Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010... Hard to believe another year has passed...

Do you make resolutions? I have some ideas of things I would like to attempt this year. A little more balance in life, focus on my health more and to try to enjoy each day as it comes, no matter what it brings!

(And the blog needs some work, but time... any designers out there who are interested....?)

Happy New Year and the best of 2010 to you and yours!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Winners- Giveaway - I, Alex Cross - James Patterson

And the three lucky winners (chosen by of an audio book copy of I, Alex Cross, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group are:

1. Erica
2. Ken
3. Rebecca Graham

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Giveaway - Denise's Daily Dozen - Denise Austin

Okay, so if you're anything like me, you kind of, maybe, sort of ...overate the last week.....just a little bit, but still.... Or maybe you've made your health one of your resolutions for 2010.

You might be interested in winning one of five copies of Denise's Daily dozen, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group!

From the publisher:

"From Denise Austin comes the perfect health book for anyone who wants to live better but just can't seem to find the time. Much more than just another exercise book, Denise's Daily Dozen covers a whole range of health and diet related concepts yet manages it all in a no-stress, time-conscious program of 12's. At it's core, this book contains the minimum daily requirements to keep the reader flexible, strong and trim. Organized simply into seven chapters, which equal the seven days of the week, it covers a full week in daily allotments. Each day will have it's own focus from Monday being "fat burning day" to Sunday's "recharge and rejuvenate."

Denise has created a total body program, including a 7-day balanced meal plan that includes healthy recipes, and a workout that encompasses 12 exercises done in 12 minutes each day. Everyone can take just 12 minutes, at whatever time of the day works for them, and turn it over to these simple and fun exercises. Cardio, toning, yoga and breathing exercises...they're all here but in a way the maximizes effect while minimizing time.

Beyond a dozen exercises for each day of the week this book will include many other of Denise's dozens for each day."

Follow Denise on Twitter. Or you can become a fan on Facebook. Or check out her website - Make sure you stop back for my review on Jan 24th.

Giveaway is open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Ends Jan 30th at 6 pm EST. Leave a comment to be entered.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Winners - Exit Music - Ian Rankin

And the five lucky winners of a copy of Ian Rankin's Exit Music, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group are:

1. JustJanet
2. Jennifer
3. Rhonda
4. Bonnie
5. ChasingEmptyPavements

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas Promise - Anne Perry

I always enjoy reading Christmas stories in December. (go figure huh?)Anne Perry is an excellent (and prolific) historical novelist, producing three separate series. My favourite is the Monk series. A Christmas Promise is the 8th Christmas volume she has written.

Set again in Victorian London, it tells the story of Gracie Phipps who befriends a young girl named Minnie just before Christmas. Minnie's uncle has been murdered and his donkey has gone missing. Minnie and Gracie set out to find the donkey and try to piece together who might have killed her uncle.

It's just a slim little volume that won't take you more than a couple of hours to read, but it's a perfect read sitting by your tree with a cup of tea.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wishin' and Hopin' - Wally Lamb

Continuing with Christmas tales this week....

Wally Lamb is perhaps best know for his novels The Hour I First Believed, I Know This Much is True and She's Come Undone.

Lamb also has taught creative writing in a women's prison. Two anthologies of the women's writings have been published - I'll Fly Away and Couldn't Keep it to Myself. I've really enjoyed these two books.

Wishin' and Hopin' is just a great, fun Christmas read. Felix Funicello (yes - he's related to 'that' Funicello!) and his family live in Three Rivers, Connecticut in 1964. Felix is twelve. We follow Felix into his school - St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial - and get to relive the agonies of elementary school and the sixties ( remember the Pillsbury Bake-offs?) Lots happens in Felix's life on the way to the pinnacle - the Christmas pageant.

I found myself nodding along, emembering, sympathizing and laughing out loud with Felix. Lamb presents a Christmas message in a wonderfully entertaining manner. Perfect with a cup of cocoa and easlily devoured in one sitting.

Read an excerpt of Wishin' and Hopin'.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Secrets of a Christmas Box - Steven Hornby

Ever wonder what the Christmas ornaments are doing in the box over the year? Well - waiting to be unpacked of course.

And that's the Secret of the Christmas Box - that the ornaments come alive once a year for the time they're on the tree.

Larry the snowman ornament and his friends set out to find his missing brother. Joined by various other ornaments and foiled by some evil lights, this makes for an entertaining Christmas tale. It actually has twenty four chapters and would make a great lead up to Christmas read with young ones.

The book is listed as being for reading level 8-12. I think that 10-12 year olds may find the story a bit juvenile, especially as the children in the story are 5 and 7. Some of the phrases used may be a bit dated or specific to country ( Hornby hails from Britain) such as 'guts for garters'.

Hornby is an award winning animator originally planned for "Secrets" as a screenplay. I think it would make an excellent animated tale, perhaps more so than a book.

Friday, December 18, 2009

True Blue - David Baldacci

I had read many of David Baldacci's early novels but kind of got away from him for a bit. I rediscovered him reading Divine Justice and listening to First Family.

I chose to listen to True Blue.

Mace Perry was a cop's cop on the DC force. Until she was kidnapped and forced to participate in robberies. She went down for two years. Newly released from prison, she returns to DC, determined to clear her name. Her sister Beth is the chief of police. In her first few days out, she becomes involved with a young lawyer, Roy, who discovers a female attorney's body at his office. Mace can't help herself - she was born to be a cop. She dives in, working outside the law with Roy to solve the case. She hopes it will get her reinstated. Others are hoping she fails and are willing to make sure that happens.

A mystery, legal and action thriller all rolled into one with lots of action. Yes, the characters of Mace and her sister Beth are a little over the top, but if you're looking for an entertaining read or listen, this is a good bet.

I was thrilled that Ron McLarty was the reader again. His voice is slightly gravelly and rich. He easily portrays the female Mace character and male roles with enough difference that you know who is 'talking'. His inflection is excellent and his voice effortlessly describes action and emotion.

Listen to an excerpt of True Blue.

Read an excerpt of True Blue.

Also mentioned in the Crime Fiction Carnival.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book related links

I thought some of you might find the following links interesting....

Thanks Amber for pointing this one out - 50 Awesome Facebook Apps for Serious Bookworms,
including lists, sharing, games, buying searches and recommendations.

And here's something different. From Hector at Book Drum:

"I’d like to introduce a new website for book lovers. Book Drum has pioneered a groundbreaking approach to reading. We're bringing the books we love to life with images, music, maps, video, and all the other riches of the Internet. We need writers and editors across the English-speaking world, and we're running a Tournament to find them. First prize is $1,500, and we're offering contract work to the best entries.

Please have a look around Book Drum. If there’s a particular book you’re passionate about, why not be the person who profiles it for the world?"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Giveaway - Cleaving - Julie Powell

Julie Powell? Didn't she do that Julia Childs recipe thing that was turned into a movie? Yep, and she's back with a new book.

You're going to love the premise of this one....

From the publisher:

"Julie Powell thought cooking her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the craziest thing she'd ever do--until she embarked on the voyage recounted in her new memoir, CLEAVING.

Her marriage challenged by an insane, irresistible love affair, Julie decides to leave town and immerse herself in a new obsession: butchery. She finds her way to Fleischer's, a butcher shop where she buries herself in the details of food. She learns how to break down a side of beef and French a rack of ribs--tough, physical work that only sometimes distracts her from thoughts of afternoon trysts.

The camaraderie at Fleischer's leads Julie to search out fellow butchers around the world--from South America to Europe to Africa. At the end of her odyssey, she has learned a new art and perhaps even mastered her unruly heart."

Listen to an excerpt of Cleaving.

I have three audio book copies to giveaway, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group. Open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Ends Saturday Jan 16/09 at 6 pm EST. To be entered - did you read or see the movie Julie and Julia?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blood Revenge - David Thor

This is David Thor's (normally I'd insert a link to info about the author, but couldn't find anything) first attempt at fiction. He has written a non fiction book - In Search of Ubiquitous Computing - that I could not find any reference to either.

In Blood Revenge, Thor plays upon the fears of Western Nations - that the enemy is among us. A good hook for a thriller book.

In China and the USSR in 1974, two different families send their children to the US. The children seem to assimilate on the surface, but are secretly still loyal to their homelands and history. Fast forward to 2009 - some kind of biological weapon has been unleashed in the U.S.

So yes, a good plausible premise for a thriller.

There are lots of characters quickly introduced - I did reread the first couple of chapters to make sure I had everyone straight. I started to have misgivings at page 33....

"The man was still a good thirty yards away, but Gwen Saunders could tell he was headed her way. It was difficult to make out all his features; his hair was shrouded in a turbine, and much of his face was covered with short, pubic-like hair."

Okay I could live with the pubes on his face, but a turbine? Methinks turban is the word you're looking for? The publisher, Cosacinco Press, spent money on a full front page colour ad on the Aug 31/09 Publishers Weekly cover. Linking to their website gives you no further information about themselves either. The only link working at the time of this writing was for Perhaps they should have spent some of the advertising dollars on editing/proofreading. This was not the only error, but the first really glaring one. I was reading from a finished copy.

And speaking of finishing - this is the only book I have not finished this year. Yep, couldn't do it. The plot is clumsy and just tries too hard. The sexual tension thrown is ill timed and laughable. Too busy, too many characters, too ... I could go on, but won't.

I tried to find other blog reviews to link to provide other opinions, but could only find Harriet Klausner's - 'nuff said. Here's the Amazon page. If anyone else wants to give it a try, I will happily mail it to you.

Not to be confused with author Brad Thor!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story - Carolyn Turgeon

Resident guest blogger Julia is back with her reiveiw of Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon.

Everyone loves a fairy tale. But do you know what really happened the night Cinderella went to the ball? Meet Lil, an old woman who works in a book store and has a dark and deep secret past. As the book unfolds we learn the truth of what happened when Lil, in her former life, met Prince Charming. Like all of us who are human, Lil made a mistake that night that altered the course of her life.

This book can be read on several levels. It can be read as the “true” Cinderella story, or the story of a woman with regrets who tries to right her wrongs. Or, you will find that the book can be read on a whole other level – maybe this is a story of how we all make mistakes and have regrets. Maybe it is the story of one woman finding a way to avoid dealing with a terrible truth in her life by, as Lil says, wishing she could change history and opting out of her own life.

One thing is certain, the description of the ice blue ball gown, “a confection of ice blues and crystals, layers of silk and tulle… strung through with crystals” will make you long for an invitation to a ball!

As always Julia, thanks for the review!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Giveaway Winner - Sesame Street: A Celebration

Thanks to the sponsorship of The Miami Book Fair, the lucky winner (chosen by of a copy of Sesame Street: A Celebration by Louise Gikow 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.

Giveaway Winner - Waiting for Columbus - Thomas Trofimuk

And the lucky winner (chosen by of a signed first edition of Waiting for Columbus, courtesy of the author, Thomas Trofimuk,is:

Mille Feuille

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

Friday, December 11, 2009

Giveaway - Dear John - Nicholas Sparks

Here's one you'll want to listen to! Dear John by Nicholas Sparks is being released as a movie on Feb 05, 2010. Visit the official movie site for details. Better yet - watch the movie trailer here. Or listen to an excerpt of Dear John.

Or best of all - enter to win one of three audio book copies up for giveaway, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group.

From the publisher:

"An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life--until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else."

Open to both the US and Canada, no po boxes please. Simply comment to be entered. With the holidays, let's make the end date of this one Saturday January 9/10 at 6pm EST. Good luck!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

i am neurotic (and so are you)- Liana Kong

Oh this one was a hoot!

Lianna Kong started her blog "to create an entertaining procrastination tool...and provide a space where my friends and I could anonymously confess our neuroses." Soon people she didn't know were sending in their quirks. And a year later, they've been compiled into this book - i am neurotic. Everything included in the book was sent into the blog. Each neuroses is accompanied by a colour photo illustration by Matthew Stacey.

Well, like what Luanne?

Aligning the strings of people's hoodies.
Throwing out your pen if someone else touches it.
Alphabetizing your canned goods.
Tacks must be in rainbow order. Crayons in heatscale order.
Aligning the hangers in a department store.
Alternately - having something out of place, so it's not 'perfect'.
Eggs must always be in pairs in the carton.

Oh there's a lot more. But I saw myself when I read this one - "Whenever I buy a new book, I have to bury my nose in between a few random pages and take in a deep breath."

Just a fun book to leaf through. Anyone who likes Postsecret will appreciate i am neurotic.

You can follow at Twitter or on Facebook and of course, contribute your neurosis on the blog.

Anyone care to share?


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Separate Country - Robert Hicks

Author Robert Hicks is, in his words, a passionate Civil War preservationist. His first novel, Widow of the South is based on a real event. In A Separate Country, Hicks again explores the ramifications of the historic Battle of Franklin. Specifically he explores the life of Confederate General John Bell Hood, who played a key role in that battle, when he returns to New Orleans and marries Anna Marie Hennen.

Hick's exploration of these historic events is more on a personal level. Hood's regret, his attempts to atone for his past actions as well Anna Marie's non conformity and deep love for her husband are told in the form of manuscripts and journals. It was interesting to hear the same story of an event from two, sometimes three, viewpoints. A lot of the story is very much character driven. There is a storyline involving childhood friends of Anna Marie's and that of Eli Griffin, but I found some of these characters 'over the top' and unbelievable. I would be curious to know if Hicks based these characters on known historical figures as well. Hicks has a beautiful way with words. His descriptions of places and emotions are riveting, evoking vivid pictures.

I enjoyed this book as a whole, but at times I wished for a faster pace.

A Separate Country utilizes the skills of three readers - Sherman Howard, Kevin T. Collins and Isabel Keating. Howard's voice is deep and sonorous, giving voice to the angst, anger and gravity of Hood. Keating has an interesting voice, alternately strong and playful, bringing a southern belle to life. Collins plays a young man named Griffin from Hood's past. Hood charges him with a task on his deathbed. Collins plays his role well - his voice is naive, defiant and laconic. All three conveyed a southern accent well.

Listen to an excerpt. Or watch a video.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress- Rhoda Janzen

~ A Memoir of Going Home~

Rhoda Janzen is 40ish English professor. She is married to Nick, successful and happy. Well, at least she thought she was...

"Which is all to say that given the surprising events of the Year of the Pee Bag, I assumed I was safe from ill heath and trauma for decades. But no." "Two months after the move to the expensive lakefront property, Nick left me for a guy he'd met on (Yep - it's real)

So, with the thing and some health issues, Janzen moves back to her parent's home to gather herself together. Janzen was brought up in the Mennonite church, but chose to not actively pursue the Mennonite life and faith as an adult. Her parents are very active in the church.

When she goes home,we are treated (and I say treated because this is one of the best memoirs I've read) to an intimate look at her family, friends, community and her childhood memories.

Janzen's voice is fresh and funny, witty, wry and warm. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much reading a book. Janzen puts it all out there - she is brutally honest in revealing the shortcomings in her marriage and her part in it. No subject is sacrosanct. Body functions, sex, friendships, family, community, religion, food - you name it. I enjoyed 'meeting' her family - especially her mother, who has a perpetual sunny outlook on life, no matter what. The descriptions of Mennonite life were fascinating.

Janzen's exploration of her life and her future, by calling on her past make for a riveting read. I absolutely loved it. A memoir you must read and then pass on to every one of your friends.

Want a sneak peak? Read the first chapter of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. The publisher, Henry Holt, has lots of extras - photos, reading guide, audio and video as well. Oh and some Mennonite recipes too.

(Canadian connection - Janzen's mother is from the Ontario area, which boasts a large Mennonite community)


Monday, December 7, 2009

Giveaway - I, Alex Cross - James Patterson

Yay! Alex Cross is back. And thanks to the generosity of The Hachette Book Group, I have three audio book copies of I, Alex Cross by James Patterson to giveaway.

From the publisher:

"Detective Alex Cross is pulled out of a family celebration and given the awful news that a beloved relative has been found brutally murdered. Alex vows to hunt down the killer, and soon learns that she was mixed up in one of Washington's wildest scenes. And she was not this killer's only victim.

The hunt for her murderer leads Alex and his girlfriend, Detective Brianna Stone, to a place where every fantasy is possible, if you have the credentials to get in. Alex and Bree are soon facing down some very important, very protected, very dangerous people in levels of society where only one thing is certain--they will do anything to keep their secrets safe.

As Alex closes in on the killer, he discovers evidence that points to the unimaginable--a revelation that could rock the entire world. With the unstoppable action, unforeseeable twists, and edge-of-your-seat suspense that only a James Patterson thriller delivers, I, Alex Cross is the master of suspense at his sharpest and best."

Listen to an excerpt of I, Alex Cross.

Open to both Canada and the US, no po boxes please. Let's have this one finish up on Wednesday, Dec 30th at 6 pm EST. Open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Simply comment to be entered.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Brightest Star in the Sky - Marian Keyes

The Brightest Star in the Sky opens with an unknown entity, with an unnamed task, flying over the streets of Dublin, Ireland, hunting for an address - 66 Star Street. Once located the entity? fairy? spirit? enters through the roof and starts some reconnaissance.

There are four apartments at 66 Star Street. Through the eyes of the visitor we come to know the lives of each of the inhabitants intimately and the entity's task is slowly revealed. Clues are eked out if you pay attention.

Marion Keyes has done a phenomal job of creating characters you can actually believe in and care about - people you'd like to actually know. Not all are lovable and I changed my mind several times about each of them. Even the dog speaks his mind. (I'm actually quite taken by Grudge the dog - he's very funny) Strangers at first, the inhabitant's lives begin to intersect - new relationships are formed, old ones are cast aside. Secrets are kept and revealed, some good and some hurtful. I'd rather not detail the characters themselves as I think it's more fun to discover them yourself as you read.

Each chapter heading is a countdown of days, beginning at 60, leading me to wonder what happens at day one. Keyes takes seemingly disparate story lines, magically weaving them together.

When I first received this book for review, I thought 600 pages! But you know, I never got bogged down and was enthralled from start to finish, turning the last page with regret. Chick lit - yes - but with a little bit more. A magical tale that I truly enjoyed!

If you haven't discovered this Irish writer, what are you waiting for? A good one to curl up with over the holidays.

( You can read the first chapter of The Brightest Star in the Sky.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Giveaway - Exit Music - Ian Rankin

I have five copies of Ian Rankin's John Rebus series Exit Music to giveaway, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group!

If you haven't discovered this Scottish series - here's your chance!

From the publisher:

"It's late in the fall in Edinburgh and late in the career of Detective Inspector John Rebus. As he is simply trying to tie up some loose ends before his retirement, a new case lands on his desk: a dissident Russian poet has been murdered in what looks like a mugging gone wrong.

Rebus discovers that an elite delegation of Russian businessmen is in town, looking to expand its interests. And as Rebus's investigation gains ground, someone brutally assaults a local gangster with whom he has a long history.

Has Rebus overstepped his bounds for the last time? Only a few days shy of the end to his long, controversial career, will Rebus even make it that far?"

Listen to an excerpt of Exit Music or follow Ian Rankin on Twitter.

Open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Hmm, let's make the end date Monday Dec 28th at 6 pm EST. Just comment to be entered.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Alex & Me - Dr. Irene M. Pepperberg

We've all heard stories of animal communication, most notably with primates and dolphins, but Dr. Irene Pepperberg set out thirty years ago "to explore the cognitive capacities of a nonhuman, nonprimate, nonmammalian animal, using communication as a window into his mind." She was ahead of her time, but her studies have scientifically proven that using 'birdbrain' as a putdown is, well, wrong!

Alex & Me begins at the end. African Greys' lifespans are 50 years+, but Alex died unexpectedly after only 30 years. His passing was noted in many prominent publications, including the New York Times. I found the opening outpouring of grief in the first chapter a bit overwhelming as I hadn't yet read Alex's story.

We then go back to the beginning, learning a bit about Pepperberg and how a small childhood pet influenced her life and led her to her life's research.

And what fascinating research it is. The fact that this bird was able to not just mimic sounds, but count, choose, differentiate between shapes, colours and much more.

I found Dr. Pepperberg's research fascinating. It's written in easily understandable terms, providing great fodder for thought. I've always looked at my border collie's eyes and known there was so much intelligence behind them. Pepperberg has proven without a doubt that the same intelligence is in the avian brain as well.

Pepperberg is honest in her book. Her research was not widely accepted in the begining. The fight for funding and her own personal life are discussesd openly.

It is Alex who is the star of this book for me. I respect Dr. Pepperberg's dedication, devotion and perserverance, but it is Alex who captured my heart.

I always enjoy Canadian connections. In Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake a character watches a video of a parrot identifying shapes. That reference was based on Alex and Atwood actually came to meet Alex. (who snubbed her!)

Visit The Alex Foundation's website, which further supports this research.

I am the final stop on this TLC Book tour. For other opinions here's the other stops.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reading Comfort - Amanda Crawford Designs

Reading Comfort makes one of my absolute favourite book related products. The Book Buddy. I literally use mine every day! They range in price from $14.95 and up. A picture is worth a thousand words - the video gives you a clearer idea...

But they also have a lot of other book related items that would make great gifts or stocking stuffers.

These book covers come in a variety of sizes (mass, trade and hardcover) and patterns.
Jeannie is pictured here. I tried out the mass market size. I like to look after my books and this is a great way to protect the cover. Just slip the covers into the pockets. Or a a friend pointed out - you can keep what you're reading private. And the bookmark is built in.

On the right is the elastic 4 ribbon bookmark. The elastic in this model is very sturdy - meant only for hardcover books. It has a really beautiful button at the top. I must be backwards. I found it easiest to have the bookmarks holding from the bottom of the book. Having 4 is great to keep track of quotes you want to use in reviews. This would also be handy for cookbooks or researching a paper for school.

The glittermark bookmark also fits over the cover of your book and features a single ribbon bookmark. It's really very pretty. Again, I found it best suited to a hardcover. It does work on a softcover book, but it's best if you're about 25 pages into it first.

All items are well stitched and attractive. Thanks to Amanda for the review samples!

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!!