Thursday, October 29, 2009

Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind - Phillip Done

Phillip Done has been a primary teacher for over twenty five years. In Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind, he takes us on a month by month journey through the school year of his third grade.

The book opens in August with the rush to buy school supplies - the teacher, not the students. I had to laugh out loud when he said teachers love school supplies. This is sooo true. My daughter is a teacher and I've been stuffing her stocking with school supplies for years.

There are some fun lists for new teachers with essential pointers. (First graders like to be first in line, love glue and will know more dinosaur names than the teacher.)

Each month is filled with anecdotes from his classroom and the funny things children come out with. Having chaperoned and helped in classrooms, I found stories so true to life. Done's tale of a student losing a shoe in the bear cage on the zoo field trip, the helpful mom who used tanning lotion rather than sunscreen on the kids, yard duty antics , the teacher's most embarassing moment and so much more put a smile on my face so many times throughout my reading.

"Third graders look like little jack-o'-lanterns. Half my kids are missing some of their front teeth."

Done's love of teaching and dedication shines through in every story he tells. He has been nominated for a Disney Teacher of the Year Award, and has won Teacher of the Year honours in California.

My only criticism would be his tendancy to use endearments with female students, such as sweetheart and honey. The opposite is not true of the male students - no interactions using sport, pal or buddy.

One line that stayed with me was in his introduction.

" ... a child may forget what you taught her - but will always remember how you made her feel"

So very true - what teachers do you remember?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In Color - Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams is perhaps best known for his stunning black and white nature and landscape photography.

During his lifetime, Adams never fully embraced color photography as he did the black and white. Part of that reason was the poor quality of color reproductions at the time. He did save thousands of transparencies though.

The first edition of In Color was published in 1993. With the advances and evolution in computer and digital technology, this new version is just released. The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust has entrusted Little, Brown and Company as the only authentic publisher of Adams' works, since 1976.

Included in this book are fascinating essays by Adams, espousing his views and struggles to accept and master color photography. Personal notes and letters give us an intimate view of this iconic photographer.

What captured me the most of course were the photographs. I'm not much of a photographer, but I was enthralled by his eye. Each of the pictures deserves and demands to be spent time with, to fully appreciate his talent.

My favourites were Tree Barn Hills C. 1950 and Sunset, Alaska C. 1948. There is one city landscape included that I really enjoyed as well - View From Beaumont and Nancy Newhall's Apartment 0n 56th Street, New York, new York , C. 1942. The facades of upper windows in a straight line amidst all the business behind captured me. There are over 50 stunning prints reproduced.

In 1983 Adams wrote " I don't like photographic color. If anyone thinks there is "hope" for my transparencies, let them fuss with them."

I am glad that someone 'fussed.' The genius of Adams shines through, color or not. A wonderful 'coffee table' book that any art or photography lover would enjoy. The photographs are timeless and remind us of how beautiful our world is.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Crossed Wires - Rosy Thornton

Resident guest blogger Julia is back with her review of Rosy Thornton's Crossed Wires!

"Crossed Wires is a sweet little book, a story about two single parents raising their daughters and living their altogether “normal” lives. I love reading books set in England, and Rosy Thornton does a good job setting the stage: everything from a sister who is “squatting” in a run-down house, to the incessant cups of tea, “pudding” for tea, and trips on the motorway.

Essentially the story is about Mina and Peter who strike up a telephone friendship and look forward to their weekly telephone calls. When Mina’s daughter goes missing, Peter comes to help but brings his research assistant in the car with him. Hence the “crossed wires”, when Mina gets the “wrong end of the stick” and thinks Peter is already involved with someone.

The book is filled with the every day trials and tribulations of parenthood, and in particular, single parenthood. It is about the things that bring people together, the different ways of being “family”, and about basically good people trying to do the right thing.

If I have one criticism of the book, it is that it takes too long to develop the story of Mina and Peter. You know it is going to happen early in the book, but it takes a good half of the book for anything significant to happen. Or maybe this is how real life is? Crossed Wires is one of those “nice” books that I like to read from time to time. No major trauma, no nail biting cliff-hangers, just real people dealing with real life joys and sorrows. A good book to curl up with on a Sunday afternoon, with a cup of tea and the cat on your lap."

Thanks Julia!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Work related, but very fun...

Ha! How cool is this? Friday, (my last day of work before holidays) I attended a library conference on reader's advisory skills and tools. And the guest speaker at lunch? None other than Kelley Armstrong! She read from her first book The Summoning in the young adult Darkest Powers series. It is so neat to hear an author read their own words. (And I got an autographed, personalized copy)

Also, George of Bookninja, a wonderfully acerbic (his words) blog packed with news of the publishing world, was a featured speaker. Very entertaining and again, great to 'meet' the face associated with the words. You really have to check out this Canadian blogger.

And lastly I got to meet fellow blogger Melanie of The Indextrious Reader. Again, how wonderful to put a face to the words! She had terrible train luck though, delayed an hour and a half. In the rush to get the train back, I didn't get a chance to say goodbye. Hope you had a better trip home Melanie. (She was delayed an hour and a half on the train on the way in!)

Was it worth getting up at 430 am for? Absolutely!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Vacation Time - Again!?

Ummm, yes! My wonderful son in law pointed out this HUGE quilt show that's happening near their home and suggested I come down. Fabric makes me drool almost as much as books! And I get a chance to be a celebrity reader in my daughter's grade one classroom. So I am on my way for a week! I've got posts set to go, but hope to take a vacation from the computer as well!! Now I just have to get through the flight.....See you in a week or so!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another Faust - YA writing contest

This is a neat series for young adults, retelling the classics in a format that will appeal. And Dina and Daniel (authors of Another Faust) are happy to open the doors to their very first “retelling” contest!

"Hi everyone. Dina and I are about to kick off a month-long tour for our book, Another Faust, and we want to do it by announcing a contest! We are looking for the most promising writers out there (that’s YOU). And then we want to showcase their work, so that all of the Internet can bask in their awesome writing might (and, you know, give them prizes).

We want you to write your own short story, re-imagining of the Faustian Bargain. (For inspiration, check out Bedazzled, Simpsons “Tree House of Horrors IV,” and The Little Mermaid). It can be about anything you like (but let’s keep it PG-13, and under 3,000 words), and it’s open to everyone. All you have to do is send your entry to before January 31.

Rules and details can be found here: Make sure to read them so you don’t get DQed.

And the winner gets all kinds of sweetness:
A signed copy of Another Faust
A handwritten deleted scene
A featured article & interview on our site
An author’s galley of the sequel Another Pan

Though we’ll feature the top five on our site for comments, the judging WON’T happen by popular vote (so basically, we don't care which contestant has the most friends). Dina and I will personally read them.

Good luck!

Brother-and-sister team Daniel and Dina Nayeri present Another Series: classic works re-imagined at the elite Marlowe School, where characters of the past take on new life, in a modern New York.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Winners - Giveaway - Detectives Don't Wear Seatbelts

Thanks to the generosity of The Hachette Book Group, the five lucky winners (chosen by of a copy of Detectives Don't Wear Seat Belts by CiCi McNair are:

1. Cheryl
2. Aliya
3. Diane Baum
4. Kathy
5. Robyn

I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond within 48 hours. Watch for my review coming next month!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

No Impact Man - Colin Beavan

~The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process~

It is an unseasonably warm day in winter in New York City - it should be 30 degrees but it's 70. Colin Beavan has been thinking about the state of the world but " I didn't feel I could do anything about world problems. After all, if the government wasn't doing anything, what could I do?" But he suddenly realizes "that my problem might not actually be the state of the world. My problem was my inaction." "Is it true that a guy like me can't make a difference?"

And so No Impact Man is 'born'. His goal? "To find a way to encourage a society that emphasizes a little less self-indulgence and a little more kindness to one another and the planet." With his wife and young daughter he vows to live for a year creating and causing as little environmental impact as possible.

No Impact Man chronicles a year in which Beavan and his family forgo making any trash, eat only locally produced food, reducing their carbon footprint - no planes, trains or automobiles, not buying anything new and finally doing without electricity.

It's a fascinating look at what our lifestyles are doing, to both the planet and ourselves. Do we really need all that stuff? When the simpler things in life make us happy, why do we not pursue them more?

Beavan succeeded in reducing his impact, but also discovered the simple joys of family and friends all over again, without the distraction of television. Eating together, board games, books and spending time outside replaced hours spent in front of the television. " The rhythm of our lives is changing." " I cannot stop wondering, since life is so precious, whether we all share a tendency to waste our lives - and therefore out planetary resources - on things that just aren't important."

Although the book chronicles his experiences, it is backed up with tons of facts and figures to support his ideas - some of it quite eye opening. The appendix is especially packed with resources.

His experiment caught the eye of world media and ended up being a documentary film as well. Is he still at it? What concessions, if any, were made after the year was up? Well, you can check out his blog, find him on Twitter and on Facebook.

No Impact Man was published on "100% post-consumer recycled without chlorine and certified by both the Forest Stewardship council and EcoLogo. The cover boards are also made from 100% recycled and FSC-certified materials, the book is bound with cloth made of FSC-certified paper and the printer itself is FSC-certified.

Guaranteed to engender lots of thought! There's also a reading group guide.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review and Giveaway - Angels - Chuck Fischer

I always loved pop up books when I was younger. They were 'special' books, kept on a separate shelf. I still love them today and Angels by Chuck Fischer is destined for a separate shelf as well. An adult shelf though, this one's not for kids to play with!

Angels or celestial spirits appear in many languages and traditional religions including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Angels covers the history and origins of angels including biblical, secular, arts and music, the zodiac and much more.

Fischer has created absolutely gorgeous artwork and paper engineer Bruce Foster has taken that art and produced some of the most intricate pop ups I've ever seen. The colours are rich as is the detail. But it's not just pop ups, it's pull outs and fold outs too, little booklets within the book. I tried to take a picture to show you one of the pop ups, but it just didn't do it justice. My favourite was of the archangel Gabriel. The text is a fascinating collection of historical fact and lore relating to angels.

Turning each page is like unwrapping a present. You really have to stop and savour each page and look at all the detail. Although I must admit, the first thing I did was open every pop up and then I went back to read each page! This would make a phenomenal Christmas gift that could be enjoyed over and over again throughout the year.

Fischer has produced previous pop up books, including Christmas in New York, Christmas Around the World and In the Beginning. All are equally as stunning. Become a fan of Fischer on Facebook.

Thanks to Anna and the generous folks at the Hachette Book Group, I have one beautiful copy of this book to giveaway. To be entered, simply leave a comment. Open to both Canada and the US, no PO boxes please. Ends Saturday November 14th at 6 pm. EST. Good luck and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Alibi - Teri Woods

Teri Woods was an author new to me. I 'read' Alibi in audio format.

It's 1986 and two young men plan to rob a stash house belonging to one of the biggest drug kingpins in Philadelphia. When things go wrong, one of the robbers needs an alibi. And that alibi is provided by Daisy, a stripper desperate for money. But when the FBI and the drug lord start investigating, it looks like providing that alibi was the worst thing Daisy could have done. Who will get to her first?

The story is graphic and seems to overly delight in parlaying gritty, down and dirty details. Daisy is drugged, raped and sodomized by more than one person, yet when she wakes up toddles off to work at the massage parlour where she dispenses sexual favours for money? Because she needs the money so badly? Woods is a former legal secretary/paralegal in Philadelphia, who has taken up writing. Alibi almost feels like she cobbled together details from a number of cases and put it out as a book. Tangents, such as the long, long description of Daisy's mother's life (really she's just a bit player in the book) feel like filler. Not an author I will seek out again.

Paula Jai Parker-Martin is the reader. She has a wonderful voice, rich and throaty. Male and female characters are easily differentiated and possess distinctive voices. I did find the music at the beginning of the disc a bit overpowering and had to rewind a bit to re listen to the opening chapter as I found her voice a bit quick at the beginning. Her voice seemed to accurately capture street cadence, tones and language. An excellent reader.

You can listen to an excerpt of Alibi.

Others had some differing opinions. Check out what Crystal at My Reading Room and Pat from Here and There thought.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nine Dragons - Michael Connelly - Review and Giveaway

I really, really, really (spellcheck keeps telling me to fix that but it's true) - enjoy Michael Connelly's writing. I've read everything he's written and enjoy the books featuring some of his other characters, but Detective Harry Bosch is my hands down favourite. Bosch is back in Nine Dragons.

Harry is called to investigate a shooting at a liquor store in a rough L.A. neighbourhood. The case seems to have gang overtones, so a detective from the Asian Gang Unit is brought in to help. The case is bigger than just south L.A. though with tendrils reaching to the triads in Hong Kong. Hong Kong.....where his daughter lives.

Harry has always operated at the far end of the law, doing what he sees as right and pursuing justice on his terms. His single minded pursuit of justice has, for the most part, worked well for him in the past. But things change with this case. It's gotten personal for one thing. And that may be clouding his judgement. His current partner is no help, he doesn't know if he can trust the gang detective, he doesn't understand the language or customs and he's going way too fast. Mistakes could be very costly.

Harry has always been a flawed character, but in this latest book, we get to see a different side of Harry. One that isn't always sure of himself and a bit more of his personal life. There is a shift in his focus and priorities. It's great that Connelly continues to grow and change Harry, that he isn't a stagnant character, repeatedly doing the same thing.

Break neck action, an intricate plot and some great twists in the ending all add up to an unputdownable read. Really, really, really.

You can become a facebook fan as well.

Want a visual of Nine Dragons? Check out this video!

And thanks to the generosity of Miriam and the Hachette Book Group, I have FIVE! copies of Nine Dragons to giveaway. To be entered, let me know if you've read any of Connelly's books before. Open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Closes Wednesday Nov 18th at 6 pm EST. Good luck and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways!

The other stop on the tour today is at Bookjourney.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mathilda Savitch - Victor Lodato

Sometimes when you see a cover, you come away with an idea that turns out to be completely different from what's hidden inside. Looking at the cover of Mathilda Savitch and scanning the cover blurb containing the word "hilarious", I was expecting a somewhat 'light' novel.

Mathilda Savitch is told entirely from Mathilda's point of view and in her voice. She lives with her parents. She had a sister, Helene, but she was killed by a unknown man who was never apprehended.

"I have a sister who died. Did I tell you this already? I did but you don't remember, you didn't understand the code....She died a year ago, but in my mind sometimes it's five minutes. In the morning sometimes it hasn't even happened yet. For a second I'm confused, but then it all comes back. It happens again."

The first anniversary of that death is approaching. Nothing has been the same since Helene's death. Mathilda's mother is fading away, self medicating with alcohol and cigarettes. Her father keeps up appearances, but he too is lost, simply going through the motions.

"Lately I've noticed Da is starting to disappear. He's basically following Ma, but where is she even going?" "People are funny around us, Ma and Da and me. They don't want to get too close to the curse of the Savitches."

Mathilda decides that the solution is to simply catch the murderer.

What follows is the heartbreaking story of a young girl trying to put her family back together after an unthinkable tragedy. It is also a coming of age story and much more. This is Victor Lodato's first novel. But what a first novel! Mathilda is by turns a quirky, prickly, angry and yes - funny little girl struggling with feelings and situations bigger than herself. I am amazed by the voice Lodato has given Mathilda. She fairly leapt off the page. Lodato's description of a grief stricken family and their anguish is gut wrenching. A very different novel and highly recommended.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Circle of Souls - Preetham Grandhi

A Circle of Souls is a debut novel for author Preetham Grandhi.

It opens with a violent scene in which a 'slaaf' (a word never really defined, but that I took to mean slave) makes a sacrifice to his master. I must admit that this opening prologue did turn me off a bit. A young girl has gone missing in the town of Newbury.

FBI agent Leia Bines, who specializes in child cases, is called in. She herself is fighting some demons, having failed to secure the rescue of a child in her last case.

Dr. Peter Gram is a child psychiatrist at the local hospital. A young girl is brought in suffering from what seems to be horrible nightmares. But her nightmares start revealing facts about the missing girl's disappearance - something she would have no way have knowing.

The book diverges from the standard crime novel and explores reincarnation and destiny as part of the plot. The details of Indian culture and beliefs definitely added much to the novel.

Grandhi has created an excellent, believable character in Gram. As Grandhi is a child psychiatrist himself, this characters's actions and dialogue and settings ring true. Agent Bines is a character I would like to see again - I think she could be developed further. The whodunit became obvious to me about three quarters of the way through, but didn't detract from the read at all. I did find the ending went on a little longer than necessary, almost as an added aside to try and develop the 'personal' part of the story between Peter and Leia.

Not my usual style of crime thriller, but all in all, a solid debut crime novel with some paranormal aspects. A second novel is planned featuring Dr. Peter Gram.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Giveaway - Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant - Darren Shan

The Cirque Du Freak books by Darren Shan is another popular paranormal young adult series. The second book The Vampire's Assistant is being released as a movie on October 23rd. View the movie trailer here.

"In theaters October 23rd Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, based on the popular series of books by Darren Shan, is a fantasy-adventure about a teenager who unknowingly breaks a 200-year-old truce between two warring factions of vampires. Pulled into a fantastic life of misunderstood sideshow freaks and grotesque creatures of the night, one teen will vanish from the safety of a boring existence and fulfill his destiny in a place drawn from nightmares. CIRQUE DU FREAK has been rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned - Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Children Under 13) for sequences of intense supernatural violence and action, disturbing images, thematic elements and some language."

Here's your chance to win the first three books in the series - bound in a special movie release edition and a Vampire's Assistant locker mirror.

"Do you love to be scared? Then don't miss the terrifying adventure that begins when Darren and his best friend, Steve, get tickets to the CIRQUE DU FREAK, a wonderfully bizarre and creepy freak show. Brace yourself for thrills and chills as the boys witness a parade of grotesque creatures and face their deepest fears by entering the darkest world of the vampire. In the blood-curdling tradition of Anne Rice and Stephen King, CIRQUE DU FREAK will have you shrieking for the next horror show! Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers"

Two promotion packs to be given away. Check the small print - if you're 13 and have a US mailing address available you can enter.

Small Print: "Shipping Guidelines:The Vampire’s Assistant giveaway is open to legal US residents who are at least 13 years of age as of October 1st. Prizing is only available to United States mailing address only. (International readers can enter if they have a friend in the States who can accept their prizes by mail.)"

Simply comment to be entered. Closes Wednesday November 4. Oh, and don't forget to vote for your favourite tee-shirt saying below!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ripley's Believe It or Not - Seeing is Believing - Ripley Books

I've had this book for a little while now, but haven't been able to review it as someone else is always reading it!

My son absolutely loved this type of book when he was younger - and yes he's 'big' now, but still seemed to enjoy it just as much!

Seeing or Believing is the latest 'annual' (the 6th) from Ripleys. It showcases bizarre, crazy and unusual facts, stories, lists and tales from around the world. Pictures accompany most of the stories. Some of the entries are simple snippets, others are longer. New this year is a weblink symbol beside some stories indicating you can find more information and videos at the Ripley's website. Also scattered throughout are 'Ripley's Research' boxes, providing scientific information for some of the more fascinating oddities in nature.

The cover is 'eye-catching' and the stock used is heavy and glossy. It's an addicting book as you can pick it up and read one or two pages anytime. At almost 250 pages, they've packed a lot of mind boggling facts into every page. Some of the chapter headings include Extreme Earth, Incredible Feats, Crazy Creatures , Beyond Belief, Amzing Science - you get the idea...

How can you not want to read about bomb sniffing bees, pictures of incredible miniature art, the licensed bar that can hold 60 people - inside a baobob tree in South Africa. You'll find something to catch your interest every time you pick it up. Some of the pictures are a bit graphic - for me I skip snake pictures every time.

This book will appeal to trivia lovers, both young and old and would make a great Christmas gift book.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

"In Canada Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October. Unlike the American tradition of remembering Pilgrims and settling in the New World, Canadians give thanks for a successful harvest. The harvest season falls earlier in Canada compared to the United States due to the simple fact that Canada is further north.

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an English explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Orient. He did not succeed but he did establish a settlement in Northern America. In the year 1578, he held a formal ceremony, in what is now called Newfoundland, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. This is considered the first Canadian Thanksgiving. Other settlers arrived and continued these ceremonies. He was later knighted and had an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean in northern Canada named after him - Frobisher Bay.
At the same time, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, also held huge feasts of thanks. They even formed 'The Order of Good Cheer' and gladly shared their food with their Indian neighbours.After the Seven Year's War ended in 1763, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving.During the American Revolution, Americans who remained loyal to England moved to Canada where they brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada. There are many similarities between the two Thanksgivings such as the cornucopia and the pumpkin pie.
Eventually in 1879, Parliament declared November 6th a day of Thanksgiving and a national holiday. Over the years many dates were used for Thanksgiving, the most popular was the 3rd Monday in October. After World War I, both Armistice Day and Thanksgiving were celebrated on the Monday of the week in which November 11th occurred. Ten years later, in 1931, the two days became separate holidays and Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day.Finally, on January 31st, 1957, Parliament proclaimed..."A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed ... to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October."

And a Happy Columbus Day to my American readers!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Law of Nines - Terry Goodkind

Terry Goodkind is best known for his phenomenally successful fantasy series 'The Sword of Truth.' I am not a big fantasy reader, so I've never read Goodkind before.

The Law of Nines is a departure from the fantasy world and is set in present time.

It's the day of Alex Rahl's twenty seventh birthday. A birthday he's been dreading, as it's the same age his mother was when she was committed to a mental institution. He's waiting at a crosswalk contemplating the day when a truck comes careening around the corner, heading up on the sidewalk. Without thinking he pushes aside the woman standing next to him, saving them both. He doesn't know her, but she calls him by name and leaves him with a cryptic message before she disappears.

"Be careful of mirrors. They can watch you through mirrors." Funny thing is - he's been thinking he can see things in the mirrors as well....

His birthday - the 9th minute of the 9th hour on the 9th day of the 9th month of the 9th year, the appearance of this mysterious woman Jax, and a parcel of land he inherits on his birthday set into play a series of events that has been preordained for many, many years.

I don't want to give any of the plot away, but Goodkind does dip his toe (or maybe his entire foot) back into the fantasy pool. Law of Nines does draw some comparisons between technology and magic that were interesting.

I quickly turned pages until the end, but found myself unable to completely connect with Alex and Jax and buy into their desperation or become fully immersed in their tale. I felt more like a spectator than feeling a connection with the two main characters.

If you can suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride, you're in for a great thriller read. If you're looking for an entertaining adventure, good vs. evil tale, you'll enjoy The Law of Nines. The ending is totally left open for a sequel, so I'm sure we'll be hearing more from Jax and Alex.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Miami Book Fair International - Nov 8 -15/09

Okay this is one of those times when I wished I lived a little bit farther south. But if you do, or you're sunning yourself down south, here's a book event you don't want to miss.

The Miami Book Fair International is the nation’s largest and oldest premier literary event of the year. This is the 26th year. There are so many authors attending (yes Canadians too - Margaret Atwood will be there.)

"Over eight days for the past 25 Novembers, downtown Miami becomes the center of the literary world when the Miami Book Fair International welcomes hundreds & thousands of people who attend readings and discussions featuring prize-winnning, best selling and emerging authors from the U.S. and around the world."

"For the Book Fair’s 26th year, Sherman Alexie, Margaret Atwood, Roy Blount Jr., Robert Olen Butler, Meg Cabot, Alan Cheuse, Susie Essman, Mike Farrell, Al Gore, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Barbara Kingsolver, Jonathan Lethem, Peter Mayle, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Ralph Nader, Todd Oldham, Richard Powers, Francine Prose, Jeannette Walls and many others. Confirmed Spanish-language authors include Roberto Ampuero, Juanita Castro, Boris Izaquirre, Edmundo Paz Soldan, Cristina Rivera Garza, Raul Rivero and others, are just a few of the over 300 authors from the U.S. and abroad who will gather at the Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami."

The Congress of Authors begins on Sunday, with the first Evenings With.... featuring major literary figures reading and discussing their books in English and Spanish.

From Friday afternoon through Sunday is the Street Fair and the Congress of Authors, when more than 300 authors from all over the world read and discuss their work in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Kreyol. At the Street Fair, over 250 publishers & booksellers exhibit and sell books in many languages, and the Antiquarian Annex showcases rare books, signed first editions, original manuscripts and other collectibles.

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 and

If anyone is able to attend - let me know - I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Alex Cross's Trial - James Patterson & Richard Dilallo

The latest in the Alex Cross series by James Patterson, Alex Cross's Trial isn't actually about Alex. Instead it is a book within a book - a novel that Alex pens about his great uncle Abraham Cross.

Ben Corbett served with Teddy Roosevelt in the war. He is asked by the president to return to his hometown to secretly investigate reports of rampant racism and injustice. Roosevelt tells him to connect with Abraham Cross in the black quarter of Eudora, Mississippi.

What follows is a disturbing and appalling story of discrimination and corruption. Some listeners may find the descriptions of violence unsettling. Ben's attempts at justice seem to be thwarted at every turn as the presiding judge in town is his estranged father. Much of this tale has it's origins in history. What's discouraging is that some of the scenarios used are not at all in the the past, but still operating in the present.

I listened to this in audio format. The opening preface is read by Shawn Andrew as Alex. Gospel music is used effectively as background. Dylan Baker is the main reader and his voice is perfectly suited to portray Ben. His folksy, down home voice captures Ben's initial innocence and his later, his determination and purpose. His cadence and inflection somewhat reminded me of Garrison Keillor.

Patterson features short cliffhanging chapters in his books. In audio, I find I can't stop until I've listened to the entire disc!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Starting Over - Tony Parsons

Tony Parsons is an accomplished British author. He is a successful male "chick lit" writer, if you will. His novel Man and Boy is a best seller in many countries.

His latest, Starting Over, introduces us to George Bailey, a 42 yr old with a wonderful wife, and two children. He is struggling with his relationship with his son and wishes he could "stop the clock", but is fairly content. He is also a cop, stuck on a desk job, longing for the excitement of the street again. When he goes out with his fellow officer Keith on a seemingly straightforward call that goes bad, life changes - in a big way, for all of them.

George suffers a heart attack and eventually receives a donor heart. As he recovers, he feels 'different'. He sees this as "a chance to start again." His wife doesn't see it quite the same way. "You can't collect some money and return to Go. That's not life. That's a board game."George is determined though....

The novel is a interesting look at what it means to 'live' life, what is valuable and the relationships and dynamics of a family in transition. It is all done in a fairly light hearted style, but serious enough to make you take a second look at some of your own choices.

I must admit though, that I found George to be a bit of a pompous git. I know this attitude was part of his 'change', but I found it really difficult to forget and get past as the story progressed. I thought the character study of his son Rufus, coming into manhood and finding his own path at the same time his father is losing his an interesting juxtaposition. Without providing spoilers, I'm not sure I agree with the ending. I think it all depends on your viewpoint. Anyone else read this one yet?

I found some of Parson's descriptions very poignant. In describing an older woman's magazine..."her selected TV programmes circled in red, like fences around her loneliness."

You can browse inside Starting Over.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Winners - Complete Maximum Ride series - James Patterson

And the two very lucky winners of a complete prize pack of The Maximum Ride series are:

1. Mozi Esmé

2. Lobbyman

I've contacted you via email for your mailing addresses. Please respond within 48 hours. Congratulations and thanks to all who entered. Check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways and make sure you stop back on October 14th for another HUGE giveaway.......

Giveaway - Run For Your Life - James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

Okay let's start the week off with another great giveaway from the generous folks at The Hachette Book Group!

Run for Your Life is the latest in the Mike Bennett series from James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge.

From the publisher:

"A calculating killer who calls himself The Teacher is taking on New York City, killing the powerful and the arrogant. His message is clear: remember your manners or suffer the consequences! For some, it seems that the rich are finally getting what they deserve. For New York's elite, it is a call to terror.Only one man can tackle such a high-profile case: Detective Mike Bennett. The pressure is enough for anyone, but Mike also has to care for his 10 children-all of whom have come down with virulent flu at once!Discovering a secret pattern in The Teacher's lessons, Detective Bennett realizes he has just hours to save New York from the greatest disaster in its history. From the #1 bestselling author comes RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, the continuation of his newest, electrifying series."

You can listen to an excerpt of Run for Your Life. Here's my review.

Simply comment to be entered. Five copies to be given away. Open to both Canada and the US, no po boxes please. Ends Monday, Nov 2nd at 6 pm EST. Good luck and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Waiting for Columbus - Thomas Trofimuk

Thomas Trofimuk is a Canadian author who is new to me - and one I'm very glad to have found. The premise of Waiting for Columbus very much intrigued me.

A bedraggled man is forcibly delivered to an institute for the mentally ill in Sevilla, Spain. He insists that he is Christopher Columbus and it is imperative that he speak to the King and Queen about arranging for his ships. He needs to phone them right away.

Consuela is the nurse assigned to Columbus when he arrives. When Columbus begins to tell the story of how he got his boats, she is the one who listens. The stories are rich with details of the 15th century. Columbus tells Consuela tales of his loves, wants, trials and desires. Just when we're caught up in that time period, an anachronism interjected into the tale, such as using a cell phone or turning on a television, jars us back to the present day. What has happened to this man to make him retreat to the 15th century - and why Columbus? Consuela finds herself captivated (and a little bit in love with him), as do all who come into contact with him.

"For her, the details of his stories are remarkable. The clarity with which he paints these word pictures is sometimes quite marvellous. She sometimes finds herself caught beyond redemption, so enthralled that she wants to believe him. Something denied inside her yearns to believe him."

In a separate story line we meet Emile, a detective. His story is somewhat of a mystery as well. An incident from two years ago is alluded to, but not explained. Emile is just back to work. We know that he is good - very, very good at finding lost people. Does he hold the answer to 'Who is Columbus?'

Trofimuk had me spellbound, turning page after page. I was totally enthralled with Columbus's story and trying to tease out details that would give me a clue as to who he truly was. But I was just as caught up in the 1400's. The stories are lavish with detail, sensual and emotional. I almost wanted him to be Columbus.

Trofimuk's descriptions and prose are rich and evocative.

"Regardless of his ranting, she liked the colour of his voice. It sounded like burnt sienna, and at the bottom, the colour and texture of fine sand."

A unconventional, multi tiered tale of love, loss and redemption that will grab you and not let you go until the final pages......