Friday, June 30, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The List : A Love Story in 781 Chapters by Aneva Stout

We all work from lists: to do lists; the books you’d take with you to a desert island; the criteria for a perfect mate. In The List: a Love Story in 781 Chapters, Aneva Stout has taken the novel, distilled it to its essentials, and the result is this quirky novel of love, dating and the humour that can be found in male/female interactions.

258. You'll write a poem for your lover.

259. Your lover will write a poem for you.

260. You'll think he's e.e. cummings.

261. He'll play the guitar for you.

262. You'll think there's no end to the man's talents.

263. He'll get dressed in the morning.

264. You'll think there's no end to the man's talents.

265. You'll love the way he shaves.

266. You'll love the way he eats.

267. You'll love the way he drives.
a. This will be the first to go.

Stout has perfectly captured the heady rush of infatuation, where everything your boyfriend does is miraculous and perfect. The List caused numerous outbursts of laughter and two segments where I had to quickly call up a girlfriend to read her a funny bit and say, "isn't that so true?"

This slender volume may be short on words but the veracity of what is there is sure to delight most women, who will find reflections of past relationships and themselves within its pages. By addressing the “chapters” to you, Stout has invited women to cast themselves as the heroine of this condensed tale.

I completed The List in just under an hour (including the time to call my friend twice) and, while it may not be the most original plot, it is a book that has already been passed to another girlfriend as a “must-read,” always the hallmark of an entertaining read. I expect to see its fuchsia cover on many beaches this summer for The List is the ultimate summer read.

Hint: If you think you might want to keep this for coffee-table reading, you may want to buy your girlfriend a copy of her own. You probably won't get yours back - she's sure to lend it to someone else.

Aneva Stout trained as a ballet dancer before attending Loyola University, where she studied writing. She is the mother of a teenage daughter and lives in Evanston, Illinois, where she works as a waitress. The List is her first novel.

The List: a Love Story in 781 Chapters by Aneva Stout
Workman Publishing

ISBN10: 0761142169
ISBN13: 9780761142164


Monday, June 26, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Interior Motives: a Deadly Décor Mystery by Ginny Aiken

Haley Farrell has a lot on her plate; redecorating your shrink’s office is no easy task, especially for a first-class snoop like Haley. The temptation to “overhear” conversations is too enticing! After striking up a conversation with Darlene Weikert about plastering techniques, she is thrilled when a job to renovate Darlene’s Victorian parlour and dining room results.

When Haley arrives and is greeted by a corpse rather than a living client, her gut keeps telling her it isn’t a natural death. Now if only she can convince her arch-nemesis, the Karate Chop Cop (otherwise known as Lila Tsu), to take her hunch seriously.

Bodies aren’t all that Haley has to deal with however; she has a host of other problems on her plate. Not only must she reign in Bella, her septuagenarian neighbour who’s somehow managed to get a PI licence, and deal with an infuriating yet sexy builder, she must also worry about her Dad who somehow forgot an important part of his attire when he stepped to the pulpit to give his Sunday sermon.

Interior Motives is Haley’s third outing in Ginny Aiken’s delightful Deadly Décor mystery series. Aiken has crafted a charming sleuth in Haley; gutsy, stubborn, flawed yet full of warmth and genuine caring for her fellow creatures – except for the two evil creatures claiming to be Bella’s cats.

The sparks zing between Dutch (the sexy builder) and Haley, heating up as fast as Haley tries to run away. The wall of words Haley tries to build, to protect herself from her growing attraction to Dutch, is easily collapsed by his stinging retorts. The high-speed banter flows effortlessly from Aiken’s pen, bringing to mind famous parings such as Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy or Lauren Bacall/Humphrey Bogart.

Readers will find Haley easy to identify with and quickly become enmeshed in the drama of her daily life; cheering her on as she plunges head first into the fray, crying with her when the pain becomes too much and praying with her as she seeks guidance when the way seems too dark. Expect to see Haley Farrell in many mysteries to come!

See the review posted at Armchair Interviews.

Publication Date: August 1, 2006
Publisher: Revell
Format: Paperback
ISBN10: 0800730461

Books of Related Interest:
* Design on a Crime: a Deadly Décor Mystery, Book 1 by Ginny Aiken
* Decorating Schemes: a Deadly Décor Mystery, Book 2 by Ginny Aiken


Sunday, June 25, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Secrets of Judas by James M. Robinson

On July 1, 2004, the world was told that a new Coptic apocryphon had been discovered and was a copy of “the most condemned writing of antiquity: The Gospel of Judas.” First described by Irenaeus of Lyon around 180 AD, this document has been lost until it resurfaced in 1983. The text, in Egypt's ancient Coptic language, dates from the third or fourth century and is a copy of an earlier document, most likely written in 130 – 170 AD.

In The Secrets of Judas: the story of the misunderstood disciple and his lost gospel, James M. Robinson undertakes a review of the apostle Judas, as portrayed in the Christian gospels, and tells the story of the discovery and sale of this priceless piece of history.

Gospel means “Good News” and the gospels, as we now know them, were written for evangelizing rather than simply to inform. As such, they were not meant to be a historical record. Both Matthew and Luke contain sayings of Jesus that are not included in Mark, and therefore must come from another, earlier, source. Scholars believe that the document, now referred to as “Sayings Gospel Q,” was a compilation of sayings of Jesus still to be proclaimed. This document, composed only of quotes, was intended for use only by the disciples in their ministry and does not refer to the disciples by name nor does it discuss Jesus’ public ministry. It is believed that this document formed the basis of Mark’s Gospel.

The first half of The Secrets of Judas includes a line-by-line comparison between the gospels of the Gentile Christian Church (Mark and Luke) and the Jewish Christian Church (Matthew). The Gospel of John, which does the most to discredit Judas, can be viewed as a polemic against him. In this section, Robinson looks at differences between the four Gospel texts and considers who may have implemented the various interpretations and why, focusing on the political differences between the two factions in the early Christian Church.

This first section helps provide a setting for the question many have been asking: “Will this new document, The Gospel of Judas, reveal secrets about Jesus and paint a new picture of Judas?” Robinson believes the text is valuable to scholars of the second century, but dismisses the notion that it will reveal unknown biblical secrets. In fact, scholars have already begun to look at Judas from a new perspective, casting a new light on the actions Jesus commanded he take. In 1996, William Klassen published Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus?, one of the first serious studies on this subject.

In the second part, Robinson describes secretive maneuvers and negotiations occurring in the United States, Switzerland, Greece and elsewhere over a two-decade period. In 1983, the Codex containing the "Judas" manuscript was offered for sale for a princely sum of $3 million. Robinson was approached to participate in the authentication of the document, but was unable to arrange funding for travel to Geneva. In his place, he requested Stephen Emmel travel from Rome to verify the value of the document, providing one of the few reports available on the manuscript.

Robinson traces the twisted trail taken by the manuscript and its sellers, leading to the Maecenas Foundation obtaining the manuscript and negotiating a contract with the National Geographic Society for its study. The publication of The Gospel of Judas and The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot, and the release of the National Geographic special about the discovery and translation of the Coptic document in April 2006, marked the first opportunity scholars have had to view and work on The Gospel of Judas.

While The Secrets of Judas: the story of the misunderstood disciple and his lost gospel does not include a copy of the Coptic text or its translation, what Robinson includes in his book is equally important. A true understanding of this priceless document can only be gained by understanding its place within the canon, and the political dimensions that contributed to its long absence.

James M. Robinson is the former director of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity and Professor Emeritus at The Claremont Graduate School. An international leader of those studying Coptic manuscripts, he is best known for his work on the Nag Hammadi Codices.

See a condensed review posted at Armchair Interviews.

Publication Date: April 1, 2006
Publisher: Harper SanFrancisco
Format: Hardcover
ISBN10: 0061170631
ISBN13: 9780061170638

Related Books of interest:
* The Gospel of Judas by National Geographic Society, Bart D. Ehrman, Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer and Gregor Wurst
* The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot by Herbert Krosney
* Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus? by William Klassen
* The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed by Bart D. Ehrman


Saturday, June 24, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn

Barely escaping Denver, Colorado with her life on the closing pages of Kitty and the Midnight Hour, Kitty Norville takes to the road. As Kitty Goes to Washington opens, Kitty is drifting aimlessly around the United States broadcasting her newly syndicated, late-night radio show from a different city each week. When she receives an unexpected call informing her she’s been subpoenaed by a Senate hearing into the Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology chaired by her Bible-thumping nemesis Senator Duke, Kitty heads for the murky political waters of Washington, DC.

Plunging into a city full of international paranaturals, Kitty finds herself surrounded by unfamiliar -- and scary -- politics and games that seem to be governed by bizarre rules. As she enters the city she is stopped and "offered" the hospitality of the city's vampire mistress. Not sure why she needs a vampire's protection, she is further puzzled by the actions of Dr. Paul Flemming. Just a few weeks ago he was eager to share information with her, now he keeps her at a disconcerting distance just when she needs the information he is hiding. And meeting a were-jaguar in a club for were-creatures only proves that Kitty must figure out the undercurrents in both the paranatural and political worlds if she wishes to escape with her freedom -- and her life.

Carrie Vaughn has maintained her delightful tone in this second Kitty novel. Not quite a paranormal romance nor truly just a fantasy novel, Vaughn’s novels sit somewhere in between. Her writing strength is in creating an alternate reality that looks and sounds like modern day America, the only difference being Vampires, Were-Creatures and other creatures “of the night” actually do exist. Kitty deals with issues of identity, loneliness, and career ambitions as any other young professional woman does with the added difficulty of being without a pack and surviving as a lone werewolf.

Old friends reappear in this second adventure helping to quickly move the action into comfortable territory - Cormac the hit man, Ben the lawyer and Matt, Kitty’s faithful sound-man. Once again Carrie Vaughn has included a “playlist” in the acknowledgements and she has picked the perfect tunes to accompany Kitty’s new adventure; songs like Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them,” Shriekback’s “Nemesis” and Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontier.” I was inspired to go hunting through my CD’s to put together the mix to listen to while sharing Kitty’s adventure.

Packaged with this second Kitty Norville adventure is the short story “Kitty meets the Band.” Carrie Vaughn has already signed a contract for books three and four; Kitty and the Wolf Moon’s Curse (Spring 2007) and Kitty and the Silver Bullet (Fall 2007) and this reader for one is eagerly awaiting both.

Publication Date: July 1, 2006
Publisher: Warner Books
ISBN10: 0446616427

Read an interview with Carrie Vaughn at The Motivated Writer.

Read this review as posted at Curled Up with a Good Book.
Read my review of Kitty and the Midnight Hour.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Summer & Fall 2006 Book Lists

After reviewing the Fall 2006 offerings from the various publisher's catalogues, I created a multi-part listing of my personal recommendations. This post is intended to provide a summary of the publishers I listed, with links to the relevant original post. If publishing houses are missing it is because I have not yet looked through their Summer/Fall offerings.

My disclaimer: These are the books which I personally am looking forward to hearing more about and perhaps reading. This is in no way a reflection on what I think is going to be a big hit this fall nor am I suggesting that any author is publishing a "bad" book by not listing it here. At the time the lists were created, I had not read the books (except for a few instances and then a link to my review is posted).

List of Publishers
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Ballantine/Del Rey
Berkley Publishing Group
Broadway Books
Bulfinch Press
Canadian Manda Group
Coach House Books
Conundrum Press
Cormorant Books
Douglas & McIntyre
The Dundurn Group
ECW Press
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Goose Lane Editions
Greystone Books
H.B. Fenn
Henry Holt and Company
Independent Publishers Group
Key Porter Books
Knopf Books
Little, Brown and Company
Llewellyn/Midnight Ink
MBI Publishing Company
Medallion Press
Miramax Books
Oxford University Press
Penguin Group
Perseus Books Group
Raincoast Books
Random House
Rendezvous Press
Simon & Schuster Canada
St. Martin's Minotaur
St. Martin's Press
Stewart, Tabori & Chang
University of Toronto Press
Vehicule Press
Warner Books
Wilfrid Laurier Press

Initial Picks: BookExpo Canada picks for summer reading


Report from Book Expo Canada, Part Five

I may finally have conquered the pile of catalogues collected at Book Expo Canada! I used to work in book retail and so I always had access to the publishers' catalogues. The exercise of reading through these catalogues as a reviewer/reader has helped me realize how out of touch I've become the past 10 years. I was always aware of the "big" titles, those being pushed by the marketing gurus, but was completely unaware of a lot of smaller press material.

Now, of course, I have to figure out how to fit all this reading into my schedule!

University of Toronto Press
* Writing to Delight: Italian Short Stories by Nineteenth-Century Women Writers edited by Antonia Arslan & Gabriella Romani (August 2006)

Greystone Books
* A Mermaid's Tale: a personal search for love and lore by Amanda Adams (September 2006)

Wilfrid Laurier Press
* Love and War in London: a Woman's diary 1939 - 1942 by Olivia Cockett (already in print)
* Haiti: Hope for a Fragile State edited by Yasmine Shamsie & Andrew S. Thompson (already in print)

ECW Press
* Joyland by Emily Schultz (already in print)
* Murder's Out of Tune: an Amicus Curiae mystery by Jeffry Miller (already in print)
* Sign of the Cross: a Mystery by Anne Emery (already in print)
* The Haunted Hillbilly by Derek McCormack (already in print)
* The Molly Fire: a Memoir by Michael Mitchell (already in print)
* Where She Was Standing by Maggie Helwig (already in print)
* Rootbound by Grant Buday (September 2006)

* The Jane Austen Miscellany by Lesley Bolton (already in print)
* Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen (already in print)
* The God Part of the Brain: a Scientific Interpretation of Human Spirituality and God by Matthew Alper (August 2006)
* Dissent in America: the Voices that Shaped a Nation by Ralph F. Young (October 2006)

Goose Lane Editions
* La Sagouine by Antoine Maillet (September 2006)
* The Elephant Talks to God by Dale Estey (September 2006)
* The Famished Lover by Alan Cumyn (September 2006)
* Wild Apples by Wayne Curtis (October 2006)

Ballantine/Del Rey
* Benighted by Kit Whitfield (August 8, 2006)
* Misspent Youth by Peter F. Hamilton (August 29, 2006)
* Mistral's Kiss: a Novel by Laurell K. Hamilton (December 12, 2006)

* Not One More Death: Pinter, le Carre, Eno and others demand an end to war (September 2006)
* What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles by Eliot Weinberger (September 2006)
* Auschwitz Report by Primo Levi (October 2006)
* Pirates of the Carribbean: Axis of Hope by Tariq Ali (November 2006)

* Satanic Purses: Money, Myth, and Misinformation in the War on Terror by R.T. Naylor (September 2006)

Broadway Books
* Swimming Upstream, Slowly: a Novel by Melissa Clark (September 12, 2006)
* Kabbalah: a Love Story by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner (October 10, 2006)

Knopf Books
* Grayson by Lynne Cox (August 2006)
* The Emperor's Children: a Novel by Claire Messud (August 2006)
* St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves Karen Russell (September 2006)
* Decca: the Letters of Jessica Mitford edited by Peter Y. Sussman (October 2006)
* On Truth by Harry G. Frankfurt (November 2006)

Random House
* Summer Crossing: a Novel by Truman Capote (already in print)
* Human Traces: a Novel by Sebastian Faulks (September 12, 2006)
* The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Public Fiascos, and Palace Coups by Ron Rosenbaum (September 19, 2006)
* The Handmaid and the Carpenter: a Novel by Elizabeth Berg (November 7, 2006)

Perseus Books Group
* The Sound of No Hands Clapping: A Memoir by Toby Young (already in print)
* The Foundation: Inside the Hidden World of America's Non-profit Giants by Joel Fleishman (September 2006)
* Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town by Nate Blakeslee (September 2006)
* Famous Writers School: a Novel by Steven Carter (October 2006)
* Jesus Land: a Memoir by Julia Scheeres (Paperback, October 2006)
* Oasis: a Novel by Laureen Vonnegut (October 2006)
* The Case for Goliath: How America acts as the World's Government in the 21st Century by Michael Mandelbaum (Paperback, January 2007)
* The Truth About Lou: a Novel by Angela von der Lippe (January 2007)

Oxford University Press
* Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity, and the Rise and Fall of the AQ Khan Network by Gordon Corera (September 2006)
* The Information-Literate Historian: a Guide to Research for History Students by Jenny L. Pressness (September 2006)
* The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: a new look at betrayer and betrayed by Bart D. Ehrman (October 2006)
* The Nature of Narrative: Fortieth Anniversary Edition by Robert Scholes, Robert Kellogg, and James Phelan (October 2006)
* Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media by Marina Warner (November 2006)
* The English Reader: What every literate person needs to know by Diane Ravitch & Michael Ravitch (December 2006)


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Report from Book Expo Canada, Part Four

Here's my next "list" of Summer/Fall 2006 titles. As Blogger continues to have problems, pictures will come later. More to come as I still have many catalogues to go through. Stay tuned!

Conundrum Press
* Something to Pet the Cat About by Elisabeth Belliveau (November 2005)
* Beauty is a Liar by Valerie Joy Kalynchuk (May 2006)
* My Own Devices: Airport Version by Corey Frost (October 2006)

Llewellyn/Midnight Ink
* The Last Secret: a Cotten Stone Mystery by Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore (September 2006)

Berkley Publishing Group
* Goodbye Lemon by Adam Davies (August 1, 2006)
* A Walk on the Nightside by Simon R. Green (September 5, 2006)
* Charmed & Dangerous by Candace Havens (September 5, 2006)
* Mona Lisa Awakening by Sunny (September 5, 2006)
* The Vampire Files, Volume 2 by P.N. Elrod (September 5, 2006)
* Washington Story by Adam Langer (September 5, 2006)
* The Saint of Lost Things by Christopher Castellani (October 2, 2006)
* Bond of Blood by Diane Whiteside (October 3, 2006)
* Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris (November 7, 2006)
* Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip (November 7, 2006)
* The American Plague: the Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemice that Shaped our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby (November 7, 2006)
* The Story of Chicago May by Nuala O'Faolain (November 7, 2006)
* Bit the Jackpot by Erin McCarthy (December 5, 2006)

* Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly by Robert Dalby (August 2006)
* Persian Girls: a Memoir by Nahid Rachlin (October 2006)
* The Sun Over Breda by Arturo Perez-Reverte (December 2006)
* Find Me by Carol O'Connell (January 2007)

Penguin Group
* Giraffe: a Novel by J.M. Ledgard (August 17, 2006)
* Governor of the Northern Province by Randy Boyagoda (September 2006)
* The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther (September 2006)
* Witches in the Kitchen by Blair Drawson (September 2006)
* The Ghost Map: the story of London's deadliest epidemic - and how it changed the way we think about disease, cities, science and the modern world by Steven Johnson (October 2006)
* Extraordinary Evil: a Brief History of Genocide by Barbara Coloroso (December 2006)
* The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson (December 2006)
* Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay (December 2006)
* The Teahouse Fire: a Novel by Ellis Avery (January 2007)

Rendezvous Press
* When Hell Freezes Over by Rick Blechta (Fall 2006)
* Dead in the Water: an Anthology of Canadian Mystery Fiction edited by Violette Malan and Therese Greenwood (Fall 2006)

Cormorant Books
* Coureurs de Bois: a Novel by Bruce MacDonald (September 2006)
* Gently Down the Stream by Ray Robertson (Paperback, September 2006)
* Terracide by Hubert Reeves (October 2006)

Douglas & McIntyre
* A Good Death by Gil Courtemanche (September 2006)
* The Earth's Blanket: traditional teachings for sustainable living by Nancy J. Turner (Paperback, February 2007)


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Report from Book Expo Canada, Part Three

I arrived home today to find the first box of publisher's catalogues on my doorstep - a very heavy box from H.B. Fenn and Company Ltd.

Of course, I had to dig right into the catalogues and so, before moving on to the rest of the catalogues picked up at Book Expo Canada, I'm going to report on the Fall releases from Fenn.

Key Porter Books
* The Last Generation: How Nature will take Her Revenge for Climate Change by Fred Pearce (September 2006)
* Homeland: a Novel by Paul William Roberts (October 2006)
* Orphan Love: a Novel by Nadia Bozak (February 2007)

* The Town That Forgot How to Breathe: a Novel by Kenneth J. Harvey (September 2006)
* After the Victorians: the Decline of Britain in the World by A.N. Wilson (Paperback, October 2006)
* Jar City: a Reykjavik Thriller by Arnaldur Indridason (Paperback, October 2006)
* Time was Soft There: a Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer (Paperback, October 2006 - see my review)
* The Brooklyn Follies: a Novel by Paul Auster (Paperback, November 2006 - see my review)
* Deep Water: the Epic Struggle over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment by Jacques Leslie (December 2006)

St. Martin's Minotaur
* Unseen: a Mystery by Mari Jungstedt (September 2006)
* Still as Death: a Sweeney St. George Mystery by Sarah Stewart Taylor (September 2006)
* Silence of the Grave: a Thriller by Arnaldur Indridason (October 2006)
* Murder 101: a Mystery by Maggie Barbieri (November 2006)
* Village Affairs: a Mystery by Cassandra Chan (November 2006)
* Night Falls on Damascus: a Novel by Frederick Highland (December 2006)

Miramax Books
* Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (July 2006)
* The Last Siege: a Novel by Jonathan Stroud (Paperback, October 2006)
* Day Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (January 2007)
* Letters of a Portuguese Nun: Uncovering the Mystery Behind a 17th Century Forbidden Love by Myriam Cyr (Paperback, February 2007)

Henry Holt and Company
* One Country: a Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse by Ali Abunimah (September 2006)
* The Interpretation of Murder: a Novel by Jed Rubenfeld (September 2006)
* Kate: The Woman who was Hepburn by William J. Mann (November 2006)

Medallion Press
* Shinigami by Django Wexler (October 2006)
* The Gold Covenant by Roberta Clark (March 2007)

Bulfinch Press
* A Book of Books by Abelardo Morell (Reissue, November 2006)

* Spellbinder: a Love Story with Magical Interruptions by Melanie Rawn
(October 2006)
* The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin (October 2006)
* A Taste of Magic by Andre Norton and Jean Rabe (November 2006)
* The Android's Dream by John Scalzi (November 2006)
* The Prestige by Christopher Priest (Paperback, November 2006)
* Glass Soup by Jonathan Carroll (Paperback, December 2006)

St. Martin's Press
* How to Read a Novel: a User's Guide by John Sutherland (October 2006)
* Pompeii: the Living City by Alex Butterworth and Ray Laurence (October 2006)
* Indiscretion: a Novel by Jude Morgan (December 2006)
* The Sidewalk Artist: a Novel by Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk (December 2006)

Little, Brown and Company
* Breadfruit: a Novel by Celestine Vaite (September 2006)
* The Adventure of English: the Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg (Paperback, September 200)
* One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (October 2006)
* The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (Paperback, October 2006)
* A Day of Small Beginnings: a Novel by Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum (November 2006)
* Consolation: a Novel by Michael Redhill (January 2007)
* The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis (Paperback, February 2007)
* Then We Came to the End: a Novel by Joshua Ferris (March 2007)

Warner Books
* Knitting Under the Influence by Clare Lazebnik (September 2006)
* Spring and Fall by Nicholas Delbanco (October 2006)
* Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler (January 2007)
* How to Marry a Ghost by Hope McIntyre (January 2007)
* Because She Can by Bridie Clark (February 2007)
* The Sisters Mortland by Sally Beauman (Paperback, February 2007)
* Some Like It Haute by Julie K.L. Dam (Paperback, February 2007 - see my review)

MBI Publishing Company
* Knitting Memories: Reflections on the Knitter's Life edited by Lela Nargi (September 2006)

* Love and Ghost Letters: a Novel by Chantel Acevedo (September 2006)
* My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding: a Collection of Stories edited by P.N. Elrod (October 2006)
* The Inheritance: a Novel by Annabel Dilke (Paperback, October 2006)

H.B. Fenn
* This Body by Tessa McWatt (September 2006)
* Liar's Landscape: Collected Writing from a Storyteller's Life by Malcolm Bradbury (February 2007)
* The Hourglass by Julie Parsons (February 2007)


What do you do when you dislike a book

What do you do when you dislike a book? Usually a reader just stops after a certain number of pages. But what if you're a reviewer? I had a situation this week where I was trying to read a book (for review) and I COULD NOT READ IT. In my opinion it was "a bad book" - needing editing and contained unneccesarily extreme violence that crossed my personal line into the offensive.

Luckily the review site was understanding and released me from having to write a review that would have stated just how much I really disliked this book and why.

So here are my questions for the readers of my blog - should I post a negative review here when nothing is being posted to the review site? Is it my responsibility as a reviewer to warn people when I find something I feel readers should be warned about so they can make their own decisions? I couldn't get to the 50 pages I normally give a book to "hook me" so perhaps it got better. If I was the type to "burn books", this one would have gone into the bonfire - hence the image accompanying this post.

What do you guys think?


In Celebration of the Summer Solstice

In celebration of the summer solstice today, and to honour the start of the summer reading season, Slate has published a photo essay of people reading (thanks Bookslut).

Image information: MUNICH, Germany—Enjoying the sunshine at the Glyptothek, 1950. © Herbert List / Magnum Photos


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Bullet Trick by Louise Welsh

William Wilson, a down-at-the-heels conjurer, is engaged as the warm-up act to a pair of “dancers” at Inspector James Montgomery’s retirement party. Put up for the job by his friend Sam, he realizes that the skills he was hired for had nothing to do with the stage and everything to do with his skill at picking pockets. When a theft sets off a chain of events leading to the death of Sam and his partner, William spends the next year on the run, trying to evade his own conscience and, more pressing, the man whose secret he now possesses. Set in the gritty pubs of Glasgow and London, as well as Berlin’s seedy cabaret scene, The Bullet Trick is an adults-only tale, flashing between past and present, blurring the line between illusion and reality.

Louise Welsh’s The Bullet Trick is a dark, yet exaggerated, noir tale that reads like a novel from an earlier time. Named after a dangerous magic trick in which a magician appears to catch a bullet in his mouth after the gun is fired directly at him, Welsh’s novel does feature a variation of this classic act; however, in this version, Wilson is the one with the gun in his hand.

Wilson is a conjurer, guiding his audience’s attention through the use of psychology, forcing them to see what he has created. Like a master conjurer, author Welsh uses words to create the burlesque and illusions that keep her readers’ attention directed where she desires while skillfully working her slight of hand. Welsh is known for her highly evocative, yet economical language:
“Get over whatever it is that’s bothering you, because right now you’re going in one of two directions, the jail or the morgue. Now piss off. And remember, this is my local.”

I looked around at the tired décor, the deflated men, the uneasy chairs, then back at the police inspector supping his first pint of the day at eight in the morning and said the worst thing I could think of.

“Aye, it suits you.”
Elements of The Bullet Trick are drawn from Welsh’s own trip to Berlin: the clockwork toys sold at Chamäleon Varieté, the acts taking turns serving drinks at Kleine Nachtrevue, the topless male aerialist plunged repeatedly into a bath of water to the sounds of “In The Heat of the Night” also at Chamäleon Varieté and the girl twirling dozens of hula hoops about her person at The Winter Garden. These small elements are minor details in the scope of the novel but add verisimilitude to this complex work. In an article written for the British newspaper Guardian Unlimited, Welsh stated “It's my lifelong ambition to be able to distinguish glamour from sleaze. Perhaps Berlin would teach me the difference.” If The Bullet Trick is any indication, Welsh certainly fulfilled her desire.

While many readers found The Cutting Room much too disturbing, what is unsettling in The Bullet Trick is subtler. Violence is a core theme of both The Cutting Room and The Bullet Trick. One of Wilson’s inamoratas questions him about the violence in his act, “…And you like the torture stuff?” After Wilson states he is not into pain, she shoots back with, “Not for yourself perhaps, but you chop women in two, stick them full of knives then shoot them…You don’t need women’s blood to make you look talented.”

Welsh cleverly weaves violence and illusion together to gradually force a question into her readers’ consciousness: why do people find violence against women “as art” enthralling? While no answer is provided, the awareness of the question adds to the dark seediness and sense of voyeurism present in The Bullet Trick.

Throughout this new offering Wilson suggests that conjurers are god-like on stage:
“Beyond the edge of the stage there was nothing but black punctuated by the candle flames glowing out of the darkness. God looked out into the firmament and saw nothing. Then he snapped his fingers and created the world. I gave the slightest of bows, and got on with it.”
Welsh, through continuing mastery of her craft, shows readers that the ability to create worlds is not limited to conjurers.

Publication Date: July 7, 2006
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
ISBN10: 0002005999

See the review posted at Front Street Reviews.


Monday, June 19, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand”
- The Stolen Child by W.B. Yeats

Children often express their displeasure by running away from home, wandering a short distance before returning once they feel their parents have been sufficiently punished. The parents, awash with joy at once more having their child, brush off any minor personality differences as residual shock from a traumatic experience. But what if the child brought home isn’t their child at all, but a changeling?

This is the premise behind Keith Donohue’s haunting debut novel, The Stolen Child. Drawing its plot and title from the W.B. Yeat’s poem of the same title, Donohue has crafted the modern fairy tale of Henry Day and the changeling (or hobgoblin) who replaces him. One summer night Henry runs into the forest and hides in a tree. It is there that he is taken by the changelings, who have been covertly watching him. If changelings wish to reenter the world, they must find a child to replace who is exactly the same age as the changeling was when he/she left. Henry becomes the magical Aniday and the changeling who replaces him becomes the new Henry Day, suddenly a musical prodigy. The Stolen Child is the story of the two young boys searching for identity in a world turned upside down.

The new Henry slowly adjusts to the life of a twentieth-century family. Having spent more than one hundred years in the forest, he spends his time in intense concentration, “I set my mind to forgetting the past and becoming a real boy again.” Aniday spends learning a way of live beyond civilization and it is only by a similar amount of effort that he maintains the ability to read and write.

Yeat’s poem shows life in the woods as one full of innocence; however, many experts suggest that the forest of fairytales is really about the journey of sexual awakening as the child moves through puberty into adulthood. Unknown creatures, dangers and pain lurk in the dark forest, a journey of pitfalls every child must travel on the road to maturity.

In Donohue’s forest, the tribe of hobgoblins exists in a life free from memories, familial ties and responsibility. Their life a perpetual existence given to the baser instincts of the body, one in which all sense of self disappears along the way.

As decades pass, Aniday lives as a permanent child in the wilderness, making friends and enemies among the hobgoblin band, struggling for survival, and trying to remember his past. The other changelings tell Aniday to "stay away from people and be content with who you are." By settling for the life in the forest however, Aniday would lose the innocence of his dreams of a future. Both Aniday and Henry are tormented by the fleeting memories of half-remembered paths and it is these memories that keep them tied to a search for identity - destined to lose their innocence.

Donohue has created a mesmerizing world that seems to exist shifted slightly outside of our time. The Stolen Child quickly engages the reader in the familiar rhythm of childhood fairytales, allowing the magic to infuse the carefully crafted words. It is only upon stepping outside, back to reality, that questions slowly seep into the reader’s mind.

Has Henry really lived as a changeling or could he be suffering from split personality, everything being a fantasy his illness has created? Donohue says in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review: “The subconscious world, the world underneath, is a real world, and it's just as valid, our imaginative reality, as our everyday reality.” Whether readers choose to approach Donohue’s offering as it is written or choose to engage the novel on an existential level, The Stolen Child is a timeless, magical novel that will linger with readers long after they read the last page.

See the review posted at ReadySteadyBook.


Friday, June 16, 2006

What makes a good book blog?

If you haven't already read this post at Tales from the Reading Room, it's a must read. I particularly like this quote:
So, I know what I like when I see it, but what makes a good book blog? I think for me, it’s a combination of information and lived experience, a mixture of useful, pragmatic knowledge and level-headed analysis, and ultimately I suppose, that elusive quality of voice that injects words with the full measure of their vitality. And I’m very happy to have found such a treasure trove of it.
She includes links to a number of fantastic litblogs and raises some interesting questions.

This excellent description gives me much to strive for in my small part of the blogosphere, and adds much to the debate.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Report from Book Expo Canada, Part Two

I've done a first wade through the publishers' catalogues (and I should state here that I don't have nearly all of them) and on first impression - it's going to be an exciting fall. At first glance I'm not seeing a lot of "big name" authors but again that could be because I didn't pick up catalogues from a lot of the publishers (I can only carry so much before I become more of a stooped wreck than I already am). Some of the publishers are mailing the catalogues to me and for the rest I'll probably peruse their fall lines on their websites.

This is all in preface to this disclaimer: These are the books which I personally am looking forward to hearing more about and perhaps reading. This is in no way a reflection on what I think is going to be a big hit this fall nor am I suggesting that any author is publishing a "bad" book by not listing it here.

Okay, with all that stuff out of the way, here is the beginning of my list. I'll probably post this over several days because there are a lot of books (more than I could possibly read between now and the end of the year to be honest).

Raincoast Books
* Atomic Sushi by Simon May (August 2006)
* Terry Jones' Barbarians by Terry Jones & Alan Ereira (August 2006)
* Windflower: a Novel by Nick Bantock & Edoardo Ponti (August 2006)
* The Museum of Lost Wonder: a Graphic Guide to Reawakening the Human Imagination by Jeff Hoke (September 2006)
* Reading, Writing, and Leaving Home: Life on the Page by Lynn Freed (September 2006)
* Remainder by Tom McCarthy (September 2006)
* So Many Ways to Begin by Jon McGregor (September 2006)
* Empress of Asia: a Novel by Adam Lewis Schroeder (October 2006)
* The Joke's Over: Bruised Memories of Gonzo: Hunter S. Thompson and Me by Ralph Steadman (October 2006)
* The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia (October 2006)
* Zugzwang: a Novel by Ronan Bennett (January 2007)

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
* Was She Pretty? by Leanne Shapton (November 2006)

Coach House Books
* Miss Lamp: a Novel by Chris Ewart (already in print)
* King by Tanya Chapman (October 2006)
* The River of Dead Trees: a Novel by Andree A. Michaud; Translated by Nathalie Stephens (October 2006)

The Dundurn Group
* The Restoration of Emily: a Novel by Kim Moritsugu (already in print)
* Does Your Mother Know by Maureen Jennings (September 6, 2006)
* Deadly Sin: a Chief Inspector Bliss Mystery by James Hawkins (January 2007)
* A Sharp Intake of Breath by John Miller (January 6, 2007)

Vehicule Press
* Dead Man's Float by Nicholas Maes (August 2006)
* Optique: Stories by Clayton Bailey (September 2006)

Fitzhenry & Whiteside
* Keturah & Lord Death by Martine Leavitt (August 2006)

Simon & Schuster Canada
* Palestine: Peace or Apartheid? by Jimmy Carter (October 2006)
* The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (November 2006)
* American Bloomsbury: Louise May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work by Susan Cheever (December 2006)
* Gideon the Cutpurse: Being the First Part of the Gideon Trilogy by Linda Buckley-Archer (already in print)


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Report from Book Expo Canada

I've been meaning to post this since Monday night but I think I required a bit of time to digest everything I observed.

First off, even though Monday was supposedly "slow", compared to Sunday, at Book Expo Canada (BEC) I was amazed at how many people were around. The place was hopping and there were many well-known authors available for for signings - Guy Gavriel Kay, Brad Meltzer, Tommy Chong.

I have to admit that standing in the long lines for autographs did not appeal, so I focused on visiting the smaller presses for author signings and took the opportunity of the "quieter" day to visit with a few of the publicists and get a handle on some of the exciting offerings for summer and fall.

Here's what I'm going to be reading for review over the next few months (reviews to come later) in anticipation of summer and early fall releases:
1. Conduct in Question by Mary E. Martin (in print, sequel to be released shortly)
2. The Abode of Love: Growing Up in a Messianic Cult by Kate Barlow (September 8, 2006 from Goose Lane Editions)
3. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett (October 2006 from Harper Collins)
4. The Uncrowned Queen by Posie Graeme-Evans (June 6, 2006 from Atria)
5. The Garneau Block by Todd Babiak (August 15, 2006 from McClelland & Stewart)
6. Drina Bridge by Jim Bartley (July 11, 2006 from Raincoast Books)
7. The 25 Pains of Kennedy Baines by Dede Crane (August 10, 2006 from Raincoast Books)
8. Before I Wake by Robert J. Wiersema (August 8, 2006 from Random House)
9. The Book of Fathers by Miklos Vamos (July 25, 2006 from Abacus)
10. The Testament Of Gideon Mack by James Robertson (September 5, 2006 from Penguin)

I'll be posting further updates with information on other Summer and Fall releases once I get a chance to peruse all the publisher's catalogues.

My overall impression? There are many really exciting books being released from small and large publishers alike. It's a great time to be a reader!

Monday, June 12, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: When the Rivers Run Dry by Fred Pearce

“Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.” Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Fred Pearce has been writing and consulting on environmental issues for decades. A highly respected and internationally acclaimed science writer, his newest book, When the Rivers Run Dry: Journeys into the Heart of the World’s Water Crisis, addresses the issue that many scientists contend will be the cause of future world conflicts – the world is running out of water. Earth is awash with water; however, usable water is at a premium. The last sentence of Pearce’s introduction states: “Water, after all, is the ultimate renewable resource.” The question therefore becomes: How is it possible that we are using more water than can be renewed?

Pearce’s contention is that the Western water “footprint” on the rest of the world is a major problem. On average, the water used to feed and clothe most of us for a year takes between 1,500 and 2,000 tonnes, more than half the contents of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. As most of what we eat and wear is grown and manufactured in other countries, we are importing vast quantities of what economists refers to as “virtual water.” What we wear and eat influences the hydrology of producer regions, resulting in a yearly global trade estimated at a thousand cubic kilometers - twenty River Niles.

The small measures we take each day, using low flush toilets or turning off the water while we brush our teeth, while useful on a local scale, have little influence on the majority of water usage. In a system where 11,000 litres are needed to produce the patty used in a McDonald’s Quarter-Pounder, a global solution must be found.

Pearce suggests that the countries currently undertaking massive irrigation projects for food production must reconsider their water usage, weighing the environmental impact of transportation against water depletion. Instead of turning deserts into agricultural land to grow wheat, in some cases using three times as much water as the global norm, countries need to consider importing wheat and other food crops from countries with a lower water cost. New economic models must be developed to consider the true cost of producing food.

When the Rivers Run Dry is an unflinching look at current water situation in more than 30 countries. Just three countries - India, China and Pakistan – account for the usage of more than half the world’s total use of underground water, one-sixth of the world’s usable water. Some of the world’s largest aquifers are under desert sands; however, these aquifers cannot be replaced by rain and in some cases the water being drawn from deep within the earth is thousands of years old. This water is a bank account we are draining dry, dooming the aquifers to extinction: “When a river runs dry, it is very visible. But underground water is invisible…and few in the corridors of power talk…about a slow-burning disaster that will one day affect hundreds of millions of people.” When the water in the world’s aquifers fails, food shortages will follow, undermining the world’s ability to feed itself.

Pearce puts forward that “water flows uphill to money.” If we hope to weather a global climate certain to become more extreme with shifting patterns of precipitation, the world’s governments must stop focusing on the money and instead look at the best interests of the world’s rivers, wetlands and aquifers. Attention must be paid to deteriorating municipal water systems and investments made to fix the potable water leaking into the ground; in some cities, as much as 40% of a city's potable water disappears this way. New attention must be paid to traditional methods of living in harmony with the world’s rivers rather than attempting to tame the rivers through dams and man-made irrigation channels. Desalination of water from the oceans, for agricultural use is still an incredibly cost-prohibitive undertaking.

As David Suzuki states in the foreword: “ an urgent warning and a call for action that we must not ignore.” Pearce has delivered a difficult message that should be required reading for all concerned citizens.

Fred Pearce is an environmental and development consultant at New Scientist. Writing about environmental and water issues for more than twenty years, his next book, With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change, is scheduled for release in February 2007.

See the review at ReadySteayBook - When the Rivers Run Dry.