Category Archives: humour

Midnight Riot (Rivers of London series) by Ben Aaronovitch

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At first glance Midnight Riot is a murder mystery or perhaps a police procedural, however by page five Nicholas Wallpenny (ghost) is introduced and shortly thereafter the police are seeking traces of magic.  Our protagonist, probationary Constable Peter Grant, is unusual in the realm of supernatural mysteries; he’s working within the policing establishment.  While many police departments in the genre may employ wizards, witches, and the like as consultants, in this first of the Rivers of London series a lone Detective Chief Inspector leads a specialist unit all his own.  That is until he meets Constable Grant and sees in him the potential for an apprentice.midnightriot

So why with so much to choose from in this genre should you give your time to this book (and series)?  For starters, Peter Grant is a thoroughly likeable while imperfect character.  Easily distracted he does not fit the criteria to become a detective as he desires, but his interest in everything around him is exactly what draws the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Nightingale.  Peter’s colleague Leslie May sums it up best saying that Peter doesn’t “see the world the way a copper needs to see the world – it’s like [he’s] seeing stuff that isn’t there.”  It turns out that noticing the stuff that isn’t there is exactly what is needed in supernatural policing.  Nightingale is fascinating in his own right and we are slowly given insight into his character over the course of the series.  These two very different men each bring different skills to the table (only of the two really understands technology) to solve cases the Metropolitan Police couldn’t dream of solving on their own.

If you’re looking for an entertaining read over the holiday season with a good dose of humour I cannot recommend this highly enough.

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The Books of Mo Willems

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pigeonbusElephant and Piggie. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Knuffle Bunny. These perennial story-time favourites were all created by one author, the endlessly original Mo Willems. In addition to his series titles, Willems also writes popular standalone books. Most child readers (and those who read to children) will be familiar with Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs and Tyrone the Terrible. This year, he has brought one series to a close and opened a new chapter.

 

After twenty-five stories, two gold medals from the Theodor S Geisel committee and five Geisel Honors, Willems has ended the adventures of Elephant and Piggie with The Thank You Book. These boisterous friends have had many adventures; including There is a Bird on Your Head! and We are in a Book! Told through humorous dialogue and simple, sparse illustrations, these books are a great pick for early readers and new installments will be missed.

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However, rather than saying a final farewell to these popular characters, Willems is using themmo-willems as a vehicle to bring attention to other exciting and worthwhile children’s authors in a new series called Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! In these books, Elephant and Piggie act as a framing device, introducing the story to readers and commenting on it in the final pages while another author writes and illustrates the central story itself.

 

I fully recommend checking out both of these new books. The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat uses a goofy cast of characters to introduce sharing and fractions to readers in a scenario all kids will recognize: four friends, but only three cookies. We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller explores individuality and self confidence amongst a group of silly grasses. Both books contain the humour and endearing characters found in Mo Willems’ own work and should satisfy any disappointed Elephant and Piggie super-fans.

 

 

The Pub across the Pond by Mary Carter

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pubpondHaving returned recently from a wonderful trip to Ireland, I really wanted to love this book. The plot is centered about an American woman from Ohio that wins a pub in Ireland. The pub is being raffled off to pay a gambling debt of Ronan, the son the the deceased former owner. The woman, Carlene Rivers, decides this is her chance at a new life and not surprisingly falls passionately in love with Ronan. Both Carlene and Ronan have secrets and baggage, which slows the inevitable coming together of the two.

Parts of the book were enjoyable especially the descriptions of the setting, the antics of the pub regulars and developing relationship between Carlene and Ronan. Carlene was a difficult character to identify with, for though she was good-natured and well meaning; she was frequently prone to the type of supposedly humourous antics that would be more at home in a 1950’s sitcom. There were a number of plot threads that were introduced including Carlene’s former Irish boxer husband and the mysterious woman who looked like a famine victim and seemed to be stalking Carlene that were either left unresolved or wrapped up neatly within a page or so.

If you are looking for an undemanding and light read with a mix of romance, travelog and humour, this might be the book for you. Just a word about the language, for a conventional or unconventional romance there is a lot of swearing, (which is very true to the Irish character) but it might offend some audiences. For a GoodReads review, I’d probably award the book a 3 out of 5.

 

Bad Singer: The Surprising Science of Tone Deafness and How We Hear Music by Tim Falconer

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Everyone knows him – the child in the grade school choir who is asked to mime along when the class is singing. Or perhaps you are him and you know that you really are a good singer deep down but for some reason others seem not to agree. The author of Bad Singer: The Surprising Science of Tone Deafness and How We Hear Music is author and journalist Tim Falconer, and is both of these. He loves music but has to admit to being a “bad singer” and so he embarked on a journey through the worlds of music and medical science to first get a confirmation that he truly was bad, and then to find out if there was hope to get re-trained and improve. Unfortunately, he turned out to be one of the 2.5 percent of the population that has amusia – he is scientifically tone-deaf. Fortunately for us, he is a great writer and investigator and he is able to take the reader through his personal odyssey to learn what that means, and what there is to know about this phenomena.

It turns out that there is much more to tone-deafness than simply not being able to hit the exact pitch. There is rhythm, timbre, tone, the arch of the melody and other intangibles that he tries to identify through the scientists and music experts he sees. Musicality is not just a function of the voice, or the throat or the ear – it is truly experienced and translated in the brain and it is the brain at fault for the author and others’ inability to reproduce sounds in pitch or to hear when there is a difference.

It is a fascinating book and one comes to really root for Falconer who is so determined to understand his weakness and to become a more proficient singer and ultimately, to sing on stage for an audience.  I won’t ruin the ending for you but I will highly recommend this informative and highly entertaining book which can lead one to a better understanding of why some can sing arias on the stage and others can sing their hearts out (but perhaps only should when they are in the shower.)

To find out if you might have amusia, look for the web-based sites he lists for self-testing.

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Angela Meady
Thunder Bay Public Library

We’re All in This Together by Amy Jones

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We're All In This Together cover photo

Most of us have watched a viral video online.  But what happens if that video involves someone from your family?  And you first hear about it on the news?

That’s what happens to Finn Parker in Amy Jones’ debut novel We’re All In This Together.  Finn sees a video of a woman go over Kakabeka Falls in a barrel and survive.  That woman just happens to be her mother, Kate.  Finn finds herself pulled back to a life, a town, and the family which she had abandoned.  Her twin sister, Nicki, doesn’t want her back in Thunder Bay.  Their dad, Walter, is mostly absent, out on Lake Superior rather than facing his family.  Their adopted brother, Shawn, is trying to hold the Parkers together while his wife, Katriina, is slowly falling apart on the sidelines.   And Nicki’s teenage daughter, London, is more concerned with meeting the marine biologist she has a crush on than having anything to do with her stupid family.

We’re All In This Together is written from multiple viewpoints, which lets you see the same events through often drastically different perspectives.  This was most evident between Finn and Nicki, who are identical in looks but totally different on the inside.  These viewpoints reinforce how real the Parker family is.  Sure they are dysfunctional in their way, but what family isn’t?  The story, while sometimes a bit crazy, will keep you reading.  We’re All In This Together gives hope for how even a splintered family can come back together in a time of great need.

We’re All In This Together is The Thunder Bay Public Library’s first One Book: One Community book.  For more information and to get involved in our fall events for this book, please visit tbpl.ca/onebook.

 

Shauna Kosoris is a member of the Thunder Bay Public Library staff.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

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This quirky book focusses on Etta, a retired prairie emma2school teacher who decides to fulfill a lifelong dream to see the Atlantic Ocean.  And, she decides to walk there.  She leaves a note for her husband Otto asking him not to follow her, and sets off one morning.  As with many literary journeys, hers is both physical and spiritual.  Etta reflects on her life as she walks, revealing how she happened into a job at a dusty one room school house, fell in love with a boy who was sent off to war, and ended up marrying another.  She becomes a reluctant celebrity as her journey is observed, documented and celebrated by people along the way.  Like Forrest Gump, she never asks for help on her walk, but folks are happy to provide it. An interesting twist is that James, a fox, joins Etta early in her walk and becomes her advisor and protector.  Etta’s memories paint a picture of how the war years deeply impacted daily life on the prairies — both the lives of communities and the lives of individuals. Otto, the husband Etta leaves behind, comforts himself by baking his way through Etta’s recipe box.  This is Emma Hooper’s first book and it has been translated into 18 languages, which attests to its universal appeal. She is definitely a writer to watch! This  book was chosen as Edmonton Public Library’s “One Book:  One Community” book last Fall.  Our own “One Book: One Community” book was recently announced, and is Amy Jones’ “We’re all in this together”.  Watch our website www.tbpl.ca/onebook for more information about what we have planned.

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Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie “Editing Hamlet”

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I’m always surprised that Shakespeare is considered so serious and dull. His comedies are some of most bawdy and farcical works ever written, full of innuendo, gender flips and insults. The tragedies are moving; full of missed opportunities, miscommunication and the misinterpretations that lead inevitably to a tragic end. The histories are most somber, but it is here where the language has its greatest chance to shine.

 

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“Of course, he may simply have had a good editor. I fell in love with this sketch years ago, with Rowan Atkinson as the editor and Hugh Laurie as Shakespeare.  Sorry about the fuzziness of the video,
Enjoy.