Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Look of the New Murakami. . .

Fall may seem a long time off, but not for sales reps (the catalogues and marketing plans are piled up on my desk as I write).  One of the books I'm most looking forward to reading is Haruki Murakami's latest novel 1Q84.  It's going to be a doorstop (over 900 pages) and it's going to look gorgeous. The book is designed by Chip Kidd who discusses the process here.  It'll be out in late October -can't wait!

Scaredy Squirrel Televison Debut this Weekend

Scaredy makes his TV debut this weekend on YTV this Sunday 9:30 am. There will be a sneek peek this Friday at 4:30. To see some clips click here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Vote Compass

Its election time again. I heard about this yesterday on CBC. It's a survey they are conducting so you can see which party's views are closest to your own. The first day over 200,000 people used it. I did it myself and was surprised by the result. Click here if you want to try the quiz.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Why You Need A Little More Romance In Your Life This April

April 2011 marks the debut of a new Canadian romance author to watch- Lecia Cornwall, author of Secrets of A Proper Countess (Avon). Born in Toronto, Lecia raised her family in Ottawa, and now lives in Calgary, Alberta.

I can't say that I am a voracious reader of romance novels, as I probably average only one book every two months or so. I will admit to much eye-rolling and under-my-breath cynical muttering before setting two separate romance novels aside as unreadable in the past month alone. I like writers like Jude Devereaux, Amanda Quick, and Julie Garwood- good writers who create books with plausible plots, great historical details, heroines with a bit of backbone, and romances that set pages aflame.

There was definitely no eye-rolling or muttering as I opened 'Secrets of a Proper Countess'. I was hooked in the first chapter, intrigued by the heroine Isobel Maitland, as she boldly seduces London's most notorious rake, the Marquess of Blackwood, at a masquerade ball.

Isobel, the widowed Countess of Ashdown, is forbidden by a restrictive clause in her deceased husband's will to exhibit any behaviour that would be deemed 'inappropriate' by her mother-in-law, the horrid Honoria. The cost of any indiscretions? The loss of custody of her beloved son Robin. However, emboldened by the anonimity offered by the costume she is wearing to the ball, Isobel takes the chance to seize a moment of happiness with a man she has long admired from afar.
The Marquess (Phineas) cannot get the bold, passionate, and mysterious woman from the masquerade ball out of his head, and is determined to find her again. He not only wants the opportunity to repeat their romantic encounter, but he also suspects that she may have some connection to a smuggling/spy ring that has been importing goods (and plots) from France. The Marquess' reputation as a rake is a carefully constructed cover. Phineas is actually an agent for the British government, and his bad reputation allows him to infiltrate the 'right' circles- where he can root out spies, traitors and other threats to his country.
Part Cinderella, part spy thriller, Secrets of a Proper Countess is fun and engaging, smartly written and features characters that ring true. If you are a fan of a good historical romance, do check this book out!

According to the author's blog, she has been working on a follow up, The Price of Temptation, which is currently scheduled to be released in January 2012. This book tells the story of one of the minor characters introduced in 'Secrets of a Proper Countess'- Evelyn Renshaw.

Read an excerpt of Secrets of a Proper Countess here.
Check out an interview with the author on Romance Novel

TD Canadian Children's Book Week is Coming!

The list of authors has been announced for the TD Canadian Children's Book Week and the list is pretty awesome. If you would like to host an author, illustrator or storyteller click here. The theme this year is Changing the World, One Child at a Time.

Literary Indecision. . .

Here's something fun for a Friday.  I f you are one of those people that has many books on the go, or who often spends an agonzing amount of time trying to decide what to read next from a huge pile of options, then you'll enjoy the short story "Books" from the upcoming collection Guadalajara by Quim Monzó, translated by Peter Bush.  It's published by Open Letter Books and on their blog Three Percent, they offer this short story in its entirety.  Just click on this blogpost (the link to the story PDF is about half-way down). A good companion read would be Herman Melville's classic novella Bartleby the Scrivener.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Canadian Book Publishing’s Next Chapter

Last week the Globe and Mail did a week long series on the state of Canadian publishing. It created a bit of a stir and lots of letters to the editor. One of my students wrote a piece which was very well thought out. Check it out!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Piaf en Rose. . .

For all those Edith Piaf fans out there, Carolyn Burke's new biography, No Regrets has just been published. It's quite the life!  I'd also like to recommend Martha Wainwright's amazing collection of Piaf songs.  What I love about this CD is that Wainwright has stayed away from the big hits and chosen a lot of songs that normally don't get covered. And she can belt them out with all the emotional passion of Piaf herself - it's really a terrific album.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Franklin is 25!

It's hard to believe that Franklin is celebrating 25 years! to commemorate this, Kids Can Press has just release a 25th Anniversary Edition of Franklin in the Dark. Not only does this edition include the original story (which was found in the slushpile) but is jammed packed with all kinds of goodies such as a letter from Paulette and Brenda, samples of the original art work, a look at Franklin around the world and lots more. KCP has partnered with WWF to celebrate Earth Hour. Paulette and Brenda will be at Indigo Queensway on March 26th 2pm for this event. Click here for all the details! Above is the window at Mables Fables .

Friday, March 18, 2011

Doug Wright Awards

On Wednesday, the Doug Wright Awards were announced. These awards celebrate the best in Canadian Graphic Fiction.

The nominees for Best Book are:
Bigfoot by Pascal Girard (Drawn and Quarterly)
Chimo by David Collier (Conundrum Press)
Lose #2 by Michael DeForge (Koyama Press)
Moving Pictures by Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen (Top Shelf Productions)
Streakers by Nick Maandag

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Trailer. . .

Here's the trailer for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, based on Lisa See's bestselling novel.  It looks gorgeous and it's directed by Wayne Wang, who filmed The Joy Luck Club, so expect to get the kleenex out. The movie is set to open in July.  And for Lisa See fans, you can also look forward to her new novel, Dreams of Joy, which is a sequel to Shanghai Girls. It will be out at the end of May.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On (Finally!) Meeting Jonathan Coe. . .

I've been working at Random House for ten years now, and in that time I've been incredibly lucky and privileged to be able to meet so many terrific and talented authors.  But this week has been really special.  Those who know me well or have heard me book talk over the years, know that I absolutely adore the writing of Jonathan Coe and he is always my number one recommendation among contemporary (and living!) writers to read.  He's also been at the top of the list of writers I have wanted to meet. Well, he was in Toronto this week and read to a packed audience at Harbourfront last night, from his latest novel, The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim. I was thrilled; chalk one off the bucket list for me!

The novel's hero is a man going through a mid-life crisis. His wife has left him, he has an uneasy relationship with his father, and his career is in a rut. Worse of all, no one seems to care, especially the seventy friends he has on Facebook.  To give his life a much needed jolt, he takes a job with a company promoting toothbrushes and agrees to drive a Toyota Prius to the far reaches of the Shetland Islands.  The novel opens with him being found by police on the side of the road, naked in his car, suffering from hypothermia, and with four hundred toothbrushes in the boot.  That's the destination; how he got there and what will happen next, is the very entertaining narrative journey.  Coe excels in writing a scene that delivers an initial comic punch, only to be followed by an uncomfortable and poignant bruising of lasting desperation, sadness or just plain social awkwardness.  He demonstrated this talent in the two excerpts he read last night.  The first was a demonstration of how NOT to strike up a conversation with the stranger sitting next to you on a long flight; the second was about Maxwell's growing attraction to the voice of the GPS system in his car, christened Emma in honour of both Jane Austen's heroine and the actress Emma Thompson (and for those wondering about the reference to the sex scene with Jeff Goldblum, you can find it in the movie The Tall Guy - it is pretty amazing).  He nailed the reading (delivered in that wonderfully self-deprecating manner that the Brits do so well) to the delight and laughter of the appreciative audience, and I'm delighted to report that he was as charming and lovely in person as I'd hoped he would be.

I love the variety not only of subject matter, but the style and tone in Coe's novels.  If you've never read him before and are in the mood for something comic and satirical, start with The Winshaw Legacy, The Rotters' Club or  The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim (especially if the world's obsession with social media is driving you crazy).  For something a bit surreal and spooky, try The House of Sleep.  And for something a bit more dramatic, with a beautiful love story at its core, pick up perhaps my favourite of his novels (it keeps changing), The Rain Before it Falls - his tribute to Rosamund Lehmann and many of the other amazing and forgotten writers brought back into print by Virago Modern Classics.

And if you happen to be anywhere near Bridport, England from April 13-17th - check out the From Page to Screen Film Festival that focuses purely on literary adaptations.  Coe acted as curator and he'll be there in conversation with Kazuo Ishiguro talking about the films made from his novels Never Let Me Go and Remains of the Day.  There's a pretty great line-up of films being shown. I really wish I could be there to see They Were Sisters, made in 1945, starring the always fabulous James Mason and based on the novel by Dorothy Whipple, gorgeously brought back into print by Persephone Books.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Get Shredded! Do you want to Join me in taking the 10-Pound Shred Challenge?

In a fit of 'got-to-get-in-shape' New Year's Resolution madness, I committed myself to participating in a 'Try-A-Triathlon' being held in June. I've been hitting the gym regularly since January, but now that April is on the horizon (with June not far behind), it is definitely time to kick my workouts up a notch or two.
So, with this in mind, I've signed up for the Tommy Europe 10 -Pound Shred Challenge at work. Many of you will be recognize Tommy Europe- he is a former CFL player, personal trainer, and star of two programs on the Slice Network: The Last 10 Pounds Bootcamp and Bulging Brides.
Tommy's first book, The 10-Pound Shred came out last week. A group of us here at the HarperCollins office are going to be following the fitness and health program described in the book for the month of April and blogging about our experiences following the program on The Savvy Reader . We've divided into teams and will be challenging each other to use the book as a way to kickstart our personal fitness goals. Mine is to actually finish the 375 m swim/10 km bike/2.5 km run 'Try-a-Tri' race without keeling over or being the last one across the finish line!
Tommy was at the office yesterday to do some Toronto-based press. He took the time to meet the teams participating in the challenge (and to bench-press one of my teammates - that's us in the picture to the left.)

My question for you is- would you like to follow along at home and take The 10 Pound Shred challenge yourself? I had five copies of the book signed when Tommy was in town. I'd like to send them to five librarians or teachers (Canadian residents only) who are interested in making a big fitness change and are not averse to 31 days of hard work in order to make it happen. If this sounds like something you'd like to do, please send me an e-mail ( with 'The 10-Pound Shred' in the subject line. Please include the full mailing address of your school or library. I'll collect names until Friday March 25th, and randomly select 5 names from amongst the qualified entrants.

2011 Orange Prize Longlist Announced. . .

The Orange Prize longlist has been announced and as usual, it's a nice mixture of books that have already received much acclaim, like Emma Donoghue's Room or Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad, along with some debut novels (almost 50% of the list this year!) such as Téa Obreht's The Tiger's Wife (which is getting a lot of buzz), and some writers that are completely new to me.  Nice to see Kathleen Winter's Annabel on the list as well as Tessa Hadley's The London Train, a book I recently read and loved.

Full list with descriptions of the books can be found here at The Guardian, which also offers some commentary here. Shortlist comes out April 12th and the winner will be announced June 8th.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Importance of Being Married to Ernest . . .

If you've been enjoying Paula McLain's novel The Paris Wife - her fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway's relationship with his first wife Hadley Richardson, told from her perspective - you might be interested in following up on some of his subsequent wives (he had four in all).  The most fascinating of them is definitely Martha Gellhorn who was a talented journalist and writer in her own right and led just as full and adventurous life. Their relationship was combative both personally and professionally and she was the one who left him.  Caroline Moorehead's wonderful biography Martha Gellhorn: A Life was a Dewey pick of mine, back when it came out several years ago. It would make great reading in preparation for HBO's upcoming film about Hemingway and Gellhorn, which is shooting now with some interesting casting.  Clive Owen is playing Hemingway, and Nicole Kidman has nabbed the role of Gellhorn.  Hmmm, not really sure about Kidman - I could totally see Cate Blanchett playing Martha instead.  Molly Parker plays Pauline Pfeiffer, wife number two, and Parker Posey plays his fourth wife, Mary Welsh Hemingway.  There's no mention of poor Hadley; the story - and Ernest - have clearly moved on.  More on the film here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Man of Parts (Some More Active Than Others). . .

I'm currently reading and enjoying a galley of David Lodge's new novel A Man of Parts which will be available in Canada in May.  It's a fictionalized account of the life of H.G. Wells, told mostly through his relationships with the women in his life, many of whom were writers, including the amazing Rebecca West, the modernist Dorothy Richardson, Violet Hunt (who famously had a long relationship with Ford Maddox Ford and appears as a character in two of his most celebrated novels) and Elizabeth von Arnim who wrote one of my favourite NYRB Classics, The Enchanted April.  Gotta love these incestuous literary circles.

Lodge has a great piece in The Guardian, talking about how and why he wrote this novel, the difficulties of writing fiction about real historical characters, and the connections that can be made to another of my favorite books about this period - A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book.  Well worth reading.  I think I'll have to dig out some H.G. Wells too. Orion is bringing out some of his backlist - in these great new covers; who says that print (or newsprint) is dead?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Longlist. . .

The U.K. Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist has just been announced - always a great way to introduce yourself to some of the best of international fiction. I'm really happy to see some of my previous Dewey picks make the list, Daniel Kehlmann's Fame in particular, translated by Carol Brown Janeway. If you haven't read it yet - pick it up!  It's incredibly funny and astute about the nature of society's fleeting yet fanatical search for fame in this internet age.

Here's the rest of the 15 title longlist with their translators.   The shortlist will be announced on April 11th.  You can read one of the judge's summation of the literary richness of this list here.

Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck (translated by Susan Bernofsky, from the German)
Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras (Frank Wynne; Spanish)
To the End of the Land by David Grossman (Jessica Cohen; Hebrew)
Fame by Daniel Kehlmann (Carol Brown Janeway; German)
Beside the Sea by Véronique Olmi(Adriana Hunter; French)
The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk (Maureen Freely; Turkish)
I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson (Charlotte Barslund with Per Petterson; Norwegian)
Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo (Edith Grossman; Spanish)
Gargling with Tar by Jachym Topol (David Short; Czech)
The Sickness by Alberto Berrera Tyszka (Margaret Jull Costa; Spanish)
The Secret History of Costaguana by Juan Gabriel Vásquez  (Anne McLean; Spanish)
The Journey of Anders Sparrman by Per Wästberg (Tom Geddes; Swedish)
Lovetown by Michal Witkowski (W Martin; Polish)
Villain by Shuichi Yoshida (Philip Gabriel; Japanese)
Dark Matter by Juli Zeh (Christine Lo; German) - note that in North America, this book was published under the title In Free Fall

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Simon Winchester in Wonderland

Charles Dodgson — better known by his nom de plume, Lewis Carroll — was a shy young professor at Oxford University when he first met Alice Liddell and her family in 1856. Alice’s father, Henry Liddell, was the dean of the Oxford College where Charles taught math and the two men became close friends. Charles enjoyed picnics and boating with the ten Liddell children, and he often fabricated elaborate tales to entertain them.
On one occasion he created a fanciful tale about Alice and her adventures after falling down a rabbit hole, and the little girl begged him to write the story down. Eventually Charles presented her with a handwritten copy of Alice’s Adventures Underground. In 1865, Macmillan UK published a revised version which was double in length and had a new title.
Charles Dodgson was not only a mathematical genius and an imaginative writer, but he was also very talented in the new art of photography. The Alice Behind Wonderland focuses on a particular photograph he took of Alice, and uses this famous picture as a starting point in an examination of the inspiration behind one of the most famous children’s classics of all time.

Strangers on a Train. . .

What I loved most about Tessa Hadley's new novel The London Train, (apart from the gorgeous cover), was that I never knew where this journey was going.  And I mean that as a compliment.

Without giving too much away, the novel is divided into two parts, one for each of the two people involved in a passionate affair. Both are already married to decent partners with whom they are relatively happy if restless.  He reviews poetry, she's taught English, but is now a part-time librarian. Both have recently lost a parent and in both stories an unexpected and complicated pregnancy factors into the plot.  They also travel regularly on the train (for different reasons) back and forth between Cardiff and London. The train is where they initially meet, but I love how Hadley plays with time and events in this novel; they won't actually encounter each other until half-way through the book.  And because the narrative is not chronological, we don't just get the predictable story of a love affair that fizzles, (it's almost, but not quite, incidental), but a much richer examination of these characters' daily lives, and the relationship choices they end up making.  It was a sophisticated read about unexpected detours en route to uncertain destinations. Well worth the ticket.

2011 B.C. Book Prize Finalists Announced!

The finalists for the 2011 B.C. Book Prizes were announced this morning. I was very pleased to see three of the five finalists for the 2011 Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize were Dewey Diva Picks- Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom, Free as A Bird, and Hunger Journeys! Congratulations to all of the nominated authors!

Little Red Riding Hood

We just released a gorgeous illustrated version of Little Red Riding Hood on our Harper Design list. The book features the unabridged Brothers Grimm text paired with haunting illustrations by artist Daniel Egnéus. Check out this interview with the artist on he got his inspiration for his work:

A movie version of Red Riding Hood, with a werewolf twist opens March 11th. The movie stars Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfriend, and is directed by Catherine Hardwicke of Twilight movie fame.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mind the (Reading) Gap. . .

Here's a fun literary list: The Top Ten Best Scenes on the London Underground.  I've read 7 out of the ten. The other three will go on my geeky "trainspotting in literature" to be read pile. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Press Here

This book has been a rep fave since we heard about it. Booksellers and librarians are loving it too. It feels a lot like It's A Book. This video does a great job showing how much fun this book is. It would be a great read aloud.

The Rooster Crows Again. . .

This week is the start of one of my favourite book battles - The Morning News Tournament of Books - where guest judges weigh in on two books and advance their favourite on to the next round. Sixteen books are up for the challenge which starts in earnest tomorrow with Jonathan Franzen's Freedom up against Teddy Wayne's Kapitoil.  What makes this contest so much fun is the smart and witty commentary.  Opening remarks are up on the website here and you can also see the full list of book in contention.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Little Miss Opportunity. . .

Have no fear, I don't plan on blogging about every Royal Wedding book that will be coming out in the next few months but this one is cute. I loved these books when I was a kid.  Little Miss Princess and Little Miss Princess and the Very Special Wedding written by Adam Hargreaves are about a kind-hearted princess who lives in a castle. In the latter title, she needs to get to a wedding on time. More about the books from the BBC here.

And yes, we'll be watching on the big day.  Several of the Deweys will be in Jasper for the Alberta Library Conference. Yes, we have to get up and work the book fair and even do a presentation later on, but there will be a pajama party in our room starting around 3am.  Hats not required.  Tea definitely will be.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011