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Staff Picks

Our staff loves to read. Here's what they have to say about books they've read lately


Ron's Review of "Anno Dracula" By Kim Newman

Written in an age before vampires sparkled. "Anno Dracula" by Kim Newman is both an intense horror novel and an intriguing mystery that ignited a love of historical fiction that remains with me to this day. Set in a fictional Victorian England where Dracula has married the queen, and being undead has become fashionable among the nobility, a troubled man and a mysterious woman are partnered to track a killer calling himself Jack the Ripper. The story follows them trying to discover who is murdering London's vampire sex workers. With great gothic atmosphere and featuring famous personalities of the Victorian era, "Anno Dracula" is a great read for those who like their horror clever and their mysteries literary. You can find this title and others like it on our top floor in the fiction room!


Savannah's Review of "Walk Victoria"

By John Crouch

Using John Crouch's Walk Victorian guide we spent the afternoon tracing the shoreline of Victoria for a stunning Saturday sunset. We chose the path of James Bay/Ogden Point from "Walk Victoria" which took us to Fisherman's wharf and through James Bay via Dallas Road. The starting point was the Inner Harbour where we trailed off from the crowds and onto the Water's Edge. Here we encountered many species of birds, including Herons and even squirrels chasing one an another on the lawn. At the end of this path came the well known Fisherman's wharf. Here we were delighted to find bathrooms and ice cream! The floating homes are always interesting to see with their bright colours and creative designs. My favourite part of the wharf is the performing seals. They're crowd pleasers with their floating bellies and clapping fins, but only if you have fish for them!


As we moved down the page onto more walking directions, we came up to a tree hooded neighborhood. The trees were large and full of green. The air smelled fresh and although there were people all around it was quiet. This is where we passed the cruise ships area. Soon after this you see the mountains touching the waves. With the peaks sugar coated in snow and the open ocean scratched with white caps, you fill your lungs with fresh air and fall in love with nature all over again.


It was such a beautiful walk and with John Crouch's directions we had no trouble navigating at all. I would say to leave yourself a little bit of extra time if you like to go a bit slower. Spending time observing nature and buying ice cream led us far over the one hour estimated time for the route. I was very pleased with the walk and will likely return to this same trail in the near future! This is a great guide for anyone looking to explore new and scenic routes around Victoria.

Brittney takes us on a quick trip with Nabokov

Review of Lolita, Pale Fire, and Invitation to a Beheading.


From the "trip of three steps down the palate" to Lolita,  Vladimir Nabokov has fascinated readers with exquisite language and tantalizing subversions of perception and belief. I first encountered Nabokov in high school, where the scandalous reputation of Lolita demanded that I should read it as a part of my free reading assignment. I will admit that it was not the kind of scandalous that I had anticipated. But even as I was shocked by the content, I was wooed by the words, and Nabokov and his host of unreliable narrators talked their way into my library. These works that now claim a substantial chunk of space on my shelf, range widely from disorienting surrealism to exquisitely painted reality and the accessibility of prose differs similarly. But throughout, Nabokov is consistently elegant in his diction and rhythm. Lolita, Pale Fire, and Invitation to a Beheading provide a diverse flight of Nabokov showcasing his range and his reliably captivating voice.



Probably the best known of Nabokov's work and also the most accessible, Lolita grabbed me from the opening lines.


"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita." - Humbert Humbert, Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita


Those three steps, so precisely poised, offer the  entry point to a very challenging exploration of perception, boundaries, and belief. The flow is so smooth and so charming that the reader soon finds they have unwittingly arrived in the midst of a horrifying scene. Our guide to this tale is the perpetrator of all that made the book scandalous: Humbert Humbert. Almost solipsistic, this first person narration perennially shifts the focus back to Humbert's own internal toil and begs the reader for understanding rather than revulsion. All the while, the sentences roll beautifully down the page with such florid description and perfect pacing as to seem utterly incompatible with the ugliness of the subject matter. Lolita is not an easy or even necessarily pleasant read, but it is undoubtedly compelling and challenging and the tension between word and deed, which never lets up for a moment, serves to hold the reader firmly in their seat for the entire ride.


Pale Fire

 Pale Fire is like no other book I have ever read. The forward is presented, not by Nabokov, but by his fictional first-person narrator (Charles Kinbote) who then goes on to present and  commentate upon a lengthy poem written by another fictional character: John Shade. By itself, the poem is pretty but not exactly meaningful, but with the commentary that follows the poem is given a life entirely its own, a life tailored by Charles to tell his own personal story.


Where Lolita toyed with perceptions of good, evil, and blameworthiness, Pale Fire explores our very perceptions of reality. In fact, we are quickly faced with the realization that our faithful narrator is not so faithful at all and that even his presentation of another's work may  prove unreliable. The constantly shifting stories of the narrator demand the reader find her sea legs fast, but as the book progresses, the distrust of the narrator develops into a fascinating project of piecing together the 'truth' from hints and suggestions. Ever savvy and elegant, Nabokov slips the reader glimpses of a truth through the pages of a story too wild and too self-serving to ever be swallowed whole. As always, Nabokov offers us perfectly formed phrases and a fascinating exploration of human behaviour in exchange for a big step  (read: giant leap) outside of our normal expectations for structure and for story.


Invitation to a Beheading

 Pushing the envelope even further, Invitation to a Beheading moves beyond a suspect narrator telling a biased story, to a surreal meditation on life, death, time, and the process of writing itself. Once again, narrated in first person, Invitation takes us into a prison cell where Cincinnatus C sits waiting to die, without knowing the date of his execution. The story hinges on the tension between Cincinnatus's desire to write the story of his experiences and his inability to write without knowing how long he has left. He is tortured by the fear of running out of time and leaving thoughts incomplete, or worse, never expressing those thoughts at all. Accompanying this rather internal meditation on time and text, Nabokov fleshes out the scene with disruptively surreal scenes and musings that seem to question not only the narrator's reliability, but also his sanity. It's a curious combination of L'Etranger-like musing and setting with a backdrop of 1984's cruel, dark power and manipulation but with a rather enthusiastic dash of madness sprinkled over all.


Again, Nabokov challenges the reader to come along on a difficult journey, not to any particularly tidy or resolved end, but instead, through pages of perfectly turned phrases, each offering a sliver of insight into human nature and the complexity of the human condition. Nabokov is never an easy read. He is dark and complex, and his books will leave you unsettled, but it is the good kind  of unsettled. The kind of unsettled that precedes a deeper awareness and a richer experience of life, language, and literature.

 ""What are these hopes, and who is this savior?" "Imagination," replied Cincinnatus." -Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading

**Lolita and Pale Fire were both originally written in English while Invitation to a Beheading was first published in Russian and then translated into English by the author's son, under his father's supervision, so there's no need to fret about getting a good translation of these works into English.**