Ontario that I loved was Crow Lake by Mary Lawson.

KarmaBessie Sullivan, County Librarian: The recent read that was most compelling to me was Karma by Cathy Ostlere.  This book was on the 2013 White Pine Award list and is written completely in verse.  Reading a 500 page book as a poem was not as difficult as it sounds and I found the subject matter fascinating.  On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi is gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards. The murder sparks riots in Delhi and for three days Sikh families are targeted and killed in retribution for the Prime Minister’s death. It is into this chaos that fifteen-year-old Maya and her Sikh father, Amar, arrive from their home in Canada. India’s political instability is the backdrop and catalyst for Maya’s awakening to the world. Karma is the story of how a young woman, straddling two cultures and enduring personal loss, learns forgiveness, acceptance and love. I really like learning about history though fictional characters.  Well-developed characters make me feel like I was there when whatever event in history was happening and in that way I can remember it instead of just trying to remember a bunch of dates.

For online resources to help you find your next favorite book go to www.haliburtonlibrary.ca and click on readers’ advisory. We hope you enjoyed this week’s Library Moments here on 100.9 Canoe FM.

 * Originally aired on 100.9 Canoe FM from June 3rd-June 10th

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