Weekend Picks

SAPL Top 10 of 2020

Drum roll please… here they are, the Top 5 circulated movies of 2020!

I hope you all continue to discover more deep-cuts, classics, and entertaining flicks from our shelves in 2021.

#5 |Ad Astra (540 checkouts)

#4|Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (555)

#3 | Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (600)

#2| Gemini Man (758)

#1| Joker (760)

Numbers 10-6

 

The Unlocking Season
By Gail Bowen

Family has always been at the heart of Bowen’s series featuring Joanne Kilbourn (now Kilbourn-Shreve).  Now at the age of 60 Joanne is going back to her adolescence when she and Sally Love were the best of friends.  Sisters and Strangers, a new six-part TV series, is being produced by her good friend Roy Brodnitz who has asked her to work on the script.  It captures the tumultuous time between two men – Joanne’s biological father and the man she called father throughout her youth and the relationships that were made and broken during those years.

Before production even begins, Roy Brodnitz disappears and is later found in a state of severe hysteria and fear.  Nothing prepares Joanne and the production crew for his horrible death and Joanne is determined to find out the circumstances leading up to it.  Supported by family and close friends, Joanne is forced to make some serious decisions about what she should reveal in order to preserve Roy’s legacy.  Which skeletons should remain in the closet?

Joanne gives this book 3 daggers out of 5!

Offbeat’s Top Books

Here they are, Offbeat’s favourite reads from 2020! Would you like to see your top picks posted this time next year? Then join the club! Here’s how. 

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

I’m going through all her books! They are quite interesting. You get a great feel of how remote the locations are in this book.

 

Rule of Three by Megan McDonald

I’ve enjoyed all the books in this series with my daughter. It’s been such a great experience with lots of bonding.

 

In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

Since travel is off-limits, travel books have been great.

 

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas J. Preston

I heard about this book from one of the Offbeat member’s top picks from last year. Loved it!

 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

I got wrapped up in this story and could not put it down. Scenes of a fading starlett were done very well.

 

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Just a fabulous read. Sounds like people either love or hate it, but I loved it.

 

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamil

Didn’t do as much reading I normally do but this move was a very memorable read.

 

Untamed by Glendon Doyle

Just loved it. Simply put.

 

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Desperately needed to talk to people about it this book after reading it. 

 

Aria by Nazanine Hozar

I got this book as a gift from the book club and absolutely loved it.

The Trip to Echo Springs by Olivia Laing

Part memoir, part travelogue, this is just and an honest and artfully written book on the connection between alcohol and the relationships of some of literature’s memorable names.

Seniors Book Cub | February Selection

Akin
by Emma Donoghue

Print | eBook

The Seniors Book Club meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 2:00 PM via Zoom.

Please register here to discuss Emma Donoghue’s novel Akin, a brilliant tale of love, loss and family.

A retired New York professor’s life is thrown into chaos when he takes his great-nephew to the French Riviera, in hopes of uncovering his own mother’s wartime secrets. Noah is only days away from his first trip back to Nice since he was a child when a social worker calls looking for a temporary home for Michael, his eleven-year-old great-nephew. Though he has never met the boy, he gets talked into taking him along to France. This odd couple, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, argue about everything from steak haché to screen time, and the trip is looking like a disaster. But as Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past, both of them come to grasp the risks that people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew. Written with all the tenderness and psychological intensity that made Room a huge bestseller, Akin is a funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy who unpick their painful story and start to write a new one together. (Publisher)

Further Reading

About Emma Donoghue

About Akin (including a personal note by Emma Donoghue)

A Chatelaine interview

A Waterstones Blog interview

A Guardian book review

A Washington Post book review

An Irish Independent book review

An Irish Times book review

Discussion Questions

Historical background on Nice, France

Excelsior Hotel, Nice – historyWatch & LISTEN

 

WATCH & LISTEN

An Appel Salon (Toronto Public Library) video interview

A CBC Books video trailer

Interview by Shelagh Rogers on CBC’s The Next Chapter

Interview by Tom Power on CBC’s Q

 

 

Monday Evening Book Club | February Selection

Man’s Search for Meaning
by  Viktor E. Frankl

Print | eBook (simultaneous use) on Libby (Overdrive)

The Monday Evening Book Club meets on the second Monday of the month at 7:00 PM via Zoom.

Register to drop-in and discuss this thought-provoking and inspirational classic.

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of those he treated in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory—known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)—holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

At the time of Frankl’s death in 1997, Man’s Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. A 1991 reader survey by the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club that asked readers to name a “book that made a difference in your life” found Man’s Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America. (From the publisher.)

Further Reading

About Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl at Ninety: An Interview

Book Reviews

Discussion Questions

 

Watch & Listen

Next Read

How to Do Nothing:
Resisting the Attention Economy
by Jenny Odell

Print |eAudiobook (hoopla)

“Odell’s great strength as a writer is her ability to convey art’s unique power without overestimating or misstating its social impact. . . . Ultimately, what sets her book apart from self-help is not a less quixotic set of demands but a more life-affirming endgame.”—Megan Marz, THE BAFFLER

We’ll discuss this book and more on February, 25 at 7:00 pm via Zoom. To find out how to join email offbeat@sapl.ca

The Offbeat Book Club is a drop-in book discussion group for 20-40 somethings who want to read mostly new, sometimes bold, and always entertaining books. Basically, we read books you’ll want to read, and not the ones you “should.”

Meetings take place five times a year at various restaurants* throughout St. Albert and are facilitated by library staff.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

The Wrong Hands and Other Stories
By Peter Robinson

There’s no doubt that much has changed during the last nine months and the way we do things, from grocery shopping to visiting the library, can be stressful and not the most enjoyable experience that we’ve been used to having (assuming that one finds grocery shopping an enjoyable experience).  In talking to friends and family, and from reading blogs and forums, I’ve come across many who have experienced a profound restlessness that has interfered with one of their greatest pleasures – that of reading.  They’re ok to read the gas bill or catch the headlines in the newspaper, but when it comes to sitting down to read a “book” – well they just cannot concentrate for more than a few pages at a time.  And I was one of these people, during the first few months of Covid-19.   Not being able to read is akin to not being able to breathe for me.  So I took to reading short stories – and they filled the need as I waited for my long-term concentration to return.  Now I feel like I’ve come out of my cocoon, ready to read almost any book that’s put into my hands.

Robinson’s collection of thirty-one short stories (4 of which are Inspector Banks’ stories) and two novellas (both being Inspector Banks’ stories) might just be the ticket for you if you’re still struggling with problems of concentration.  Here you’ll find psychological suspense, police procedurals, family tension, love (lost and found) and an ongoing examination of human nature.  Robinson’s characters are colorful, fully-fleshed, and bring these well-told stories to life.  There’s something here for every reader and every level of concentration.

Joanne gives this book 4 daggers out of 5!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Joanne is revisiting one of her favourite holiday reads with a revised review of one of Agatha Christie’s best.

hpcHercule Poirot’s Christmas
By Agatha Christie

Also published as A Holiday for Murder and Murder for Christmas. 

Simeon Lee, a cantankerous old and shrivelled man has sent word to his children scattered hither and yon, that he wants them all home for Christmas at Gorston Hall.  None of them are under any illusion that the reunion is going to be a “let bygones be bygones” gathering or a celebration of “happy families”.  No sooner have they set foot inside the stately home than Lee baits them with his announcement that he has made preparations after Christmas to change his will.   The die is cast and it’s later that evening, Christmas Eve, that Simeon Lee is found murdered in his locked room.

When Colonel Johnson, Chief Constable of Middleshire, is notified of the murder, he’s entertaining his good friend, Hercule Poirot.  Poirot gladly agrees to accompany Johnson to Gorston Hall when Johnson admits that Superintendent Sugden who has answered the first call, though a “good man”, is not “an imaginative chap”.

Upon viewing the crime scene and talking to the household, Poirot decides that the way to the truth is through the victim himself.  He must understand the psychology of Simeon Lee – “the character of the dead man”.

And in saying that, Poirot conducts a detailed and comprehensive psychological examination of Simeon Lee, leading to a solution that is just short of brilliant.

No wonder Agatha Christie is considered the Queen of Crime!

5 Daggers
Joanne gives this book 5 daggers out of 5!

Seniors Drop-In Book Club | January Selection

Chop Suey Nation
by Ann Hui

Print | eBook (Hoopla)

The Seniors Book Club meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 2:00 PM via Zoom.

Please register here to discuss Ann Hui’s road-tripping cultural and culinary exploration in Chop Suey Nation.

In 2016, Globe and Mail reporter Ann Hui drove across Canada, from Victoria to Fogo Island, to write about small-town Chinese restaurants and the families who run them. It was only after the story was published that she discovered her own family could have been included—her parents had run their own Chinese restaurant, The Legion Cafe, before she was born. This discovery, and the realization that there was so much of her own history she didn’t yet know, set her on a time-sensitive mission: to understand how, after generations living in a poverty-stricken area of Guangdong, China, her family had somehow wound up in Canada.

Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurantsweaves together Hui’s own family history—from her grandfather’s decision to leave behind a wife and newborn son for a new life, to her father’s path from cooking in rural China to running some of the largest “Western” kitchens in Vancouver, to the unravelling of a closely guarded family secret—with the stories of dozens of Chinese restaurant owners from coast to coast. Along her trip, she meets a Chinese-restaurant owner/small-town mayor, the owner of a Chinese restaurant in a Thunder Bay curling rink, and the woman who runs a restaurant alone, 365 days a year, on the very remote Fogo Island. Hui also explores the fascinating history behind “chop suey” cuisine, detailing the invention of classics like “ginger beef” and “Newfoundland chow mein,” and other uniquely Canadian fare like the “Chinese pierogies” of Alberta.

Hui, who grew up in authenticity-obsessed Vancouver, begins her journey with a somewhat disparaging view of small-town “fake Chinese” food. But by the end, she comes to appreciate the essentially Chinese values that drive these restaurants—perseverance, entrepreneurialism and deep love for family. Using her own family’s story as a touchstone, she explores the importance of these restaurants in the country’s history and makes the case for why chop suey cuisine should be recognized as quintessentially Canadian.

Further Reading

Globe & Mail Review

The Tyee Review

Calgary Herald Interview

Forbes Interview

The Adroit Journal Interview

Watch & LISTEN

The Agenda with Steve Paikin | Stirring Up my Chinese Family History

The Next Chapter | Ann Hui on Chop Suey Nation

CBC Radio | 5 Delicious podcasts on food & identity

The Sporkful with Dan Pashman | Your Mom’s Food