Monday, November 30, 2009

Giveaway Winners - The Gate House

And the five lucky winners (chosen by, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group, of a copy of Nelson DeMille's The Gate House are:

1. Chey
2. lag123
3. hickcrazy
4. Darcie
5. lindaben

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Thanks to all who entered and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Detectives Don't Wear Seat Belts - CiCi McNair

I have always loved detective stories. When I was young, I devoured the Nancy Drew tales and dreamed of joining them. CiCi McNair really did it.

CiCi was born into a wealthy, but dysfunctional family in Mississippi. She 'escaped' as soon as possible, using education as her ticket out. She ended up researching documentaries in Canada, did a stint on Vatican radio and toured around Europe. She then returned to the US , broke and with no job prospects, decides to become a private investigator. She just starts calling listings in the phone book. Well, no one wants to hire someone without a license or experience, but with sheer pushiness and bravado, she is hired on by a somewhat shady firm.

Detectives Don't Wear Seat Belts is a retelling of past cases, investigations and the path that led her to where she is today - the owner of Green Star Investigations.

Some of the most light hearted cases involve her 80+ year old mother when she moves back home for a time. Her mom happily goes on stakeouts with her. But there are certainly more serious investigations as well - counterfeiters, missing persons and art theft.

Woven in with these stories is the little girl still trying to prove herself worthy. CiCi is honest in her writing and does let us see just how much her childhood trauma has affected her adult life.

CiCi McNair seems to live for adventure and life as a private investigator has given her that! An intersting look into the world of PI's, especially from a female perspective.

You can read an excerpt of Detectives Don't Wear Seat Belts or find CiCi on Facebook.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Giveaway Winner - Intent to Kill - James Grippando

Thanks to the sponsorship of The Miami Book Fair, the lucky winner (chosen by of a copy of Intent to Kill by James Grippando is:


Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 48 hours. Thanks to all who entered. Check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways and make sure you mark the 2010 dates for the Miami Book Fair on your calendar - Nov 7-14/2010.

Friday, November 27, 2009

One Hundred Butterflies - Harold Feinstein

I've been reviewing photography and coffee table books this month and they've all been amazing, but I really have to say, One Hundred Butterflies is simply and absolutely stunning.

This simple thumbnail doesn't even begin to do justice to Harold Feinstein's photography.

Once I actually got past the cover, I had to stop and linger on the flyleafs. There are at least 40 colour images presented here as well.

Moths and butterflies have evolved to survive. Their wings sometimes mimic owl eyes, some colours are interpreted as poisonous by predators, sometimes they blend in with the leaves on the trees. Fred Gagnon provides an excellent forward about moths and butterflies at the beginning of the book. There are quotes and an 1800's essay included as well.

Each species is photographed with a black background. The colours and patterns are just magnificent. Nature is truly the greatest artist. The pictures are close ups, so that you can see the finest details. Each species is named, with it's Latin name and country of origin as well.

There really are not words to describe the beauty. Each plate is a work of art on it's own. (I briefly thought that each piece would be a wonderful framed picture, but wouldn't want to desecrate the book) The book is oversized, the stock heavy and glossy. A book to be savoured and enjoyed.

A truly remarkable book, one that nature or art lovers would appreciate.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Everything Sucks - Hannah Friedman

~ Losing My Mind and Finding Myself in a High School Quest for Cool~

Free spirit parents, a live in monkey 'sister', touring Ireland in a band bus while being home schooled, overweight, unpopular, reinventing yourself in a private school, exploring drinking, drugs and sex, losing and finding yourself. Sounds like a great premise for a fiction novel or even a TV pilot doesn't it?

Yes, except that it happens to be the real thing. This is Hannah Friedman's life. And all of the above? All true.

I love this quote from her mother when Hannah objects to going on tour in Ireland.

We have fed you and clothed you and paid for piano lessons and glitter rainbow shoes, and I spent sixteen hours in labour with you, and now we've finally found a competent monkey-sitter after twenty-seven interviews, so you. Are. Going."

Definitely not your typical suburban upbringing. Hannah yearns to be popular and fit in. Academically gifted, she wins a scholarship to a prestigious private school and is able to reinvent herself. Hannah finds herself in THE popular clique. Happy at last. But is she? She begins to experiment with drinking, drugs and sex.

What struck me the most was the brutal honesty in Everything Sucks. Friedman puts it all out there, the disappointment, the anger, the shame, the wondering, the search and the journey to find her place in life. No subject is sacrosanct.

A fantastic read, one I couldn't put down. Hannah's journey to find what's really cool was addicting. I think the book's dedication speaks volumes -

" For everyone who is sure they will never fit in. And for my parents, who taught me that it's just more fun not to."

Friedman is an amazing young woman. She was the youngest person to have an article published in Newsweek magazine - ironically about the battle to get into a 'good' school. Her voice is fresh, funny and real. I hope she continues to write - I'd love to hear about her next 20 years.

You've got to watch the trailer below for the book .... Or read an excerpt ....Or check out her blog....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Perfect Timing - Jill Mansell

Well, it was a crappy, grey day and I was feeling crappy too. My plan - to hunker down on the couch and try to feel better, but with a book of course. As I perused my TBR pile, I just knew which book would do the trick - Jill Mansell's latest North American release from Sourcebooks - Perfect Timing.

Poppy Dunbar is out on her hen night, celebrating the night before her wedding to Rob. When she accidentally falls and is helped up by an attractive man named Tom, she is speechless. The attraction between them is instantaneous and undeniable. Tom voices it out loud" I wish you weren't getting married tomorrow."

And she doesn't - calling off the wedding for her own reasons. She runs away to London to start over. Once in London, she starts a new job, meets new friends, has madcap adventures....

Poppy is warm hearted, a bit of a scatterbrain, but infinitely lovable. Her new friends include a gorgeous painter who loves every woman he meets - literally, a jealous flatmate pining for love, the shy boss who can't seem to express himself, and older characters full of wit and wisdom.

Perfect Timing is full of Mansell's trademark style - missed cues, misunderstandings, lots of humorous situations and of course romance. And the best part of all - happy endings.

Really, Mansell is the queen of Brit chick lit. Her stories are addicting, the characters are people you'd like to know, and the settings places you'd like to live. (I wouldn't mind working in the Portobello Road market) You're guaranteed a feel good read, without question.

And yes, I forgot about how crappy I felt, lost in this fun filled, entertaining tale!

Keep your eyes out for Rumor Has It, releasing in North America in the spring of 2010.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bear Portraits - Jill Greenberg

Jill Greenberg is perhaps best known for her celebrity photography, but in her words "For my creative work, I photograph trained animals with studio lighting in traditional portrait setups to explore and draw parallels with human qualities and behaviours."

Her previous animal book was Monkey Portraits. In Bear Portraits, Greenberg "seeks to capture the awe that they inspire."

And she has done that. Because these are trained animals, she is able to get up close and personal. The close ups are astonishing and the details are crisp and clear.

There are shots of Polar, Brown, Kodiak, Black and Grizzly bears, many of them kept in Canada.

Amos, the 4 month old brown bear cub looks like a child's stuffed toy, cute and cuddly. It's hard to imagine him growing into an adult bear.

The shot of grizzled Ali Oop, an 8 ft. plus, 1400 pound Kodiak, 'smiling' is no less engaging.

The side by side portraits of a black bear, first looking down and kind of cuddly and then on all fours staring straight into the camera reminds us that these are not toys, but "magnificent creatures of immense power, emotion and beauty."His eyes have an almost human quality to them.

And that is what Greenberg captures - expressions and poses that we can attribute emotion to - surprise, curiosity and more.

There are quotes interspersed. My favourite? "Silly old bear." (Can you remember who said it?)

A beautiful, unique photographic essay.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Touch of Dead - Charlaine Harris

Okay I fully admit it - I was a Sookie newbie. I'd heard so much about Charlaine Harris's series and placed a lot of holds for patrons, but hadn't gotten around to reading one.

A Touch of Dead , a short story collection, was the perfect 'starter' for me. Okay, for anyone else out there who hasn't read a Sookie story yet, here's the basics - Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress in small town Bon Temps, Louisiana. She just happens to be telepathic. Vampires have 'outed' themselves to the world; fairies and goblins, witches, shapeshifters and werewolves are part of the town's population as well.

Harris has an absolutely wicked sense of humour. In 'Dracula Night', an awe struck vamp hopes that Dracula himself will come to his party. Kind of like Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin as one character remarks.

How's this for an opening line in 'One Word Answer'? "Bubba the Vampire and I were raking up clippings from my newly trimmed bushes about midnight when the long black car pulled up."

The supernatural becomes part of the everyday landscape of life in Bon Temps. The stories are fun, but do contain an element of darkness as well. There's romance also, as Sookie is still looking for a boyfriend. Sookie is an engaging character, very likable. Harris seamlessly blends the everyday with the paranormal, creating charming, bewitching tales.

I honestly wasn't sure I would enjoy this as it isn't my usual style, but you know - I'm hooked. I'll be heading back to start at the beginning of this enchanting series. HBO has also based a hit series on Sookie called True Blood that I want to check out. You can read an excerpt of A Touch of Dead.

Anyone else spellbound?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Genesis - Bernard Beckett

Genesis is the eighth book from New Zealand author Bernard Beckett.

The year is 2075 and the place is The Republic. The Republic is an isolated island completely cut off from the rest of the world - if it still exists. The island survived due to the machinations of The Academy. This body controls the lives of the people of The Republic. They guard against the five great threats to order: "Impurity of Breeding, Impurity of Thought, Indulgence of the Individual, Commerce, and the Outsider."

Young Anax is taking her oral history exam in front of the Examiners from The Academy. She has prepared for many years in her topic - the life and times of Adam Forde. Forde defied the rules and rescued a girl from the sea and his defiance shaped the future of Anax's world.

This slim book takes place over the course of Anax's five hour exam. Everything she thought she knew and believed is challenged by the Examiners. She has not been given all of the history, some has been held back.

Using oral history and holograms, we follow the life of Ford. The Examiners questions Anax's interpretation of that history. The philosophical questions posed are absolutely fascinating. Beckett presents arguements that make perfect sense, but will challenge your belief system. What does it mean to be human?

I don't want to give too much away, but looking at the cover will give you an idea - a human and a robot. The ending provides a great twist, although I did see it coming.

It wasn't until I finished this small novel (185 pages) that I realized it is marketed as a young adult novel. Personally, I think it would only appeal to the older YA crowd. It is strictly dialogue and thought driven, with no action. Not my usual type of read, but I did enjoy it and found the ideas presented thought provoking. The publisher's blurb refers to it as "this generation's Brave New World."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Winners - Nine Dragons Giveaway

Thanks to the generosity of The Hachette Book Group, the five people listed below are the lucky winners (chosen by of a copy of Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly.

1. NL6369
2. Nancy
3. Andria
4. Jennifer
5. Packerfantimmy

I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond within 48 hours. Congratulations and thanks to all who entered. Check the sidebar for some other great giveaways!

** Alicia kindly let me know she has a copy of this, so winner #2 was

Norman Rockwell - Behind the Camera - Ron Schick

Norman Rockwell is an American icon. His style is easily identifiable, but I had no idea of the processes he used to produce his paintings until I read Behind the Camera.

At first, Rockwell posed his ideas using live models and made preliminary sketches to paint from later. But this proved difficult, as it was hard for the models to hold the expressions that are a hallmark of his style. The next step - photography.

"Photography opened a door to the keenly observed realism that defines Norman Rockwell's art."

But Rockwell struggled with the idea of using photography as a tool to prepare for his painting. Indeed, he took criticism from some of his peers for this decision, but realized he could capture moments in time quickly and reproduce them at leisure.

Thankfully, those photographs have been kept in the Massachusetts Norman Rockwell Museum. This book was produced with those photographic archives.

It is utterly fascinating to see the finished painting on one side of the page and then view the photographs that he used to achieve the look he wanted. Rockwell always used everyday people. All of the props used in a picture/painting were authentic. Details were very important to him.

"I love to tell stories in pictures."

And his pictures do tell stories. The expressions and the details make his work fairly leap off the page. You have to explore every corner. Many times Rockwell painted himself in as an extra.

There are detailed descriptions accompanying every plate. The book itself progresses linearly, from his early work, though to his last completed work - a self portrait in 1976.

The book is beautiful, produced on heavy, glossy stock with hundreds of images. A wonderful coffee table book and one to share. I'm taking mine over when I visit my grandmother. I know she'll enjoy looking at remembered images.

Rockwell's career began in 1916 when he sold two covers to the Saturday Evening Post. His partnership with them lasted 47 years. It is this publication that his work is most closely linked to, although his work appeared on the covers of 79 other publications. His career spanned 65 years and will live on in history.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Murder of King Tut - James Patterson and Martin Dugard

I listened to this in audio format.The Murder of King Tut begins with James Patterson discussing the inception of the idea for this book and his subsequent collaboration with Martin Dugard, a self described 'research fiend'.

Patterson is fascinated with the story of the boy King and wants to uncover who murdered the young pharoh.

His research is presented in story format. There are two separate story lines. One follows the history, ascension and death of Tut in the early 1300's BC. Patterson offers a lively look at life in this time period. Although he uses many historical facts in setting the scene, he takes liberty and inserts emotions and dialogue according to his beliefs. The sex scenes involving Tut seemed incredibly gratuitous.

The second story line follow the life of Howard Carter from the late 1800's to his discovery of Tut's tomb in 1922. Again, historical fact is presented in describing Carter's life and the world of Eygyptologists of the time. But again, literary license is taken in some parts.

The reader, Joe Barrett, was very good. He conveyed male and female roles equally well. I did find his voice of the child Tut to be a bit annoying. His voice is full of expression, imparting the fear, anger and deviousness of various characters.

Did I enjoy it? Yes, it was a good story, told in typical Patterson style - short, cliff hanging chapters. Entertaining - yes. Do I believe he 'solved' the mystery of who killed King Tut? Well - no. I believe he has presented a plausible theory - one arrived at by others, including the Discovery Channel. Just google Who Killed King Tut - you get thousands of hits.

Who Killed King Tut is being shelved and marketed as non fiction. The problem for me is that I still heard it as another Patterson adventure story and not a serious look at history. Other authors have undertaken solving past crimes in non fiction books, with better and more believable results, such as Cornwell's Jack the Ripper or Douglas Preston's The Monster of Florence.

I found Patterson's interjected personal comments annoying. I'm not sure why he feels like he has to mention that Time magazine called him " the man who can't miss". Is the quote even in context? Mentioning that he can juggle many projects at once and that his gut feeling is that he's close solving it - all of this self aggrandiziing just put me off.

Listen to an exerpt of The Murder of King Tut. Or you can read an excerpt.

Or you might want to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario, who is having one of the biggest showing of King Tut artifacts.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Taken - Inger Ash Wolfe

Well you may remember me raving about Inger Ash Wolfe's first book - The Calling. (If not - here's my review) Trust me - I raved and I've been waiting for the sequel.

The Taken again features OPS (Ontario Police Services) Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef. When the novel opens we find her recovering from surgery for the back injury that plagued her in the last book. Hazel is recuperating in her ex-husband Andrew's basement, likes her pain medication a little too much and has Andrew's new wife looking after her.

Second in command Detective Constable James Wingate comes to visit her and to try to entice her back to work. The local paper is running it's annual serialized summer novel. This year the story starts off with a body literally fished out of the lake. But the local detachment gets an actual call - local fisherman have reported a body snagged on their lines. When the body is recovered, a cryptic clue leads to yet another puzzle. And the next part of the serialized novel isn't so fictional any longer.

Micallef is pulled back into heading up the Port Dundas detachment. Is she really solving the case or is she being led along the path a killer wants her to take?

The plotting is intricate and devious. Just when I thought I had things figured out, the story takes yet another unexpected twist and changes yet again. I love it when I can't solve the crime!

What I love just as much is the character of Micallef. She is an utterly original protagonist. Sixty two years old, irascible, still in love with her ex, battling addiction, dedicated and a heck of a cop. She follows her intuition, not always the rules. Sometimes that's not the best decision.

"She realized she had accepted this, no matter the danger it posed her, or the rules it broke. Her hunger to know the rest of the story was greater than her sense of self-preservation."

Just a fantastic read - even better that it's set in Canada. How fun to read and relate to Timmy's double doubles, Loblaws and G2 licences!

Another page turner, one that I devoured in two days.....I'll be waiting for number three.......
Highly recommended and a five star read for me.

*** Shortcovers is offering a free download of The Calling until November 17th!***

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sesame Street - Louise A. Gikow - Review AND Giveaway

Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 years of Life on the Street

Today marks the last day of the 26th annual Miami Book Fair International - an event I would dearly love to attend. If you're thinking about it - next year's dates are November 7 - 14, 2010.

Author Louise A Gikow was there talking about her just released book from Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers.

I use Google as my main search engine. All last week they featured characters from Sesame Street on the homepage. The first day it wasn't even a whole character - just some banded orange legs. I bet there are very few people who didn't identify them as Big Bird's appendages!

At forty years, Sesame Street is the longest running children's television show. It's now seen in 120 countries. I was already in school when it first aired, but remember sitting with my little sister and watching it with her when I got home. And then twenty years later, watching it with my children. The theme song is still easily recalled: " Sunny days, sweepin' the clouds away...."

The show is iconic and the book is amazing. It's a wonderfully heavy coffee table book. Glossy stock and over 1500 colour photographs. But it's the stories within that make it such a keeper. Founder Joan Ganz Cooney realized that television could be educational as well as entertaining and broke new ground in broadcasting that has both matched the test of time and stayed two steps ahead, always finding new ways to teach and reach children.

I loved the behind the scenes stuff - how and who is behind and in and under those Muppets? The set itself and the changes it's undergone. Scripts are reproduced, songs, anecdotes, art and oh, so much more. The 'real' folks that appeared are featured as well, as are the celebrities who did guest appearances.

I had such fun, enjoying every page - and it's not a book to be rushed through - there is so much to take in and relish.

And if that wasn't enough, there's a bonus DVD included, featuring clips and moments from the show. I remembered so many of them!! I was singing along to "Who are the people in your neighbourhood?", "One of these things is not like the others..." and a few more!

As Gordon said on the very first show Nov 10, 1969:

" You've never seen a street like Sesame Street. Everything happens here. You're gonna love it."

And millions of children and adults have and do love it. This would be a fantastic gift for anyone of any age. And thanks to the sponsorship of The Miami Book Fair International, I have one copy to give away.

What do you have to do to enter? Let me know who your favourite character is. Muppet or human. Myself, I am very partial to Grover. An extra entry for followers or subscribers Open to both Canada and the US. Closes Sunday December 13th at 6 pm EST.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Giveaway Winner - Angels - Chuck Fischer

And the very lucky winner (chosen by of a copy of Angels by Chuck Fischer, thanks to the generosity of The Hachette Book Group is:


I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Thanks to all who entered and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways!

Giveaway - Waiting for Columbus - Thomas Trofimuk

I reviewed Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk at the beginning of October. It was a wonderfully enchanting, addicting tale. (You can read my review) or here's the publisher's blurb:

"Highly acclaimed Canadian novelist Thomas Trofimuk bursts onto the international literary stage with this dazzling novel, rich with all the emotional intensity of The English Patient.In a Spanish mental institution in 2004, a man who believes he is Christopher Columbus begins to tell his story. Nurse Consuela listens, hoping to discover what tragedy drove this educated, cultured man to retreat from reality. This Columbus is not heroic: he falls in love with every woman he meets, and, on land, he has absolutely no sense of direction. More troubling, he is convinced a terrible tragedy is coming. Yet with each tale, Consuela draws closer to this lost navigator.Waiting for Columbus is richly imagined, cinematic, and often playful; a novel about truth, loss, love, and hope by a writer at the height of his powers."

I was absolutely thrilled when Trofimuk emailed me to thank me for my review. Even more thrilled when he offered me a signed first edition (US cover) for a giveaway!!

So, this is open to both US and Canada. An extra entry to followers/subscribers (please leave in a separate comment) And the end date is umm... how about Saturday Dec 12 at 6 pm EST.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger

Having fallen a tad behind on my TBR pile, I thought of resident guest blogger Julia when I received Her Fearful Symmetry. A creepy tale set in England......

Here's what Julia thought

"When Luanne asked me to review this book, I confess I was a little hesitant. I read Audrey Niffenegger’s first book, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and found it a little confusing and difficult to read.

Well, for those of you who already like Niffenegger, and for those of us who were unsure, this new book, Her Fearful Symmetry, is a winner. As the title suggest, there are many layers of symmetry in the book. There are couples, and pairs, coming together, and coming undone. As one of the main characters, Valentina, begins to separate emotionally from her twin Julia, she begins to form part of another pair, with someone who is still in the process of separating from his former partner.

The book explores the concept of death and how we try so valiantly to hold on to life. The book begins when American twins Julia and Valentina inherit a flat in London, England from their aunt, the twin sister of their mother. The stipulation in the will is that they must live in the flat for a year, and their parents are not to enter the flat. Julia and Valentina are young and lack any real direction in their lives. They decide to take Elspeth, their deceased aunt, up on her challenge and move to England where they discover the joys of London, and some interesting co-tenants in their building.

No book about England would be complete without quirky characters, and this is no exception. But in addition to the obsessive compulsive living upstairs, and the cemetery tour guide downstairs, Julia and Valentina discover they have an unexpected roommate. And from that discovery on the book is full of shifting relationships and pairings, with a truly fearful symmetry of sorts to end the book.

So grab a cup of tea, and you might want to spike it for this read!"

(Can I say it? I knew you'd like it!!) As always, thank you Julia for a great review.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Step Back from the Baggage Claim - Jason Barger

When Jason Barger contacted me about reviewing his new book, Step Back From the Baggage Claim, it seemed it was just meant to be. I was flying to visit my daughter and was connecting in Chicago's O'Hare airport and I'm a very nervous flyer at the best of times.

A book about airports and changing the world? Exactly. What Barger did was spend 7 days in 7 major airports in the US, never leaving the terminals, 6548 miles and 10,0000 minutes of observation.

"Every day, airports and airplanes are cities with cities, microcosms of much of American culture and behaviour." " The airport experience is the perfect metaphor for daily life in or world - so many different people going different directions with different agendas."

Using airplane experiences and language, such as the baggage claim, security, the 'ding' , the SkyMall magazine and more, Barger neatly ties into behaviors and changes that would enrich and benefit not just an individual, but the broader populace as well.

Stepping back, gaining perspective, slowing down, choosing to live fully in each moment and being available to others can make a difference according to Barger.

Unconciously, I did utilize a lot of the above on my trip. I walk much more slowly than others at times. On the long, long trip to the first checkpoint at Chicago, even the crew passed me on the way in. Knowing that I had three hours to make my connection and trying to stay calm, I took the time to enjoy the stained glass exhibit on the walls on the way in. And when I finally arrived? My planemates were still waiting in line. When I thought I was completely in the wrong line up at the next area, I turned to the man behind me and asked my question. He blanked me altogether. But the heavily tattooed backpacker behind him jumped in and pointed me the right way with a huge smile. A small kindness, but much appreciated. I was able to somewhat pass that on when I headed back home. I ended up sitting beside a young woman on her first flight. We had a great chat and kept both our minds off the lift off.

The title of the book comes from the great rush up to the baggage claim area. Barger theorizes that if everyone stepped back three paces so everyone could see and stepped forward when you saw your own bag, it would be much easier for everyone. I agree!

His story has been picked up by the New York Times, ABC, National Geographic Traveler and many others.

Do I think it will catch on? I don't honestly know - it would be nice if it did. The world needs idealists like Barger. I left my book in Chicago and hope that someone else will enjoy it and take something from it. I personally believe in slowing it all down and living each moment more fully. And as Jason says, "Travel gracefully."

Rosie's Riveters - Book Lust

I just wanted to mention that you can find me today over at Aarti's regular feature " Rosie's Riveters" on Booklust.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Green Books Campaign: Trauma Farm - A Rebel History of Rural Life - Brian Brett

"This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website."

I'm thrilled to be taking part in this Green Books Campaign. Even more thrilled that I was able to get my first book choice to review - Trauma Farm.

Brett is an noted Canadian poet and author. His latest book is both a memoir and a treatise on small mixed farming operations. Brett has lived for 18 years on a small farm on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, that he and his wife Sharon rescued from disrepair. Trauma Farm the book, is those eighteen years presented as a day's journey in the life of the farm and it's residents. The official name of the farm is Willow Pond Farm, but "we came to refer to this land as Trauma Farm, because we soon realized beauty also demands a little terror and laughter and that this story would have to follow the form of the farm and not the romantic or scientific myths we inflict upon it."

One of the few statistics used caught me short. In 1790, 90% of America lived rural lifestyles. At the end of 2000, it was estimated that only 2-4% of the population were on working farms." Farming is a profession of hope."

Brett's day begins with a middle of the night walk on his land. His words convey the peace of the dark, the uncertainty of what might be out there, and the joy of simply being there. The day progresses through to breakfast, with a marvellous discourse on the simple egg. The rest of the day includes gardens, livestock, natural habitats, creatures, climate and so much more. The trials, tribulations and gratification. Brett has chosen to embrace the small mixed farm and it's lifestyle. He questions the large agribusiness and the effect they have on our earth and ourselves. It's not preachy in any sense, but a riveting argument for the return to self sufficient farming. I live a rural lifestyle to a degree, but would happily transport myself to Brett's farm. I understand the feeling that comes from going to your garden and picking what you're going to eat in the next hour. The joy that comes with watching a seedling break through the soil. His love of his animals made me smile. We too have a lab cross 'with three brain cells - none turned on at the same time' who guards her property from raccoons. And a border collie who is more human than not most days. What struck me as well was the sense of community he has found on Salt Spring.

His ruminations are beautiful, a calm yet funny discourse on life and farming from a man who appreciates the subtleties that escape many of us. This is not a book to be consumed rapidly, rather it should be slowly savoured and each chapter enjoyed before proceeding.

Trauma Farm is a touching, humourous, candid, inspiring memoir of a man who has found symbiosis with his environment. You can read an excerpt of Trauma Farm.

What better book to read for The Green Books Campaign? Trauma Farm is published by Greystone Books, a division of D&M Publishers. It is printed on acid-free paper that is forest friendly (100% post-consumer recycled paper) and has been processed chlorine free.

Here's a great resource list for more information on green printing.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Intent to Kill - James Grippando - Review and Giveaway

Today is the opening day of the 2009 Miami Book Fair International. There are so many fantastic authors appearing (over 300!) and James Grippando is one of them.

Grippando has long been a favourite suspense author of mine. I really enjoy his recurring series featuring lawyer Jack Swyteck. As a lawyer himself, Grippando infuses his novels with a ring of authenticity. But his 16th novel, Intent to Kill, is a stand alone.

Ryan James was an up and coming baseball player. On the night that the Red Sox scout comes to watch him play, he is yanked from the game. His wife Chelsea has been killed on the way to the game, seemingly by a drunk driver. No one was ever caught or charged. His young daughter Ainsley survived. Three years later, he's hosting a sports talk radio show and keeping it together for the sake of Ainsley. But he's thrown for a loop when he receives a cryptic note " I know who did it" on the third anniversary of Chelsea's death. And Chelsea's autistic brother Babes may know more than he's letting on......

I hate giving away the plots in reviews, so am going to stop there. But it's a page turner for sure. Ryan is likeable, believable and sympathetic. Babes is based, in fact, on a persona from Grippando's past and again, very well drawn. His fascination with anagrams is addicting. There are lots of characters to pick from for the 'whodunit', but it takes a quick left turn at the end exposing someone I hadn't considered. The settings and dialogue ring true, showing Grippando's dedication to research - " The research for this novel was great fun - much of it done simply by observing, drinking beer, and root-root-rooting for the home team." He's got a great sense of humour too I think!

If you've enjoyed Harlan Coben or Linwood Barclay, you would enjoy anything by James Grippando.

Watch for his latest, Money to Burn, coming in February 2010.

Sound good? Want a copy of your own to read? Sponsored by the Miami Book Fair, I have a copy to give away to one lucky reader. Open to US and Canada. You've got until Sunday November 29 at 6pm EST to enter. Simply leave a comment. BUT!! Make sure you check back later this week or beginning of next week - The Miami Book Fair has sponsored another giveaway as well!

WHAT: 26th Miami Book Fair International
WHEN: Sun. November 8 through Sun. November 15, 2009
WHERE: Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus, 300 NE 2nd Ave., downtown Miami
“Evenings With…” lectures: Sun., Nov. 8- Fri., Nov. 13:
General Admission: $10, free for Miami Book Fair members
Please visit to order tickets.
Street Fair: Fri, Sat & Sun., Nov. 14 – 16:
Friday, Nov. 14: Free
Saturday & Sunday, Nov. 15 & 16: $8, $5 for those 62 and older, and free for those 18 years of age and younger, Miami Dade College students & employees with ID and Book Fair Friends, volunteers, exhibitors and guests with credentials.
INFORMATION: (305) 237-3258 (305) 237-3258 and

Again, let us know about it if you're there!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Scranton - The Electric City - Alyssa Amori

When I hear "Scranton" I immediately think of the television show The Office - set in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

But Alyssa Amori's photographic essay, Scranton The Electric City, gives a face to the name. It is those who live in a community that really see and know it the best and are able to show us the beauty of their surroundings.

I am always fascinated by architecture - it gives you such a wonderful glimpse into the history of a city or town.

Amori has covered it all, featuring shots covering the downtown area, new additions, parks and recreation, religion, statues, sports, the annual St. Patrick's Day parade and much, much more. Some of my favourites (go figure) were the Albright Memorial Library and the Lackawanna County Children's Library. Both are older, distinguished buildings, promising a suitable home for books! I was surprised by some of the pictures - great ski resort - who knew? And impressed by others - The David J. Wenzel Handicapped- Accessible Treehouse was a marvel. Scranton has a rich coal mining history as well.

There are over 100 full colour, glossy photographs. All are labeled, but I wish there was some text included. I would have liked to read the history behind some of the photographs.

"Alyssa Amori first became interested in photography while living in Redondo Beach, CA during the early 1980s, having been inspired in large part by the region's abundant natural beauty. Returning to Scranton, she eventually showed off the best of her California work in a show at the Lackawanna County Courthouse. In late 2006, Amori returned to photography taking over 3,000 photos of the Northeast Pennsylvania area with a Cannon XTI digital camera. Currently, Amori is taking courses through the New York Institute of Photography in addition to her career at Moses Taylor Hospital as a certified pharmacy technician."

What I found interesting was Amori's goal - "Alyssa’s ultimate hope is to get the book into the hands of as many Scranton service men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as possible. The book is designed to provide the troops with a much welcome glimpse of home. Amori is looking for individuals or groups willing to either provide addresses or donations to finance the printing and mailing of the books to the troops." And her publisher - Tribute Books - is also donating a portion of every book sold to another cause close to Amori's heart - The Jakub Fund - a memorial fund for the son of the late Sgt. Jan Argonish of Peckville, PA.

Email Alyssa or visit Alyssa's web site . You can find Alyssa on Facebook as well.

Want a sneak peek? Click here.

Scranton the Electric City was a General Photography finalist in the 2008 USA Book News awards.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Winners - Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

And the two lucky winners (chosen by of the first three books in the series - bound in a special movie release edition and a Vampire's Assistant locker mirror are:

1. Mama Hill

2. Beth (BBRB)

I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond withing 48 hours. Thanks to all who entered and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Too Close to the Falls - Catherine Gildiner

Well, I took books with me on vacation, but for the most part they never got opened. Eeek! Thank goodness someone's been reading. Resident guest blogger Julia is back with here review of Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner.

"We are always told that truth is stranger than fiction. This book proves that statement again. Too Close to the Falls is a memoir, written by Catherine Gildiner, a psychologist living in Toronto. It is hard to believe than anyone could have had the childhood described in such vivid detail in this book – unless, of course, you think about your own childhood and realize we all have amazing stories to tell.

Catherine grew up with parents who encouraged her inquisitive mind, and found unique ways in which to harness her energy. From the age of four she worked in her father’s pharmacy. Mc. Gildiner relates her experiences through the eyes of that four-year old, and through the eyes of a much older, wiser, eight and nine-year old, re-examining the situations and beliefs of the four-year old. The stories are funny, and touching. We feel for Catherine as she learns some of the harder lessons of childhood.

The beauty of this book is that Ms. Gildiner is able to take the reader on a journey through her childhood, evoking memories of what it was like to be a child growing up in a confusing world. Catherine questions Catholicism and her role in a world ruled by Catholic absolutes. She asks questions about aboriginals and their place in her world. And who has not been in a situation where you felt “different” or did things in a way that was not the norm for your community? The stories about how Catherine and her mother ate out for every meal, and how Catherine consequently had no real idea of what a kitchen was for, are funny, but I also felt empathy for Catherine when she was criticized for her lifestyle.

This book will make you laugh, and it will tug at your heart. The writing is beautiful, and the story is compelling. This is one that I did not want to put down."

What a great review - thanks Julia!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Giveaway - The Gate House - Nelson DeMille

Alright - another giveaway thanks to the generous folks at The Hachette Book Group!

This month, the offer is for Nelson DeMille's The Gate House.

From the publisher:

"#1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille delivers the long-awaited follow-up to his classic novel The Gold Coast. When John Sutter's aristocratic wife killed her mafia don lover, John left America and set out in his sailboat on a three-year journey around the world, eventually settling in London. Now, ten years later, he has come home to the Gold Coast, that stretch of land on the North Shore of Long Island that once held the greatest concentration of wealth and power in America, to attend the imminent funeral of an old family servant."

"Nelson DeMille is also the author of Wild Fire, Night Fall, Up Country, The Lion's Game, Plum Island, The Charm School, Word of Honor, The Talbot Odyssey, Cathedral, and By the Rivers of Babylon. He lives on Long Island, New York."

You can become a fan on Facebook. Or read an excerpt of The Gate House.

Five copies to giveaway - open to US and Canada, no po boxes please. Closes Monday Nov. 30th at 6 pm EST. Good luck and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways!

Winners - Run for Your Life Giveaway

And the five lucky winners (chosen by and thanks to the generosity of The Hachette Book Group, of a copy of Run for Your Life are:

1. Hotsnotty2
2. Jon_Lefkove
3. Leslie
4. FrankSandy
5. SeaHorseLady

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond within 48 hours. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Real Simple Solutions - Editors Real Simple Magazine

~Tricks, Wisdom, and Easy Ideas to Simplify Every Day~

Ahh, this is the kind of book that grabs me and seduces me. Heavy, glossy stock, colourful photographs and yes, the lure of organizing and simplifying my life!!

This is a compilation of lots of ideas from the magazine Real Simple. I want to own those little spice jars and put my thumb tacks and pins neatly away in them, find eight new uses for coffee filters and plastic sandwich bags, how to clean and put my home and life into order!!

Alas, for me it is but a dream. I am a packrat, my attention wanders and I just don't have the time. But it doesn't stop me from dreaming and drooling....someday......

But seriously, this would actually make a nice bridal shower or house warming gift.