Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Book Review: Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

Sing You Home is the 18th novel by bestselling American author Jodi Picoult. One of the best things about this novel is the way in which Picoult takes serious subjects and uses witty dialogue that is laugh out loud funny to take the edge off in just the right places.

As the title suggests, music is one of the main elements of the novel. The protagonist of the story, Zoe Baxter, helps burn victims, a troubled teenager and patients with other physical and and mental ailments using music therapy. She sings and plays guitar to help them cope with a variety of complex issues.

The novel centers around Zoe, who is 40 years old, female and has suffered through several unsuccessful cycles of IVF, divorce, cancer, finding true love with a same sex partner, followed by a court battle over the custody of her frozen embryos and she must also go up against her ex-husband’s powerful church which preaches intolerance.

The narrators in the novel rotate, alternating between Zoe, Max (Zoe’s ex-husband) and Zoe’s new love and wife (in some states) Vanessa.

But the most interesting character whose new found beliefs affect all three narrators of the story is Max.

While Zoe and Vanessa embark on a journey that will hopefully allow them to start their own family, Max struggles to find himself and reconcile his love for his ex-wife, his old values and those that are forced upon him by his new church (who frown on same sex marriages) and brother and sister-in-law.

As one of three narrators, with three different points of view, Picoult allows Max to have a voice which conveys his vulnerability which in turn allows readers to sympathize with this character.

He is a recovering alcoholic, newly divorced, unemployed for the most part, and the Church and congregation offer him a safe haven from himself, forgiveness for his sins and a stable home with his brother and sister-in law.

They prey on his weaknesses, and it is frustrating as a reader to read the passages on how he begins to adopt their attitudes of intolerance.

In the end it is a forbidden love that saves him and allows him to finally think and act for himself again.
For anyone who has not yet read a Jodi Picoult novel, Sing You Home is an excellent place to start. It draws attention to important issues that affect many of us today and it is also told in an accessible, fast paced narrative and is really hard to put down. Sing You Home is a fantastic novel from a highly talented author and should be read by all.
(And for further reading, the author also has an excellent website, with book club questions, information on how she researched this novel and information on her other works, too.)

This review was first published on blogcritics.org. 

Sunday, 27 March 2011

So Many Books So Little Time: My friend Jill's Awesome Reading List

My friend Jill is not just a pretty face. She also loves to read good books. Last night we went for dinner to a great "asian fusion" restaurant called Cravings at Yonge and Lawrence. We were joined by our friend Lisa (aka LK in a previous post).

We discussed a number of important subjects: kids, family, Ottawa gossip (we are all from Ottawa), the benefits of having a built in desk in your kitchen and of course....BOOKS!

Lisa is reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Jill is reading Room by Emma Donoghue which I just loved. When Jill told me that she had a great list of books I asked to see it.  I was impressed and wanted to share. Jill's sister Marni, is also an avid reader and I think some of the picks on the list below are on her list too.
 Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nehmat (heard great things)
Room by Emma Donoghue (Jill is reading this one now, it sure is a popular one!)
Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey by Izzeldin Abuelaish
My Sister’s  Keeper and Sing You Home by Jodie Picoult
Orange Is The New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
Ten Thousand Lovers by Edeet Ravel
Stone’s from the River by Ursula Hegi
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Lake of Dreams and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Song of Kahunsha by Anosh Irani
The Last Kestrel by Jill McGivering
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Fall On Your Knees by Anne-Marie MacDonald
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad and Ingrid Christopherson
Now You See Her by Joy Fielding
Sister by Rosamund Lupton
Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Fancy Pants, Lady Be Good and Call Me Irresistable by Susan E. Phillips
The Unexpected Son and The Dowry Bride by Shobhan Bantwal
Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Here's a nice pic I found of Jill and her father

Saturday, 26 March 2011

For my friends in South Korea: Please Look After Mom and My Korean Deli

I am obsessed with tracking the "stats" on my blog. I find it  interesting to know  that outside of Canada and USA I have a couple of followers in Hungary (thank you Julia), a couple in the UK (thank you cousins),  a few other random places (Singapore, Netherlands,Vietnam, Uruguay, Indonesia Italy and New Zealand) where I don't really know anyone, and five that regularly visit from Seoul, South Korea.

I lived and taught English in Seoul, South Korea for one year (2008-2009) and it was a big thrill to go to the foreigners area and visit the English bookstore. Unfortunately I had read most of the new "hot" books because they were out earlier in Canada before I had left the country. This is when  I really developed my deep love of the mass market paperback crime/mystery writers like James Patterson and Lisa Gardner (who I also read in hardcover).

I thought of my friends in South Korea when I  came across this book that I'm really excited to read, the author Kyung-Sook Shin is a bestselling author in Korea.

Please Look After Mom is a Korean best-seller and will be published in Canada on April 5. The publisher in Canada is Knopf, in my opinion one of the best publishers of fiction in the world. The book is also listed as one of the "Top 10 Titles to Pick Up Now" in O: The Oprah Magazine, where I first read about it.

The story is set in Korea and examines a families history through the story of the matriarch who mysteriously goes missing from a Seoul train station. You can find out  more about the book at Random House Canada HERE.

And My Korean Deli sounds really good too.

 Here is the publisher's description: 

This sweet and funny tale of a preppy literary editor buying a Brooklyn deli with his Korean in-laws is about family, class, culture clash, and the quest for authentic experiences in an increasingly unreal city.

It starts with a simple gift, when Ben Ryder Howe's wife, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decides to repay her parents' self-sacrifice by buying them a store. Howe, an editor at the rarefied Paris Review, reluctantly agrees to go along. However, things soon become a lot more complicated. After the business struggles, Howe finds himself living in the basement of his in-laws' Staten Island home, commuting to the Paris Review offices in George Plimpton's Upper East Side townhouse by day, and heading to Brooklyn at night to slice cold cuts and peddle lottery tickets. The book follows the store's tumultuous lifespan, and along the way paints the portrait of an extremely unlikely partnership between characters across society, from the Brooklyn ghetto to Seoul to Puritan New England. Owning the deli becomes a transformative experience for everyone involved as they struggle to salvage the original gift — and the family — while sorting out issues of values, work and identity.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Sing You Home: BBTO Book Club Week 1

I’m having a hard time sleeping this week. I’m totally engrossed in SING YOU HOME by Jodie Picoult that I don’t want to go to bed. I’m really enjoying it and I’m excited to hear what you think. 

There are so many interesting things going on in the book – I really had no idea when I bought it. There’s marital problems, divorce, infertility, custody over unborn babies and religious intolerance just to touch on a few… 

We will have lots to talk about!

Who is in for the first ever BBTO online Book Club?

So far we’ve got: 

Stacey in Florida 
Heather in Ottawa (are you in?)
Lesley (me)

Below are a few questions to begin the conversation this week. I’ve borrowed them from Jodie Picoult’s website which you can visit to find out lots of interesting things about the author and how this book came to be. 

Questions for BBTO Book Club Week 1:
1. “The music we choose is a clear reflection of who we really are”. (p. 135) What songs would be on a mix tape that describes you?
2. Every life has a soundtrack. Name a song that brings back a memory of a time or place. Does it matter how much time has passed?
3. “There was no room in my marriage for me anymore, except as genetic material.” (p. 51) Why does Max give up on his relationship with Zoe? Is his weak, or callous – or in any way justified? How has his experience of infertility and IVF affected him? How do Max and Zoe differ in their handling of disappointment and grief? Do you think they would have stayed together if they hadn’t lost their baby?
4. The author skillfully presents the struggle couples with fertility issues have with IVF. Any insights to share?

Either post your answers in the comments section for all or email them to me HERE.
And for those in Toronto I am hoping we can meet up in April to talk about this book, future picks and swap some really good books. Let me know if you're in!

Author Jodie Picoult

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana - Thank You People Magazine

Someone recently asked me if I had heard of a book called The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe. 

I can't remember who it was and they couldn't remember the full title of the book - but thanks to People Magazine (where it got a four star review and People Pick of the week) I was able to look it up. I found a description and a really great Q&A with the author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon on  Amazon here.

"The Dressmaker of Khair Khana tells the incredible true story of this unlikely entrepreneur who mobilized her community under the Taliban. Former ABC News reporter Gayle Tzemach Lemmon spent years on the ground reporting Kamila's story, and the result is an unusually intimate and unsanitized look at the daily lives of women in Afghanistan. These women are not victims; they are the glue that holds families together; they are the backbone and the heart of their nation. Afghanistan's future remains uncertain as debates over withdrawal timelines dominate the news."

And check out a  Huffington Post review here.

Has anyone read this one yet? 


Sunday, 20 March 2011

First BBTO Sunday Book Club Pick: Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

I had a lovely brunch this morning with two of my oldest friends from Ottawa, Lisa K (and her beautiful kids and husband) and Liisa V (aka LK and LV). 

AS, LV, JL (who also loves to read) and LK

Both LK and LV are great readers and LK is a member of a book club at her office. While we were discussing, LV who blogs at Fit for a kid suggested that I start a BBTO book club here.

Of course I loved the idea and I'm really excited to start sharing and hearing from readers here.  After we've all read the first book then we can meet in person, do a book swap and talk about future picks for the BBTO book club.  

Here's how it will work:
1. On Sundays I will post three questions to get the conversation started.
2. I will collect your comments and create a post to summarize what everyone thinks. I will post on Wednesdays.
3. After we finish the book we can meet up and discuss ideas for the next BBTO book club pick and everyone can bring a few books to swap with the group.

My first pick for the inaugural BBTO book club is SING YOU HOME by Jodi Picoult. I'll be posting a few BBTO book club questions on the first three chapters next Sunday.

I will alert everyone on Facebook and Twitter when I post the book club comments. My Facebook profile is Lesley Slack and Twitter is @LesleySlack.

Please join me and feel free to add your suggestions and comments too!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

LOVING my new Kindle e-reader

My husband bought me my first ever Kindle e-reader for my birthday. I've wanted one for a while and have been dropping some (not so) subtle hints. 

One of the things that I love about my husband (besides the fact that he gets me nice gifts) is that he appreciates my love of books and doesn't make me feel bad about buying so many of them. Now that I have a bookstore at my fingertips this might change because buying me an e-reader is like giving a child 24-7 access to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

I am very thankful to Amazon for creating the "wish list" function. Otherwise I probably would have done a lot of damage.

In one hour I downloaded the following books:

1. Sing You Home by Jodie Picoult
2. The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich
3. Love You More: A Novel by Lisa Gardner
4. Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner

Yes, Lisa Gardner is one of my favourites. When I worked in publishing my mass market paperback mystery/crime addiction felt like a bit of a dirty secret, but now I see that there is nothing wrong with enjoying a suspenseful, easy to read thriller. And I read a lot of them.

One of the other great things about the Kindle is that it came loaded with the Oxford Dictionary of English.

Because it is my birthday, I'm also going to share this photo of a beautiful and delicious Edible Arrangement that I received from one of the sweetest girls I know.

And a couple of pics from my birthday dinner....

 Handsome Aussie husband

Younger (just by a bit) brother, Andrew

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Book Review: These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf is an intriguing novel that begins slowly and quickly gains momentum a few chapters in. Things are not always what they seem, and this is exactly what makes it such a good read and so hard to put down.

The story is set in Iowa — but unfortunately it could be any small town in America appearing in the newspaper headlines after being rocked by a big scandal. Allison Glenn is a beautiful and popular teenager who seems to be the perfect student, daughter, and athlete. She is accused of committing a heinous crime and is sent to prison.
Her family is torn apart, and they’ve cut her off. Even her sister Brynn, whom she considered to be a close confidant, won’t visit her or return her letters. Brynn is tormented by Allison’s former friends at high school (those that used to idolize Allison). Ironically, prior to the crime Brynn used to live in Allison’s shadow, and now she is taunted for her connection to her notorious sister. Shortly after Allison’s sentence she goes to live in a nearby town with her grandmother.

On her release from prison, Allison enters a halfway house where she is given a hard time by the other residents because of the nature of the horrible crime she went to jail for. She also tries to make things better with her family at this point, but they too shy away from her. It is easy for readers to judge Allison, the fallen star of the story, and make their own conclusions like everyone else up to this point in the novel. Then the story unravels and becomes very hard to put down.

Slowly, the family dynamics and dysfunction reveal that Allison is not the one dimensional character she is portrayed as early on in the story. There is a disconnect that began long before Allison was send to prison. And Brynn is a dark, complex character whose fragile nature is cause for her to be underestimated on several levels. At the same time a woman named Claire and her young son are somehow connected to the two sisters. Their fate depends on a series of unexpected events that will keep readers on the edge of their seats to the very end of the novel.

Article first published as "Book Review: These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf" on blogcritics.org. 
 And posted on Seattle PI HERE.

Monday, 14 March 2011

A little love for the new blogger on the block

My friend Liisa has a great blog called fit for a kid. Her blog was definitely one of the things that inspired me to start BBTO.

She just sent some love my way in this post. 

When you visit her site, be sure to browse the archive. Liisa's blog has been up and running for a year now and she has so many interests there - is something there for everyone!

I'm sure you'll enjoy!

Thanks Liisa...

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Four Popular Diet & Fitness Books For Spring

I asked a couple of friends and publicists for their input on the hottest diet and fitness books for spring – there are always an abundance of new ones around this time of year. 

I love how most of them include numbers/timelines in the titles. It really makes sense. We all want to see the quickest results and get them by spending the least amount of time at the gym as humanly possible. Now that is my kind of book!
Here are the top four I thought were worth mentioning, the descriptions come from the publishers.

The 5-Factor Factor World Diet
The 5-Factor World Diet by celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak, blends the world's healthiest foods into one diet featuring over 150 recipes. He brings together proven nutritional secrets, along with techniques from his uniquely specialized "5-Factor Formula” (he wrote the book 5-Factor Fitness). The “5-Factor Formula” is said to have helped thousands of dieters feel more energized and less hungry, able to shed more fat, build lean muscle, and feel healthier than ever before.  And the author is Canadian...

The Eat-Clean Diet Recharged: Lasting Fat Loss That's Better than Ever!
The Eat-Clean Diet by Tosca Reno was a bestseller and comes highly recommended. This updated edition offers in-depth information on non-threatening exercise for extending and improving your life, getting and staying motivated, getting rid of cellulite and tightening your skin to combat the harsh effects of menopause. 
There are nearly 100 new pages, 50 new recipes, information on eating disorders, and a selection of menu plans. 

The 17 Day Diet: A Doctor’s Plan Designed for Rapid Results
Author Dr. Mike Moreno (Dr. Mike) will be familiar to fans of “Dr. Phil” and “The Doctors”. They are currently having an on-air competition to see which contestants can lose more weight using this book.
The 17-Day Diet is a 4-cycle plan that claims to activate "body confusion," which keeps your metabolism guessing, so that you burn fat and lose weight quickly and safely.

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman 
Tim Ferriss, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek claims that this book will show you how to achieve the following:
·         Lose those last 5-10 pounds (or 100+ pounds) with odd combinations of food and safe chemical cocktails.
·         Prevent fat gain while bingeing (X-mas, holidays, weekends)
·         Increase fat-loss 300% with a few bags of ice
·         How to sleep 2 hours per day and feel fully rested
·         How to produce 15-minute female orgasms
·         How to triple testosterone and double sperm count
·         How to go from running 5 kilometers to 50 kilometers in 12 weeks
·         How to reverse “permanent” injuries


Becoming "superhuman"... Sounds pretty good to me!
Honorable mentions also go to The G.I Diet by Rick Gallop, The South Beach Diet by Dr. Arthur Agatston and The Best Life Diet by Bob Greene.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Little Princes: One Man’s Promise To Bring Home The Lost Children

Last night during dinner, a friend told me that she was really enjoying a  book called Little Princes. She said "it is so good you wouldn’t believe that it is a true story".  And "it reads like fiction".

This wasn’t the first time I had heard about this book. Little Princes has certainly been getting a lot of great buzz. 

I’ve always felt that it was wrong to write about a book if I hadn’t either bought a copy yet or started reading it. (Even worse to interview an author if you haven't read the book, I swear this is where I draw the line.)

At the same time I think it is important to get the word out when a great book is first out, and is still relatively new. And Little Princes is an important book that really deserves to be mentioned.  It has been receiving amazing reviews for good reason, and is currently #1 on the Globe & Mail’s bestseller list.  

The book is about author, Conor Grennan’s journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Children’s Home, an orphanage in war-torn Nepal.  He was overcome by the herd of rambunctious, resilient children who would challenge and reward him in a way that he had never imagined. When Conor learned the unthinkable truth about their situation, he was stunned.

The children were not orphans at all. Child traffickers were promising families in remote villages to protect their children from the civil war—for a huge fee—by taking them to safety. They would then abandon the children far from home, in the chaos of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. For Conor, what began as a footloose adventure becomes a commitment to reunite the children he had grown to love with their families. 

You can learn more about this truly amazing story on author Conor Grennan’s website HERE

Thanks to Holly for mentioning this one to me. I will definitely buy a copy soon!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

What’s On Ro’s Reader?

My friend Ro is another book loving blogger. She recently wrote an article on some of the books that she enjoyed reading on her new Kindle.

Take a look at Ro’s recommends on her blog Rochelle * Loves. I’m sure you’ll enjoy! 

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Just in time for International Women’s Day...

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is now available in paperback for the first time. 

It is an unbelievable story and no surprise that the hardcover edition was selected for more than sixty best books of the year lists.

Henrietta Lacks was a poor Southern tobacco farmer. Her cells were taken without her knowledge and became one of the most important tools in science research.
The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. 

If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

I first heard about this book while watching The Agenda with Steve Paikin. You can watch the episode here.

To learn more, visit the author’s website RebeccaSkloot.com here.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Midwife of Venice (I know my mother will love this one)

I have to do a quick write up of the recent Globe & Mail bestseller, The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich because I know that my mom will love it.

I’m willing to bet that she and all of her friends in Florida are already  talking about this novel and circulating a copy or two among the group. 

The heroine of the story is a Jewish midwife who is asked to save the wife and child of a Christian count.

It is described as a  “gripping historical page-turner, full of suspense and a vivid depiction of life in sixteenth-century Venice”.  

Hopefully my mother will let me borrow her copy. 

Here is an interesting story about how the book got published. I had no idea. It involves one of my favourite authors, Joy Fielding.

The Rocker Can Write

I keep hearing that Life by rock and roll legend Keith Richards (with James Fox) is a very good autobiography.

A few of my cool new friends on Twitter have tweeted about it (well they’re not exactly my friends yet....but I follow them).

  Here are a couple of excerpts from recent reviews:

"One of the greatest rock memoirs ever....The title of Richards' book is a simple, accurate description on the contents: the 66-year-old guitarist's highs, lows and death-defying excesses, from birth to now, vividly related in his natural pirate-hipster cadence and syntax."   
- David Fricke, Rolling Stone

This one from Seattle PI was excerpted on The Huffington Post’s website:

“As an avid reader of music biographies, many of them suffer from being ghost written and too factual. This is definitely an exception. Keith's personality and attitude comes across in the book really really well, and we are given a wonderful insight into one of the most interesting characters of the 20th Century."
And if you are  a fan of the memoir genre, take  a look at this compelling article on memoirs by Jennifer Lauck, author of Blackbird (LOVED).

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Michael Oher, Andre Agassi and other finds at the bookstore this weekend

Every weekend I go to the bookstore convinced that “I’ll just have a browse”. But really, who am I kidding? There is always something that I just have to have. I’ve been trying to limit my book buying habit to one or two books a week. Soon there will be a whole new selection of spring books out, and well…one or two? That’s just probably not going to happen.  

I did notice some interesting titles this weekend. Here are a few that I found noteworthy and a few I took home.  


I Beat the Odds from Homelessness to the Blind Side and Beyond by Michael Oher with Don Yaeger 
It should be interesting to hear Michael Oher tell his own story from living in poverty to being courted by NFL scouts followed by his rise to fame. He became a household name when critically acclaimed, bestselling author, Michael Lewis wrote The Blind Side which then went on to become the Academy Award winning film starring Sandra Bullock.  

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards 
Follows on the heels of this author's bestselling novel The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (which has been out for a while but just keeps on sellling). It is described as the story of a woman’s homecoming, a family secret, and the old house that holds the key to the true legacy of a family.


These Things Hidden, a novel by Heather Gudenkauf 
An Iowa teenager (and former local golden girl) is sent to prison for an awful crime. She is cut off from her family and friends. This includes her shy, quiet sister.  Once released from prison she moves to a halfway house and is determined to speak with her estranged sister. The sisters share a secret and if the secret is revealed then one woman’s world will be turned upside down.  

I’ve never read this author before but the book sounds interesting, and maybe a little like White Oleander

Open by Andre Agassi   
 When I recently polled my friends on what they were reading this title got a few mentions. One of my friends said she “loved the book (an autobiography), wasn’t a huge fan before and is less so after reading the book”.  Now I’m intrigued…

Saturday, 5 March 2011

My favourite books of all time. What are your favourites?

Since my blog is just one week old and I’ve been reading for over 30 years, I’ve compiled a list of my all time favourite books. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few but they’ll probably come up in future blogs. I hope you’ll find something interesting here:

Books that made me smile when I was single
Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes
Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes
Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes
The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
About A Boy by Nick Hornby
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

Adapted for film
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Little Children by Tom Perrotta
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer            

About Alice by Calvin Trillin (and a true story)
Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Memoirs and biography
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Running with Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs
Lucky: A Memoir by Alice Sebold
Eric Clapton: The Autobiography by Eric Clapton

Bittersweet love story
Shopgirl by Steve Martin

Funny and sad and anyone with kids will love
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

Fiction set in exotic locations
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marcia Marquez
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Daughter of Fortune by Isabelle Allende and Margaret Sayers Peden
The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende
Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho
The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquival

Historical Fiction
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Girl With a Pearl Earring Tracy Chevalier

For those who love old bookstores and reading by candle light
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Zaffon
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson

Great literary fiction
Any Human Heart by William Boyd
No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod
The History of Love by Nicole Strauss
She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Dr. Vincent Lam
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Away by Amy Bloom
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
Room by Emma Donoghue
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Cool book I read when I was living in Seoul (it is about the author’s time in Korea)
Finding Mr. Kim by Jennifer Barclay

So scary you’ll sleep with the lights on
Bed of Nails by Michael Slade
The Sculptor by Gregory Funaro
Secret Smile by Nicci French
The Red Room by Nicci French
See Jane Run by Joy Fielding
Don’t Cry by Beverly Barton

True Crime
Ann Rule rocks. I read all of her books this past summer. I’ll eventually write a post on my top picks.

I’ve read so many. I’ll just name a few of my favourite writers in this category.
Lisa Jackson
Lisa Gardner
James Patterson (my father is also a big fan)

Friday, 4 March 2011

I’ve never lost an author on a book tour. Except that one time…

I was in the process of creating a list of “my favourite books of all time” (for all my new best friends who read my blog) and as I mentally added Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt to the list, I was reminded of one of my publicity horror stories.

In 2005 I was working for Penguin Group (Canada). That fall we had a record number of authors attending the Harbourfront International Festival of Authors.

It was very exciting when John Berendt agreed to come to Toronto for the festival. His new book at that time was The City of Falling Angels (look it up it is good).  We begged Penguin US to add Toronto to his massive US tour and his US publicist made it happen.

We were thrilled. There was a Globe & Mail interview. The event was a success. John Berendt was charming and funny. A wonderful man.

The morning after his festival event we were having breakfast in the hotel lobby at the Westin Harbor Castle when the festival organizers called to let me know that John Berendt’s car to the airport had arrived.

We grabbed his bags, I got a nice thank you and a warm hug and John leapt into a van in the hotel parking lot.

Half an hour later I got second call from the festival office.  John's car to the airport was still waiting. They were wondering where the heck he was and they were nervous he would miss his flight back to New York.  

Apparently the van he'd leapt into was not the one arranged by the festival and at this point I had no idea who he was with and where they were taking him.

On the way back to the Penguin office my manager assured me it would all work out.

“I’m sure that John Berendt is probably half way to Montreal by now and if we’re lucky we’ll have the ransom note by the time we get back to the office”. 

(They say that as a book publicist you are only as good as your last author tour….)

I was not looking forward to my conversation with his US publicist. (I guess this means no Madonna stop in Toronto?)

I left her a message. A few hours went by, and still no word from John Berendt or possible kidnappers.

Finally I heard that John had a lovely time in Toronto. He arrived in New York and was on his way home.

WHEW. What a relief. AND he didn’t rat me out. Thank you John Berendt! When he submitted his author tour expenses he noted that the receipt for the car to the airport in Toronto was on the way. 

It never arrived though….

Note: I recently said I’d be doing more reading and less blogging, but I’m finding the blogging thing totally addictive. And I know that at the very least, my mother, brother (an aspiring novelist) and husband will read every post.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

A voyage to Morocco with author Jane Johnson

I’ve officially had it with this weather. I was saving my copy of The Salt Road for the train ride to Ottawa later this month, but I think instead I’ll crack it open tonight and be swept away on a Moroccan adventure. It will be hot and sunny and with Jane Johnson as my tour guide, I’m sure it will be magical.

The Salt Road is Jane Johnson’s second novel set in Morocco. Her first, The Tenth Gift was a bestseller in Canada. Both books are historical fiction. I remember staying up late to finish The Tenth Gift  (my friend Stacey loved it too) so I expect that there will be a lot less blogging and a lot more reading over the next couple of days! 

Here is an excerpt from a recent Globe and Mail review of The Salt Road:

For readers looking to experience a shifting, disappearing world, and to be introduced to an exotic culture with evocative descriptions, The Salt Road is an exhilarating ride. Part historic and part contemporary, with universal themes of betrayal, love, and the anguish caused by human greed, it has an ending rich and fulfilling enough for those who like all their questions answered.

Jane Johnson is also a fascinating person. Visit her website here to find out why!