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

Monday, September 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Raul @hummingbird604


Happy birthday to my friend Raul Pacheco-Vega. Raul is one of those friends who writes lovely blog posts about his friends on their birthdays and today I want to return the well wishes and greetings.

Raul is an interesting and provocative person. There are many causes that he supports and lobbies his friends to support. I like that kind of tenacity.

Raul is also constantly challenging himself, whether that’s with physical fitness or mental alertness. He has an idea of perfection that he strives towards and I like a friend who puts their mind to something. The man has a manifesto.

Raul’s gratitude and recognition for his friends, colleagues and mentors is an inspiration, which is why I thought today would be a good day to take a page from Raul’s book and say thank you for being that crazy guy who loves perfume and blogs a mile a minute. I wish you another year of enthusiasm for all things.

Happy Birthday @hummingbird604

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Book Review: A Trick of Light by Louise Penny

imageI recommend all sorts of books to my mom. Most she likes and some that I think she’ll really like, she ends up hating. I was a bit worried recommending A Trick of Light by Louise Penny because I really enjoyed it and I wasn’t sure if it would make the cut for my mom.

Well, I can report that she has since purchased all of Louise Penny’s books and is a huge fan of Inspector Gamache.

Author Louise Penny lives outside of a small village south of Montreal, but she hasn’t always been a Quebecer. Penny was born in Toronto and became a journalist and radio host for CBC. She moved to Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, eventually settling in Quebec.

Within weeks I’d called Quebecers ‘good pumpkins’, ordered flaming mice in a restaurant, for dessert naturally, and asked a taxi driver to ‘take me to the war, please.’ He turned around and asked ‘Which war exactly, Madame?’ Fortunately elegant and venerable Quebec City has a very tolerant and gentle nature and simply smiled at me. (...more)

Full of courtesy and dignity is our main character, the Inspector. No wonder my mom has a bit of a heart throb for him. Even investigating the murder of Lillian Dyson, he is charming yet firm, worldly yet not pretentious.

Now don’t go worrying about dear Lillian, because she wasn’t much of a dear. Lillian, more times than not, played the stream roller, taking down the careers of many artists and presumed friends in the art world. She was a harsh and caustic critic, in particular of Clara Morrow, in whose garden she found herself murdered.

Now why was she in Clara’s garden the night of Clara’s first solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal? Lillian certainly wasn’t invited to the after-party in the garden. And what was she planning to do in that shocking, red cocktail dress?

A modern-day Agatha Christie, Louise Penny can hold her readers attention. Even the secondary characters have fully realized personas and backstories, which certainly makes it harder to guess the conclusion of this who-dunnit.

If you have never heard of Louise Penny, A Trick of Light is worth the read.

Published by St. Martin’s Press
Hardcover edition
Canadian author

Audiobook by Macmillan Audio (Listen to a clip.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Review: The Rebel Sell by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter


The Rebel Sell: Why The Culture Can’t Be Jammed takes aim at Michael Moore, Adbusters magazine, Naomi Klein, the women’s movement, leftists/rightists/centerists, hippies and basically any group that could be considered radical.

The book is an intellectual fistfight and I’m not sure who comes out the winner. Some readers will certainly feel beaten up.

The book is worth reading, but with special caution paid to rhetorical glissades and spin.

In short, Rebel Sell is a long missive advocating peace, order and good government.

Here are my top take-aways:

  1. The anti-capitalists are still capitalists, they just don’t know it.
  2. Corporate bullying (lobbying and tax exemptions) could be better dealt with by removing certain write-offs or decreasing the exemption percentages.
  3. Two wrongs don’t make a right. As in Adbusters’ “Buy Nothing Day” and the sales of Adbusters’ running shoes do not make us a better society.
  4. A capitalist society is not about conformity, and advertising is about knowing what’s available to buy.
  5. Hipsters and elitests are simply struggling for status, which is no different than teens wanting the new, cool thing.
  6. Feminists lost women power in some aspects of life.
  7. Free love wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
  8. And peace, love and happiness have been, and always will be, distritributed unevenly.
  9. Selling out is just realizing that you’re part of capitalism, and it’s not all bad.
  10. My problem with the authors’ worldview is that it is presented from a single perspective that manufactures support for their argument.

Again, it is worth reading, but make sure your thinking cap is tightly secured.

The Rebel Sell: Why The Culture Can’t Be Jammed
By Joseph Heath, Andrew Potter (Canadian authors)
Published by HarperCollins
Available in hardcover, paper, ebook

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Book Review: The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby


The Woefield Poultry Collective was highly recommended to me by a bookseller at the now defunct Ardea Books. The thing I miss most about having a local bookstore is the staff recommendations. There is something less novel about email newsletters and websites than the in-store chit-chat and recommendations.

The woman, whose name I now forget, was a constant source of good reading material. She recommended YA novels that were brilliant, nonfiction that was stimulating and fiction that I could not pass up. I miss her.

Her last recommendation was The Woefield Poultry Collective. She said, “this novel is terrificly funny. I couldn’t put it down. It is about a woman from New York who inherits a farm and tries to make a go of it.”

The farm name is Woefield, and it is full of woe-betide characters and lousy soil. The only really farming seems to be rock farming. But the new proprietor, named Prudence, is not so prudent.

She, upon a brief introduction, invites the pale-face, homebody from next door to move in. Seth runs a couple of internet sites and doesn’t really leave the house. He does a lot of drinking and fretting about “the thing with the drama teacher.” In fact, he’s on Prudence’s doorstep because his mom just kicked him out.

Where others see a loser, Prudence sees an opportunity.

The novel is told in first person and alternatives between Prudence, the new farm owner, Seth the geek and lay-about, Earl the farm hand, and little Sara, who like Seth is a bit lost in the world.

Unlike Seth, Sara is a go getter. She’s landed at the farm because her family has moved into a subdivision and she can no longer keep her poultry in the yard. Prudence has offered to house the birds.

The book is laugh-out loud funny. Funny in ways that had me reading chapters aloud to James, especially the chapters from Sara or Earl’s perspective. The straight-man nature of these two in comparison to flaky Prudence and Chubnuts (Earl’s pet name for Seth) is hilarious.


When my parents told me that I had to move my birds, I didn’t say anything. In Jr. Poultry Fancier’s Club they tell us that leaders are Even Tempered, which means they don’t get mad even when everyone would understand if they were. The other thing leaders do is Take Action. I’m beginning to think I have some leadership qualities because even though I might feel mad, I try not to show it ...

When my parents told me I had to move my birds because some neighbors complained, I just got up and went to my room. I didn’t tell them this was what we got for moving to Shady Woods Estates, where the house are all packed together and there are rules about everything. I didn’t tell them that my chickens are the nicest part of Shady Woods, which they are. I didn’t mention that the word Shady is extremely ironic, which I learned about in English last semester, since there is no shade anywhere on our streets. You have to have trees to have shade and there are no trees left here. It’s also kind of ironic that I’m only eleven and a half and even I know this.”

The building of Sara’s chicken coop is as fraught with tension as Sara’s family life, but is also good for a laugh.


I’d be the first one to tell you I don’t know a whole hell of a lot about kids. Never had any. Barely even knew any. When you grow up in a musical family, ‘specially a musical country family, there’s a lot of working and playing music. Not too much being a kid. So for all I know, maybe all kids is bossy as hell. But I don’t think any of them could come anywhere near that little Sara Sprout. Good goddamn name for her ...

She was not afraid to dictate an order or two. I learned that after she looked at the chicken house ...

She told me it looked wrong, and I was about to tell her to go to hell when Prudence comes rushing over and sticks her nose in, trying to smooth things out.

Prudence told the kid I been working on it all day and asked what the problem was. So the kid started to tell her ... she pointed to the tar paper poking out here and there and said there were no vents and how chickens need excellent ventilation.

God help me, she had a point there. But I didn’t let on that I agreed. Truth is, I was getting a helluva kick out of her ...

Prudence told the kid I’d be happy to fix it and the kid said how at her junior poultry club they are taught that standards are important.

Standards. Can you beat that?

She told us that without standards you have nothing.

She had a point there. That kid’s not much for smiling, but she sure as hell makes up for it on the giving directions side.

Sweet. Delightful. Witty. I don’t think these adjectives do justice to Susan Juby’s novel. Sure it’s these things, but it’s also a good bit of farm humour. Anyone who has some farm experience knows these characters, and knows the style of farm-funny I’m talking about.

If you read and enjoyed The Woefield Poultry Collective then I recommend Outstanding in Their Field.

Bob Collins’ Outstanding in Their Field is a collection of crazy funny farm stories. Self-published and worth the read. Prudence wouldn’t own a copy of this book, but her life could be a farm-yarn in this collection.

Prudence’s big plan is to rake in the dough selling her wares at the farmers market. To that end, I recommend the Foodtree website and app.

Foodtree.com is a way to chart the provenance of your fruits and veg. Snap photos of your purchases at the farmers market, upload to Foodtree and tag with the market, farmer and product. It’s a delicious way to share what’s on your plate. (Available in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Boulder CO.) I’m sure Prudence would be all over this app, although I doubt anyone would be clamoring to snap pics of her spindly radishes—unless it was to make fun.

Check it out.

The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby (Canadian author)
Available in hardcover, paperback and ebook from Harper Collins