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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Book Review: Little Bee by Chris Cleave

imageI was eagerly looking for anything to read in the Denver airport. I’d lost my previous book on another flight and wasn’t anticipating success in the airport bookstore. But I did spot Little Bee and picked it up because a woman in my row on the last flight had been reading it.

The first page and the back cover sealed the purchase.

We don’t want to tell you WHAT HAPPENS in this book.

It is a truly SPECIAL STORY and we don’t want to spoil it.

NEVERTHELESS, you need to know enough to buy it, so we will just say this:

This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you never have to face. Two years later, they meet again - the story starts there ...

Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.

Chris Cleave has created an English garden maze of a novel. At each page-turn you are introduced to a new path, another piece of the puzzle, a possible way out.

Brilliant. I loved this book.

35 Books Up for Grabs

I pulled 35 books off my shelves that I’m sending to another home. If you’re in Vancouver and want to stake a claim on any of these, let me know. Some are already claimed, but have a peak at GoodReads for what’s available.

Monique’s book montage



A Spot of Bother


Stud: Adventures in Breeding


The View From Castle Rock


Mistress of the Sun


The Possible Past


Taking Things Seriously: 75 Objects with Unexpected Significance


The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture Is Reinventing Capitalism




Gifted: A Novel


Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil


West End Murders


Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain


The Blue Jean Book: The Story Behind the Seams


Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning


Audition: A Memoir


Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business


Boys and Girls Like You and Me: Stories


The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and our Health—and a Vision for Change


The Little Stranger


The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods


Monique’s favorite books »


I’ve got another 18 that I want to recommend. In no particular order:

Lavinia by Ursula LeGuin to Boris who I think enjoys a good fantasy yarn and maybe hasn’t read LeGuin. If that’s true, then he definitely needs this book.

Public Art in Vancouver by Steil + Stalker to Sean who is involved with public art in Vancouver and may not have a copy of this great book, which I think would be an even better iphone app.

Taking Things Seriously by Glenn & Hayes to Rachael who has enough books I’m sure, but this one is quirky and might give her some fun photography inspiration.

The Big Why by Michael Winter to Darren who likes reading and should definitely get some Canadian writers under his belt.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave to my mom who will be interested in this fiction that could be true about a Nigerian girl who’s seeking refuge in Britain and the only people she knows is a couple she met on the beach in Nigeria while they were on holiday.

Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks also to Darren, in case he doesn’t like Michael Winters. This book is esoteric enough to be of interest, at least for a couple of chapters.

Audition by Barbara Walters to Jen, who I think would be interested in the celebrity memoir of Walters and the twists to her character that this book reveals.

The Order of Good Cheers by Bill Gaston to James, who should read Gaston because I think he’ll like the local settings and Gaston’s sense of place and character.

The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard to any of my geeky, interweb friends who want to claim it first.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters also to my mom because she likes these historical novels and because I like Sarah Waters.

Beatrice & Virgil by Yann Martel to Rachael who took me to the CBC Book Club to see Martel.

Duel by David Mulholland to Greg who was my high school English teacher and my next-door neighbour. This book is smart enough for him to enjoy.

Small beneath the Sky by Lorna Crozier to my grandma because she likes reading and she might like this Saskatchewan memoir since that’s where she grew up and because prairie girls stick together.

Jew and Improved by Benjamin Errett to Julie, not because I want her to convert but because, of all my friends, she’ll enjoy this exploration of religion, ritual and faith.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, FL

I went to Infinitus 2010 in Orlando in July and the fine folks at Universal Orlando invited conference attendees to the park after hours for a special presentation and access to the wonders of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade at night. It was magical.

Entering Hogsmeade.

Hogwarts Express
Hogwarts Express is the first sight on your right.

On the left just along the way is Dogweed and Deathcap: Exotic Plants and Flowers.

It’s winter in Hogsmeade but somehow even in shorts this works.

Zonko’s and Honeyduke’s sweet shop is also on the left entering Hogsmeade.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The first site of Hogwarts is breathtaking.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The path to the racing Dragons, and to any ride, is filled with little references to the books and movies. Here’s the car from Chamber of Secrets crashed into a tree. Not the Whomping Willow but still.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
When you’re ready for a drink, the Three Broomsticks will do.

Butterbeer in the Hogs Head
I chose to have Butterbeer in the Hog’s Head. The hog’s head behind the bar moves. And butter beer is delicious. It’s sparkly, creamy and beer like, but sweet. Like a cream soda with root beer and butter cream foam on top.

Butterbeer stand

I had some from the Butterbeer cart in the village centre, but the Hog’s Head butterbeer from the tap was by far the best. (There’s also a frozen, slushy version, but the Hog’s Head poured the best.)

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Owl Post

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Ollivander’s Wands packaged up (and for sale) in the Owl Post. You can send an owl from the Owl Post and they have a Hogsmeade postmark.

The Owlry is pretty stunning.

Peppermint Toads in Honeydukes
Peppermint Toads in Honeydukes.

Pink stairs in Honeydukes
Honeydukes is a kid’s delight. I bought a chocolate frog, pear candies and pineapple candies.

Pumpkin Juice
Pumpkin Juice. I didn’t have any but I did sniff a friend’s. It’s like drinking pumpkin pie, or smells like it anyway.

Lavender, Ron, Hermione
Costumes are not allowed in the park, but there was an exception for us.

Tonks, Mad Eye, Harry
Tonks, Lavender, Mad Eye, Harry, Hermione, Fred

Hagrid’s hut.

The attention to detail is remarkable. I love the typography and signage. This is Ollivander’s Wand Shop.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Entering the gates of Hogwarts.

Talking Portraits
Inside Hogwarts. The talking portraits are, well, talking!

Harry, Ron, Hermione
Harry, Ron and Hermione talk to you and decide that Hermione will use magic to help you fly.

The pensieve in Dumbledore’s office.

Dumbledore's Office
Dumbledore on the balcony talking to us.

Sorting Hat
The Sorting Hat explains, in rhyme, the rules for the magical ride in which you fly through the grounds, across the Quidditch pitch, into the owlry, then into the dungeons. Totally awesome. I went twice.

Great Hall
The great hall.



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book Review: Madame de Stael by Francine de Plessix Gray


Madame de Stael: The First Modern Woman by Francine Du Plessix Gray is a beautiful book. I picked it up in McNally Jackson in Soho. Lovely. And the writing is, of course, equally fabulous.

What I love about bookstores are these types of discoveries. If McNally Jackson wasn’t such a gem of a store, and didn’t have interesting tables of books and little nooks to display staff favourites, then I would not have purchased this book or even known about it. Thank you McNally.

Madame de Staël was a legendary conversationalist. Schooled by her mother and well versed in the salon by the time she married, Madame de Staël was known for her intelligence, enthusiasm and eloquence—and natural conversation skills, unlike her mother’s, which were quite forced.

De Staël was passionate about politics, women’s rights and her father. The first part of the book details her childhood at the hands of her demanding mother and how she doted on her father, who was Louis XVI’s minister of finance. I just got into the section about her marriage, many affairs and motherhood then I misplaced my book! It’s lost somewhere in Florida so I have another on order from McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg (the parents of Sarah McNally, who runs McNally Jackson in Soho). Until then I shall have to wait to read about her battle of wills with Napoléon Bonaparte and the epic tales about her salon.

In the meantime, could everyone go find a gem in their local bookstore please. I would like them to remain in existence—both the gems and the bookstores.