A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Book Review: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly is a spin on Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Twelve-year-old David recently lost his mother and now his father is remarried. Rose is pregnant and when little Georgie comes along the family moves into Rose’s larger family home. David is a reader and a recluse so he’s only happy tucked away in his attic room, where he can read old books and be miserable and jealous of his father’s new-found happiness with Rose and Georgie.

One night David slips away into another world, one of fantasy and adventure. He must make his way to the King, who has a book that might be able to restore him to his world. Along the way there are a number of stories that build upon the Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

I enjoyed this book and thought it was well crafted, but I couldn’t get rid of the eerie sensation that I knew the plot and what was coming next. The Book of Lost Things would be a great read for teens and adults but I suspect that someone uninitiated into the world of Grimm’s would find it more exciting than someone who’s well-versed in fables and fairy tales.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Another New Adventure: Monique Eats Fish

For those of you who have eaten in a restaurant with me, or—heaven help you—tried to make me dinner, you know that I have a long list of allergies. Surprise! This is no longer a problem. I went to a Chinese touchy-feely doctor who cured me. I am now “block free”.

It’s a miracle.

Debra Gibson is a Chinese medicine doctor, but she also does Korean hand massage, acupuncture, and a whole list of things I don’t fully understand. I had four sessions where I basically rested on her table while she got me to hold different glass vials. Every once in a while she’d move my arm and I’d have to resist against her. The first session I got a head massage.

I really can’t explain any of the medicine behind what’s happened to me, it’s all auto-magical as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s are the major food I can now experience:

- vinegar (used to be a tough one, no salad dressings, most sauces, pickles, olives ... there’s vinegar in many, many things)
- fish (shellfish, salt water, fresh water, all of it.)
- beans, lentils, mushrooms

No more incredible stomach pain, vomiting, feeling like death is knocking on the door, hives, and other unpleasantries. I’m block free. NOTHING HAPPENS!

I started my little experiment of re-introducing foods 12 weeks ago. In the first 6 weeks, I ate all different kinds of mushrooms. I like cremini the best so far but I haven’t eaten all types of mushrooms so I still have lots to discover. I ate chilli with beans. I don’t quite like kidney beans. Sandwiches with mayonnaise. I definitely do not like mayo, although I did have chipotle mayo with some yam fries that were sprinkled with balsamic vinegar. Delicious. By week 7 I had vinegar—so far only balsamic, no white vinegar except in other sauces. I also ate a quarter of a scallop. Nice, firm, ok taste. No throat swelling so I thought that was great. Needless to say, the scallop was the scariest item to try. With fish I have an instant reaction, and not a good one.

Today was the big test. James, Scott and I went to Go Fish. A seafood shack at Fisherman’s Wharf near Granville Island. I had a one piece halibut fish and chips. I think James was more concerned than I was with the first bite. My anxiety has been lowered substantially by my other successful experiments. I also have been able to walk by the fish stands in Granville Island Market without any reaction.

The halibut was great. I tried the tartar sauce with dill. That was good. I tried the malt vinegar. That was ok. Everything now is just a matter of taste. Eating is an overwhelming experience. There are so many new flavours. It’s an explosion in my mouth. Sometimes I’m not sure if I like something or not. I have to try it a couple of times. It’s like being a child again.

2007 is the year of adventure.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Monique Leaves Raincoast Books to Join Work Industries

Now that I’ve had a chance to speak directly with most of my coworkers and other clients, it’s time to loudly and publicly announce that I am leaving corporate life and joining the growing army of entrepreneurs in my midst.

I will join Work Industries as a partner and owner in mid-January.

Work Industries is an internet consultancy focussed on web strategy, online marketing, content creation, outreach and online community building.

The company was founded by James Sherrett, who has been my sweetheart for 10 years. I’m now committed on both a personal front and a business front.

How’s it all going to work? James and I have worked together before and we’re a good match for each other’s energy and enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to it.

And James says he’s tickled. You can read his announcement here.

So Misguided is my labour of love and books are my passion so stick around because this blog is not going away. You can always contact me here at So Misguided, but if you want to talk shop, I can also be reached at monique at i workindustries dot com. Yes there’s an “i” in there. I work at iWorkIndustries.com

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Andy Mckee on YouTube is really rocking my socks

Andy Mckee - Drifting - http://www.candyrat.com
Watch it here.

Tappers will love it.

Here’s what Don Ross on Candyrat.com has to say: “In my humble opinion, Andy is the most innovative and exciting fingerstyle guitarist to emerge in years. Still in his 20’s, Andy has developed a mastery of the 6-string guitar and the harp guitar that leaves me speechless. He is the most textural player of the instrument since Michael Hedges, and he creates sonic architecture worthy of the great modern composers for any instrument.”

Giles Slade on CBC BC Almanac

Giles Slade, author of Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America will be on CBC Radio’s

BC Almanac on Tues Dec 19th at 1:30pm.

This is the best non-fiction book I read in 2006. Slade talks about everything from our obsession with small gadgets, which leads to truckloads of e-waste, to the origins of our consumerism and culture of waste.

Listen in, and if you’re inspired, call in and ask a question. An author’s greatest fear is having no one show up for the book reading or in this case no one call in.

I love this book. Here are previous posts on Made to Break

Friday, December 15, 2006

Today’s Tech News Highlights

Every morning I read the headlines on CBC.ca and today there’s 3 stories that I want to share.

Random crap on the internet has huge social appeal. Why? Because it’s funny and everyone needs a good laugh. Canadian connection? This is a Saskatchewan woman with strong teeth. Invite her to your next party.

CRTC released a report saying that new media is not yet having a significant impact on traditional radio and broadcasting. Funny enough, they then say that Canadians ages 12-14 and 15-19 reduced their radio listening by up to 3 hours in 2006 vs. 2005. And, only 8% of Canadians have listened to a podcast in the past month (um, that’s 2.6 million active listeners in a month).

The University of Manitoba, my alma mater, is trying out social networking. The Virtual Learning Commons website “lets staff and students create academic and personal profile pages they can use to share information or make new contacts.”

Thursday, December 14, 2006

CaseCamp in Second Life

In First Life, I’m at the Work Industries holiday party. I have my party dress on, the band is blaring in the other room and I’m in a storage space with the extension cord to a power outlet. Why? Because in Second Life I’m over at Crayonville attending CaseCamp.

True geekdom.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Build-a-Bear Greeting Card

I got a Build-a-Bear ecard, and you can make your own here.

I liked this so much I had to share. Happy holidays.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Five Things You Don’t Know About Me

Kate tagged me with the five things meme. Here’s what many of you don’t know:

1. I’m originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba.
2. I have two masters degrees. One in English and one in Publishing.
3. I wrote the memoir of a WWII vet. He was a commando. It’s called “If Truth Be Told”.
4. I started ballet at the age of 3 and still dance weekly.
5. My alternate career would be clock-maker.

Red rover, red rover, I call over James Sherrett, Travis F. Smith, Siobhan, Stefanie—one of my favourite foodies, and My friend with the tragic right hip.

Booksprice.com: A Comparative Tool for Books, DVDs, Games and CDs

I got an email about a new online tool for price comparisons. A Froogle for the book biz, it seems.

Here’s the price comparison for James’s book. It looks like it’s a better tool if you live in the US. I don’t see Indigo.ca in the list of retailers, and the majority of the other listings are American based.

A number of studies about the publishing industry indicate that price is a major factor in book buying behaviour. The deep discounts provided by stores like Amazon and Indigo have created a consumer expectation for hardcover books that are under $40, often under $30.

The sad thing is that for the domestic publishing industry, who can’t print huge numbers to bring down the unit cost, consumer expectation is out of line with the actual production costs the publisher incurs to print and distribute the book. The margins in publishing are extremely low so I understand wanting to shop around and get a good price on a book, but I also want to support local stores, and independent stores often charge the full price. I’d rather pay the list price and support a local store than price shop and buy from an American giant.

And if you’re American, where are the independents in this BookPrice list? Where’s Powell’s?

The Canadian Writers Collective

In October I participated on a panel at Wordfest in Calgary. The discussion was called something odd like “The Blogger Blogs” and the panelists were scheduled to talk about blogging.

As J. A. McDougall points out in her post on The Canadian Writers Collective blog, “titling a session with the word blog is akin to inviting people to a meeting about computers.”

Thankfully we, the panelists, managed to keep up the witty conversation about our favourite blogs, why we blog, how we deal with spam and what our ideologies are when it comes to community and online tools.

J. A. does an excellent job of quoting each of the panelists and summarizing what we talked about.

Here’s the full post for those interested.

Check out the links to the panelists’ favourite blogs, there are some good ones.

And, of course, a huge thank you to J. A. for attending the blogging discussion at Wordfest. I appreciated all the insightful questions and comments. Many, many thanks.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Monique’s Holiday Book Picks

So far I haven’t been inspired by the holiday picks on Amazon and Indigo. At least the Globe and Mail top 100 books had some interesting selections, as did the New York Times. In general though, there were books I thought should be on the list and weren’t.

Here are my reads and picks for the year.

Monique’s Teen, Tween and Kid Picks

I only have 5 picks because a lot of teens and tweens read adult books. But these are the books I read this year and thought were fun. My favourite is You’re a Bad Man, Mr. Gum by Andy Stanton. The jacket copy says, “Good evening. Mr Gum is a complete horror who hates children, animals, fun, and corn on the cob. This book’s all about him. And an angry fairy who lives in his bathtub. And Jake the dog, and a little girl called Polly and an evil, stinky butcher all covered in guts. And there’s heroes and sweets and adventures and everything.”

But if you don’t like my choices, check out Indigo’s Junior Advisor Book Picks: these tweens and teens have picked and reviewed the books they like. If you want to know what to buy for people aged 12-17 then go to the source.

Monique’s Fiction Picks

My number one pick is James’ novel Up in Ontario. I think the storytelling is superb and I’m not just saying that because we live together. It’s a good story for male and female readers. I point that out because men often are reluctant to pick up fiction titles. They tend to prefer nonfiction titles. But this is a good boy story. I highly recommend it.

I have 12 picks in total. All are books I’ve read or am going to read. Highlights are Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, The Garneau Block by Todd Babiak, A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon, and Margarettown by Gabrielle Zevin.

Monique’s Nonfiction Picks

I have 10 picks here. My ultimate favourite book this year was Made to Break by Giles Slade. It’s the book for people interested in things, how they work, and where and why we do things the way we do. Saying it’s a history of consumerism makes it seem less interesting than it is, but think about how you’d describe Freakonomics or The Tipping Point. This is a book of ideas.

My other fav is A Year of Adventures by Lonely Planet. It’s a coffee table book with beautiful photos and inspiration for every day of the year. The book answers the question: If you could be anywhere in the world today, where would the best place be and what would you be doing?

What’s the book you want to receive as a gift? What book do you want to buy for everyone on your list?

Tell me your holiday picks.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Random House Starts Selling Online and Indigo Stocks Self-Published Titles

Two big news items today in Quill and Quire.

Random House Canada has started selling books directly to consumers off its website and Indigo Books & Music (including Chapters and Coles) has started stocking self-published authors.

Why are these two things important?

Canadian publishers have been slow to enter the ecommerce game because booksellers see it as a betrayal. Traditionally publishers have sold titles to booksellers who then sell books to readers. Booksellers are the middleman in this model, and when publishers start selling directly to consumers it cuts them out.

In order to have a healthy industry, I believe publishers do need to support booksellers. At the same time, booksellers need to get with the program. Books are the #2 online purchase (travel is #1). Online booksales account for 1-5% of a publisher’s total sales.

On the one hand it’s big potatoes, on the other it’s not.

The trend I see is this: people are migrating online to discover new titles, they are no longer wandering into a store and looking for advice from the bookseller. The display tables and staff picks still work, but people are also using the internet to qualify book suggestions. For example, my friend recommends a book to me at a party. I think it sounds interesting. Instead of going to a bookstore, finding it on the shelf (when it may not be in stock), or talking to the bookseller, I google the title. I look at the author website or the publisher site or I look at Amazon. If I do decide to buy the book, I go into the store. This is how it works now. But booksellers aren’t supporting their websites, are doing little to capture the interest of their local community, and are losing the opportunity to draw people into their stores or to purchase titles from them online. This is why publishers are stepping into that space.

Indigo selling self-published authors.

This is interesting because the self-publishing market is expanding rapidly. There are lots of people out there with book ideas, publishers are slow to react in terms of turn-around time on a book, and publishers are highly selective in what they want to publish. Indigo stocking these titles is a huge step forward because as I mentioned above online book sales are still relatively small in Canada, in-store placement goes a long way. The interesting twist in this story is that Indigo is stocking self-published authors who have signed a deal with iUniverse: America’s “leader in supported self-publishing.” American, eh?

The suggestion is that Canadian authors using iUniverse will be the ones stocked in Indigo, but I wonder why Indigo isn’t supporting a Canadian company like Trafford instead of an American company. Perhaps more Canadians use iUniverse?

More likely, iUniverse has authors who are willing to pay a couple thousand dollars to get their books into Indigo—into Indigo and onto a display table. In traditional publishing, publishers pay for placement. It’s like a grocery store: end caps on the aisles, key placement at the front of a store, etc. If iUniverse can generate the funds from self-published authors, they can take a percentage of that and pass the rest over to Indigo as placement dollars. A good deal for both companies. I suspect that Trafford doesn’t see themselves in that game, but iUniverse is willing to capitalize on the relationship with a Canadian chain, which then sets the stage (if it isn’t already the case) and makes them look like a good partner to US chain stores (Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc.)—much bigger dollars.

I don’t know enough about it to comment further, but I think it’s an interesting story to watch. If anyone has more details, fill me in.

CBC Scraps Canada Now and Adds Civic Journalism Initiative

Yesterday the CBC reported that it will cancel Canada Now and restore one-hour local news shows.

I remember being angry that local news shows were cancelled, but then I lived in Vancouver and Gloria and Ian were local hosts I was familiar with and Canada Now easily integrated itself into my expectations of a news program. That’s clearly not how the rest of Canada felt, according to CBC audience surveys. So they’ve reverted to local programming.

The other interesting addition to the story is that CBC will solicity public input:

Vancouver will also be the first CBC news bureau to pioneer “civic journalism,” in which citizens can upload video or images of news events to the CBC.

Details are vague but it seems like an interesting and progressive move.

I heart public broadcasting.