Thursday, February 28, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW and GIVEAWAY! Win a copy of The Fiction Writer's Handbook, by Shelly Lowenkopf

Enter to win a copy of The Fiction Writer's Handbook, by Shelly Lowenkopf!
UPDATE: This contest is now closed. Thank-you to all who entered! You can still scroll down to read an interview with the author, Shelly Lowenkopf.

I recently reviewed this book (you can read my review here) and I loved it (thank goodness too, because I'd already agreed to be part of the blog tour and if I'd hated it I would have had to say so, which would have been awkward). Now the publisher has been kind enough to give me an additional copy (print or digital) to give away to a lucky reader! You can enter the giveaway below and then scroll down for an interview with author Shelly Lowenkopf!

The Fiction Writer's Handbook is perfect for any writer, student, editor, enthusiastic reader OR BOOK REVIEWER. Honestly, it's already changed how I write reviews (sorry writers!).

To enter: Use the Rafflecopter widget below (or on CLBJ's Facebook page).

For residents of Canada & U.S.: If you win, you will be given a choice of one print (paperback) copy OR one digital (ebook) copy of the book, sent to you directly from the publisher. You'll need to provide an email and/or mailing address accordingly.

For residents outside of Canada/U.S.: If you win, you will be sent one digital (ebook) copy ONLY of the book, sent to you from the publisher. You'll be asked to provide a valid email address.

Contest runs from Thursday, February 28, 2013, until Sunday, March 17, 2013 (on midnight Atlantic Standard Time). Winners will be announced on Monday, March 18, 2013. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

BONUS: Exclusive Interview with Shelly Lowenkopf!
author photo from Google plus
Continue reading for an exclusive Q&A with author Shelly Lowenkopf (I hope he thinks my questions were well-written...)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Anti-Breast Cancer Cookbook: How to Cut Your Risk with the Most Powerful, Cancer-Fighting Foods, by Julia B. Greer, MD, MPH

The Anti-Breast Cancer Cookbook: 
How to Cut Your Risk with the Most Powerful, Cancer-Fighting Foods
Author: Julia B. Greer, MD, MPH
Publisher: Sunrise River Press
Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Buy Now on paperback kindle
Buy Now on paperback kindle 

When I first saw this book I admit I was skeptical. There are so many fad cookbooks on the market and I thought this would just be another one. I half expected it to be pastel pink and have fun (read: frothy) advice for how to stay fit and look out for "my girls," or other delightful (read: demeaning) euphemisms for breast health. Maybe there'd be key words like "antioxidants" thrown in for good measure.

Boy did Julia Greer ever shut me up.

This book is informative, serious (but not severe, just not frothy) and sincere. There's a lengthy introductory section with information about breast health, cancer research (including risk factors for breast cancer), and how diet plays a role in overall health and reducing your risk of cancer. None of it is flashy or schmaltzy or condescending or pink.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Fiction Writer's Handbook, by Shelly Lowenkopf

The Fiction Writer's Handbook:

The definitive guide to McGuffins, red herrings, shaggy dogs, and other literary revelations from a master 

Author: Shelly Lowenkopf 
(Foreword by: Christopher Moore) 
Publisher: White Whisker Books 
Publication Date: October 16, 2012 
Buy Now on paperback kindle 
Buy Now on paperback kindle 

The Fiction Writer's Handbook is probably not what you would expect from the title. It is not arranged into chapters with titles like "How to Begin" or "How to Get Published." In fact it's not arranged into chapters at all, but rather an alphabetical "list of entries" with terms like "antagonist," "flash fiction" and "verb tenses." Some entries, like "first-draft strategy" (where the author suggests you start) and "revision" (where the author suggests you go next) are longer articles filled with ideas to improve your writing, while others are merely brief definitions of literary terms. Every entry contains words in small caps indicating terms that can be found elsewhere in the book (in the e-book edition these are hyperlinks that allow the reader to go directly to the entry locations).

If this format seems like it would be difficult to read cover-to-cover, that's because it is. It's not meant to be read cover-to-cover, nor is it meant to be read in one sitting. The idea is to skip around, read the entries that interest you, and use them to improve your writing or at least your editing. I almost think of it as a book of editing prompts.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada, by Lawrence Hill

Black Berry, Sweet Juice:
On Being Black and White in Canada
Author: Lawrence Hill
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: November 28, 2002

Lawrence Hill's thought-provoking 2001 memoir (nearly a decade before The Book of Negroes) left me contemplating racism in Canada, the meaning of race as a social construct, and also left me wondering how members of my own family who are of mixed race feel about their racial identity. 

But you know what I couldn't get out of my head, the whole time I was reading this?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

So Cool Sunday! Revolution: A Pop Up Book About the Water Table

Who doesn't love a good pop-up book? This pop-up book animation by Chris Turner, Helen Friel and Jess Deacon takes it to the next level. Revolution explores the life cycle of water using pop-up book scenes filmed in over 1000 stills to make this animated short. Magda and I loved it!

Check out the video below. So cool!

Helen Friel's website

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Celebrate Financial Literacy with America Saves Week!

Money Savvy Pig divided piggy bank, available on Amazon
Did you know that February 25 - March 2 is America Saves Week? No, me neither. But it is. 

I should clarify. It's "saves" as in "saves money" not as in "saves souls" or anything. Although one is as likely as the other in my house.

Mike and I are terrible savers. Part of it is that we just don't have a very big family income right now. We've decided to make do with less while our daughter is very young so one of us can be home with her. There are pros and cons to this decision, and we second guess ourselves constantly, but that's where we're at right now.

But the truth is, I'm not convinced that having a higher income would automatically translate into us having more savings. We might pay off debt faster or upgrade various aspects of our lifestyle, but would we save more? I'm not so sure.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult

The Storyteller
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria (Simon & Schuster)
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Buy Now on hardcover kindle audio
Buy Now on hardcover kindle audio 
I have only read two books by Jodi Picoult (the other one was Sing You Home) but based on these two I have come to some conclusions about her writing. First of all, her books are good, but in the way that Lifetime TV movies are good. They're intended to make you cry, and feel passionately about some issue or other for the couple of hours while you're watching, but they don't change your life and nobody's winning any awards over it. Jodi Picoult books are like Lifetime movies. She writes genre fiction in the genre of "I'm trying to make you cry by using tropes guaranteed to illicit emotion." Maybe I'm judging her too quickly based on just two books, but I really don't think so.

The Storyteller is a pat story. Everything fits together so neatly the reader doesn't have to do any work at all. The main character is Sage Singer (ugh! the name!), a twenty-five-year-old night baker with a scar on her face. The source of her scar is meant to be a big secret that is revealed later in the book but the "secret" is one you can see coming a mile away. She goes to grief counselling to deal with the loss of her parents, where she meets Josef, an elderly man who becomes one of her few friends.

In the introductory page at the beginning of the book, Picoult reveals that this book is based on another book in which a former Nazi asks a Jewish woman for forgiveness before he dies. So I don't think I'm ruining anything by saying that there are similar themes in this book. Sage is Jewish. Her grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. Josef is a German man in his nineties. He wants to die soon. Can you guess? I'm sure you can.

I realize that the book uses all the devices intended to get me to be emotionally invested but I just wasn't. The characters are so two-dimensional they are vaguely ridiculous. And the names! Sage's father was a baker too so he named his daughters Pepper, Saffron and Sage. Really? And Sage struggles with her faith so she has a boss named Mary and a friend named Josef (where's Jesus? asks no one). She's having an affair with a married man named Adam and I was a little surprised his wife's name wasn't Eve (although Eva is the name of Josef's dog, so the name still made an appearance). Then there's her co-worker Rocco. His name didn't bother me, but his quirky affectation is that he only ever speaks in haiku. I mean, come on! Am I seriously supposed to believe in characters like this? And don't get me started on the Jesus appearing in the bread loaf subplot.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Joe the Monkey Learns to Share: A Story of Giving, by John Lanza (illustrated by John Lanza and Patrick Rooney)

Joe the Monkey Learns to Share:
A Story of Giving
(A Money Mammals Share-Save-Spend Smart Book)
Author: John Lanza
Illustrators: John Lanza and Patrick Rooney
Editor: Marilyn Walton
Publisher: Snizzlezoo Books
Publication Date: December 3, 2012
There are a number of books on the market that talk about the "three jars" concept of money saving--encouraging children to divide their money into jars for saving, for spending and for giving--but I like this one in particular because it is aimed at children directly in the form of a storybook, and because it's not religious-based. I'm not  saying there's anything wrong with religious books about saving, it's just that they're not for everyone. This one, part of the Money Mammals series, is more universal. 

Based on the story and illustrations I would say that Joe the Monkey Learns to Share is aimed at elementary school aged children, but my three-year-old daughter Magda loved it as well. She sat and listened to the whole thing then asked to hear it again, this time asking questions and offering commentary. When Joe the Monkey eventually picks a charity at the end of the book--buying vines for underprivileged monkeys--Magda decided that she too would like a share jar and that she would use it to buy backpacks for kids who didn't have them. I'd been thinking of ways to introduce her to the concept of charity and this book did just that. Come back-to-school time, Magda and I can use her share money to donate school supplies to families in need. I'd say the book was a success!

Hit the jump for images from inside the book...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Scent to Kill (A Natural Remedies Mystery), by Chrystle Fiedler

Scent to Kill 
A Natural Remedies Mystery
Author: Chrystle Fiedler
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
One thing I love about cozy mysteries is that I don't need to share the hobbies and interests of the main character in order to enjoy the book. In fact, the ones I enjoy the most are often the ones in which the main character is very different from me, so I can learn something new. There are knitting mysteries, quilting mysteries, mysteries that revolve around tea, cookies or even poodles. And I love them all! Well, not all, but many. So I didn't think it would be a problem that Scent to Kill is part of the "Natural Remedies" series or that the main character runs a natural health store. But there was something about this one that made me feel almost deliberately excluded from the world of the character. 

Maybe it was the fact that the main character's pet is named "Qigong" (pronounced "chee gung"). Or that she keeps referring to herself as "doctor" even though she's a naturopath. Or the fact that her name is Willow MacQuade and her boyfriend is Jackson Spade. (I mean, come on!) Or maybe it was the moment when she explains there's been a murder and her friend exclaims, "Murder? OMG! Just like three months ago!" Now, are we supposed to believe that her friend actually said "Oh Em Gee" or are we meant to assume she said "Oh my God" and the author was too lazy to write it out? 

All in all, it was the little things which turned me off about this book. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing, by Elizabeth Guy and Hank Kellner

Reflect and Write:
300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing
Authors: Elizabeth Guy and Hank Kellner
Editor: Sean Redmond
Publisher: Prufrock Press
Publication Date: February 1, 2013
Buy Now on
Buy Now on
It has been a while since I taught poetry, but when I did I often made use of art, photography and quotations to act as writing prompts. So I appreciate the compilation of poetry, photography, quotations and questions in this book.

The photos are well-chosen, helping to elucidate the themes of the accompanying poem and spark students’ imaginations. (The image of three nuns watching a “Spirit Cruises” ship next to a poem about longing to travel made me smile.) Each poem also includes key words that students can discuss as well as questions about the theme, or ideas for writing assignments. I particularly like the quotations from famous people on each page because they often offer a wryly dissenting opinion from the poem. (A particularly peppy poem entitled “I Love a Parade” is followed by the Ulysses S. Grant quote, “The one thing I never want to see again is a military parade.”)

There were, however, some things I wish the authors had included but didn’t. There are no author bios for any of the authors of the poems (except Elizabeth Guy and Hank Kellner). There is a symbol indicating if the poem was written by a student or not, but that is the only information we are given. As a reader, I like to have at least basic information about a poet that may help me understand the context in which they write. And as a teacher I like to have that information to share with the class or as a prompt for further research.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Grand Complication: The Race to Build the World's Most Legendary Watch, by Stacy Perman

A Grand Complication: 
The Race to Build the World's Most Legendary Watch
Author: Stacy Perman
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: February 19, 2013
This is the story of the "most complicated watch ever built" (or at least it was in its time), a legendary watch that has in its history fierce rivalries amongst watchmakers and collectors, a decades long disappearance, and a 1999 sale at Sotheby's in the vicinity of $11 million. Think the story of the history of a watch would be boring? Well...maybe a little, yes.

I had high hopes that this would be one of those "surprisingly fascinating" books about something I didn't know I cared about until I read all about it. And I have no doubt that for the author that was certainly the case. It's impeccably researched and well presented. You can tell that Stacy Perman really did find the subject fascinating and she studied it extensively. I just couldn't quite get there myself.

It was sort of like the opposite of The Lady and Her Monsters, a book I found fascinating in subject matter but sadly lacking in research quality. In A Grand Complication, I never doubted the author's facts, I just couldn't get myself to care about them as much as she did.

That's not to say there aren't interesting points in the book, especially when famous figures pop up like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, all blustery and contentious. I was actually more interested in the stories around the main story.

The Looneyspoons Collection, by Janet Podleski, Greta Podleski

The Looneyspoons Collection
Authors: Janet Podleski, Greta Podleski
Illustrator: Ted Martin, Pierre Loranger
Editor: Fina Scroppo
Publisher: Hay House 
Publication Date: November 12, 2012

I think there are essentially two kinds of cookbooks: reference and browsing. The reference cookbooks are the ones in which the recipes themselves are front and centre, with practical, no-nonsense information accompanying--but never overshadowing--each one. Photos are optional and, if included, are always of the completed recipe itself (usually right next to the recipe). 

Fie Fie Faux Fried Chicken
Browsing cookbooks, on the other hand, are the kind you can read for pleasure, even if you're not getting ready to cook anything. You can leave them out on your coffee table for guest perusal. They have glossy pictures, sometimes of things completely unrelated to the recipe at hand (an elaborate table setting, a closeup of a cow, a fabulous ribbon on an mysterious present). They have information extraneous to the recipes, often told in quirky, funny ways. They may not be the easiest books to keep open on a crowded countertop while cooking, but who cares? These books are delightful and FULL of whimsy.

A Wok in the Pork

The Looneyspoons Collection is definitely in the latter category. It has everything. Gorgeous photos! Colourful cartoons! Candid shots of the authors at parties! Random food-related jokes! Nutrition facts sprinkled throughout! And recipes with amusing names like "Name That Tuna Salad" and "A Wok in the Pork." This book is a delight.

Apparently the Looneyspoons books were originally backed and published by the newest dragon on CBC's Dragons' Den, David Chilton. He even writes about them in his bio for the show. I love a Canadian success story (and if I watched more TV I would probably have known that the Podleski sisters have their own show on Canada's Food Network).

Pie Caramba!

There are tonnes of interesting recipes in this collection and I can't wait to try some of them. I am a little worried that I will get distracted by all the other cute stuff in the books (I wasn't kidding about the jokes and cartoons!). My three-year-old daughter Magda, however, has laser precision when it comes to examining a new cookbook. This was her reaction:

Magda: Oh Mommy you got a new cookbook! Oooh, does it have food in it?
Me: Yes, I think so--
Magda (literally half a second later): Oh! I found some cookie recipes! Should we make them? 

That kid can find a cookie recipe in a new cookbook so fast it should be her JOB.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

So Cool Sunday: Coffee Table Dollhouse

I saw this and I immediately fell in love with it. QUBIS HAUS is a coffee table that easily transforms into a dollhouse with the addition of sliding panels of wood and perspex, plus a few simple pieces of furniture and some imagination. It's meant to be a functional coffee table, but I bet it could also double as a small bookshelf (which is of course what made me love it).

Hit the jump for a shot of the dollhouse in action.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What the hell?

Notice anything? The image on the left is the cover of the audiobook edition of What the Nanny Saw, by Fiona Neill, produced by Tantor Media and published on August 2, 2012. The image on the right is the cover of the book A Modern Day Persuasion, by Kaitlin Saunders, published by BookSurge Publishing on March 23, 2011. IT'S THE EXACT SAME COVER!!

So let's just assume that the image is in the public domain or on one of those stock photo sites and no copyright has actually been violated here, it still seems PRETTY FREAKING LAZY. Step it up, publishers! 

Plus, and I hate to admit this, I pretty much chose What the Nanny Saw based on the strength of the cover (it didn't live up) so I find it all the more irritating. There already seems to be enough Nearly-Identical-Cover-Syndrome going on in book publishing, but couldn't they have changed a little more than just the wallpaper in the background? 



What the Nanny Saw, by Fiona Neill

Friday, February 15, 2013

Muddled-up Farm, by Mike Dumbleton (illustrated by Jobi Murphy)

Muddled-Up Farm
Author: Mike Dumbleton 
Illustrator: Jobi Murphy 
Publisher: Star Bright Books 
Publication Date: March 15, 2013 
(First published by Random House Australia, 2001) 

 "On a hill far away with its own special charm is a wonderful place called Muddled-Up Farm."

The cat says "moo," the goat says "woof" and the farm inspector has had enough! He is determined to make sure all of the animals sound as they should, but after making them practice...uh, it doesn't look like he could. All right, that's enough rhyming.

This brightly illustrated silly farm book was a big hit with my three-year-old, although she did say she considered it a "sad book" because "the animals still didn't know how to talk like they were supposed to." I'm not sure I agree that it's a "sad" book (perhaps Magda is a tad dramatic, as many three-year-olds are) but I did agree that it could have used a more satisfactory ending. Not to ruin the ending of this preschool picture book, but the animals neither learned to talk as they should by the end, nor did they proudly proclaim their "muddled-up pride" or whatever. But I digress.

Not sure if you want to add yet ANOTHER farm book to your toddler's collection? I hear ya. But this one's bold illustrations in secondary and tertiary colours, plus its mixed up silliness, are enough to make it a strong contender for shelf space in your little one's library.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day! Enjoy a sexy short story: The Witch Sisters, by Alma Katsu

The Witch Sisters

(short story)

Author: Alma Katsu

Publisher: Melancholy Press
Publication Date: January 13, 2013
I love these digital short stories that accompany the Taker series! They're like little amuse-bouches that get you excited for the meal--or in this case, the next book. This one follows Adair through a rare moment of vulnerability and submission when he comes upon two mysterious sisters while travelling in the woods. He becomes their guest, their lover and even their prisoner. Unlike The Marriage Price, The Witch Sisters does hold up as a stand-alone story for people who have not read the books in the Taker series. Adair is not as evil or frightening in this story as he is in the books, which makes the sexy parts of the story much more enjoyable. I'm not sure exactly how this fits into the series as a whole, but I'm hoping we haven't seen the last of the mysterious sisters in the woods.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Marriage Price (short story), by Alma Katsu

The Marriage Price 
(short story)
Author: Alma Katsu
Publisher: Melancholy Press
Publication Date: July 18, 2012
Fans of the Taker series by Alma Katsu (The Taker, The Reckoning) she has a number of digital short stories/e-novellas available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble and iTunes! Yay! The Marriage Price is a glimpse at Jonathan's life just before his marriage to fourteen-year-old Evangeline. We'd met her before in The Taker and had seen her referenced in The Reckoning, but this is the first time we see things from her perspective, however briefly. It's hard not to sympathize with the young bride. She's very young to be married, even in 1818, and her husband-to-be is already proving to be demanding and faithless. But ultimately, as is the theme throughout the Taker series, it is Jonathan's sexuality which both overwhelms her and captivates her--or should I say, captures her.

I really liked this story. It was nice to see Evangeline's perspective. Although our heroine, Lanore, thinks of her as competition, this is not Lanore's story. But I don't think it works as a stand alone story so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who has not read at least one of the books already. It's just too short to provide the whole story to someone not familiar with the characters. But for people who have read the books, it's a delightful addition--kind of like a deleted scene on a DVD. Bonus!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
Author: Mohsin Hamid
Publisher: Riverhead (Penguin)
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is the novel I wish I had written. It's clever, it's poetic, it's memorable and--at the risk of overstating--it has weight, importance. It's a novel that seeped into my skin as soon as I started reading it and won't leave soon.

If it sounds like a self-help book, that's because it's meant to. Told like a series of self-help tips about how to become rich in Asia, it shows the stark contrast between the characters' aspirations and their impoverished reality. Think Slumdog Millionaire meets The Kite Runner. Plus, it's told in the notoriously tricky to pull off second-person. Any writer considering writing a novel in the second person should read this book first to see how to do it well.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The List, by Karin Tanabe

The List
Author: Karin Tanabe
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: February 15, 2013
The List is the story of twenty-something Adrienne Brown, ambitious journalist who leaves her New York job at Town & Country to move to DC and write for the notoriously stressful political rag, The Capitolist (or "the List" for short). The newspaper is apparently a fictionalized version of Politico, where author Karin Tanabe used to work. If that's true, I would hate to work there! She describes days that begin before dawn and run well into the night, a staff turnover so high that farewell parties (complete with "awkward cake") are nearly a weekly occurrence and a staff so overworked that their Blackberries are programmed to never shut off. 

But despite this fast-paced professional environment, Adrienne Brown comes across as a bit of a twit, an immature ninny more concerned with her wardrobe than her intelligence. She writes ten articles a day for a political newspaper but she can't figure out the plural of "moose." Okay, so she writes mostly celebrity gossip articles, but then she doesn't know who Ai Weiwei is. Her narrator voice irritated me in the same way that Ally McBeal irritated me in the '90's. It's one thing to admit to one's foibles and human failings. It's quite another to create a female character who seems hopelessly under qualified for nearly every aspect of her life, including her job. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

So Cool Sunday: Free book exchange in Montreal

In December 2012, Montreal started installing these book exchange boxes, called Livre-service. According to the city's website:
"Inspired by similar projects in major cities around the world, Livre-service is a free resident-to-resident book exchange that will soon be available in the borough. The idea is simple: people leave a book they liked in a “book box” and take one out. They are free to decide whether to return the book taken. There is no charge, no registration and no obligation."
There are Livre-service boxes in at least eight locations around the city so far, including the one in the above picture near the Côte-des-Neiges metro station. How cool!

You can read more about it on the City of Montreal's website:


Improbables Librairies/Improbables Bibliotheques on Facebook

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Lawrence Hill is coming to Halifax!!

If you'll be in the Halifax on March 5, 2013, head down to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 to see Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes (published as Someone Knows My Name in the U.S.). He'll be reading from his 2001 memoir, Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada, as well as signing books and speaking on the topic of identity. People are encouraged to read Hill's memoir and ask questions.

Here's the event listing from The Halifax Reader:

Lawrence Hill is Coming to Town!

Lawrence Hill is a major literary superstar in Canada. And he is coming to town soon.

© Dawit L. Petros and 
Dr Kenneth Montague

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is hosting a great exhibition, Position As Desired / Exploring African Canadian Identity: Photographs from the Wedge Collection, from January 22nd to March 30th . This award winning exhibition on African Canadian identity was first exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum in 2010. Now it is our turn.

As part of this exciting exhibit, The Museum is also planning a community reading event with Lawrence Hilland his 2001 book, Black Berry, Sweet Juice: growing up Black and White in Canada(M) Readers are encouraged to read the book and to come and meet and listen to Lawrence Hill at Pier 21. Or come and meet the author, pick up a signed copy and then read the book. Either way is good.

Space is limited and Lawrence Hill is a huge draw, so I encourage you to book your spot now. Contact information is listed below.

Read As Desired 
Tuesday, March 5 ǀ 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Take part in a community reading event in partnership with Halifax Public Libraries. This winter, all Canadians are invited to readLawrence Hill’s memoir Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada. Join us at the Museum for an afternoon author reading and book signing and hear from Lawrence Hill on the topic of identity. Light refreshments will be served. All are welcome but space is limited. Please register with Matthew Ritchie at by February 28, 2013. 

Black Berry, Sweet Juice and other Lawrence Hill titles are available for sale at the Pier 21 Gift Shop.

Friday, February 8, 2013

UPDATE: Grant, Savior of a Nation or Subject of Plagiarism?

A few months ago, I wrote this review for a book I got for free from Booksneeze. It's published by Thomas Nelson and it's part of the The Generals series edited by Stephen Mansfield. The author is listed as Mitchell Yockelson, who is--according to his website bio--a professor of military history and an archivist who works as a U.S. investigator into stolen documents. There's an irony in that, and here's why.

It has come to my attention that many long passages throughout Yockelson's book have been previously published. By other people. In various articles about Ulysses S. Grant published by history journals and readily available on the internet. Articles that predate this book. And again, that were written by other people.

I first became aware of this when I read this blog post by fellow book blogger Stewatry. She outlines in detail many of the passages that she searched and found verbatim in other articles. Articles that were not credited in Yockelson's book (even I noticed the shoddy footnoting when I originally reviewed it). Stewatry is very careful not to specifically mention which book she's describing, and she doesn't mention Yockelson by name as a plagiarist. She was concerned she would be accused of libel even though she was very careful to back up her claims with a whole heaping pile of research. But I was able to figure it out because I have the same book and I could easily check the passages she was referencing, as well as her claims of copying. It's this book and she's absolutely right.

When book blogger Stewatry discovered how much of this book had been copied verbatim from other sources (or nearly verbatim; in many cases Yockelson had changed some words to make the sentence less complicated, which often resulted in his sentence making less sense), she contacted Booksneeze, the publisher, some of the authors of the original articles, and Amazon. Everyone seemed very eager to address her concerns in ways that amounted to absolutely nothing. 

I feel just sick about this. I'm not even sure what I should do next. Can I even trust any of the books by this publisher? Should I delete or update all of my reviews of this book? I generally copy my reviews on to a number of sites, such as Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and more. I don't want to recommend a book that may have been (but probably was) plagiarized from uncredited sources?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Particular Eye for Villainy (An Inspector Ben Ross Mystery), by Ann Granger

A Particular Eye for Villainy

An Inspector Ben Ross Mystery
Author: Ann Granger
Publisher: Headline Book Publishing
Publication Date: June 7, 2012
I love this series so much! It's one of the main reasons I'm such a big fan of the Victorian London detective mystery. A lot of people would say Sherlock Holmes is the defining character of that genre, but for me it's Lizzie Martin (now Ross) and her husband, Inspector Ben Ross. Ann Granger's attention to detail is thrilling. I can almost smell the horses from the hansom cabs and growlers!

In the fourth book in the series, Lizzie Martin--and her kitchen maid Bessie--discover that kindly Mr. Tapley has been murdered. But who would want him dead? And how did the killer sneak past his religious landlady and her sharp eyed maid? And more importantly, who will solve the crime first: Lizzie or her husband, Police Inspector Ben Ross?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

City of Man's Desire: A Novel of Constantinople, by Cornelia Golna

City of Man's Desire:
A Novel of Constantinople
Author: Cornelia Golna
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing
Publication Date: January 13, 2006

I admit I was intimidated by the size of this novel. I know that's strange, considering I'm a fast reader and I read a LOT, but this book just sat on my shelf--in all its 400+ page glory--for months and months before I finally read it.

Once I did, I was a little annoyed with myself for having waited so long (not the first time I've had to say that about a book!) because it was really good, and not a difficult read. Well, strictly speaking, it's not an "easy" read, but it was enjoyable and the characters captivated me right away so I didn't have trouble getting into it (once I finally opened it!).

It's also fascinating to read about the major changes that took place at the beginning of the twentieth century in Turkey. It was such a time of tremendous change all over the world, so I felt like I was getting a different perspective on the time period, not knowing much about Turkish history before. I was almost picturing the girls from Downton Abbey, except in Istanbul!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Don't Stop Believin': Pop Culture and Religion from Ben-Hur to Zombies, by Robert K. Johnston, Craig Detweiler, Barry Taylor (eds.)

Don't Stop Believin'
Pop Culture and Religion from Ben-Hur to Zombies
Editors: Robert K. Johnston, Craig Detweiler, Barry Taylor
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Publication Date: October 13, 2012
I'm not sure I quite get the point of this book. I was expecting a little insight into the ways religious images are used (or interpreted) in various ways in popular culture, like how The Simpsons is one of the few TV families that regularly goes to church or how many of Leonard Cohen's songs reference the Torah. But there was only a little bit of that. Mostly it seemed like a group of people from Fuller School of Theology and other religious colleges were simply asked to write a brief article about their favourite movies, actors or pop stars. Occasionally the connections were made to religion. But many times the connection seemed to extend no further than "I'm a fan of this person and I'm a Christian. Therefore this person is pertinent to Christianity." Micky Mantle and Marilyn Monroe are gushed over for being "idols" of the 1950's, but the religiosity of that "idolatry" isn't very well articulated. Miles Davis is praised for his "cool jazz" while the author laments that Christianity can't be more "cool."