Thursday, December 27, 2007

We're chuffed. . .

. . . to get a recommendation from the School Library Journal's blog where they call us "a blog to definitely watch". While we unfortunately - being Canadian reps - rarely get to any of the U.S. library shows, we certainly represent a number of US publishers and have a lot of American readers, (hello to all those librarians from Ohio!). Most of the books we talk about are available in the US, though sometimes from different publishers; we hope we can introduce American and International readers to some of our great Canadian writers. Isn't the internet grand? We'll soon be posting our Dewey Picks for our favourite spring books so stay tuned.

And if you are attending the Ontario Library Association's Super Conference at the end of January, the Dewey Divas will be doing two separate sessions, talking about the upcoming books of the Spring season, one focused on adult books (session #311 at 9:05, Thursday, 31st) and one on children's books (session #1028, at 9:05 Friday, Feb. 1st). We'll also be in our respective publishers' booths during the Book Fair, so do stop by and say hello.

Favourite Reads of 2007 - Library Wholesaler Picks

And finally, just squeaking in before the end of the year, are some favourite reads from United Library Services, a library wholesaler located in Calgary. We have recommendations from Robin Hoogwerf, the general manager, and from their Manitoba and Saskatchewan rep, David Larsen.

Robin's favourite reads:
Consumption by Kevin Patterson
Dream Wheels
by Richard Wagamese - It seemed to fade away but was my favorite fiction from last year
Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton, and Emily Brontë by Maureen Adams - I learned so much about this group of writers!
Jon Katz - any book from Jon Katz! For some reason his tone and pacing is like sipping Bailey's. Smooth and warm.

David's List (with help from his daughter Piper):
Crazy Man by Pamela Porter
Parvana's Journey by Deborah Ellis
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat
by Chris Riddell
Keeper by Mal Peet
Heavy Water and Other Stories by Martin Amis
Yellow Dog by Martin Amis
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Storming The Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics by Rebecca Solnit
Some of the Dharma by Jack Kerouac
Zen Is Right Here by Shunryu Suzuki

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Recommendations 2007

My fellow sales reps and I were sitting together the other day and we were volunteering our favourite books of the year. There were the usual suspects but there were surprises (not to mention the wealth of titles cited below!), which means my personal reading pile has just suddenly risen exponentially…

A few of my personal favourites for 2007 must begin with Don DeLillo’s Falling Man. In my opinion, except for one misstep (The Body Artist), DeLillo has been a go-to author for me over the years. I was riveted and humoured by the train wreck that was Cosmopolis. I was immersed in the epic journey that was Underworld and I was horrified and saddened by the catastrophe that was Falling Man. For me, the strength of Don DeLillo is his singular mastery of the written word. His characters and plots do not always resonate for me but his writing definitely does.

Another favourite of mine was Patricia McLaughlin’s Edwards Eyes. A small (in size only) masterpiece, this triumph of spare, poetic prose is neither maudlin nor simple. There are many wonderful, memorable characters, an individual setting and a plot that, while fairly predictable, gracefully meanders to its conclusion allowing us along for the ride. I love this book.

A fiction title that was initially a dark horse for me was Linda Barry’s Later, At the Bar. It is a series of interconnected short stories that focus on each regular customer of this local bar in a small town in upper state New York. The book begins with story of the old woman who owns the bar and the circumstances by which she comes to own the establishment. The second story follows a man who is a regular at the bar and a good friend of the old woman (he is introduced at the end of the first story). The book connects all of the regulars together in a network of shared experiences but also uncovers the reasons why each person is there in the first place. This is an unassuming book that vibrates with the energy of life and the power of remembrance.

A nonfiction book that I read this year which actually was published in 2006 is Patrick Hanlon’s Primalbranding: Create Zealots For Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future. It could be considered a business book but I would prefer to characterize this book as a primer of contemporary society. Patrick Hanlon is the founder and CEO of Thinktopia, a marketing firm that is responsible for many prominent advertising campaigns. Hanlon outlines the seven criteria to which every successful company or individual should understand in order to “create zealots for your brand”. How come people can recognize a Starbucks coffee cup from across a busy street? Who doesn’t know what that little swish on Tiger Woods golf cap stands for? Why does Tom Cruise’s image elicit a different reaction now than it did five years ago? Hanlon tells the reader what every successful person or company knows (sometimes only intuitively). I think anyone could read this fascinating book and learn something useful about how the world around us ticks.

And, finally, my pick of children’s picture book is the release in paperback of a book originally published by Picture Book Studios in 1990 (but out of print for several years) – Santa’s Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki and illustrated by Ivan Gantchev. This wonderful story weaves together the Santa story and the Nativity story. Santa goes for a walk in the woods, decides he’s not going to go out Christmas Eve because he’s tired and all the forest animals are horrified. There won’t be a Christmas if you don’t go out, Santa, they say. Santa tells them he isn’t the reason there’s a Christmas every year. He proceeds to tell the animals his favourite story – the Nativity story. The story changes everyone’s mind, even Santa’s. I’ve read it to my daughter every year for five years. It’s a tradition in our household now.

Stories for the Snowbound. . .

No doubt due to the huge snowstorm we got in Toronto last Sunday, I've felt the sudden urge to immerse myself in fictional snow-bound worlds. These two gems made a lovely pairing, not just for the setting they shared - northern Norway - but for a similarity in theme; the irresistible pull of the landscape in confronting and finally dealing with the past. Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, translated by Anne Born, won the IMPAC award and has received wonderful reviews, landing on a number of "best books of 2007" lists. It really deserves all the accolades - the writing is just exquisite and the story is very touching. Trond is a 67 year old man who has always considered himself lucky but who has now decided to spend the rest of his life living alone in a cabin in the woods. He has a strange and silent neighbour named Lars, a man he hasn't seen for decades. The story moves between Trond's acceptance of his new life and his memories of the summer he was fifteen and also staying in a cabin with his father. A tragic accident that befalls Lars's family has longterm effects for Trond as well, precipitating an important decision by his father who he will never see again after that summer. One piece of advice his father passes on to him is, "you decide for yourself when it will hurt" and that fairly sums up the theme of this novel; subconsciously or not, we pick and choose events from our past and either brood or discard. But the really deep pain doesn't go away until it's confronted.

In Peter Stamm's Unformed Landscape, translated by Michael Hofmann, Kathrine is a young woman who has never been south of the Arctic Circle. She works as a customs officer checking Russian trawlers and has drifted into two bad marriages. When she discovers that her husband has habitually lied to her about his life, she leaves her small town and travels to France in search of a man she's only casually met and communicated with by e-mail. Eventually, however, she needs to return home to confront her husband and make changes to her life. What I loved about these two books was the infusion of the landscape - as bleak as it is - into the story. The play of stark light and the long hours of darkness. The quiet whiteness of the snow that can be both physically dangerous but also emotionally empowering in its freedom of possibilities. Both novels are also infused with a curiosity and fear of lives lived in other places. The river that runs beside Trond's childhood cabin also meanders into Sweden, the country in the background of his father's wartime activities and indeed the site of one of the last key episodes of the book. Kathrine visits a number of great European cities - Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm - but when she goes to an internet cafe, it's to look up her village's website, where a webcam is constantly set up on the town square, even though there's nothing new to see. These two novels challenge the claims that one must travel to "find oneself", arguing instead that the familiar landscapes of home and childhood are where one grapples with one's own interior truths. Beautiful, introspective works.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nestle Children's Book Prize Winners Announced

The winners of the 2007 Nestle Children's Book Prize were recently announced and I'm happy to say that three of my favourite books from this year were on the list of winners!

When A Monster is Born by Sean Taylor and Nick Sharratt (published by Roaring Brook in North America) won the Gold Medal in the 'Age 5 and Below' category.
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell (Macmillan Children’s Books) won the Gold Medal in the 'Books for 6 to 8 year olds' category. Ottoline fans will be very happy to hear that the much anticipated second book in the series 'Ottoline Goes to School' is coming out March 2008.

Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett (Macmillan Children’s Books) was awarded the Bronze Medal in the 'Books for 6 to 8 Year Olds' category.
If you would like to see the complete list of winners, click on the Nestle Children's Book Prize link above.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Gift Ideas - People and Places

The holidays are all about visiting people and places and if you can't do that in person, here are some more reading (or gift) ideas - our Dewey picks for some great biographies/memoirs and travel books.


For the lover of biographies/memoirs:
Spymistress: The Secret Life of Vera Atkins by William Stevenson
A fascinating biography of Vera Atkins, a woman born to privilege, who risked much to become a spy for Great Britain during the height of World War II.
Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup
After the tragic death of her husband, a Maine state trooper, Kate Braestrup decided to continue her husband’s dream of becoming a minister. This is her memoir of her journey from grief to happiness, of finding her faith and her calling working as the chaplain for the Maine State Warden Service and their search and rescue missions. There are tear-jerking passages as Kate comforts family waiting to hear of the fate of loved ones, thoughtful meditations on faith, and a great deal of humour.
Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, And Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert Mild-mannered assistant librarian tells all in a shocking new book! Free For All is a lively and uncensored look at what it’s like to work in a public library, from hiring policies to the collection of often humorous, often intelligent, and sometimes kooky people who work there. And then there are the patrons… A book that will amuse and entertain librarians and library patrons everywhere!

And for the traveller:
Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff by Rosemary Mahoney
Intrepid solo adventurer Rosemary Mahoney decides to row down the Nile in a skiff. Written in a highly readable, conversational style, the reader receives a lesson in history, culture and literature (Mahoney includes the writings of Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert, who made the same trip in Edwardian times).

For the lover of biographies:
Evergreen Country: A Memoir of Vietnam by Thuong Vuong-Riddick
A Chinese family's struggle to overcome difficulties during the rise of the Viet Cong in Northern Vietnam and their eventual journey to Southern Vietnam where war would soon follow them.
High Hat, Trumpet, and Rhythm: The Life and Music of Valaida Snow, by Mark Miller
Singer, trumpeter, and dancer. Child star, jazz pioneer, and world traveller. Legend and myth. If Valaida Snow's life wasn't already sensational enough, she sensationalized it further, freely evading and embellishing the truth.
A Long Labour: A Dutch Mother's Holocaust Memoir, by Rhodea Shandler
After giving birth while in hiding, Rhodea Shandler has the difficult task of caring for a child in the midst of continuing Gestapo raids.
and for the traveller:
Paddling South: Winnipeg to New Orleans by Canoe, by Rick Ranson
Ranson writes about ducking bullets in St. Louis, avoiding a whirlpool, working on a Mississippi towboat, and spending a few nights in a Fargo City jail, all while meeting an eclectic array of
unforgettable characters.
Forgotten Highways: Wilderness Journeys Down the Historical Trails of the Canadian Rockies by Nicky L. Brink and Stephen R. Brown
A personal account of the authors' travels, mingled with the tales of the historic pathfinders who preceded them.

Some fascinating biographies:
Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke
I love her photography and greatly admire her work as a war journalist during WWII. The life is no less interesting; Paris and New York in 1920s and 30s, fabulous parties and love affairs and then covering the Blitz in London and the death camps at Dachau.
Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton by Sara Wheeler
We've all seen the movie, Out of Africa. Now Wheeler has brought us Denys' story - his love affair with Africa as well as Karen Blixen and Beryl Markham. One also gets a very interesting glimpse of how WWI was fought on this continent with rhinos and lions replacing mud and trenches.
This has received such glowing reviews and I love this period of art, so I'll definately be dipping into this over the holidays.

and for the traveller:
Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski
In his last book, famed journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski writes about his early travels around the world, accompanied by his volume of Herodotus who he calls the father of globalization.
Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips by National Geographic. A big, luscious book to dream and plan with.
International Fiction: Want a great gift idea for a friend planning a trip in 2008? Buy them a couple of novels from the foreign country they are visiting - there's no better way to get a cultural head-start.


For the Biography Lover:
A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
Abigail’s husband suffered severe brain trauma after chasing his dog into the street in New York and being hit by a car. As a result of this accident, life as Abigail and Rich knew it, was changed forever. This is an honest account of life after a tragedy and comfort taken in the form of three furry friends. It’s a beautiful memoir.
Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julie Fox
Jane Boleyn was a lady-in-waiting to not just one, but five of Henry’s wives. As Henry’s wives rose and then fell, taking so many down with them, Jane stayed on. Jane was married to George Boleyn, Anne’s brother. This book reads very much like a piece of well-written historical fiction. As a student of the Tudors, Julia Fox adds all the important details that give the reader insight into the glamour and violence that was the court of the notorious Henry VIII. I snuck this book into this list although it will not be available until January, 2008. I like it so much I just couldn’t wait.

Saffron's picks:
Red Princess by Sofka Zinovieff
The Africa Book from Lonely Planet

Friday, December 14, 2007

Moomins and Madding Crowds

I've not been a huge fan of graphic novels in the past, but maybe I'm starting to crack, having enjoyed these two books enormously. I've only just discovered Tove Jansson's Moomin comic strip series from the 1950s, which Drawn & Quarterly are reprinting (there are two volumes available now and you can see some examples on their website). How to describe the Moomins? They are whimsical, slightly surreal, utterly charming characters who stumble from one adventure to another seemingly unfazed. There's a naive innocence to Moomin himself, but he's surrounded by odd sidekicks - sometimes sinister and sometimes just delightfully grumpy - but always inexplicably along for the ride. One of the most original comics I've ever read and certainly one of the funniest! There's a scene in one of them where Moomin has been trailed by this tiny little character (I like to think of him as a stoat but who knows what he is?) who pops up in the corners and when finally confronted by Moomin admits to being his shadow. He's then so delighted to be finally noticed and acknowledged. It completely cracked me up. Or watching Moomin's sweetheart trying to put on lipstick when her biggest problem is that she doesn't have a mouth. Oh, I can't really do justice to how strange, clever, funny and life-affirming these stories are - you just have to read them. They are totally suitable for kids; my colleague bought a copy of Volume One for her 11 year old son and he loved it.
Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds is something completely different. It's a contemporary retelling of Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. Our modern Bathsheba is a London columnist who has recently had a nose-job and inherited a country house not too far away from a writer's retreat. Her suitors are Ben, the former member of a famous rock band, Nick, a successful but arrogant, married writer and Andy, her humble gardener whose family used to own her house. The narration is very clever, using outside characters - a fellow writer at the retreat, Nick's long-suffering wife and two bored and star-struck teenage girls - to relate the story, which is peppered with literary jokes, e-mails gone astray, and bits of newspaper reports and columns. There is a bit of graphic (as in drawn, not explicit) sex, but teenagers would certainly empathize with the story of the two teenagers so desperate to find a bit of excitement in their sleepy town.

Favourite Reads of 2007 - Library Wholesaler Picks

Some favourite reads of the year from Library Services Centre, a library wholesaler in Kitchener, Ontario.

Christine Derstine - Library Services Centre

Adult Books:

28:Stories of Aids in Africa by Stephanie Nolen
Thames : Sacred River
by Peter Ackroyd.
The 100 Mile Diet
by Alisa Smith & J.B. MacKinnon
The Silence of the Songbirds
by Bridget Stutchbury
by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Long Way Gone
by Ishmael Beah
Book of Negroes
by Lawrence Hill
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
by Alexander McCall Smith
Dead Cold
by Louise Penny
Suite Française
by Irène Némirovsky

Juvenile & Teen

His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
Better than Blonde by Teresa Toten
Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
What’s Up Duck: a Book of Opposites
by Tad Hills
Blue Goose
by Nancy Tafuri
Bon Jour Butterfly (Fancy Nancy)
by Jane O’Conner
Here a Face, There a Face
by Arlene Alda
The Blame Graphic Novel Series

Christine Derstine is the Sales and Marketing Representative for Library Services Centre

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Favourite Reads of 2007 - The Librarian's Picks Part 4

Another fun list from another librarian and avid reader, this time from Oakville Public Library.

Diane Crew - Oakville Public Library

Some books I've loved in 2007:

A Question of Attraction by David Nicholls (Title: Starter for Ten in Britain where it was first published)
A hilarious and heartbreakingly “true” coming of age novel which will make you so very glad you will never have to go through being an eighteen year old university student again! It is laugh-out-loud funny, even as you wince in recognition, watching young Brian Jackson as he embarks on the study of literature at university, and on establishing himself as a man of erudition, wit and discerning taste. His attempts begin with competing for a place on the University Challenge quiz team, where he tries to rise above class disadvantages and his bad skin condition to win the fair Alice. Of course, it’s all a disaster, but Nicholls has a spot-on ear for dialogue and he draws his characters with real affection, which holds our sympathy even while we have to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Just In Case by Meg Rosoff
Following her amazing How I Live Now, here is another not-to-be-missed young adult crossover novel from an author whose books just keep getting better all the time. David Case is persuaded by a near-disastrous experience babysitting his little brother that Fate is out to get him. So he changes his name to Justin and then proceeds to change everything else he can, including the way he dresses and lives, to try to hide from Fate and to escape his destiny. This is a truly remarkable book that with economy and a light touch looks at the big issues - chance and destiny, death and the meaning of life itself.

Sovereign by C. J. Sansom
This is the third (and latest) offering in C.J. Sansom’s series of Tudor mysteries featuring hunchback lawyer, Matthew Shardlake. If you enjoy a mystery underpinned by fascinating, well-researched history then you’ll love this series. The novel’s setting is the Royal Progress which Henry VIII undertook in 1541 to try to rebuild his popularity in the North of England. The king and his entourage reach the City of York at the same time as Shardlake who, with his assistant Jack Barak, is on a mission to pick up a prisoner charged with treason. They are plunged into the heart of uncovering a conspiracy intent on proving the illegitimacy of Henry’s claim to the throne, and the pace never lets up. Sansom is so good at bringing to life the discomfort, dirt and smells as well as the cruelty and the sheer danger of life in Henry’s paranoid England. The mystery is cleverly plotted, the history is authentic and the writing is wonderful – this is the best yet in a first-rate series.

The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber
Seventeenth century ciphered letters are found in a rare book which point to the existence of a hitherto unknown Shakespeare play. Skulduggery abounds as international criminal gangs compete with our heroes in the race to lay hands on this treasure. But is it genuine or yet another forgery? This is an intelligent and literate thriller that engages our interest and our sympathies for the main characters whilst it draws us right into the heart of the gripping and enthralling story. Dan Brown only wishes he could write something this good!

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
Despite some flaws – it’s a tad too long, and the writing can become a bit flowery at times – this wow of a first novel is an exhilarating experience, offering us an extended literary joke and a murder mystery, all wrapped up in a coming of age story, and all very clever! Blue Van Meer and her father, a university professor, settle in Stockton NC just long enough for her to complete her final year of high school. There she is picked up by an in-group of students who call themselves the Bluebloods, and her whole life changes. The book is constructed like an English course syllabus, and peppered with clever footnotes and a breathtakingly esoteric range of allusion and reference, as we unpeel the layers to get to the truth concealed beneath. It’s quite unlike anything else I’ve read in a long while, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Diane Crew is the Adult Collection Development Assistant at Oakville Public Library.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The People on Privilege Hill

I'm starting to fall in love with collections of short stories again, especially when they are as good as Jane Gardam's The People on Privilege Hill. This is one of those little gems of a read that I always love to blog (and pester people) about. Her stories are concise and witty and completely to the point. I never feel there is a superfluous word in any of them nor am I ever hankering for more of a back story. If there's a theme to these, it's about growing older with all the regrets and foolishness, that comes with it. My favourite is a story called "Babette" about a forgotten novelist, a Times Literary Supplement reviewer and a bathtub. I can say no more but it just made me howl with laugher. As did "Snap" about a woman who breaks her ankle while cheating on her husband. For fans of Gardam's wonderful last novel, Old Filth, (one of my Dewey picks from a few seasons back), you'll be glad to encounter the main character again in the title short story which is also alluded to by the cover illustration. Oh, it's just a charming collection, beautifully packaged. It's going to be hard to find in any chain bookstore, but go into your local independent and ask them to special order it for you. Or your local library. I'm thrilled to notice that there are already lots of holds on it at the Toronto Public Library.

Gift Ideas - For History and Mystery Buffs

Some more gift ideas from the Deweys - today we pick our some of our favourite histories and mysteries.

For the History Buff

The Reckoning of Boston Jim by Claire Mulligan
Immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the Cariboo Gold Rush, these finely drawn, complex characters interact with historic people, places and events while struggling towards goals which, finally, are not about gold at all. This book was on the Giller longlist and a Quill and Quire Best Book of 2007. Historical fiction
Two Trails Narrow, by Stephen McGregor
Set against the residential school experience for Native children and the looming shadow of the Second World War, Two Trails Narrow recounts the pain of a young generation of Natives who were pulled into the vortex of forced battle at home and overseas. Historical fiction.

Childs searches for an answer to one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in history- what happened to the Anasazi people?
Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries That Ignited the Space Age by Matthew Brzezinski
A look at the early days of the space race.
Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Execution by Caroline Weber This book provides a fascinating look at the doomed royal, using the unique lens of her fashions- from her first appearance in court, right up to her appointment with the guillotine.

This is in many ways a tough book to read, but an important and mesmerizing one. What does one do when one's father is a complete monster? Callil knew personally the daughter of Louis Darquier, the Vichy Commissioner for Jewish Affairs who sent thousands of Jews to their death and it was her suicide that prompted Callil to investigate this family history.
Part travel memoir and part journalism, Mak recounts the key historical events of the twentieth century by travelling around Europe during 1999, visiting the places where events happened, talking to the survivors and describing the lasting effects on the cities and countries he visits.
The Age of Conversation by Benedetta Craveri
A fascinating look at French salon society - and the women who ruled there - between the reign of Louis XIII and the French Revolution.

Forge of Empires by Michael Knox Beran. This is a non-fiction version of War and Peace. A fabulous story of three great leaders - Lincoln, Bismarxk and Alexander II, who gave birth to three great empires.


Mapping a Continent: Historical Atlas of North America, 1492-1814 by Raymonde Litalien et al. Fabulous historical maps of Canada never published before.

For the Mystery Lover

The Humbugs Diet by Robert Majzels
A story that seeks to answer why old folks are falling out of windows at a retirement home.

For those who love a dark, twisted mystery: Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
Portland Detective Archie Sheridan was kidnapped and tortured by Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful serial killer whom he was tracking. Now Gretchen is locked away, while Archie is in a prison of another kind, addicted to painkillers, and powerless to erase Gretchen from his mind. When another killer begins snatching teenage girls, Archie volunteers to lead the investigation, shadowed by reporter Susan. They need to catch this killer before he strikes again, and maybe somehow Archie can free himself from Gretchen once and for all.
For those who love a great historical mystery: The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin
It is 1836. Europe is modernizing and the Ottoman Empire must follow suit. But just before the sultan announces sweeping changes, a wave of murders threatens the fragile balance of power in his court. Who is behind them? Only one intelligence agent can be trusted to find out. The first Investigator Yashim mystery. Winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel.
For cozy mystery readers: Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement
She’s left her job as a sheriff’s deputy and has set up a pet sitting business, but crime seems to follow Dixie Hemingway. While checking on her current client, an Abyssinian, she finds a dead man face down in the cat bowl. The owner is missing and Dixie can’t help but get involved. This book falls on the darker side of ‘cozy’- Dixie is dealing with the tragic loss of her husband and child- but her witty humour and insight into the pet sitting business makes this a great read.
Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson
On a cliff edge overlooking the North Sea, a quadriplegic woman in a wheelchair stares unseeingly at the waves. She had been murdered. And, miles away, in a storeroom in the Maze, a medieval warren of yards and alleys at the heart of Eastvale, Yorkshire, a young woman lies sprawled on a heap of leather scraps, also murdered. DCI Alan Banks and DI Annie Cabbot attempt to solve these crimes as a ghost from the past is back to haunt both them. DCI Banks is a super character. I care as much about what is going on in his life as I do about the mystery itself.
Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger
Ridley Jones saves a little child from being hit by a car and because of the publicity, someone slips a note under her door that says “I think you are my daughter”. This book is one of the most intense, addictive mysteries I have ever read. I really liked the character of Ridley Jones and fortunately she re-appeared in Sliver of Truth. Booklist calls this second book a sizzling sequel and I couldn’t agree more. Treat yourself.

This bestselling author from France is just terrific. In this latest Adamsberg mystery, he and his Paris team travel to Quebec to take a course on DNA testing. Adamsberg inevitably gets tied up in a murder, except he becomes the main suspect. How he manages to escape the Quebec police and the RCMP and all of airport security to get out of Canada so he can solve the crime is absolutely ingenious! For Reginald Hill fans in particular. Watch for her new one in January, This Night's Foul Work.
Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason
A skeleton is found on a construction site but it is several decades old. Detective Erlendur's team is skeptical that they can find out how it got there but secrets always come back to life. A mysterious green lady, a missing fiancee and a cryptic note written by a dying octogenarian all provide clues. For fans of Henning Mankell and Karin Fossum, Indridason is the new, great voice in Nordic Crime. This novel won the CWA Gold Dagger and caused some controversy when complaints poured in that too many works in translation were winning the award. Which is of course a complete load of poppycock.
For something a little more lighthearted - the myseries of Edmund Crispin are a lot of fun. Featuring eccentric Oxford don Gervase Fen, these always have lots of fun literary references sprinkled in. Try Holy Disorders, Love Lies Bleeding or his most famous The Moving Toyshop.

Gotta be Protect and Defend by Vince Flynn!! He is the king of high concept mystery and his key character Mitch Rapp is back. Reading Flynn is a wonderful experience, but listening to him on audio is exceptional!

The Law of Three: Sara Martin Mysteries by Caroline Pattison

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Best Books of 2007 - Dewey Picks Part 3

Two more Top Ten Lists from the Dewey reps for H.B. Fenn and Simon & Schuster Canada.

Rosalyn's List:

1. Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
As Lahring puts it ‘Into everyone’s life, a little fluff must fall’! This book made me laugh hysterically and was an action-packed romp from start to finish. Criminals have kidnapped Bobbie Faye’s good-for-nothing brother, and are demanding her Contraband Queen tiara (the only thing of her mama’s she has left) as ransom. With the clock ticking, Bobbie Faye has to outwit the police, organized crime, former boyfriends, and a hostage she never intended to take in order to rescue her brother, keep custody of her niece, and get back in time to take her place as Contraband Queen in the Lake Charles Contraband Festival parade.
3. The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
4. The Terror Dream by Susan Faludi
This examination of the cultural impact of 9/11 will both shock and educate the reader.
5. The Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems: Today I Will Fly! /My Friend is Sad! /I am Invited to a Party! /There is A Bird on Your Head
6. Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell
Little Mouse takes the reader through his many fears, from ‘whereamiophobia’ (fear of getting lost) to ‘Teratophobia’ (the fear of monsters). The book is a masterpiece of design, from it’s ‘mouse nibbled’ die-cuts to the fold out map of the (mouse-shaped) ‘Isle of Fright’ with labels such as ‘Wide Eye Lake’, ‘Mount Apprehension’, ‘Loose Bottom’ and the towns of ‘Balking’ and ‘Great Wimp’. This is a book that benefits from multiple readings- each time you’ll discover something new in the illustrations.
10. Black Book of Secrets by F. E. Higgins

Eleanor's List:
1.On Borrowed Wings by Chandra Prasad - A great read, reminiscent of the movie Yentl that Barbra Streisand starred in . Adele assumes the identity – and gender – of her deceased brother to gain entrance into Yale. Read and find out how this tale of deceit plays through.
This is part social history and part coming of age – totally intriguing , very well written and researched.
2. Ice Trap by Kitty Sewell
3.Wife in the Fast Lane by Karen Quinn
4. The Wilde Women by Paula Wall
5. Waiting to Surface by Emily Listfield
6. Billie Standish Was Here by Nancy Crocker
7. Lacemaker and the Princess by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley
8. The Miner's Daughter by Gretchen Moran Laskas
9. Indie Girl by Kavita Dawasni
10. When the Black Girl Sings by Bill Wright

Nonfiction pick:
To Cork or Not to Cork by George M Taber - Wonderful book for anyone who enjoys drinking wine or sharing unusual tidbits about wine over the dinner table. Taber traces the history and use of cork from Ancient China through to Middle Ages, Renaissance and into today and also discusses how cork has been challenged by screwtops, plastic, glass and even zork! There is also talk about memorable characters and pivotal moments in wine production, consumption , and storage. A great read for the inquisitive as well as the wine lover!

Font fun

I watched this terrific documentary last night (now available on DVD). Helvetica traces the design and cultural impact of this 1950s Swiss font, through a series of interviews with a number of graphic and type designers around the world. These people are absolutely obsessed by typeface and it makes for extraordinary viewing. I particularly loved the interviews with Erik Spiekermann, a self-confessed "typomaniac" whose passion for fonts was inspiring. One may never want to use "Arial" again after hearing what he has to say about its creation (make sure you check out the additional interviews in the "extras"). There's a nice mixture of designers who absolutely idolize Helvetica and others who swear they will never, ever use the font in their work. One even mischievously suggests it could be partly responsible for the Vietnam and Iraq wars. But these are the unsung people behind our urban, corporate and cultural landscapes and this film definately opens your eyes to the impact, beauty and power of typography.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Favourite Reads of 2007 - The Librarian's Picks Part 3

Continuing our series, today we have some great reading picks by librarians from Toronto and Kingston.

Valerie Casselman - Toronto Public Library

My titles are all literary fiction. Because I am a librarian, they are in alpha order by title:
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
by Gary Shteyngart
by Penelope Lively
Exit Ghost
by Philip Roth
The Lay of the Land
by Richard Ford
On Chesil Beach
by Ian McEwan
The Pesthouse
by Jim Crace
The Post-birthday World
by Lionel Shriver
The Song Before it is Sung by Justin Cartwright
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

Valerie Casselman is the Adult Materials Collections Librarian for the Toronto Public Library. Her proudest accomplishment is having raised two readers - twin boys who have both asked for "some serious fiction" for Christmas!

Bessie Sullivan - Kingston Frontenac Public Library
Like many librarians, I am an avid reader. It wasn’t until recently that I began to realize that there is some pattern to my reading. Also that some of my reading directly influences the next choice. The YA titles I chose are good examples of books that encourage young people to think individually and to be aware of, and involved in, social issues. The non-fiction title I chose appeals to my love of statistics and the ways in which they can be interpreted. The fiction titles represent an eclectic mix of Canadian mystery, fiction about other cultures, and women’s stories. I want to be entertained by what I read but sometimes I also want my thoughts provoked. The following are what stood out the most for me over the course of my reading in 2007.

YA Fiction

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
In his first novel for a younger audience, Carl Hiaasen plunges readers into the middle of an ecological mystery, made up of endangered miniature owls and the owls' unlikely allies--three middle-school kids determined to beat the screwed-up adult system. All of Hiaasen’s dark humour slightly sanitized for the young adult reader. This effort was followed by Flush in 2005.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
The story centres on a new tenth grade student at Mica Area High School in Arizona: Stargirl Caraway, an eccentric and compassionate non-conformist vegetarian who has spent her previous years in homeschooling. Eleventh-grader Leo Borlock narrates with equal amounts of grudging admiration for her eccentricity and the hope that Stargirl could somehow be more normal, and thus attract less ridicule. A sequel, Love, Stargirl, was released in August of this year.
Schooled by Gordon Korman
This book is about Capricorn Anderson, a home-schooled boy raised in isolation by his grandmother, an ex-hippie from the sixties. It's the story of what happens when he's suddenly thrust into a large middle school. An accident befalls his grandmother, Rain, and Cap is placed in the care of a social worker while his grandmother recuperates. Having never handled money or lived in a house with a telephone, Cap finds himself baffled by what the people around him take for normal.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
The book is a collection of economic articles written by Levitt, translated into prose meant for a wide audience. Levitt had already gained a reputation in academia for applying economic theory to diverse subjects not usually covered by "traditional" economists. This fascinating book connects economic statistics with social and cultural phenomenon.

Adult Fiction
Later at the Bar by Rebecca Barry
By telling the stories of regular patrons at Lucy’s Tavern, Rebecca Barry captures the idiosyncrasies of an upstate New York backwater where social life revolves around the happenings of the bar.

Brick Lane by Monica Ali
Nazneen is a Bangladeshi girl whose father arranges a marriage to Chanu, a Bengali immigrant living in England. Although Chanu—who is twice Nazneen's age--turns out to be a foolish blowhard, Nazneen accepts her fate, thereby applying the main life lesson taught by the women in her family. Over the next decade and a half Nazneen grows into a strong, confident woman who doesn't defy fate so much as bend it to her will.

Still Life by Louise Penny
The residents of a tiny Canadian village called Three Pines are shocked when the body of Miss Jane Neal is found in the woods. Miss Neal, the village's retired schoolteacher and a talented amateur artist, has been a good friend to most of the townsfolk, and so her loss is keenly felt. At first, her death appears to be a tragic accident, but the seemingly peaceful, friendly village hides dark secrets.

The Birth House by Ami McKay
Modernity meets tradition during World War I in the isolated coastal town of Scots Bay, Nova Scotia, where the men make their living building boats and fishing and the women tend to matters of the home, including birthing and raising children, feeding their families, and cultivating gardens and friendships. When Dr. Gilbert Thomas arrives, promising to bring safe and hygienic methods to childbirth, the local women are faced with the choice of turning to him or continuing to be cared for by the midwife and all she represents.

The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly
Karen Connelly’s first novel recreates the world of a Burmese prison, and of the country’s tumultuous years in the late 1980s, when millions of people rose up to protest against the brutality of their military government. This is a story of human resilience, love and humour in a world that celebrates the human spirit in the midst of injustice and violence.

By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt
Giles Blunt is Canada’s answer to Ian Rankin. This dark, gritty novel is the latest in a series featuring Detective John Cardinal. Here, he is on the hunt for an ingenious killer even as he mourns his own wife’s tragic death. In this thriller of heart-stopping suspense, Blunt makes Northern Ontario seem not so removed from big-city problems, after all.

Bessie Sullivan is the Branch Librarian for the Calvin Park, Kingscourt, and Pittsburgh branches of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library. Her eclectic reading habits are derived from having too many cats, kids, and parents. (Two, two, and two) Thankfully she has a supportive partner who understands that reading is ”professional development” and doesn’t get too concerned about the lack of cleaning that gets done at home.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Gift Ideas - for the Poetry Lover

In some ways, poetry can be the most intimate gift that one can give but also one of the most thoughtful and lasting; unlike some novels, a well-loved, humourous or provocative collection can be dipped into again and again and often becomes a companion for life. So stuff some stockings with these Dewey picks:

Susan's picks:

Found by Souvankham Thammavongsa
These spare poems were inspired by a scrapbook that the poet's father kept while he lived in a refugee camp in Thailand.
Sitcom by David McGimpsey
Mischievous, generous and side-splittingly funny, this collection of wry soliloquies and sonnets begins with a milestone birthday. One of the Q&Q's Best Books of 2007
All Our Wonder Unavenged by Don Domanski
A poet explores the implicit relationship between the matter and spirit and the interconnectedness of the universe. Winner of the Governor General's Award for Poetry, 2007.

Maylin's Picks:

The Door by Margaret Atwood
I love the bite Atwood delivers in her poetry and short stories; I think she's at her best in these two literary forms. This is her first collection of poetry in over a decade.
Conversation Pieces: Poems that Talk to Other Poems selected by Kurt Brown and Harold Schechter
Everyman's Library publishes The Pocket Poets series - lovely, tiny, little volumes perfect for slipping in a purse or pocket. This anthology is a lot of fun. The editors have paired poems that are direct, conscious responses to other, mostly famous poems. Some are parodies, others are worshipful tributes. And some are deliciously nasty. I particularly like Ezra Pound's "A Pact" which starts out with "I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman - /I have detested you long enough." This is followed by Charles Harper Webb's "Another Pact" that begins, "You've cowed me long enough, Ezra, with your red/ beard and fascist eyes./I don't need you to teach me How to Read./ Tom Sawyer did that years before I'd heard of you. "
The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems translated by Paul Schmidt
The Stray Dog Cabaret opened in St. Petersburg in 1912 and was a club where Russia's bohemian artists drank, talked, debated, played music and read their work on its open stage. This short anthology contains wonderful pieces by some of Russia's best known poets and writers, including Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, Marina Tsevetaeva, Boris Pasternak, and Alexander Blok.

Rosalyn's Pick:

Poet’s Corner: The One and Only Poetry Book For the Whole Family compiled by John Lithgow
I normally stay away from celebrity books, but this one was so good I couldn’t resist! Lithgow, a poetry enthusiast since childhood, has compiled a collection of works from fifty different poets. The book is arranged in alphabetical order according to the poet’s last name and are each introduced by Lithgow, who also provides definitions, historical tidbits, favourite poems, further readings and interesting websites to visit to further the learning experience (like a Dorothy Parker site on which you can listen to the poet reading her favourite poems). Lithgow’s essential criterion for inclusion in the collection is that ‘each poem’s light shines more brightly when read aloud’. Keeping with this idea, the book comes packaged with a MP3 CD containing a selection of poems read by Lithgow and other celebs, including the fabulous Helen Mirren, Glenn Close, Susan Sarandon, Jodie Foster, Morgan Freeman, and more.

Saffron's Pick:

Forage by Rita Wong

Friday, December 7, 2007

Favourite Reads of 2007 - The Librarian's Picks Part 2

Today we have some librarian picks from Western and Central Ontario. The Deweys have been bumping into Sharron Smith at various libraries all across the province this fall, as she is in high demand with her seminars for readers' advisory staff. She also teaches a course at the Library School of the University of Western Ontario where John Miedema, our second guest, is a student. He also runs the terrific slowreading blog

Sharron Smith's picks - Kitchener Public Library
Here is my list of some of my favourite reads of 2007:

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Debut novelist Horan blends fact and fiction as she recounts the affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the wife of one of Wright’s clients. Commissioned to build a home for the Cheney’s in 1903, the two went on to have an affair that shocked society of the day and destroyed themselves and those around them. Horan is able to draw the reader into the life of Mamah and her thoughts and feelings about her choices and Wright himself come through clearly. This is not so much the story of an affair, but rather the implications of choices that were made by a woman trying to carve out a life for herself beyond the bonds of the early twentieth century.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hoseini
Two boys, Amir, son of a prominent and wealthy man, Hassan, son of Amir's father's servant, it is through the recounting of the relationship between these two boys that the reader is taken into Afghanistan. Hosseini, through the pages of his story explores relationships – the bonds between fathers and sons, the bonds between two boys raised in the same home yet worlds apart and the bonds of culture. Through the recounting their lives and their choices, we learn about life in Kabul before the Russian invasion and then the destruction of all they held dear. This is a tour de force that clearly demonstrates the power of story.

Smoke by Elizabeth Ruth
Travel back to rural Southern Ontario in the 1950s through the pages of Elizabeth Ruth’s second novel, Smoke. Here we meet Buster McFiddie, a popular, handsome 15-year-old whose life changes forever one night after he falls asleep in bed smoking and Doc John, the town doctor who tells Buster stories of a Detroit mob gang in the 30’s to help him ease the pain of his burns. As the story unfolds, the reader is asked to consider what is most important, who we are on the outside or the inside.

Before I Wake by Robert J. Wiersema
The lives of the characters in this book are changed forever following a hit-and-run accident that leaves three year old Sherry Barrett in a coma. Sherry’s parents, forced to confront every parent’s nightmare - the loss of a child, take their daughter off life support, however, the child breathes on her own, this is only the first of a number of “miracles”. At home, Sherry’s nurse discovers that the child’s touch has the power to heal and as word of this gift leaks out believers begin to gather. Like Sherry’s parents, the reader is asked to consider questions of faith and belief.

October by Richard B. Wright
With a grace and gentleness of style Wright weaves the story of a man who must confront both his present and his past and the connection between the two. James Hillyer, a retired professor, is in England to spend time with his daughter, she has recently been diagnosed with cancer. While there, he has a chance encounter with a man he knew as a teenager and it is through this meeting that he comes to recall a summer spent with his uncle in Quebec and to consider a unique request that will help him face the possibility of outliving his child.

Never wanting to waste a “free” moment, I indulged myself during my recent weekly travels between Kitchener and London, with some great pleasure reads. Audiobooks are a fabulous way to experience books that you might just not find time to get to. Here are some recent “reads” that have engaged and entertained while on the road.

Austenland by Shannon Hale
The Sea by John Banville
Abundance : a novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund
Mary Modern : a novel
by Camille DeAngelis
The secret life of Josephine : Napoleon's bird of paradise by Carolly Erickson

Sharron Smith is the Manager of Readers’ Advisory Services at the Kitchener Public Library and the co-author of Canadian Fiction: a guide to reading interests a resource designed to connect readers and books; as well, she is an active participant in a professional readers’ advisory committees both in Ontario and the U.S. A committed promoter of reading in her community through appearances on local television, public speaking and community outreach; she has been actively involved with the Region of Waterloo’s One Book, One Community program, one of the first community reading campaigns in Canada, since it began in 2002.

John Miedema's Top 10 Books of 2007 - University of Western Ontario Library School :

I have a strong preference for Canadian fiction writers as you can tell by the list. Salamander was the top pick because it is a wonderful story about a printer, and I grew up in the printing shop of my family home. Black Water was my first BookCrossing catch (; what fun! I enjoy reading slowly; the top ten are almost all the books I have read for pleasure this year.

Salamander, Thomas Wharton
Conceit, Mary Novik
The Republic of Nothing, Lesley Choyce
Bloodletting & Miracle Cures, Vincent Lam
The Memory of Running, Ron McLarty
The 100 Mile Diet, Alisa Smith & J.B. Mackinnon
Home Schooling, Carol Windley
A History of Reading, Alberto Manguel
Job: A Comedy of Justice, Robert Heinlein
Black Water, TJ MacGregor

John Miedema is a library student at the University of Western Ontario, and author of the blog,