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    Book Club in a Bag

    How to Find a Great Mystery Series (Part I)

    by Sonya - 8 Comment(s)

    Sometimes life is all about change. Whether you encounter good changes in your life or difficult ones, it takes a certain amount of energy just to adapt. So, if you're looking for a measure of stability, why not escape into a great mystery series? I enjoy reading novels across many genres, and when I'm in the mood for something comfortable and familiar I reach for a favourite series.

    In the next few weeks I'll be featuring a few great mystery series from all ends of the genre, and to start it off this week, I'll highlight mystery series from the lighter end of the spectrum.

    Cozy:

    This genre is a staple of the mystery tradition, along the lines of Agatha Christie: the murder (if there is one) takes place off-stage, and the focus is on solving the puzzle. Often featuring a cast of characters in a small village or equally pastoral setting, the fun of these mysteries is in getting to know and love the characters better with each installment while trying to solve the mystery before the author reveals all.

    M. C. Beaton

    This author, whose style is described by a fan as "coziest of the cozy," has two popular mystery series that will keep you engaged without risk of blood spatter.

    If you like Agatha Christie's Miss Marple series, The Agatha Raisin mysteries are a good bet. Start with the first book in the series, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (part of the volume Introducing Agatha Raisin). If you prefer to try audio for this title, now is your chance to get into the ebook revolution! It is available as an audio ebook from Overdrive. Here's a brief summary from Overdrive:

    After years of bullying and cajoling others as a high-flying public relations boss, Agatha Raisin's early retirement to the picture-postcard village of Carsley in the Cotswolds is a dream come true. And how better to begin making herself a local leading light than by entering the village quiche-making competition? Unburdened by old-fashioned ideas of fair play, the ruthless Agatha decides to ensure she wins by buying her entry from a London delicatessen. Alas, Agatha's perfect product is soon exposed—as not only store-bought but poisoned. The contest judge succumbs after eating it, and with him go Agatha's reputation and her chances of rural bliss—unless she can expose the poisoner...

    The other series from Beaton is the Hamish MacBeth mystery series--up to 29 books and counting! Hamish MacBeth is a police officer. In fact, his person makes up the entire police force of Lachdubh in northern Scotland. In the first title in the series, available as an ebook, Death of a Gossip, we meet a group of eight people who are there to relax, enjoy the Highland scenery, and take in the fishing. Unfortunately, when one among them is found murdered, nobody is too upset (in fact, as she found a way to alienate them all, they are secretly a bit relieved). From our catalogue summary:

    Jane Winters--Lady Jane--was a noted gossip columnist enrolled in the Lachdubh School of Casting (fish casting, that is). She had something on everyone in class--and so, bobby Hamish Macbeth figured, any one of them could have killed her.

    If you're already familiar with M. C. Beaton's books, here is an award-winning Canadian author you might be interested in:

    Alan C. Bradley

    Bradley writes the Flavia de Luce series, featuring the unforgettable 11-year-old chemist (specialty: poisons) and amateur sleuth, set in the English countryside post-World War II. Start with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, in which Flavia comes upon a stranger on the grounds of Buckshaw, the family estate, as he takes his last breath:

    "I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn't. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life." Did the stranger die of poisoning? There was a piece missing from Mrs. Mullet's custard pie, and none of the de Luces would have dared to eat the awful thing. Or could he have been killed by the family's loyal handyman, Dogger... or by the Colonel himself! At that moment, Flavia commits herself to solving the crime -- even if it means keeping information from the village police, in order to protect her family. But then her father confesses to the crime, for the same reason, and it's up to Flavia to free him of suspicion. Only she has the ingenuity to follow the clues that reveal the victim's identity, and a conspiracy that reaches back into the de Luces' murky past. A thoroughly entertaining romp of a novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is inventive and quick-witted, with tongue-in-cheek humour that transcends the macabre seriousness of its subject.

    Funny:

    There are many great series which combine a mystery framework with offbeat characters and farcical situations. The real key with humour is whether the author's particular brand of hilarity and rhythm of delivery "clicks" with your own sense of humour--then you have a winner! Here are a few I'd recommend:

    Janet Evanovich

    Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series offers wacky characters in... let's say unlikely scenarios, with a splash of romance thrown in to the mix--as far as I can tell, the combination works! She's up to 19 novels in this series, and judging by the hold lists, I'm not the only one who waits in line for the next installment. Start with One for the Money (part of the omnibus of volumes 1-3, Three Plums in One) and see if this series can make you chuckle. From our catalogue summary:

    Stephanie's all grown up and out on her own, living five miles from Mom and Dad and doing her best to sever the world's longest umbilical cord. Her mother is a meddler and her grandmother is a few cans short of a case. Out of work and out of money, Stephanie blackmails her bail-bondsman cousin Vinnie into giving her a try as an apprehension agent. Stephanie knows zilch about the job requirements, but she figures her new pal, el-primo bounty hunter Ranger, can teach her what it takes to catch a crook. Her first assignment: nail Joe Morelli, a former vice cop on the run from a charge of murder one. Morelli's the inamorato who charmed Stephanie out of her virginity at age sixteen. There's still powerful chemistry between them, so the chase is interesting.

    Lisa Lutz

    One thing I really love about Lutz's writing is her perfect timing for dialogue--it's unsurprising that the author has written screenplays as well as novels. In The Spellman Files, you'll get to know Izzy Spellman and her eccentric family of PIs. Izzy is the resident underachiever, working in the family business, and trying to keep her nosy family out of her private life--no easy feat when practically every member of the family is busy investigating (and blackmailing) each other! The wry humour, plot twists and quirky but realistic characters will pull you in, but as the series progresses, you'll find there's also a well-hidden warm heart at the core.

    From the catalogue summary:

    Meet Isabel "Izzy" Spellman, private investigator. This twenty-eight-year-old may have a checkered past littered with romantic mistakes, excessive drinking, and creative vandalism; she may be addicted to Get Smart reruns and prefer entering homes through windows rather than doors -- but the upshot is she's good at her job as a licensed private investigator with her family's firm, Spellman Investigations. Invading people's privacy comes naturally to Izzy. In fact, it comes naturally to all the Spellmans. If only they could leave their work at the office. To be a Spellman is to snoop on a Spellman; tail a Spellman; dig up dirt on, blackmail, and wiretap a Spellman. Part Nancy Drew, part Dirty Harry, Izzy walks an indistinguishable line between Spellman family member and Spellman employee. The Spellman Files is the first novel in a winning and hilarious new series featuring the Spellman family in all its lovable chaos.

    Spencer Quinn

    The fabulous Chet and Bernie mystery series is published under this pseudonym of author Peter Abrahams. Chet is the narrator of our series, the canine half of the PI team with retired cop Bernie Little. If you've ever had or known a dog, you really shouldn't miss this series! While avoiding trite fluffiness, Quinn perfectly captures the canine inner voice while crafting fast-paced mysteries full of plot twists and interesting characters. Start with Dog On It, and get ready to recommend it to all your friends!

    From our catalogue summary:

    In this irresistible new detective series featuring a canine narrator, Quinn speaks two languages--suspense and dog--fluently. Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, and in a few places terrifying . . . [a] one-of-a-kind novel (Stephen King).

    Do you have a favourite light mystery series? We always love to get recommendations--leave yours in the comments.

    Off the Shelf: The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam

    by Jasna - 0 Comment(s)

    But which wager? The Headmaster’s Wager, by Vincent Lam is designed around wagers. As the stakes rise while the story unwinds, the novel’s tension grows in our fear that ever more reckless wagers could destroy the effects of past bets. Percival, the headmaster, is good at winning. Or is he blind?

    The Headmaster’s Wager is situated in South Vietnam before, during and after unification. Percival, or Chen Pie Sou, is the son of a father who left his family in China to search for the Gold Mountain. (In Calgary’s Sien Lok Park is a statue marking the journeys of Chinese people to the Gold Mountain of Canada.) As a lonely young man, Percival unexpectedly wins the girl of his dreams, because he has access to his father’s home in Cholon, near Saigon. Although all is not well, Percival does become the wealthy proprietor of a school for learning English. His neighbour, then teacher, then friend, Mak, ably assists Percival in administering the bribes needed for every official and many unofficial transactions.

    War starts as a distant event, concerning only the Vietnamese. As American military officers gradually populate the sophisticated gambling clubs in Saigon, Percival finds new sources of income, again ably assisted by Mak.

    Percival’s family life falls to pieces. Only deep love for his son, Dai Jai, fulfills his familial yearnings. So, how can he let Dai Jai be conscripted into the South Vietnamese army? Against the wishes of his mother, he sends him to Shanghai, that is, he returns his son to his home. Which is not safe a fact that takes years for Percival to understand. This is a man who can read mahjong tiles, cards, and gamblers’ faces, but he cannot actually hear the sounds of war and revolution, even when they explode on the radio newscasts and outside his own door.

    Possibly, it is Percival’s skill in gambling that is indeed the most useful in the fluid moments of history. He knows fear, and he knows how to master it at the moment when everything is on the table.

    Judith Umbach

    "Summer. Read." Contest Wrap Up

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    Have you caught yourself saying "Where has the summer gone?" We have! It's hard to believe we've already come to the final week of our Summer. Read. contest. We’ve had great participation in the Summer. Read. program, and we hope that you’ve enjoyed exploring new reads, DVDs and CDs at the Calgary Public Library.  You still have one more week to participate, so let us know what you’re reading, and enter to win great prizes including our Grand Prize, a Google Nexus 7 tablet.

    As a final bonus prize, everyone who enters this week will also be entered to win a copy of The Power Trip by Jackie Collins. From the book’s summary:

    A luxurious yacht in the Sea of Cortez, a birthday cruise for one of the world's most beautiful women and an invitation no one can refuse. The Power Trip- take it if you dare. From Hollywood icon and mega-seller Jackie Collins comes a thrilling new novel, The Power Trip , set on a state of the art luxury yacht off the coast of Cabo San Lucas.

     

    So are you clinging to the lazy, hazy days of summer, or are you longing for the cool, crisp days of autumn?  Here are some reading suggestions to help you out:

           

    We also want to know what you thought about Summer. Read. 2013.  Loved it?  Have some ideas for improving it?  Please share your thoughts with us by completing our quick survey.

    About Summer. Read.

    Discover new books that will keep you reading all summer in our Summer. Read. contest for adults!

    To enter:

    1. Check the weekly theme every Wednesday, either at your local branch or right here online

    2. Borrow a new (to you!) book, DVD or CD from the Library that fits that theme.

    3. Fill in the online ballot to tell us what you're reading (or watching, or listening to) and enter to win one of five 32 GB Google Nexus 7 Tablets, and weekly prizes of leather-bound journals and Calgary Public Library tote bags. You can also enter by filling out a paper ballot at your local branch. Good luck!

    Summer. Read. Week 9 — Be

    Summer. Read. Week 9 — Be

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    Our final theme for Summer. Read. is ‘BE.’  Unplug and explore the new you.  BE the answer to yourself or to others. BE someone, BE somewhere, BE the dream, or BE the change in your own or someone else’s life.  Get answers to all your desires and aspirations right here at your Calgary Public Library. You can find these answers in various formats — books, DVDs, CDs, and even e-books. 

    Rediscover or challenge yourself, explore somewhere new or find out how others have realized their dreams, with the following books from our collection:

          

    For some thought-provoking, intricately-woven, and insightful stories that will inspire you to ‘BE,’ here are some newly-released works from our fiction collection: 

             

     

    About Summer. Read.

    Discover new books that will keep you reading all summer in our Summer. Read. contest for adults!

    To enter:

    1. Check the weekly theme every Wednesday, either at your local branch or right here online

    2. Borrow a new (to you!) book, DVD or CD from the Library that fits that theme.

    3. Fill in the online ballot to tell us what you're reading (or watching, or listening to) and enter to win one of five 32 GB Google Nexus 7 Tablets, and weekly prizes of leather-bound journals and Calgary Public Library tote bags. You can also enter by filling out a paper ballot at your local branch. Good luck!

    Summer. Read. Week 8 — Grow

    Summer. Read. Week 8 — Grow

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    "Do you know, in Sanskrit the root of the verb to be is the same as to grow or to make grow?"

    This quote comes from the action-packed, blockbuster movie My Dinner with Andre. The point that the character Andre is making is that in some cultures the act of growing is an essential part of life. Or, as a milk commercial from a few years ago put it: “Always grow. Grow all ways.” The lesson we can take away is that to be as fully alive as possible we must grow.

    The Calgary Public Library has an almost limitless selection of materials that can assist you in growing in a number of different ways.  Whether you are interested in growing a garden, financial security or your muscles, the library has material that can help you out, like the following:

                        

     

    And once you have your personal growth taken care of, then you can think about helping your kids grow too with books like: Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow and Don’t Lick the Minivan: and Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say to My Kids.  So grab a book, pour yourself a big glass of milk, and grow.

     

    About Summer. Read.

    Discover new books that will keep you reading all summer in our Summer. Read. contest for adults!

    To enter:

    1. Check the weekly theme every Wednesday, either at your local branch or right here online

    2. Borrow a new (to you!) book, DVD or CD from the Library that fits that theme.

    3. Fill in the online ballot to tell us what you're reading (or watching, or listening to) and enter to win one of five 32 GB Google Nexus 7 Tablets, and weekly prizes of leather-bound journals and Calgary Public Library tote bags. You can also enter by filling out a paper ballot at your local branch. Good luck!

    Summer. Read. Week 7 — Learn

    Summer. Read. Week 7 — Learn

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    Learn image banner

     

    “If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.” ~Mark Twain

    Whatever or however you go about it, there are many less painful ways to learn through the Library.  From the Adirondacks to zebras, medicine to music, languages to life skills, it is easy to learn something new every day. 

    Even better, there are so many different ways you can learn with the Library.  Listen to an audio-book or an e-audio  book.  Read a book or e-book. Watch a movie (Blu-Ray or DVD).  Do a course online.  Here are some suggestions to get you started.

    Audio-Books

    With Family Financial Freedom: How to Balance Your Budget and Drive Away Debt by Brian Tracy, learn how to set and achieve million-dollar goals.  (Also available in Talking Book MP3 format for persons with special needs and as a Windows Media file on Overdrive.).

    Books

    From Adirondack chairs, patio bars and picnic tables to Victorian trellises and planters, the experts at American Woodworker provide complete plans and instructions for building great-looking pieces that will beautify your outdoor space in

    E-Books

    Combining fresh and pithy life lessons, often with just a sentence or two and deceptively simple diagrams and graphs, How to be Interesting (In 10 Easy steps) by Jessica Hagy is an inspiring guide that shows you how to lead a richer life.  Electronic Resource – available through Overdrive. Overdrive items can be accessed through the Library catalogue or through the E-Library link on the Library web site (select the Reading and eBooks category).

    Movies

    Learn valuable lessons about conquering fear in pursuit of your dreams in Chasing Mavericks, starring Jonny Weston, Gerard Butler, and Elisabeth Shue.

    Online Courses

    Learn4Life, one of our newest databases, has an awesome collection of interactive courses that you can do from home.  You can learn how to write that novel and then how to publish it.  You can also take courses on MS-Office software, various photo editing software, web technology, and much, much more. 

     

    About Summer. Read.

    Discover new books that will keep you reading all summer in our Summer. Read. contest for adults!

    To enter:

    1. Check the weekly theme every Wednesday, either at your local branch or right here online

    2. Borrow a new (to you!) book, DVD or CD from the Library that fits that theme.

    3. Fill in the online ballot to tell us what you're reading (or watching, or listening to) and enter to win one of five 32 GB Google Nexus 7 Tablets, and weekly prizes of leather-bound journals and Calgary Public Library tote bags. You can also enter by filling out a paper ballot at your local branch. Good luck!

    Read, Laugh and WIN

    Read, Laugh and WIN

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    “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."
    ~Mel Brooks

    Ask 10 people what makes them laugh and you will probably get 10 different answers. But whether your taste in comedy runs to Mel Brooks or Monty Python movies, Dilbert or Garfield cartoons, or classic recordings by Bill Cosby or Bob Newhart, you will find a wealth of humourous material at the Calgary Public Library. From DVDs to Book CDs, cartoon collections to funny fiction and memoirs, we have a wide variety of items to tickle your funny bone.

          

     

    “Question: How do you get 200 drunken Canadians out of a swimming pool?
    Answer: You say, ‘Excuse me, could you please get out of the pool?’”
    ~Will Ferguson

    Even when we’re laughing at ourselves, Canadians love a good joke (or a bad one!) Check out the wit and wisdom of Canadian humourists next time you are at the library.

        

    About Summer. Read.

    Discover new books that will keep you reading all summer in our Summer. Read. contest for adults!

    To enter:

    1. Check the weekly theme every Wednesday, either at your local branch or right here online

    2. Borrow a new (to you!) book, DVD or CD from the Library that fits that theme.

    3. Fill in the online ballot to tell us what you're reading (or watching, or listening to) and enter to win one of five 32 GB Google Nexus 7 Tablets, and weekly prizes of leather-bound journals and Calgary Public Library tote bags. You can also enter by filling out a paper ballot at your local branch. Good luck!

    Summer. Read. Week 5 — Live

    Summer. Read. Week 5 — Live

    - 3 Comment(s)

     

     

    “My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning

    and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.” ~Cary Grant

    Cary Grant had an interesting philosophy on living. Here are three books by people who created their own formula for living and which provide some ideas for good living.

    For a summer read full of spiritual guidance and meaning try: Fear: Essential Wisdom For Getting Through the Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh. Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master, poet and scholar who has published a number of books on peaceful living. 

    This book extolls the practice of living in the present to embrace our fears, recognize their origins, and thereby render them powerless. His book is short but powerfully written, in beautifully clear prose.

    The word ‘Live’ has different connotations for blogger Hugh MacLeod. In his third book Freedom is Blogging in Your Underwear, he argues that real  happiness isn’t power or money: it is freedom to pursue your passion in life. MacLeod was a struggling cartoonist waiting for a big break to become syndicated in newspapers.

    He stopped waiting and started acting by establishing his own blog to showcase his cartoons. It was a huge success, and his dream was fulfilled. His book is funny and light but with the ever-present message that thinking outside the box in your pursuit of a dream can have some hilarious and satisfying consequences.

    To live well sometimes is more of a challenge for some people than others. Answering life’s challenges with laughter is the path Sara Benincasa takes in Agorafabulous! Dispatches From My Bedroom.  Podcast host and award-winning comedian Benincasa recounts her struggles with agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder where the sufferer perceives the environment as being difficult to escape or get help.

    Her first response to her disorder was to freak out and hide—her bed became her refuge, and she was too afraid to even go to her own bathroom. She charts her path to acceptance and happiness with therapy, homemade smoothies, shopping for vintage clothes, and the timely intervention of friends and family.

    This book never falls into whiney mush but keeps the tone light and fun, resulting in a positive and uplifting read.         

                                                                     

    Discover new books that will keep you reading all summer in our Summer. Read. contest for adults!

    To enter:

    1. Check the weekly theme every Wednesday, either at your local branch or right here online

    2. Borrow a new (to you!) book, DVD or CD from the Library that fits that theme.

    3. Fill in the online ballot to tell us what you're reading (or watching, or listening to) and enter to win one of five 32 GB Google Nexus 7 Tablets, and weekly prizes of leather-bound journals and Calgary Public Library tote bags. You can also enter by filling out a paper ballot at your local branch. Good luck!

    Summer. Read. Week 4 — Create

    Summer. Read. Week 4 — Create

    - 0 Comment(s)

    Our Summer. Read. contest is finally here!

    With the Central Library closed and our website down due to the recent flood, the online portion of Summer. Read. is a few weeks behind schedule. We're now back up and running with a few changes: the online contest will now be seven weeks long instead of 10 and we have more weekly prizes to give away in a shorter time period! So without further delay...


    It's easy to be inspired in the summer!

    With new books, DVDs, and magazines coming into the library all the time, you can always find new ways to be creative.  How can you be creative this week?  How about starting that novel you’ve wanted to write?  Could you learn to play an instrument or get involved in a new hobby? 

    Visit any of our 17 branches and discover all the new and exciting ways to express your creativity!  Then fill in an online ballot (or a paper version at your branch) to tell us which books, CDs, or DVDs are stoking your creative fire and you will be entered to win a 32 GB Google Nexus 7 tablet and great weekly prizes.

    About Summer. Read.

    Discover new books that will keep you reading all summer in our Summer. Read. contest for adults!

    Summer. Read. is a summer-long reading adventure! Every week we'll feature a new theme in our Readers’ Nook blog to inspire you to borrow a new book, DVD or CD from the Library. Fill out an online ballot to tell us what you're reading (or watching, or listening to) and enter to win one of five 32 GB Google Nexus 7 Tablets, and weekly prizes of leather-bound journals and Calgary Public Library tote bags. You can also enter by filling out a paper ballot at your local branch. Good luck!

    Welcome to Summer. Read. 2013

    Welcome to Summer. Read. 2013

    - 1 Comment(s)

    It's summertime; the living is easy and the reading is great!

    Join us for Summer. Read. 2013, a 10-week adventure for adults beginning Wednesday June 19.

    We'll share some fantastic reading suggestions every week and together we'll Explore, Play, Imagine, Create, Live, Laugh, Learn, Grow and… Be. Our mission is to introduce you to new and exciting finds just waiting to be discovered. When you share what you've been reading, (or watching, or listening to) you'll be entered to win great prizes!

    How to Enter

    Go to your local Calgary Public Library branch and check the Summer. Read. display with books, DVDs and CDs that connect to the weekly theme. In each displayed item you’ll find a ballot. Fill in the ballot by sharing a review of an item you borrowed in that fits with the weekly theme, and return the ballot to the library for your chance to win.

    Image of Summer Read Facebook launch adTo participate online visit our Readers’ Nook Blog to see the weekly themes, and book suggestions. Read something in the selected theme and leave a comment on our blog post about the book CD or DVD you've been enjoying. Your name will be entered to win weekly prizes and the grand prize draw!

    Update: Now that our website is live again, please stay tuned to our Readers' Nook blog -- the Summer. Read. themes are coming soon!

    Did we say prizes?!

    The weekly prize at every location is a Calgary Public Library bag for all the books, CDs and DVDs you borrow, as well as a journal that you can use to keep track of all the great material you borrow from the Library!

    The grand prizes are 5 Google NEXUS 7 (32 GB) Tablets! The grand prize draws will take place on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013. The last day to drop off your ballots for the grand prize draw is Wednesday, August 28.

    Facebook Live Chat

    To get the ball rolling, join us on Facebook Wednesday June 19th from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. as we kick off Summer.Read. with a live Library Chat. Tell us your last three favourite reads and we’ll give you suggestions for your next great book.

    Then join us every Wednesday after that until August 28 for more great reading suggestions in our Readers’ Nook.

    Here are a few of our favourite reads for summer, just to get you started!

    The Keeper of Lost Causes book cover  Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry book cover  The Expected One book cover  The Winter Palace book cover  Mistress of the Art of Death book cover

     

     

     

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