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Simon & Schuster

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Summer Reading Recommendations

Here are the last 3 books I devoured.

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The Light of Amsterdam by David Park
A novel that often reads like interwoven short stories about misunderstandings and miscommunication. A December flight from Belfast to Amsterdam brings together the otherwise unconnected characters of this drama. We have a father and teenage son who are at odds, a single-mother and a spoiled daughter on her hen party (dippy girlfriends in tow), and an almost-retired couple who are losing touch with each other. The trip to Amsterdam changes them all for better or worst. Author David Park has written 7 books, including the hugely acclaimed The Truth Commissioner. I think Darren will like this novel. The book has a very European feel to it, complete with Irish slang and descriptions of Amsterdam’s nooks and crannies.

Opening lines:

The ink was black, the paper the same shade of blue as a bird’s egg he had found a week before. In their balanced elegance the capital G and B mirrored each other. Unlike most of the soccer signatures he collected which were largely indecipherable hieroglyphics — the bored scribbles of fleeing stars — this name was readable and perfectly formed.

The Light Of Amsterdam by David Park, published by Bloomsbury


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The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper
A thrilling, and terrifying read, with lots of Milton’s Paradise Lost insights for the book nerds. A major departure for the bestselling author of Lost Girls, The Demonologist has the same literary prowess as Pyper’s other novels but is more like a literary version of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. Professor Ullman is a world-renowned expert in Milton’s Paradise Lost. He’s a scholar but not a believer, until he witnesses demonic acts with his own eyes, including the possession of his daughter. An advance copy crossed my desk in early 2013 but since I was pregnant at the time, I waited until now to dip into the shadows of this book. I recommend it for Kiley who said she was looking for page-turner summer read. This is Canadian, literary, and creepy-crawly.

Opening lines:

The rows of faces. Younger and younger each term. Of course, this is only me getting older among the freshmen who come and go, an illusion, like looking out the rear window of a car and seeing the landscape run away from you instead of you running from it.

The Demonologist: A Novel by Andrew Pyper, published by Simon & Schuster


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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Winner of the Man Booker Prize. Add this to the classic school-boy novel list. Four boys meet during their formative years at school. One boy standout. One boy dies. One boy, now grownup, tells the tale. Barnes’ novels are so smart that they make me feel smart. This is a bit of a snobby book and I loved it. In some ways it reminds me of Fifth Business by Robertson Davies in that the reader must beware of an unconsciously unreliable narrator. I’m afraid to recommend this one for fear of identifying the snobby readers among us, but you know who you are.

Opening lines:

I remember, in no particular order:
– a shiny inner wrist;
– steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it;
– gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house;
– a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams;
– another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface;
– bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door.
This last isn’t something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, published by Vintage Canada

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book Review: The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark

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I’ve never read a Mary Higgins Clark book, and according to the jacket copy she’s the author of 29 suspense novels, 3 collections of short stories, a historical novel, a children’s book and a memoir, plus coauthor with Carol Higgins Clark of 5 holiday suspense novels. Prolific. Was I missing out?

My preference is quirky fiction by new authors and a handful of books by authors who I can’t pass up, but I’m always willing to try something new. So when Mary arrived in the mail as a suggestion from the folks at Simon and Schuster, I thought I’d give it a try.

At 82, Olivia Morrow is terminally ill and debating whether she will leave the world with or without sharing the secret that her cousin, the soon to be beatified nun, had a son out of wedlock. That son’s daughter stands as the rightful heir to what remains of a great fortune.

Not really the kind of plot that interests me, but I was pleased by the immediate suspense established and I can understand why Mary Higgins Clark’s books are bestsellers. They’re certainly page-turners!

I liked the plot twists and turns, was surprised by the number of characters added late in the novel, pleased by the neatly wrapped ending and a bit appalled at the number of people who end of dead in the story. It was what I expected—easy read, good suspense, more action than character development and formulaic (but without disappointment).

If you’re looking for a good candy read, this one goes well with ginger snaps and a hot toddy.

The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark
Published by Simon and Schuster

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.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review: Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman


Click the cover to browse inside (opens new window).

I came to know Chuck Klosterman through his fiction work, Downtown Owl,. Because I loved his novel so much I started seeking out his other works, which seemed to be nonfiction essays. Eating the Dinosaur is one of those collections and it’s brilliant. Not a day goes by that I don’t quote something from this book.

Eating the Dinosaur is the Chicken Soup for the Smarty-pants Soul.

I used to be annoyed when James constantly quoted or mentioned essays in this book. He read the book first, But I adopted these habits after finishing the book. Dammit, Klosterman is smart, or at least his ideas are compelling, which makes him seem smart, and by default makes me feel smart. Hence the smarty-pants comment above.

Chuck Klosterman has good journalist written all over him. He’s covered music, film, and sports, and remembers the details. He dissects pop culture the way miners pan for gold. After clearing away the dirt and shifting away the common things, Klosterman holds up the nuggets. And those nuggets are the totality of perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that make up our understanding of the world, and by world I mean world of culture consumption.

He talks about why music fan’s hate their favorite bands. Why superstars aren’t paid enough. Why singers are compelled to try out different personalities. Why interviewees want to tell the truth. What the truth is. Why Germans don’t laugh at nervous North American laughter. Why North Americans laugh. Why Ralph Nader is a literalist and how that makes him unlikeable. How the Unabomber could be wrong in his actions but right in his thoughts. Why TV is bad and the Branch Dividian not so bad. And why politicians are terribly sorry, and alcoholic.

This is my favourite nonfiction book of 2010. (The Waterproof Bible is my favourite novel, in case you’re asking.)

Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman
Published in Canada by Simon and Schuster in hardcover, paperback and ebook.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Four New Books Arrived

Four new books arrived on my desk today.

Looking forward to reading this weekend.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Book Review: The Virgin’s Tale by Sherri Smith

imageRome, 63 BC.

Aemilia is 6 and offered to the state as a Vestal Virgin. She’s 1 of 6 hand-picked women who symbolically protect the Roman Republic. You know that any book that opens with the girl being thrown into a tomb during the reign of Caesar is going to be a story full of peril.

We have moral sin. Death. Sacrificed animals. Girl-on-girl kisses (the innocent kind actually). Punishment by entombment in the latrine. Slaves. Virgins. Betrayal. Friendship. Love.

Author Sherri Smith lives in Winnipeg, MB. This is her first novel and it’s really well written. I think it’s a nice crossover novel. Great for adults and teens.

Simon & Schuster has a brand new website. Check out the book summary.

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”.

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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?


UPDATES

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Book Review: Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman

I’m ready to read anything by Chuck Klosterman. So far Downtown Owl is my favourite book of 2008.

Klosterman’s sense of place in the novel Downtown Owl is spot on. In Canadian terms, he’s the comedian that Sinclair Ross wasn’t.

Sharp, witty, observant: I can’t say enough about Klosterman’s depiction of the town of Owl, North Dakota, and 4 of its inhabitants. Everyone knows everyone but they don’t know their inner thoughts, hopes and fears:

* Mitch, the football kid who doesn’t fit in.
* Julie, the new meat woman in town who has everyone’s attention (men at the bar anyway).
* John Laidlaw and his young girl vices.
* Horace—widower.

Horace is by far the only 1 of the 4 who deserves his end.

The stories are short stories that are inter-connected to form the novel. It is a novel rather than short stories but really any chapter could stand on its own. I’m particularly fond of a chapter in the middle of the book, “November 23, 1983” (page 129). It starts:

Edgar Camaro was Satan. Or at least an idiot. Or at least he was when he rolled dice, or at least that’s how it seemed to Horace.

Horace had two secrets. One of them was dark and sinister, as most noteworthy secrets tend to be. The second was less awful but more embarrassing, which is why it became the secret he despised more.

This particular chapter is a masterpiece and I really wish I could share it with you hear, but I’ve asked and no such luck. You can, of course, have a look at this chapter on Mitch.

Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman is published by Scribner (S&S) and you absolutely should read it.

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.