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Harper Collins Canada

Friday, February 09, 2018

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz | Book Review


Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz available from HarperCollins Canada

Description: This murder mystery is a story within a story. Susan Ryeland is Alan Conway’s editor. He’s submitted his recent manuscript but there’s a chapter missing and he’s turned up dead. As a reader you get Conway’s manuscript, plus the story of Susan trying to solve Alan’s murder.

The perfect read for BBC Mysteries fans. This mystery is Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War meets House of Silk, all 3 of which are written by Horowitz.

Favourite Moment: Conway’s detective series is built around Atticus Pund is a Poiret-inspired figure. Atticus is as likeable as any of the great detectives in literature.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book Review: The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

79-year-old Martha Andersson dreams of escaping her care home and robbing a bank.

Well I was worried about taking this book cover through customs but Martha Andersson’s luck was on my side. This old bird is a spring chicken when it comes to planning the perfect crime. Martha and her cronies are fed up with budget cuts in their retirement home that have led to reductions in the amount of coffee they can have per day and the elimination of biscuits with their tea. It’s simply outrageous and, what is even more insulting, the prisons in Sweden look like luxury accommodation in comparison. Something must be done.

When the old foggies can’t get improvements at home, they form the League of Pensioners and rob an art gallery. It’s the perfect crime. Even the police and newspapers make that claim. But what these seniors want is time in prison so they turn themselves in and figure out a way to keep the ransom money, return the paintings and be the Robin Hoods of their day.

If you liked The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson or The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce then you’ll enjoy this funny heist.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton


The Miniaturist: “There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…” When the newly married Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam on a brisk autumn day in 1686 she is expecting to be warmly embraced into her husband’s household. Johannes Brandt is a wealthy merchant trader who is well respected, and Amsterdam is a glittery new start for Nella who comes from the country with a suitcase and her ancient, respected Oortman name. She soon discovers that her family name is likely the only reason she is there. Johannes’ sister Marin is a younger version of Downton Abbey‘s Dowager Countess, and she certainly runs the household, not a role Nella the new wife is going to assume.

Johannes is kind, but mostly away travellling, and his affections, when home are showered on his dogs, not Nella. The one gift he presents to her is a cabinet-sized replica of their home. Nella finds a miniaturist to furnish the rooms but, as cryptic package after package arrives, Nella’s wonderment shifts to eerie suspension. The miniatures of the household are exact replicas of the furniture and family members, and they are lovely at first. But then unrequested items like a small cradle arrive. It’s like the miniaturist knows the family’s deepest desires and secrets.

When Johannes’ favourite dog is killed and a long-time servant disappears, the artistry seems to turn to witchcraft. Nella is left wondering if the packages are benign predictions of the future or warnings of things to come. The whole experience is all the more alarming given that Nella is living in Amsterdam at a repressively pious time: puppets are banned, and even man-shaped gingerbread is forbidden. But false idols end up being the least of her concerns when Johannes is betrayed by a friend and arrested.

The Miniaturist is a beautifully written fairy tale with all the witchcraft and sugar plums you could possibly want. It’s beguiling. Fans of the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern will enjoy this story. I think readers of historical fiction, Sarah Waters or Markus Zusak (The Book Thief) will like it too.

Or check out what readers say on Goodreads

Monday, November 18, 2013

Come Barbarians by Todd Babiak

Todd Babiak’s latest novel about a Canadian family accidentally caught up with mobsters in the south of France needs to be read with the lights on and the doors locked!


This is not earnest Canadiana. Babiak has written a spine-tingling, torture-ridden, political drama about the Kruse family who end up hunted by a Corsican crime family hired by a political party with connections throughout the country and in the gendarmerie.

Christopher and Evelyn Kruse bring their 4-year-old daughter Lily to South France in an attempt to rekindle their love. Instead they are driven apart when their daughter is hit and killed by a drunk driver who happens to be their landlord and the poster-boy candidate for the Front National party, Jean-Francois de Musset. The next morning Jean-Francois and his wife are found brutally murdered, Evelyn is on the run, and Christopher discovers Russian goons hired by a Corsican crime family are hunting his wife. He must draw on his security forces training and own investigative skills to find her before they do.

Come Barbarians is a fantastic thriller where South France is as much a character as Christopher himself; dark, mysterious and desperately seeking some form of stasis.

If you like The Wire tv series, you’ll like Come Barbarians.

I think I also enjoyed this novel because we were in South France last year and visited many of the towns mentioned in the book, including Vaison-la-romaine where the book opens.

Door knocker

Cote de Rhone loop drive


Come Barbarians by Todd Babiak
Published by HarperCollins

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


Friday, October 30, 2009

Four New Books Arrived

Four new books arrived on my desk today.

Looking forward to reading this weekend.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Book Review: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

imageA Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick is a great novel. I read it in 2 days. The plot is a little bit dark, there’s a small mystery, an unanticipated twist and a satisfying ending.

Rural Wisconsin, 1909.

Successful iron and oil man Ralph Truitt has put out an advertisement for a reliable wife. He’s spent 20 years getting over his first wife, the death of his daughter and the estrangement of his son. Life is lonely and he has a glimmer of hope that a reliable wife will at least allow him some joy and a warm body to sleep beside.

Catherine Land arrives in the railcar that Truitt has sent to collect her. A tramp, a whore, a conniving wench. Catherine is not at all like the photo she sent (that’s because it’s not of her) nor is she all that Truitt expected. She is however more than he bargained for, and in a good way.

But he doesn’t realize that at first. The bitter cold of the Wisconsin winter means that he can’t leave her on the platform so he takes her home in order to figure out what to do. Catherine is playing her pious, reliable wife role really well but Truitt knows she’s a liar. He just doesn’t know to what extent.

A Reliable Wife is certainly a reliable read. There some gentle bodice ripping, betrayals and twists of fate and interlaced story lines. I think ultimately it’s a novel about love and forgiveness. Each character does some unforgiveable things only to realize in the end that they were loved despite their faults.

Oh and there’s a poisoning. But I don’t want to give too much away.

Browse Inside: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick.

Have a look at A Reliable Wife on Scribd.com.

BookingMama has a much better review than I’ve been able to throw down in 5 minutes so please read more about the book here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

SXSW: No Think for Old Publishers

New Think for Old Publishers panel at SXSW drew a lot of frustration from the crowd of book lovers and supporters.

The official description of the session was:

This is not a discussion of whether ebooks are killing treebooks, or whether it’s possible to get cozy with an Amazon Kindle. It’s about how participatory culture and the online world interact with good olde book publishing.Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, Deborah Schultz, and fellow panelists will share with the audience a variety of perspectives on what’s going right and what’s going wrong in publishing, assess success of recent forays into marketing digitally, digital publishing, and what books and blogs have to gain from one another. Penguin Group (USA), which houses some 40 plus imprints and publishes an extremely broad variety of physical and digital products everything from William Gibson’s first ebook in the 90’s to Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food to Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels (the source for HBO’s True Blood) is deeply involved in exploring ways that old and new media might better collaborate. Audience members are invited to speak up about what they think book publishers could/should be doing to better provide relevant information and content to blogs, websites, and online communities. Come tell old media what you want and how you want it.

Clay Shirky ITP
John Fagan   Mktg Dir,  Penguin Group (USA)
Deborah Schultz   Founder/Chief Catalyst,  deborahschultz.com
Peter Miller   Dir of Publicity,  Bloomsbury USA
Ivan Held   Pres GP Putnam’s Sons,  Penguin Group (USA)

They certainly told publishers what they think. The summation was “you suck at this is the biggest way possible.”

I think it’s unfair to attack the folks on that panel but as representatives of the industry they do have to go back to their houses and understand that they need to convey, not that bloggers are an unruly bunch, but that publishers need to get off their asses and get involved with social media. Enough is enough.

BookSquare says
If you’re going to hold a session called “New Think for Old Publishers”, you gotta come with some new thinking. Either that or tell the audience that it’s a research session…and the audience is supposed to bring the new thinking. Good idea, needed better execution. Nobody read the panel description to mean “we want the audience to tell us what we’re doing wrong and how we can fix it”.


The publishing people on stage said, essentially, tell us what we’re doing wrong and how we can fix it. You have 300 people who give up an hour of their lives to hear the cool things the traditional publishing business is doing…and you can ask them to consult on your business?

Watch a video of the panel here.

Other links to conversation about this panel:
Medialoper has a fairly neutral assessment of what unfolded.

Twitter stream of comments on this panel #sxswbp

Monique’s summary
What went wrong is this:
* Publishers have not listened to the crowd for a long time.
* The crowd is restless.
* Publishers wring their hands about the web.
* The crowd offers options publishers don’t like.
* Publishers weep into their hands.
* The crowd wants to help and offers other suggestions.
* Publishers act like deer in headlights.
* The crowd plows down publishers and reinvents the industry without them.

What this panel really came down to is that the wisdom of the crowds is not being tapped. The crowd is now sick and tired of trying to help people who won’t help themselves.

Hold me to this: I’m going to organize a panel in Vancouver. We’re going to create a model for publishing and marketing books. We’re going to move forward as an industry. Leaders will be identified. Roles will be assigned. If you’re not open to totally change everything you’re doing, then you are not ready for this revolution. Don’t come.

Who’s in?


Peter Miller Glibness. “Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Tips from a panelist who barely survived” in Publishers Weekly.
Read the article.

Michael Tamblyn of BookNet Canada on 6 Things That Revolutionize Publishing

Sunday, March 01, 2009

New Christopher Moore Novel: Fool

Apparently the bangers and mash really hit the fan in Christopher Moore’s new novel Fool.

Published by Harper Canada

Travis introduced me to Christopher Moore a while ago. I read his copy of Fluke. If I had more than 2 minutes to myself in the next month, I’d be getting my hands on a copy.

Aside from that I’m reading Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (distributed by Raincoast Books).


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Interested in this book?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Book Review: The Man Who Forgot How to Read by Howard Engel

imageThe Man Who Forgot How to Read: A Memoir by Howard Engel is not a literary masterpiece but it is a masterful work. Howard Engel, author of the Benny Cooperman detective novels, woke up one day and discovered that he could not read the newspaper. Not the newspaper, books, street signs, any written text. In the night he suffered a stroke that affected the part of his brain responsible for reading. He could write but could not read.

The Man Who Forgot How to Read is Engel’s story of his struggle to regain reading, from the day of the stroke to the day of the manuscript completion that is this memoir. I say it isn’t a literary masterpiece because compared to something like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ memoirs, this is plain writing. It’s not literary writing that flows into the memoir. It’s the straightforward story of a man who lost a significant part of his identity over night. An author who cannot read.

I do think it is a masterful work regardless. The incredible journey Engel takes in order to read and write and complete not just this manuscript but a new Benny Cooperman novel is worth recognition. Oliver Sacks, who writes the afterword, thinks it’s remarkable as well.

The Man Who Forgot How to Read by Howard Engel is published by Harper Collins Canada. Check out their website for more details on the book.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Penguin UK and Harper Collins Canada

I have been remiss in my duties.

SoMisguided is my external brain. I like to post things here about clever online marketing campaigns and the book business but the first part of the year has totally had it’s way with me.

If you have a clever online campaign or if you’ve seen one your really liked, please let me know what I’ve missed. In turn, I promise to pay attention.

Here are 2 big ones I failed to write about in a timely fashion.

Penguin UK, We Tell Stories, http://www.wetellstories.co.uk
Penguin has a fantastic story generator on their website. Fairy tales and other works are revealed based on user input. I love it, really fun idea.

Harper Collins Canada March Mystery Madness
6 weeks, 64 books, 4 conferences, tonnes of “games,” and 1 winner. Deanna from Harper says, “essentially, it’s the NCAA basketball tournament only with mystery books.” A perfect description. I’ve totally missed on this one, but I understand there are 2 books left and you can still vote for your favourites in the poll here: http://www.harpercollins.ca/marchmysterymadness/poll.html

One person wins 64 books.

Know about a clever online marketing campaign involving books? Let me know.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Book Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I’m claiming this as a 2007 read although I did save 20 pages for this morning. What a great book.

In 2003 Gruen was working on another book when the Chicago Tribune ran an article on Edward J. Kelty, an American photographer who followed travelling circuses in the 1920s and 30s. She did a bunch of research on train circuses of the times and came up with Water for Elephants.

The premise of the story is that a young Jacob Jankowski, under extreme duress due to the accidental death of his parents, flees his veterinary exams and jumps on a train. The train ends up being the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Jacob spends 3 months on the circus as the vet, falls in love with his boss’s wife, acquires an elephant and almost gets thrown from the train several times.

The story is as fun as going to the circus.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is published by Harper Collins Canada.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Book Review: Run by Ann Patchett

Run by Ann PatchettI first heard about Ann Patchett from my friend Jennifer who adored Patchett’s novel Bel Canto. I’ve never read the book but I feel that I intimately know the story and I’ve been anxious to read Patchett ever since. 

Today I finished Ann Patchett’s latest novel Run.

Run is stellar. And Ann Patchett is an author whose backlist I’m now going to seek out. In particular I want to read The Magician’s Assistant.

But back to Run. This is a beautiful book. The structure is an example of fine writing. Although the story follows chronological order there are nice loops back to the present. At no time do you feel like you know the whole story or where it’s going to go.

What’s the premise of the Run?

Bernadette Doyle is a loving mother who wishes to have more children and cannot. She and her husband adopt a black boy and a short time later they are contacted by the agency asking if they would take the older sibling. The birth mother wishes the boys be raised together. So Tip and Teddy join Mayor Doyle, Bernadette and Sullivan. Sadly Bernadette dies early of cancer, leaving the boys to grow up without their mother. The story picks up again when the boys are in university and one gets hit by a car.

Run is well constructed, the characters are interesting, and the dynamics between the characters are a powerful representation of the alliances and enemies that form in all families.

I first heard about this book when I stumbled across the book trailer for Run on Facebook.

I’m not a fan of most book trailers but I did like this one from Harper Collins. I liked that it used images and quotes from the book to convey the story. I also liked the simple piano soundtrack.

Watching the book trailer now, it’s even more powerful because the images make more sense and I can attribute the quotes to certain characters.

Watch the trailer.

Run by Ann Patchett (Harper Collins Canada) is definitely a top 10 book for the year.