Book Talks: The Lobster Kings and The Right Word

lobster kingsThe Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner

The Kings family has lived on Loosewood Island for three hundred years, blessed with the bounty of the sea. But for the Kings, this blessing comes with a curse: the loss of every first-born son. Now, Woody Kings, family patriarch and the leader of the island’s lobster fishing community, teeters on the throne. Cordelia, the oldest of Woody’s three daughters, stands to inherit the crown. In a fight for her family’s legacy, Cordelia must confront drug runners and ruthless poachers threatening the family’s age-old territory. Inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear, The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner is the story of Cordelia’s struggle to maintain her island’s way of life in the face of danger from offshore, while putting aside sibling rivalry and her own promising love interest. The Lobster Kings is one of ten nominated Evergreen™ Award titles and can be requested through the Haliburton County Public Library.

the right wordThe Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet

Meet Peter Mark Roget. As a young boy his family moved around a lot, so it was difficult to make friends. But he figured out that books made good friends, and you didn’t have to leave them behind. Naturally shy, Peter liked making lists – especially lists of words and ideas. Peter was always looking for the right word, and wanted to help others find the right word too… as well… also.

We get a glimpse of the life of Peter Mark Roget, author of Roget’s Thesaurus, in a beautiful picture book biography The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet. From the sadness he experienced from the loss of his father as a young boy, to his fascination with plants and animals, to his first word book that contained 100 pages, 1000 ideas, and listed more than 15,000 words which helped the shy Peter make presentations to some of the most famous thinkers and inventors of the time.

The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet is available to reserve at the Haliburton County Public Library.

*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM April 5th – 18th, 2015.


Haliburton County Living: Transformation and Reinvention

Amanda’s Adventures in Reading

Amanda Wilk

Once on Broadway  Paul Nolan and Joanna Christie

Once on Broadway starring Paul Nolan and Joanna Christie

And if a door be closed/ Then a row of homes start building/ And tear your curtains down/ For sunlight is like gold,” sings a central character only known as Guy in the musical and film Once, a story about a talented Dublin street musician, who meets a girl who causes him to abandon the fears that have halted his dreams.

In some ways Once is a story of reinvention. But it is so much more. It is a story about love—of the romantic variety, but also familial love, a love of music, and a love for one’s culture and country. It is a story that shows the ways in which one person can transform another’s life.

Some of the novels that sit high on my list of all-time favourite reads are books that I have already The Fault in Our Starsextensively promoted like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, and Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Though none of these novels focus upon a love of music as Once does, they are all varied stories of love, which highlight how one person can change another for good.

In The Fault in Our Stars, terminal cancer patient Hazel’s life is changed when she meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group. In Me Before You, Louisa becomes the caregiver to Will, a brilliant and broken quadriplegic, and their relationship alters them both. In Les Miserables, the generosity and kindness of Bishop Myriel changes Jean Valjean into an honest man, while cynic Grantaire finds only one man he can believe in, and it is his adoration of him that alters his life.

CyranoAnother theatrical take on love and transformation is Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, a story of a man who is a masterful swordsman, witty and intelligent, but possesses the face of a clown. It is not Cyrano who is transformed, but his friend Christian, who has garnered and returns the affections of Roxanne, whom Cyrano also loves.

At the Haliburton County Public Library, we have a number of plays in addition to Cyrano de Bergerac, which are available to reserve. Works by the likes of Shakespeare, Shaw, Beckett, Brecht, Pinter, Ibsen, Chekov, and more can all be found within our catalogue.

Finally, as I will be beginning a new position working with the Burlington Public Library system in the New Year, and this will be my last article, I would like to thank both the residents of Haliburton County and staff of our library system for welcoming me, and teaching me so much during my time with the HCPL.

As always, all titles mentioned, including DVDs of both the musicals Once and Les Miserables can be reserved from the Haliburton County Public Library today.

*Originally published in Haliburton County Living on December 19th 2013

Haliburton County Living: Swan Lake

Amanda’s Adventures in Reading

Amanda Wilk

I recently saw The National Ballet of Canada’s Swan Lake, a ballet that tells the tragic tale of Prince Siegfried and his cursed love, the swan Odette, who must capture the heart of and marry a man in order to become human once more. Though Siegfried falls in love with Odette, he is tricked into believing that a black swan by the name of Odile is his love, and instead chooses to marry her, ensuring that Odette’s curse will never be broken and dooming them all.

Swan Lake, The National Ballet of Canada

Swan Lake, The National Ballet of Canada

I was surprised to find that the production I saw showcased the story in a much darker light. It was choreographed in such a way that Siegfried was no longer a chivalrous prince, but rather a feeble man, who is fully conscious of his actions when he forsakes the innocent Odette for the powerful and passionate Odile.

This blacker take on this fairy-tale-esque story was to me very compelling, because it allowed Swan Lake to delve into deeper subject matter, and explore some of the darker areas of human nature.

The Painted GirlsI chose to talk about Swan Lake because many books also explore humanity’s need for power and pleasure, with no concern for the consequences that may ensue as a result of our actions.

Take for example, Cathy Marie Buchanan’s The Painted Girls, a story centred around the Paris Opera at the turn of the 20th Century. In it, art becomes paramount to all else for the painter Degas, while another character, Antoinette believes that she has found love and continues falling lower and lower with a single-minded determination to stay with her man.

Or Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a story of magical realism set in Sussex, England, written from the perspective of a man remembering a time in his childhood when a Brides of Rollrockdarkness was released, shattering his rural home.

Lastly, there is the young adult novel The Brides of Rollrock Island written by award winning author Margo Lanagan, which explores the strange lives of fishermen from Rollrock, who not only make their living by the sea, but also fetch their wives from the tumultuous waters. It is a deeply insightful and incredibly disturbing tale, in which the consequences of revenge exacted upon a community, combined with unchecked desire fuelled by sorrow, results in far reaching and unforeseen effects.

These titles, along with the deeply disturbing film Black Swan, a psychological thriller set around a production of Swan Lake at a New York ballet are available to reserve from the Haliburton County Public Library.

*Originally published in Haliburton County Living on November 28th 2013

Haliburton County Living: What’s New in YA

Amanda’s Adventures in Reading

Amanda Wilk

This Fall a number of wonderful young adult (or YA) books were published. As an avid reader of YA fiction, I raced through reading many of these new releases. I so greatly enjoyed reading these titles, that today I thought to share a few of these new additions to my ever-growing list of favourite books.

FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a novel about Cath, an identical twin attending university for the first time, and coping with her sister Wren’s attempts to distance herself from their closeness. Cath enjoys living in fictional realms more than the real world, and in particular loves inhabiting the world of Mages, a Harry Potter-eqsue land created by author Gemma T. Leslie. A talented writer herself, Cath has developed a following of thousands by crafting fanfiction about Simon and Baz, two of the main characters in the series. A coming of age story about love—of both books and writing, family, friendship, and falling into it—Fangirl might be one of the most delightful novels that I have ever read.

Entirely different from Fangirl, but also completely wonderful is Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. Rose Under FireThough a companion to the Printz Honor awardee Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire can easily be read on its own. Beginning in 1944, Rose Under Fire introduces readers to Rose Justice, an American Air Transport Auxiliary pilot who is captured while flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England and sent to the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück. Trapped in unthinkable circumstances, Rose is able to find hope through the loyalty, bravery, and friendship of her fellow prisoners, who include a female Soviet fighter pilot, and a group of girls that have been labelled rabbits because of the horrific experiments they have been subjected to by Nazis  learning how to treat war wounds. Impeccably researched, and beautifully written, Rose Under Fire is an unforgettable and ultimately hopeful account of a horrific time in human history.

Just One YearAnother recently released companion novel is Just One Year by Gayle Forman, which is the sequel to Just One Day. Unlike Rose Under Fire, I would not recommend reading this novel without first reading its predecessor. Just One Day is told from the perspective of Allyson, who acting on impulse for the first time in her life spends one perfect day in Paris with Willem, a Dutch Shakespearean actor. After their perfect day together, Allyson wakes to find Willem gone, and his abandonment leaves her confused and brokenhearted. But their perfect day in Paris sparks in her the beginnings of a journey of self-discovery, fuelled by the works of Shakespeare, which enables her to break free from the narrow confines of her life. In Just One Year, we see Willem’s story, learn what happened to him in Paris, and discover how meeting Allyson altered his life.

Whether you’re in the mood for something realistic, historical, romantic, supernatural, or fantastical, the Haliburton County Public Library has a book to suit your needs.

*Originally published in Haliburton County Living on October 24th 2013

Haliburton County Living: Pairing Books and Music

Amanda’s Adventures in Reading

Amanda Wilk

Sigh No MoreThe relationship between books and music is quite interesting. Not only do authors frequently refer to songs or albums as inspirational in the crafting of their novels, musicians too draw from literature when writing music.

Perhaps one of the bands most open about their literary influences is Mumford and Sons. East of EdenTheir debut album Sigh No More draws inspiration from numerous sources. For example, the song “Dustbowl Dance” begins with the lyrics: “The young man stands on the edge of his porch/The days were short and the father was gone/There was no one in the town and no one in the field/This dusty barren land had given all it could yield” evoking the desolate Oklahoman landscape the Joads migrate from at the start of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. While the song “Timshel”, a Hebrew word meaning ‘thou mayest’ draws meaning from Steinbeck’s East of Eden.

Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing plays into the song “Sigh No More”, and “Roll Away Your Stone”, forms lyrics from Macbeth. “The Cave” draws from Homer’s The Odyssey, as well as Plato’s allegory of the cave; and finally, “Little Lion Man” retells Chretien de Troyes Yvain or The Knight with the Lion.

A multitude of other examples of songs and artists influenced by literature exist. A few other novel inspired songs include:

  • 1984 by David Bowie, which draws from Orwell’s classic dystopian novel of the same name
  • White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane, which evokes the madness of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
  •  Ramble On by Led Zeppelin, which include lyrics like: “’Twas in the darkest depth of Mordor/ I met a girl so fair/ But Gollum, and the evil one crept up/ And slipped away with her,” quite obviously drawing from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

But as stated earlier, this topic can be explored from two sides, and books also frequently draw inspiration from musicians as well as song lyrics.

More Than ThisThe epigraphs of novels (phrases, quotations, or poems that precede the text of a novel) are often More Than This PGsong lyrics. For example, in Patrick Ness’s most recent young adult title More Than This, the epigraph is “Nothing fades as fast as the future/ Nothing clings like the past,” which are from Peter Gabriel’s song More Than This, implying that more than the novel’s epigraph was inspired by these lyrics. In fact, the novel’s plot is quite aptly surmised in the aforementioned epigraph, as it is a book about a boy who within the first few pages dies in a wintry cold ocean, only to awake in his childhood home, which appears to have been abandoned for many, many years. Both readers and the boy are unsure whether he has truly died, and is destined to spend eternity alone, or if there could be something more to it all.

Can you think of other novels that have been inspired songs or musicians? If so, share them with us on our Facebook page or Goodreads group, both of which are accessible through our website at

*Originally published in Haliburton County Living on September 26th 2013

Haliburton County Living: Books that Grapple with Big Questions

Amanda’s Adventures in Reading

Amanda Wilk

What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in the immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come –” ~Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Bowler Hat

Atonement2This summer I attended the twelve productions staged at the Stratford Festival. The plays I viewed explored a staggering number of complex topics, and dove into issues including what is justice? (Mary Stuart and The Merchant of Venice), our attitudes towards disability (The Thrill and Tommy), and life’s meaning (or lack thereof) (Waiting for Godot). The number of topics raised in the plays that I viewed inspired me to share a few books that also address and attempt to provide insight into the questions highlighted above.

Justice, goodness, and the idea of doing what is right is a topic that has been extensively explored in literature. Atonement by Ian McEwan is one of my favourite novels exploring such questions from the perspective of Briony Tallis, who at the book’s start is an adolescent girl living in England just before the onset of World War II. Unable to comprehend the motives of her older sister Celia, and Robbie Turner, Celia’s childhood friend, Briony makes a choice with far reaching and devastated consequences.

Relating to our culture’s attitudes on disability as well as questions on the right to live and the right to Me Before Youdie is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. In it, we meet 26 year old Lou Clark who is content live the entirety of her life within the boundaries of the sleepy tourist town where she was born. But Lou’s existence is turned on its head when she loses her job and out of necessity must take a position as an adult caregiver. Expecting her charge to be elderly and incapacitated, she is stunned to instead find herself working for Will Traynor, a brilliant thirty-five year old man, who lost of use of his limbs in a motorcycle accident two years prior. Every day Will is reminded of what he has lost, and his life is filled to capacity with pain, longing, and absence. Lou and Will should have never met, but together form a bond that will change both in ways that neither could have imagined.

The CuriosityFinally, a recent novel exploring the nature of human life is The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan, which examines the ethical questions that arise when a scientific team uncovers the body of a man frozen in arctic ice, whom they are able to bring back from the dead. Matters are further complicated when one of the lead scientists on the project finds herself falling in love with this man whose new existence is confined to scientific study.

As always, all titles mentioned are available to reserve from the Haliburton County Public Library.

*Originally published in Haliburton County Living on September 19th 2013

Haliburton County Living: Melina Marchetta Interview Part 2

Amanda’s Adventures in Reading

This summer I was selected as a panelist on Canoe FM’s Haliburton County Reads Battle of the Books. For this program, five Haliburtonians were asked to select one book that they believe everyone in Haliburton County should read. My selection was Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.

I contacted Ms. Marchetta with a few questions, and she graciously took the time to respond. In my last column, I published the answers to her first three questions and today I will share the rest.

Jellicoe Road

AW: When you write, does the landscape or do the characters appear to you first? In a sense, it is the world you’ve created that shapes the characters? Or do the characters shape the world around them based on who they are and what they want to become?

MM:  In all my novels the characters came first and then I go searching for the place they belong.  The contemporary novels are easy because I cheat and use my neighbourhood (Alibrandi, Francesca, The Piper’s Son), but the rest become part of a journey for me.  I recently went to Yorkshire believing that the moors would be part of a story I’m writing, but I drove away realizing that the Yorkshire Dales were what I was searching for.  Travelling plays a very important part in the construction of place.

With the Lumatere Chronicles, I had to travel to find that landscape.  Once I found the gravina in central Italy, I started re-shaping the landscape of that particular town.  I used the same terminology they did (gravina, citavita) and thought I’d have to change those words later in the edit. But in fantasy, gravina sounds better than ravine and citavita sounds better than the capital.

AW: I love that all of your female characters are strong, but that their strength is so realistically presented to readers in a manner that allows them to see both the quiet strength of characters like Phaedra of Alonso, Raffaela or Hannah, or the more overt power of Isaboe and Taylor.

Where does your inspiration for writing such varied depictions of strength come from?

MM: The inspiration comes from a negative place to begin with. I despise one-dimensional characterisation unless that sort of characterisation is part of the story telling.  The perfect misunderstood beautiful girl just doesn’t cut it for me.  The one-dimensional bitchy girl is even worse.  The less than beautiful wise cracking best friend is annoying. So when I write a character like Taylor, I don’t give her a sidekick who doesn’t have a chance shining alongside her. I give her Raffaela. She’s important to Taylor’s story.  We speak about her often during script meetings because she’s Taylor’s moral compass. She’s to Taylor what Phaedra is to Quintana. Raffaela and Phaedra may not have the traditional power, but they’re the ones who tap their leaders on the shoulder and remind them how to treat their people.  That’s a different sort of strength.

I didn’t grow up with everything and that includes money, privilege, brains and beauty. That’s not to say I grew up with the exact opposite, but when I write, I want to present someone who is accessible to the reader.  Because when I was young, I was desperate for that accessibility. So my female characters aren’t there to be put on a pedestal.  It’s why they are so flawed, at times. We all are.

*Originally published in Haliburton County Living on August 29th 2013