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“Citizens, gather ‘round your loudspeakers, for we bring important updates!”

An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, The Orphan Master’s Son follows a young man’s journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.

Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang—and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return.

Considering himself “a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress “so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.”

Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, The Orphan Master’s Son is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love.

–          Goodreads

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200 years and going strong

Charles Dickens would be 200 years old this year…and even though he died 142 years ago, we’re still talking about him! Yesterday, the National Post wrote an article called “Ten things you might not know about Charles Dickens“:

1. He had a thing for nicknames
Dickens not only named many of his ten children after his favourite authors but he also appointed nicknames to each other them including “Chickenstalker,” “Skittles,” “Lucifer Box” and “Plorn.” His own nickname? “Boz.”

2. He was obsessive-compulsive
Looking in the mirror and combing his hair was an obsession of Dickens. He would do this hundreds of times each day as well as rearranging furniture in his home because if it wasn’t in the “correct” position, he wouldn’t be able to concentrate. He also made sure that his bed was always aligned north-south, he believed that this would improve his writing. He’d touch certain objects three times for luck and was so fixated on cleanliness that he would frequently clean other people’s homes too.

3. Study secret
Inside Dickens’ study was a secret door designed like a bookcase. The shelves were filled with fake books that had witty titles such as Noah’s Arkitecture, a nine-volume set called Cat’s Lives and a multi-volume series called The Wisdom of Our Ancestors that dealt with subjects like ignorance, superstition, disease and instruments of torture. There was a companion book that went with The Wisdom of Our Ancestors called The Virtues of Our Ancestors that was super narrow.

4. He practiced hypnotism
Dickens was always interested in mesmerism and often practiced on his wife (a hypochondriac), his children and friends — to great results.

5. He was epileptic
At a young age, Dickens suffered from epilepsy and applied that to some of his characters, describing three, specifically, as having seizures. For a time where little was known about this disorder, doctors were impressed by how accurate and descriptive he could be. The characters that had seizures were Edward Leeford (Oliver Twist), a headmaster (Our Mutual Friend) and a maid (Bleak House).

6. Spontaneous Human Combustion
Dickens believed that humans could die from spontaneous combustion and even wrote in his novel Bleak House that one of the characters, Krook, died from it.

7. A Christmas Carol
Most of the characters in A Christmas Carol were based on people he actually knew, like Ebenezer Scrooge (a counselor in Edinburgh). This was also Dickens’ first unserialized piece of work.

8. Train crash
In June 1865, Dickens and his mistress Nelly Ternan were in the Staplehurst rail crash. They were in one of the eight cars that didn’t crash into the river below and he helped out some of the other passengers to safety before running back to save the manuscript for his novel Our Mutual Friend.

9. Canadian connection
Dickens’ son, Francis Jeffrey Dickens, was a member of the North-West Mounted Police from 1874 – 1886.

10. There’s a Charles Dickens amusement park
Dickens World in Kent, England is a Dickens themed attraction that promises to “take you back to an authentically themed Dickensian England.”

Sounds like an interesting fellow hey?
Makes you want to come on down to the library and check out something he wrote doesn’t it?!