"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Friday, February 28, 2014

Cover Reveal for Ring Around the Rosie by Julie Coulter Bellon

Here it is!  The conclusion in Bellon's Hostage Negotiation series titled Ring Around the Rosie, a full length novel, will be released May 2014.

The sneak peek of the first chapter of Ring Around the Rosie will be posted at Julie's blog http://ldswritermom.blogspot.com tomorrow in conjunction with the cover reveal.

The four novels in the Hostage Negotiation series are All Fall Down, Ashes Ashes, Pocket Full of Posies and now Ring Around the Rosie.

Pocket Full of Posies was reviewed on My Bookshelf (http://shirley-mybookshelf.blogspot.ca/2014/01/pocket-full-of-posies-by-julie-coulter.html) January 1/14. 
 "This is one of those read as you stir, while you eat, in the tub kind of books that we all love!"
I purposely booked few reviews over the holiday so I could treat myself to my choice of a "read for pleasure" book. Pocket Full of Posies was my selection.  I'd earlier read Bellon's Time Will Tell (http://shirley-mybookshelf.blogspot.ca/2012/04/time-will-tell-by-julie-coulter-bellon.html), a suspenseful romance, which offered my first introduction to this author's work.  I enjoyed it so much that when Bellon's most recent, Pocket Full of Posies, was released I asked to read and review it on my blog. 

Bellon writes suspense as if she worked with the teams who fight terrorism, with accuracy and commitment to research so her novels have a true authentic feel.  If you like action, suspense, and crime dramas with a touch of romance mingled in, then Bellon's books should be on your radar.  Personally I can't wait to read Ring Around the Rosie.  I just have to see how it all plays out!

Be sure to connect with Julie Coulter Bellon's  blog http://ldswritermom.blogspot.com February 28 for a sneak peak inside Ring Around the Rosie.  I predict you'll be hooked!

Julie is married with eight children and ten published books. She loves to travel and her favorite cities she's visited are probably Athens, Paris, Ottawa, and London. She would love to visit Hawaii, Australia, Ireland, and Scotland someday. She loves to read, write, teach, watch Castle, Hawaii Five-O, and eat Canadian chocolate. Not necessarily in that order. You can find out more about Julie and all her projects at www.juliebellon.com

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Canada Reads Contender "The Orenda" by Joseph Boyden Book Trailer

Releasing in paperback this week.

"From the Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of Through Black Spruce comes a powerful literary masterpiece.
The Orenda opens with the kidnapping of Snow Falls, a spirited Iroquois girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation's great warriors and statesmen. Although it's been years since the murder of his family members, they're never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter; he sees that the girl possesses powerful magic, something useful to him and his people on the troubled road ahead. The Huron Nation has battled the Iroquois for as long as Bird can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous peril from afar.
Christophe does not see himself as a threat, however. A charismatic Jesuit missionary, he has found his calling amongst the Huron, devoting himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. As an emissary from distant lands, he brings much more, though, than his faith to the new world.
As these three souls dance one another through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars, and a nation emerges from worlds in flux. Powerful and deeply moving, The Orenda traces a story of blood and hope, suspicion and trust, hatred and love. A saga nearly four hundred years old, it is at its roots timeless and eternal." (book description from publisher)

This novel has received a lot of attention country-wide.  Have I read it?  Not yet.  But after all the media attention, an interview with George Stroumboulopoulos, and several reviews, I admit to being more than a little curious.  Has anyone out there read it?  If so, did you enjoy it?  Was it an eye-opener?  Would you recommend it?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Choose the Cover Contest with Jac Wright (author of The Reckless Engineer)

Help author Jac Wright select the cover for his novel The Reckless Engineer (read my review hereand you could win at $25 Amazon gift card!

One of the covers from which to choose
From the four covers, choose your favourite top two.  Follow the URL to vote and enter the contest:  http://bit.ly/1h6Z9GF

* Share the Facebook contest post to your timeline and earn +2 entries.

One winner will be drawn from the first 200 entries.  A second winner will be drawn from the first 500 entries, and a third winner will be drawn from the first 1000 entries.

Please follow the link and enter the poll. Choosing the right cover is essential!  Jac really needs your assistance.

The contest vote counts will be updated regularly on Jac's contest page on Wix and the winners will be announced on the page and by email.

* Please note this is an author initiated and run contest.  This contest announcement was requested by the author and is offered at no charge to the author.  Please visit his page (see the link included) for details and entry form.

Inconvenient Indian Recognized With a $40,000 Prize

February 21/14:  Thomas King was the recipient of the BC National Award for Canadian Non-fiction.  He was presented the $40,000 prize at a ceremony in Vancouver, BC.  

"The Inconvenient Indian is at once a 'history' and the complete subversion of a history—in short, a critical and personal meditation that the remarkable Thomas King has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be “Indian” in North America. 
Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, this book distills the insights gleaned from that meditation, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands. 
This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope – a sometimes inconvenient, but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future." (Random House)

The finalists were awarded $2500 each.  They are as follows:  Carolyn Abraham for The Juggler's Children: A Journey Into Family, Legend and the Genes That Bind Us; J.B. MacKinnon for The Once and Future World: Nature As it Was, As it Is, As it Could Be; Graeme Smith for The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan; and Margaret MacMillan for The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914.

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld - book trailer

NYT best-selling thriller: The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie (excerpt)

Available February 25/14 in trade paperback
“Cause of death, Rashid?” asked Gemma, when he’d finished with the thermometer. “Was he strangled? And if so, with what?”
Rashid peered more closely at the face and neck. “There’s some evidence of petechiae in the eyes, but that’s not conclusive. And there’s some bruising on the throat, possibly from a ligature, but don’t quote me on it. No hand prints visible. I’ll know more when I can take it down to the tissue. Sometimes bruising doesn’t show up on the skin, as you know.”
Mike, now gloved, crossed the room and began checking the contents of the wallet. “Several major credit cards under the name of Vincent Arnott,” he said. “National Health Insurance card, ditto. No banknotes, so they might have been taken. We’ll check the trousers for a money fold. And the driving license, also as Vincent Arnott.”  Holding it by the edge, he brought it to Gemma. 
She inspected the tiny photo. It certainly seemed to be the man on the bed. He had been handsome, in a severe way, with regular features set off by his thick, silver hair. She wondered if he had been vain about it.
Melody stepped closer and entered the address into her phone, then Mike bagged the wallet.
Going back to the clothing on the chair, Mike said, “Let’s see what it has in its pockets,” with a hiss on the sibilants, and Gemma grinned. Balding, fortyish, Mike was known for a serious addiction to fantasy novels. 
After checking the shirt and pullover, he handed them to Sharon to bag. Then he unfolded the trousers, first patting the rear pockets, then reaching gently into the front. From the right-hand pocket, he pulled out a money fold with a magician’s “Ta da,” then rifled through the folded notes. “Roughly fifty pounds, but we’ll log it. So you can probably assume he wasn’t robbed, and that he was right-handed. Nothing in the left-hand pocket, so let’s check the jacket.”
“There’s not a single crumpled receipt,” said Gemma as she watched. “No cinema ticket stubs, no chewing gum, no cigarette packet wrappers, no bits of paper with scribbled phone numbers. I’d say we can assume that he folded his own clothes.”
“Obsessively neat,” agreed Rashid. “And apparently not because he was hiding his identity, or he’d not have been carrying ID and credit cards.”
“House or flat keys.” Mike held up two Yale keys on a heavy silver key ring.
“No car keys?” asked Gemma.
“Not unless he put them somewhere else in the room.”
Melody had pulled up the driving license address on her phone map. “He lived in Belvedere Road. That’s just on the south side of the hill. He could easily have walked here.”
“Maybe this will help.” Mike held up an expensive mobile phone, retrieved from an inside anorak pocket. “Let us print it before you have a go.”
He dusted and taped the phone’s glass surface before passing it to Gemma. 
Switching it on, Gemma saw that it was fully charged. Evidently Arnott hadn’t used it much the previous evening. Nor had its owner gone in for apps. The wallpaper was standard provider issue. No photos. No music. There was no email account, and only a handful of numbers under the phone contacts.
“What did he need that kind of phone for?” asked Shara, who had been looking over Gemma’s shoulder. She sounded disgusted. “He could have used a cheap pay-as-you-go. What a waste.”
Gemma nodded absently, her attention focused on the few tagged numbers. “Home. Kathy.” She glanced at Melody. “His wife, do you think? And chambers.”
“As in a surname?” Melody asked.
“It’s not capped.” Gemma met her partner’s widening eyes. “Oh, hell. Don’t tell me the man was a bloody barrister.”

Deborah Crombie is a New York Times Notable author and has been nominated for and won many awards including the New York Times Book of the Year. She is a native Texan who has lived in both England and Scotland. She lives in McKinney, Texas, sharing a house that is more than one hundred years old with her husband, three cats, and two German shepherds.

Author's website:  http://www.deborahcrombie.com/

Monday, February 24, 2014

Author Marty Chan Reading for World Read Aloud Day 2014

After I'm Gone by Laura LIppman

After I'm Gone
Author:  Laura Lippman
Published:  February 2014
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 352
Edition:  Hardcover
Source:  borrowed

Laura Lippman, the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of The Most Dangerous Thing, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know, returns with an addictive story that explores how one man’s disappearance echoes through the lives of the wife, mistress, and daughters he left behind.
When Felix Brewer meets Bernadette “Bambi” Gottschalk at a Valentine’s Dance in 1959, he charms her with wild promises, some of which he actually keeps. Thanks to his lucrative—if not all legal—businesses, she and their three little girls live in luxury. But on the Fourth of July, 1976, Bambi’s comfortable world implodes when Felix, newly convicted and facing prison, mysteriously vanishes.
Though Bambi has no idea where her husband—or his money—might be, she suspects one woman does: his mistress, Julie. When Julie disappears ten years to the day that Felix went on the lam, everyone assumes she’s left to join her old lover—until her remains are eventually found.
Now, twenty-six years after Julie went missing, Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, a retired Baltimore detective working cold cases for some extra cash, is investigating her murder. What he discovers is a tangled web stretching over three decades that connects five intriguing women. And at the center is the missing man Felix Brewer.
Somewhere between the secrets and lies connecting past and present, Sandy will find the truth. And when he does, no one will ever be the same.
My thoughts:

After I'm Gone is quite unlike Lippman's previous works of mystery fiction.  A fictionalized missing person's story based loosely upon a Bostonian bookmaker, After I'm Gone explores not only the disappearance of a fictional Felix, but the lives of his wife, three daughters, and his mistress Julie.  

What Felix lacks in looks and stature, he makes up in charisma and drive.  Upon meeting his wife to be, Bambi, at a dance he and two buddies crash; he determines to make the beauty his wife, promising riches and an exciting life.  Felix, however, has a roaming eye and is often carrying on with another woman, Julie being his main interest beyond Bambi.

Felix and Bambi have three daughters and a beautiful home but the likelihood of jail time proves the cowardice of this man as he makes a run for it with Julie's help, disappearing with his fortune.  He left his only legitimate business, a little cafe, to Julie and very little for his wife and three daughters.

Then, almost ten  years to the date of Felix's disappearance, Julie disappears.  It is suspected she reunited with Felix and no one hears from her again.   Retired Baltimore detective "Sandy" Sanchez is commissioned by the police department to take on cold case crimes and the case of this missing bookmaker and subsequently his lover, become his focus.

It is when Julie's body is discovered that Sanchez delves into this investigation.  The scorned wife and now grown/almost grown daughters are of particular interest to him in Julie's death. They have very obvious motives for her possible murder but as jealous and destitute as they've become, are they murderers?  

Of course, I kept going back to Felix's "business."  In his line of work there are obviously sufficient people of interest to consider. The ladies of Felix's life may have motive as well, including jealousy.  

I've read and enjoyed Lippman's mysteries previously but After I'm Gone reads more like women's fiction with a twist.  I was looking forward to suspense and drama.  This book isn't that kind of book.  The focus is more on the family left behind following the disappearance of husband and father.  For that I was slightly disappointed.  But if I approach it as women's fiction, then Lippman has written a compelling character driven novel with a twist of an ending more in keeping with her reputation as a mystery writer.  Either way, you will be entertained because Lippman knows how to write a good tale.

Meet the Author:
Laura Lippman grew up in Baltimore and returned to her hometown in 1989 to work as a journalist. After writing seven books while still a full-time reporter, she left the Baltimore Sun to focus on fiction. The author of two New York Times bestsellers, What the Dead Know and Another Thing to Fall, she has won numerous awards for her work, including the Edgar, Quill, Anthony, Nero Wolfe, Agatha, Gumshoe, Barry, and Macavity.
To learn more about Laura’s work, visit her website or connect with her on Facebook.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Whaley's Big Adventure (written by a five year old)

Whaley's Big Adventure
Author:  Alexander Luke
Illustrator:  Alexander Luke
Published: 2014
Publisher: Red Feather Publishing
Genre:  children's picture storybook 3-5 years
Pages: 24
ISBN: 9781494845117
Source:  a complimentary copy was provided by the author to facilitate this review.  Receipt thereof bears no influence over my opinion nor this review.

"Join Whaley on his big adventure in the ocean as he meets whales of all different sizes.

Written by 5 year old Alexander Luke and presented by his grandmother, award-winning children's author Carole P. Roman, this oceanic adventure of whale sized proportions will teach youngsters about the different whales that live in the oceans."

My Thoughts:

This picture book, marketable to children age 3-5, is certain to entertain and educate children about the enormous mammals of the sea - the whales.

As young Whaley, a blue whale, explores the ocean he encounters several varieties of whale including the Orca, which is actually considered a dolphin; a humpback whale who likes to sing the same song hour after hour; and the beluga whale who lives only in the cold Arctic ocean. Whaley's Big Adventure introduces each whale in turn with a brief factoid and the author's very own artistic rendition of the variety of whales.

Whaley's Big Adventure is an entertaining and informative book sure to please young children, particularly those fascinated by these enormous creatures of the seas.  Young Alexander Luke was assisted in the preparation of this picture book by his grandmother and, between the two of them, they've created a cute easy to read and understand story that children will surely want to explore again and again.

Friday, February 21, 2014

"The Silkworm" by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) coming this June

The announcement came earlier this week of the upcoming release of The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith.  The Silkworm is the follow-up to last year's release The Cuckoo's Calling featuring PI Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott, his assistant.  Little, Brown and Company (publishing house) announced the expected release date as June 19/14.

The following is the synopsis provided on Goodreads:

Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestseller The Cuckoo's Calling.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days--as he has done before--and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives--meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before...

A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, THE SILKWORM is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant, Robin Ellacott.

Who's excited out there?

The Isolation Door by Anish Majumdar (TLC Book Review)

The Isolation Door
Author:  Anish Majumdar
Published:  February 4, 2014
Publisher:  Ravana Press
Pages:  304 pages
Advanced Review Copy
Genre:  fiction
Source:  a complimentary copy was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours to facilitate this review which bears no influence over my opinion nor this review.

Neil Kapoor, 23, is desperate to create a life beyond the shadow of his mother’s schizophrenia. Years of successive relapses and rehabilitation’s have forced his father into the role of caretaker and Neil into that of silent witness. But there is no light within this joyless ritual, and any hope for the future rests on finding an exit.
Amidst her latest breakdown, Neil attends drama school in pursuit of a role that might better express the truth of who he is. What started as a desperate gambit becomes the fragile threads of a new life. A relationship blooms with Emily, and each finds strength – and demons – in the other. New friendships with Quincy and Tim grow close and complex. But the emotional remove needed to keep these two lives separate destabilizes the family. Neil’s father, the one constant in the chaos, buckles under the pressure. Enlisting the aid of an Aunt with means and questionable motives, Neil plies ever-greater deceptions to keep the darkness at bay. But this time there will be no going back. As his mother falls to terrifying depths a decision must be made: family or freedom?
In this powerful fiction debut, Anish Majumdar shines a much-needed light into the journey of those coping with serious mental disorders and the loved ones who walk alongside them. Incisive and filled with moments of strange beauty, it marks the arrival of a unique voice in American letters.
My thoughts:
Anish Majumdar is an award winning journalist with awards for feature writing and investigative journalism.  Majumdar refocuses that talent in the field of fiction with the publication of The Isolation Door.

Neil's family is a challenge and a bit shameful to speak of.  His mother, once an extra in a few movies (a "star"), struggles with schizophrenia and is at the point where Neil's father feels he can do no more and has called an institution to take her away.  He is devastated to do so but can no longer manage the situation alone. Neil is not much help.  He'd rather leave than try to come to terms with life as it is.  With the financial assistance from his mother's sister, Neil enrols in acting classes at a local college where he makes a few friends and a girlfriend. He is too ashamed of his family to allow any introductions between his girlfriend and his parents, that he keeps quiet when his girlfriend assumes Neil's aunt is his mother.  After all, his aunt has it together, he thinks, and she paid his tuition, bought furnishings for their apartment, and is at the ready to help at any time.  A great aunt, you might say.  But does she have an ulterior motive?

The road to acceptance for Neil is a rocky one and one can understand why he feels as he does and yet where's the empathy?  The love for his parents?  Neil has to make some very big decisions and take on responsibilities that he wasn't heretofore willing to.  Perhaps experience is the best teacher.

The Isolation Door is a coming of age story mingled with mental illness, shame, desires, love, denial, secrets, and loyalty.   A first person look into the lives of a patient suffering with schizophrenia and the effects upon her family, this story can be harsh to the point of cruelty, sad to the point of tears, and stunning in the revelations.

Mature content including several mentions of flaccidity, abuse, sex, and drug use makes this a novel not for everyone.  The first half moved rather slowly for me but the plot picked up pace in the second half.  I don't quit on books easily and I am glad I stuck with this one for the sheer revelations it offers regarding mental illness and its profound effects on the family.

The Isolation Door would be a good study for a sociology or psychology major for the impact of mental illness and family dysfunctions upon an individual and society as a whole.  

Meet the Author:

As a child growing up in Montreal, Canada, Anish Majumdar’s first creative writing lessons came courtesy of his mother, a former English teacher. Witnessing her struggle with schizophrenia had a profound impact and inspired The Isolation Door, his first novel. His non-fiction work, appearing in many publications, has garnered Independent Press Association Awards for Feature Writing and Investigative Journalism. His short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He lives with his wife, son, and a growing menagerie of pets in Rochester, NY.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Is There a Place for Book Censorship Today?

Today I read a post by fellow book blogger, Sheila at Book Journey
about book censorship.  She was asked to assist a group who want to censor the books available in schools.  She is, of course, upset about this turn of events and put the question out there to fellow bloggers.  Do you/we believe in censorship?

When I think of censorship, I think of one of my all-time favourite books, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  To Kill a Mockingbird was first published in 1960, an era of much contention between caucasian and African American individuals in the States.  The New Yorker and Time magazines both published positive reviews and the book was subsequently awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961.  So what was all the fuss about?

In 1968 the National Education Association placed To Kill a Mockingbird on its list of titles having received the most complaints.  The complaints were in reference to the subject matter of rape, racial insult, and profanity.  In 1977 Eden Minnesota placed a temporary ban on the novel. Even as recent as 1990, school districts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia attempted to have the book banned, not to be used in the curriculum.  2006 (Tennessee) and 2009 (Ontario) saw it removed from schools yet again stating that the use of the word "nigger" was offensive.  Some parents and school officials thought it would be offensive and uncomfortable for children to read, citing that the content may incite racial hatred.  These schools were not alone in this opinion.

I have to wonder if these individuals actually read the book themselves.  If anything, this novel, in my opinion, was ahead of its time.  The story is built around a lawyer and his children, the lawyer believing the young man charged with rape was entitled to a defence and set out to prove the charges were false. 

"It is sad to consider that this book was once banned from schools and libraries.  Perhaps the individuals who wanted it banned did not read it for To Kill a Mockingbird was ahead of its time in promoting equal rights for all and the value of one soul is no greater than another.  To have the opportunity to read and to study To Kill a Mockingbird, is a privilege.  For a book that raises the question of racism and addresses the issues through the eyes of the innocent child, is certainly a book that I would encourage all people to read, particularly young people.  Atticus teaches his children the value of a human life." To read more, please refer to my review.  

What are your thoughts on censorship?  Is there a time and a place when it might be necessary?  Who should have the right to decide what a person reads?

I encourage you to stop by Book Journey and comment there as well after reading Sheila's thoughts on censorship of the book Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.


Monday, February 17, 2014

In Mint Condition edited by Shannon John

In Mint Condition
Edited by Shannon John
Published:  October 2013
Publisher:  Ambannon Books
Pages:  345
Genre:  Anthology of mixed genres - including horror (Short story, poetry, art)
Source: A complimentary copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

"In Mint Condition" - It is a phrase that has become very familiar to collectors. Whether you are a collector of fine books, antique watches, baseballs cards, or comic books, you are always looking for something in mint condition. To be in mint condition, that special something must be of the highest quality. The best of the best.

Taking that idea and running with it, Ambannon Books has collected the very best in brand new, never-before-seen short stories, creative non-fiction, and poems, exclusively from the members of the leading Stephen King fansite on the internet, TheDarkTower.org. Each entry in In Mint Condition: 2013 has an accompanying piece of artwork from some of the biggest names in the business.

Join us on a journey through sixteen stories and poems of unspeakable horrors, inspirational bravery, alternate realities, and the dark side of things that seem so familiar, yet are simply waiting to consume you. 

My Thoughts:

In the fashion of masters like Stephen King (whom the editor  is an obvious fan of - see the advertisements interspersed within the book) and Alfred Hitchcock, In Mint Condition 2013 is an anthology of 16 short stories and poetry written with the effect of a horror story/dark literature complemented with a facing page of art.

As a teen fan of Stephen King, I had enjoyed the odd horror/dark literature though I haven't read from that genre in many years.  However, when approached with the offer to read In Mint Condition 2013 I was willing to revisit that fascination.  The cover of this mass market paperback features a fine looking collection of books on shelves offset by a black crow perched upon a typewriter, surrounded by lit candles illuminating the scene which held promise of things to come.  I have to admit it was this cover art which captured my attention from the first and I had to read this collection!!

The short story The Receptionist is a piece of work that set my mind reeling in shock at the revelation of the truth behind the facade!  And this was near the beginning.  What further surprises were in store, I wondered.

The Rule of Three...."I believe the stress must have overpowered his sanity,".... there's a lot of loss of sanity I'm thinking.  

Pumpkin....a twist on assisted fertilization of sorts.  Will the mother be surprised!  

As horror stories go, a lot of them deal with death occurring in a most untimely and often grotesque manner.  In Mint Condition 2013 is much the same, leaving not a lot to the imagination but not so graphic as to upset.  Mature language and situations along with the content make this a book not for the faint of heart or sensitive readers.  Think Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.  Get your horror on!  What was I thinking as a teen, I shake my head and wonder now.  Wow.

In Mint Condition 2013 is the premier publication for a new publisher, Ambannon Books. The sixteen short stories and poems were written by members of TheDarkTower.org, a Stephen King fan site on the internet. Copies of the book are available through the publisher at www.AmbannonBooks.com.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Armchair Traveller/Book Launch The Great Canadian Bucket List (February 15/14)

So he did it!  My husband attended a book launch event with me today mostly because it was the Robin Esrock presenting his one of a kind travel experience book The Great Canadian Bucket List.  I'd attended Robin's previous event at Audrey's bookstore (and purchased a copy) here in Edmonton last fall with a friend of mine and when I told my husband who we'd been to see and support, he was disappointed he hadn't gone after all.  So, when I discovered this Armchair Traveller event/book launch with the St. Albert Public Library featuring none other than Robin Esrock, he was thrilled to go...even delayed a business trip to do so!!!  He was not disappointed!!  

The conference room was near capacity but we arrived early, thus assured of excellent seats second row from the front.  Robin was casually signing books before the event at the back of the room where light refreshments of cookies and coffee were available. Following a brief introduction and bio from the PR rep for the library, Robin took center stage by the overhead screen upon which his presentation awaited the two o'clock start.

Robin began the event with a clip from the movie The Bucket List 
starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.  (If you haven't seen it yet, you simply must!)  The term bucket list has become very popular since the release of this movie.  Perhaps the term's origins come from history when people who were hung to die had a bucket kicked out from beneath them?  Robin pondered.  Whatever its origins, more and more people are making their own lists of things they want to see, accomplish or experience before their death.  

Robin didn't set out to become a travel writer per se.  Sure he has a degree in journalism, but he has also had involvement in the music industry.  He made some life changing decisions with a $20000 settlement from an accident several years ago following which he went to a travel agency and booked an around the world trip.  His intention was to cross off all those items/places on his bucket list and write home about it.  It became easier to share his adventures and photos on a blog until the day someone suggested this would make a good travel show and then a television program "Word Travels" with Julia Dimon as co-host began.   The show ran for three seasons and can still be seen on weekends on CityTV.  Check your listings.  (a presentation of photos and a few videos from some of these adventures impressed the audience as they were shown on the overhead screen.)

When civil unrest and wars became prevalent, Robin Esrock emigrated to Vancouver Canada from South Africa as a young adult and his family following shortly thereafter.  After travelling the world, crossing off that bucket list, he began to think a little closer to home for his new bucket list, thus his new book "The Great Canadian Bucket List."

From the west coast to the east, Robin shared tales of seeking the great white spirit bear, to seeing totem poles over 150 years old, to a one of a kind experience in the Okanagon (BC) in a facility owned by Swarovski (yes, one and the same).  Imagine entering a room at -15 Celsius, then another at -60 Celsius and finally -110 Celsius (a 3 minute duration) dressed in only your swimming attire!  This supposedly helps rejuvenate the body, help with ailments such as arthritis, and certainly make you glad you're alive when you slowly warm up again!! (All available at this secluded site)  It's a hit with NHL players! There's the sour toe drink in Yellowknife, zip lining over a waterfall, heli-skiing, training with the RCMP, going on a polar bear excursion in Churchill, Manitoba and so much more.  Did you know our country had so much to offer?

a reading about the search for the Northern Lights

Robin has travelled world wide.  Of course there are countries and sites he hasn't been to yet; Antarctica still eludes him.  Perhaps someday; after all, who knew ten years ago that he'd be travelling the world and getting paid to do so?  In the meantime he is learning and writing about what it is like to travel with a baby!  

Perhaps it's time for you to discover your own bucket list.  The Great Canadian Bucket List is a great place to start.  Just a warning though, once you get the bug it only grows from there!  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Powerful Tale in "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief
Author:  Markus Zusak
Published:  2005
Publisher:  Random House
Pages:  552
Edition:  Movie Tie In Cover 2013, Trade Paperback
Also contains:  A Reader's Guide, Related Titles, Internet Resources, In His Own Words - A Conversation With Markus Zusak
ISBN  9780385754729
Source:  a copy was given to me by the publisher.  Receipt thereof has no influence over my opinion of this novel nor this review.

It is 1939, Nazi Germany.  The country is holding its breath.  
Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger finds her life changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow.  It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.  So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read.  Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times.  When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish man in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

My Thoughts:

The Book Thief should be ranked with the popular classics from foregone eras.  A classic has been defined as:  judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind. A work of art of recognized and established value.  The Book Thief is just that and is certainly worthy of a prestigious location on every book lover's bookshelf.

I began The Book Thief the beginning of January as my first book of the year but time constraints necessitated it being put aside until recently when I had the time and opportunity to immerse myself in Liesel's world in Germany pre-war to war era.  Everyone I've spoken with of late has heard from me about this fabulous novel that I was so in love with.  I could hardly put it down and anxiously picked it up at every opportunity, so involved in this incredibly powerful tale.

The Book Thief opens with an introduction by Death as the narrator.  Not a grim reaper, but a being of great empathy and love for those he serves.  At this period of time Death is very busy, the war is a harsh task master and Death exhibits sadness at the loss of so many innocent lives, "For me, the sky was the color of Jews."  (page 349)  "I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks ... I watched their love visions and freed them from their fear." (page 350).

The most compelling character is Liesel Meminger.  We meet her as a young girl fresh off the train, passed into the hands of foster parents Hans Huberman and his wife Rosa.  Hans is a wonderful old patient soul with silver eyes and a gift for the accordion while his wife is terse and generous with expletives but beneath the rough exterior she hides a warm heart.  "She was a good woman for a crisis."  Liesel is a feisty personality who suffers nightly from nightmares about her brother's death which she witnessed aboard the train enroute to Molching, home of her foster parents to be.

Her first act of thievery occurs at her brother's graveside where she finds The Gravedigger's Handbook from which Papa (Hans) helps her learn to read as part of a nightly ritual that follows Liesel's nightmares. She has the bug and yearns for books and words.  Her second book is rescued from the ashes of a Nazi book burning and from there the mayor's wife's library falls victim.

Liesel and her best friend Rudy witness firsthand the Nazi regime in action.  The Jewish businesses closed, the people thwarted and paraded through town on their way to concentration camps.  The two friends rebel against the Fuhrer with thievery of food, some of which they drop as pieces of bread ahead of the parades for the prisoners.  One similar act of kindness earned a whipping by a Nazi soldier.

That act of kindness was towards a young man, Max, who had been hidden in the basement of the Hubermans.  Max's father had saved Hans' life in an earlier war, losing his own, and as repayment they hid the young Jewish man until the bombing began and it was no longer safe for any of them.  Max left one day in a tearful goodbye and wasn't seen until the day of the parade.  He was thin and weak from starvation and cruelty at the hands of the soldiers.  A prisoner of war on his way to the camps.

There were many cruelties in that small town in Germany.  A lot for a couple of young kids to witness and it changed them perceptibly.  To read of them in a book initially written for an adult audience in New Zealand and placed in the YA readership here and in the US, one can visualize the horrors as seen through the eyes of the young.  The war influenced their choices and their lives.  This book has been touted as life altering and it can be.  While The Book Thief has been marketed here for a YA audience, it holds appeal for adults as well.  The imagery, the flow of the written word, the effect of it all impresses upon the mind and the heart.  It is a masterpiece that has rightfully earned wide appeal and hearty recommendations.


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