Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published offers authors advice on how to write, sell and market their books successfully.

I really enjoyed this book. The information is offered a in concise and entertaining manner, which not only makes it easy to read, but fun as well. This material could be pedantic and heavy, but it really comes across as interesting and light-hearted in the hands of these authors. Even though I don't plan to write or publish a book, I found the information fascinating. I'll never really know how hard authors work, but after going through this book, I have a better idea. They have my upmost respect.

While the book is geared towards helping authors, it contains lots of information regarding the writing and publishing process that others (for example, book lovers) may find interesting. It covers topics such as: submitting the book, self-publishing, working with contracts, touring, selling your book and much, much more. There's also several appendices with invaluable information for the author, including a list of selected publishers and contact names.

The book was first published in 2005, but this recent edition includes a new chapter on social networking sites and all things online. There's tons of information for authors as well as others who use those online sites.


For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the Workman Publishing website.

Would you like a peek inside? There are a couple of chapters online: Chapter 2 and Chapter 3.

For more information about the authors and other cool stuff, please visit Eckstut and Sterry's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Workman Publishing for this review copy.

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, Workman Publishing, ©2010. ISBN 9780761160854(uncorrected proof), 468p (plus index).

Up from the Blue: A Novel by Susan Henderson

In Up From the Blue, Tillie is all grown up and about to give birth to her first child. With her husband out of town, she enlists the help of her estranged father. This brings back some painful memories of her childhood. Her mother's erratic behaviour and her disappearance after a move to another city have left some deep emotional scars on the young Tillie. Being raised by her father wasn't easy either, especially since she suspected that her father had something to do with her mother's disappearance. She soon finds out that it's a little more complicated that she first imaged.

I quite enjoyed reading this book. The story is beautiful told. I love the way it all unfolded. The book presented a great look at the life of a military family in the 1970s as they move to another city after the father gets a new job. With a strict controlling military man for a father and a mentally ill mother, Tillie was bound to have some problems and harbour some hard feelings. The parts of the story that dealt with mental illness and race relations of the time (because of Tillie's friend) were quite interesting.

For me, the last few chapters of the young Tillie's narration is what brought the story all together. Up until then, I had a little trouble believing that Tillie didn't have any idea what happened to her mother. Even though she was young, she should have known that something was not right. When she did find out what happened, she kept that information to herself and didn't do very much about the situation. I sometimes forget how unreliable children are as narrators. Their life experiences give them a skewed outlook. Perhaps that why parts of the story came across as unbelievable. I would have loved to hear this story from the father's point of view. Even the mentally-ill Mara's(Tillie's mother) take would have been interesting. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll leave it at that.

I liked Tillie as a child, but not that much as an adult. She just seemed so bitter and aggressive towards her father even when she was asking for his help. He had his faults, but he did come to help her when she was in need. That in itself should have earned him so points and softened her harsh view of him. I understand grudges and bad feelings, but if that's how she felt about him, why did she ask for his help?

Despite what I said above, I would still recommend this book to others. There are plenty of great reviews out there with high praises for this book. They shouldn't be too hard to find.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins website.

For more information about the author, please visit Susan Henderson's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson, HarperCollins Publishers, ©2010. ISBN 9780061984037(Uncorrected Proof), 317p.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Photo Friday - Vivid

For more "Vivid" photos, visit the Photo Friday website.
For more of my submissions, please my PhotoFriday set on my Flickr page.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Renovating our basement and CSN Stores

When we moved into our house just a little over 18 months ago, we knew that we were going to be renovating the basement at some point. That means insulating the walls, drywalling, painting, installing a drop ceiling and all the rest. Since there are some government grants available now for insulating basements, we figured we'd take advantage of them.

The supplies arrived on Monday and the workmen started yesterday. We were so excited until last night we were standing in the middle of the basement looking at all of the new living space we were going to gain, when we came to the realization that we had no furniture to put in it. Zippo. Nada. That's what happens when you move into a space that's bigger than your last one.

So this morning I was surfing the web and looking at newspaper flyers to see if I could find something (anything) to fill up that space. I came across these beautiful bar tables and stools that will come in handy in our little bar area. It's great because I found them on the CSN Stores website, a website that I love and have used before. They also have some other stuff that will look great in our new basement (once it's done). All I have to do now is decide what to get first.

Stay tuned because in the near future I'll be reviewing my purchase from CSN. Don't know yet what it's going to be, but it should be fun.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker

In The Dark Vineyard, Bruno, the Chief of Police in Saint-Denis gets called in when there's a fire at a research station for genetically modified crops. Bruno suspects that some local environmentalists are to blame and begins looking at that angle. Meanwhile, winemakers are interested in the land around Saint-Denis and Bruno is concerned that his small town is about to get very crowded. He has his hands full with suspicious characters and two mysterious deaths, but still finds time for romance, friends, food and wine.

This was such an enjoyable read. I felt like I had been transported to France in this wonderful quaint mystery. There are no car chases or high action scenes, but with writing and characters like this, who needs them. Even though the book is the sequel to Bruno, Chief of Police, you don't have to read that one first to enjoy this one. I haven't read the first one (yet) and I loved this book. There were a few references to past events that presumably happened in the first book, but not really that much. I had been looking forward to reading Bruno, Chief of Police, but now I'm even more excited to read it and to revisit Bruno in France. It should be fun.

I loved that Walker briefly explained the French legal system. It was quite interesting and made the story easier to follow. I was equally thrilled with the descriptions of food and wine/winemaking. Everything sounded so delicious. I wanted to join right in.

Bruno Courrèges was a great character. He clearly cared a great deal about Saint-Denis and wanted to protect it and its inhabitants. That showed in his police work and how he dealt with others.

New words: The book is sprinkled with French words, a few of which I didn't recognise. I was able to work out their meaning, though, so I didn't record many of them.
pompiers (page 3): firefighter
mairie (page 16): town hall

Highly recommended. I'd love to read another book by this author.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

Looking for more recommendations, news from the world of books and other fun bookish stuff? Check out The Savvy Reader, the blog from HarperCollins Canada.

For more information about the author, this series and his other books, please visit the Bruno, Chief of Police website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins Canada for this review copy.

The Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker, HarperCollins, ©2009. ISBN 9781554682669(Hardcover), 303p.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Penguin Book of Crime Stories: Volume II - Selected and Introduced by Peter Robinson

The Penguin Book of Crime Stories: Volume II is a collection of short stories from crime writers around the world. Peter Robinson selected the stories and introduces the lot, which includes stories from: Ruth Rendell, John Connolly, Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, Sue Grafton, Reginald Hill, Dennis Richard Murphy and many more.

Every time I read a book of short stories, I'm reminded of how much I love them! When the collection consists of stories from various authors, such as this one, it's a special treat. In this book, I loved the variety of stories, characters and writing styles. I enjoyed all of them, but there were a few that really stuck out for me. Among my favourites: "Dead in the Water" by Dennis Richard Murphy (which took a page or two to get into, but was fabulous); "The Listening Room" by Robert J. Randisi; and "Triangle" by Jeffery Deaver. Also, "The Visitors' Book" by Sophie Hannah because it was so creepy. All of these were full of surprises with regards to storyline and ending.

There were two stories that I liked, but didn't enjoy as much as I thought I would. These were Maureen Jennings's "The Weeping Time" and Sue Grafton's "A Poison That Leaves No Trace". I've read books by both of these authors before and really enjoy their work, but for some reason neither of these stories stood out as favourites.

I'd really like to read more works from Jeffery Deaver, John Connolly, Reginald Hill and probably all of the other authors who were new to me. I enjoyed this book so much. I really could have read at least another dozen or so stories.

Highly recommended for mysteries lovers and those who enjoy a great short story.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Penguin's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin for this review copy.

The Penguin Book of Crime Stories: Volume II by Peter Robinson, Penguin, ©2010. ISBN 9780143172345(Trade paperback), 208p.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

In Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, the Major forms a friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shop owner from town, after the recent death of the his brother. They have both lost their spouses years before and are drawn together by their love of books. However, this relationship, which is becoming romantic, is seen as scandalous by the town's people, as Mrs. Ali will always be considered an outsider. The Major has a fight on his hands if he wants to continue seeing Jasmina.

Simonson's debut novel was an absolute joy to read. I loved it. The story was just quaint and delightful. It had so many facets beside the relationship. It was also about decorum, honour, respect, traditions and cultures. Because the Major was an older proper English gentlemen, there was no gushy romance involved in the story. His intentions were suggested rather than displayed openly. I also quite enjoyed the side story of the Major's guns. The guns were given to the Major and his brother shortly before their father's death. The stipulation was that when one of the brothers died, the other would get both guns. With the passing of the Major's brother, the guns should belong to the Major. However, not everyone agreed. I'm not a fan of guns at all, however, the Major's outrage and attitude about them was quite entertaining. Had they been arguing about something else (antique coins or the like), I would have shared his annoyance.

I adored the Major. He was proper, chivalrous, humble and utterly charming. He stood up to some characters and came to the defence of others. He did so many great things in the book, I wanted to stand up and cheer him on. I also really liked Jasmina, Mrs. Ali. I think she got stuck between a rock and a hard place when it came to her nephew. I didn't envy her position. That part of the story line was quite enlightening with respect to her culture.

Favourite quotes:
He had forgotten that grief does not decline in a straight line or along a slow curve like a graph in a child's math book. Instead, it was almost as if his body contained a big pile of garden rubbish full both of heavy lumps of dirt and of sharp thorny brush that would stab him when he least expected it. (page 35)

--America wielded her huge power in the world with a brash confidence that reminded him of a toddler who had got hold of a hammer.(page 173)

Life does often get in the way of one's reading.(page 200)

A couple may have nothing in common but the color of their skin and the country of their ancestors, but the whole world would see them as compatible.(page 265)

New word Alert:
ossified (page 8): hardened
scimitars (page 28): Arab sabre
tumescent (page 33): swelling
lugubrious (page 35): sad
inveigle (page 188): entice, deceive
ghillie (page 325): another spelling of gillie, which is a Scottish game warden. (I'd like to thank Helen Simonson for emailing the correct definition of this word.)

Highly recommended. I'd love to read another book by this author. Perhaps a sequel to this one?

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the Random House website.

For more information about the author and other cool stuff, please visit Helen Simonson's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Random House for this review copy.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, Random House, ©2010. ISBN 9780385668644(Hardcover), 355p.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

So Much For That by Lionel Shriver

So Much For That takes a look at the American health care system through the eyes of two families. First of all, there's Shep and his wife, Glynis, who's been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare cancer. Shep is also dealing with his father, who's at the end of his life and is suffering from the ails of old age. The other family is headed by Jackson, Shep's co-worker, and his wife, Carol along with their children Flicka and Heather. Flicka has familial dysautonomia, a rare genetic neurological condition. Both families struggle with daily worries and medical complications, while trying to keep the medical bills paid and the insurance companies satisfied.

I loved this book. I admit that it took me awhile to get into this story, about 50 pages or so. However, after that I was hooked. Shriver's characters were very believable with powerful and unforgettable stories. I loved that she covered many bases with regards to illnesses. Her characters suffered from various afflictions (genetic disorder, cancer, age-related ails, elective surgeries) giving a broad picture of the health care system. I found I could relate to a few of the cases while gaining insight into many of the others. The whole story was definitely an eye opener.

There were parts of the story that I found absolutely incredible. For instance, there's one moment closer to the end where Shep is talking to Glynis's doctor about how much money was spent on her care and how much longer she lived because of it. I won't get into specifics, but the numbers are astounding. It's not something I'll soon forget. Heather's "medical condition" and treatment were also surprising. I had no idea that sort of thing went on.

Part of the story deals with Shep's desire to run away from it all in something he calls "The Afterlife". His plan (thwarted by Glynis's diagnosis) was to quit his job and move to a third-world nation where inhabitants can live on a lot less money. While I have no desired to move to a poorer country, living a simpler life and getting away from it all does have a certain appeal. I found that Shep's dream added an interesting aspect to the story.

Apparently, Shriver has been quite critical of the health care system in the US and this novel shows her displeasure with all of that. After reading this, I, too, am appalled at what goes on. Don't sick people and their families have enough to worry about? It was so sad that these families had to worry about money and insurance forms rather than taking care of loved ones. It's also amazing what these situations drive people to do.

Our Canadian health care system is quite different from the one in the United States. This book had me asking questions about our system and wondering about the differences between the two systems. There's plenty to complain about on both sides, but after reading this story, I'm pretty sure I know which one I prefer.

Favourite quotes:
So fixing tax rates is all about figuring out how much they can thieve while still leaving us poor wretches enough to keep working so that there's more to thieve next year. The government grows citizens like crops, and you have to leave a handful of seeds for the next planting. (page 157)

New words:
penury (page 85): poverty
hubristic (page 90): pride
garrulity (page 100): verbosity, excessive talkativeness
apocryphal (page 130): mythical
tautology (page 149): linguistic redundancy
ameliorate (page 195): improve
crenulate (page 207): having a wavy edge
rue (page 218): regret
spoliation (page 238): the seizing of things by force, plundering
autodidact (page 255): self-taught person
schadenfreude (page 279): pleasure taking in somebody else's misfortune
filial (page 283): relating to a child's relationship with his parents, filial duty.
elegiac (page 350): sad
insouciance (page 353): rudeness
derisory (page 428): pitiful
vertiginous (page 429): dizzying

I love Shriver's work. I've read two of her other books and would highly recommend both of them: We Need to Talk About Kevin (my review) and The Post-Birthday World (my review).

Highly Recommended. I have several other books by Shriver waiting on my to-be-read shelf. I can't wait to get to them.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

Looking for more recommendations, news from the world of books and other fun bookish stuff? Check out The Savvy Reader, the blog from HarperCollins Canada.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins Canada for this review copy.

So Much For That by Lionel Shriver, HarperCollins Canada, ©2010. ISBN 9781554682010(Hardcover), 433p.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

In My Name is Memory, Daniel has the gift of remembering past lives. and searches for his one true love, Sophia. He has encountered her many times through the centuries, but there's always something that keeps them apart. She doesn't remember her past lives, but for him it's heartbreaking to be apart from her. As they come together once again, separation and obstacles loom.

I loved this book. It had such a great premise and a beautifully written story. There was no doubt in my mind that Daniel was compelled to find Sophia and that they belonged together. The story was nicely laid out and even though it skipped around quite a bit in location and time, it was quite easy to follow. The author employed all kinds of techniques to help the reader in this regard. For instance: location and dates preceded each chapter; the past was written in the first person, while the present was written in the third person; two different fonts were used: one for the past, the other for the present.

There was one part near the end that was a little confusing with regards to Daniel (I don't want to give too many details lest I reveal a spoiler), but I found that if I slowed down a bit and read slowly I didn't have too much trouble following the action. All of this lead to a great ending.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but there was a little something missing in this book. I want to say that there wasn't enough depth, but I'm not sure if it's depth of character or depth of story. The only thing I can come up with is that Daniel had this great gift, which he could have used to do great things. However, his only concerned with finding Sophia. Even though he doesn't see her for centuries, that seems to be the only thing his does. It certainly was romantic and charming. However, maybe I'm not romantic enough, maybe I'm too old for this story, or too jaded. It left me wanting...just a bit. Nevertheless, I adored the whole premise and most of the story.

The book had me wondering about reincarnation. The "rules" that Brashares laid out seemed plausible and fascinating. The whole thing had me mesmerized. Without going into details, the existence of reincarnation would certainly explain a lot for me.

New word:
deigning (page 168): lowering yourself, forcing yourself

This is the first book I've read of Brashares. I haven't read the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, however, I've heard they are very popular. I'm not sure they are for me, but I'd gladly read another book by this author.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Penguin's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Ann Brashares's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin for this review copy.

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares, Riverhead (Penguin), ©2010. ISBN 9781594487583(Uncorrected Proof), 324p.

Sima's Undergarments for Women by Ilana Stanger-Ross

In Sima's Undergarments for Women, Sima runs a lingerie shop from the basement of her home. One day Tinma wanders in to buy a bra, but stays on as a seamstress when she learns that Sima is hiring. Tinma's youth and beauty also allow her to model some of the merchandize for the customers. Together, Sima and Tinma forge a friendship that takes on different forms throughout the book. The story of their friendship is interspersed with memories of Sima's life, her relationship with her husband, Lev, and her long-kept secret.

I really enjoyed this book. Even though there's an overall sadness to the piece, it was an enjoyable read. I particular liked the flashbacks about Sima's past with Lev and their friends, Connie and Art. I found this style of storytelling a perfect fit for this book. The background information filled in the story nicely and added a hint of suspense as the details regarding Sima's secret emerged.

Sima and Tinma's relationship was very believable. Sometimes they were like girlfriends, other times they were more like mother/daughter. Sima seemed so sad and lost. Her shop was a success, yet Tinma reminded her of her unfilled dreams. She envied Tinma's lifestyle and relationships, yet tried to protect her from making the same mistakes she did. I really felt sorry for her.

The whole lingerie shop had me intrigued. Of course, I've walked by stores like that, but I've always bought my underwear at a department store and haven't ventured into the world of specialized fittings for that kind of stuff. I did find it interesting, though, so maybe one day I'll put aside my shyness and travel into unknown territory. ;)

New words:
mezuzah (page 31): small parchment scroll with biblical passages
mikvah (page 188): ritual bath for purification among Orthodox Jews
yeshiva (page 281): orthodox Jewish seminary

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Penguin's website.

For more information about the author, please visit Ilana Stanger-Ross's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin for this review copy.

Sima's Undergarments for Women by Ilana Stanger Ross, Penguin, ©2009. ISBN 9780143117483(Trade paperback), 317p.