Monday, September 28, 2009

BLOG TOUR: Bo's Cafe: Bill Thrall; John Lynch; Bruce McNicol

publisher: Windblown Press ( an imprint of Hatchette Book Group)

get the plot out of the way so we can talk about the good stuff:

from Amazon:

High-powered executive Steven Kerner is living the dream in southern California. But when his bottled pain ignites in anger one night, his wife kicks him out. Then an eccentric mystery man named Andy Monroe befriends Steven and begins unravelling his tightly wound world. Andy leads Steven through a series of frustrating and revealing encounters to repair his life through genuine friendship and the grace and love of a God who has been waiting for him to accept it. A story to challenge and encourage, BO'S CAFE is a model for all who struggle with unresolved problems and a performance-based life. Those who desire a fuller, more authentic way of living will find this journey of healing a restorative exploration of God's unbridled grace.

Bo's Cafe
is marketed as comparable to The Shack ( that little book that swept the industry this past year) and I can see why. In the same, simplistic way, it invites readers to glean deeper questions and meanings through the lens of light, popular fiction.

Bo's Cafe offers a lot to be explored, discovered and pondered and will sit well with your small group or book club. The current "seeker" trend often opens queries about spirituality, religion, the "something more" the modern world hankers for. Bo's Cafe addresses the contemporary qualms of capitalism; recession and empty commercial existence with a white-washing of compassion and grace.

Relationships, friendships and family are three themes explored within the non-threatening context of a regular jaunt. Readers will feel invited in as well as recognize the characters they are meeting and feel at home with the "every man" problems and questions that arise. In fact, the vernacular of the "every man" is probably the strongest suit of this breezy narrative. The authors do not engage with taut, literary writing nor try to boggle themselves down in jargon and description, they run through the story as quickly as Andy's car. Every one will recognize this world. They live in it.

Further proof that Bo's Cafe dwells among the every day folk is the chapter header: "God, what are you doing to me here?!" How many times have you or the members of your family screeched that to the almighty in a moment of confusion? Readers who seek fulfillment through an exploration of relationships and grace in all its gritty realism will leave this cafe fully satisfied.

For Christians: consider using the book as a means to open discussion on faith-based issues in, as aforementioned, a non-threatening way. At the back of the book, the authors speak to outreach and how you can spread the word via facebook and twitter.

How to recommend it: Something in the narrative ( the threads of grace and the theme of restoration especially) reminded me of Mitch Albom and Nicholas Sparks.

The website features podcasts, more about the authors and a great overview of the story
( leaving just enough fodder for the imagination)

But don't just listen to me !

visit the other blogs on the tour:

Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How to Appropriately attend a Young Adult author event as a twenty-something, YA-loving geek

Tomorrow is Word on the Street in Toronto and at my first WOTS ever in the history of time, I had a rather awkward moment with my friends Carol and Verity: What the Hell are We Doing in the Gordon Korman line?!


Okay. So, we all know that Gordon Korman is, like, THE Canadian YA author of yesteryear. When I was in grade school the world revolved around my friends reading: a.) anything by Gordon Korman b.) anything by Martin Godfrey c.) the Sweet Valley High super-volumes ( the ones that were twice the size of the regular ones when Jessica and Elizabeth would have their Fiat stolen by a serial killer and have to flee to Egypt and change their identities).

So, at WOTS ( back when it was still on Queen ), we were, of course, hankering to see the Korman in person.

So were about eight billion kids.


After, standing in a long, long lineup to have a couple of Korman books signed ( one for me, one each for my little cousins), I remember thinking: this is embarrassing. I am the tallest person in this line. Every one else is 4"8 because EVERY ONE ELSE IS A TEN YEAR OLD BOY SHOVING OFF THEIR MOTHER IN AN ATTEMPT TO BE COOL!


(by Rachel McMillan)

Option ONE: Pretend you are a Book Reviewer/ Phd candidate ( one of the two or a hybrid of both)

1.) dress in professional attire for the event and carry around a notebook and pen ( or laptop or blackberry) so that everyone: from coordinators to publicists think you are there on some very official business.

2.) keep a stern and straight face even if the author reads something funny. Don't look like you are enjoying it so much as absorbing it for a higher purpose. Continually nod ( even if no one is watching, you never know when their heads might turn) and consult your notebook jotting down scribbles to look like you are writing.

3.) If there is a Q and A question, make sure you ask something that is over the children's heads so that it looks like you are there to dissect the inner-workings of the young adult literary field. Don't be afraid to make up a fake thesis. Wait til a lull in handraising and all the inane kid questions like " Are you more like Bruno or Boots", "Have you ever been on an airship, Mr Oppel?" are over then smile politely and say: "Yes. I have a question for Mr. Landy. I am doing my thesis on the current dystopian trends in Young Adult fiction. First off, can I just say that your novel makes a bold statement on the human condition? Secondly, is Skulduggery an emblem of the depraved morality and ethical lapses in post-9/11 Ireland? Is his a dichotomy between the loquacious offerings of authors such as Roddy Doyle and the stern Irish tradition of James Joyce or Flannery O'Connor?"

If the author's jaw gapes and the publicist narrows their eyes at you in a "WTF?" way then you know you have succeeded.

5.)When you get your book signed make sure you hover near the back of the line-up either furiously texting on your blackberry or writing voraciously in your notebook or reading The Illiad.

Option TWO: It was Jimmy's last wish

Bring a kleenex box and dab at your eyes. Erupt in hiccups and staccatoed moans into your cellphone lamenting: " Wouldn't nephew Jimmy love this? Why did he have to be taken so soon? Right before seeing Tim Wynne-Jones in person. It was his one dying wish. He used to pretend he was Rex Zero. Do you remember? I am here in your honour, Jimmy! [here, you can raise your voice a few decibels] It's all for you!!!! If only you didn't perish in that freak falling coffee mug accident. If only you could have held on a little longer. I'll drink nought but tea in your memory. It's ALL FOR YOU!"

(note: Call Rogers Help Line if having an actual automated voice inspires your fake phone conversation)


Steal a kid: either from the foyer outside or your street, thrust a book in their hand and drag them by the ear to the signing with a curt sneer of "You'll enjoy this, dammit! Eoin Colfer is more than a fun and confusing name. You love Artemis Fowl. And Butler. And Holly. YOU FRIKKIN' WANNA BE A LEPRECHAUN. Stop sniffling! Artemis Fowl is an anti-hero. Don't know what that is? Yah, that's because your life has been all Bone by Jeff Smith and Ron and Hermione. HURRY the FRAK UP!"


Thursday, September 24, 2009

twitter me this batman

I love books! I like spending the majority of my life talking about books. I do so at my job ( I work with books ) with my friends ( who all love books---if they don't, I either find new friends or make them love books) at home, through my other job ( which also involves books).

I am an effusive reader with an extrovert, effervescent personality.....



Right now my favourite author on the planet ( I have not felt this way about any one since LM Montgomery, it is THAT serious) is Lynn Austin.

You can read more about Lynn at my other blog which is all Christian fiction. You see, chickadees, that is what Lynn Austin writes: Christian Fiction.

now, I know you are all squirming in your computer chairs and I don't blame you: Christian fiction can be a scary thing. I, however, seem stuck with it. It is part of my make-up, my heritage, and I spend the better part of my life attempting to find the jewels; the diamonds in the rough.

Lynn Austin is a demm'd good writer: whether you are Christian, atheist, druid, etc., etc.,

Reading her I sometimes feel as if I am staring in a mirror and everything I believe is imposed eloquently back upon me.

if THAT doesn't give the reader in the midst of such experience chills then I don't know what will.

To show my ARDENT AUSTIN LOVE! I am tweeting the heck out of L'Austin until the release date of Though Waters Roar next Tuesday.

So, if you are on twitter and want to see me make a gushin and completely idiotic, slack-jawed, wide-eyed FOOL of myself, c'mon down.

[I even made a hashtag ---erm----well ---Court made the hashtag]

p.s. APPARENTLY the new Austin has ....get this....suffragettes! Triple.Word.Score.

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

I am a lucky little YA hankerer-afterer. My honours thesis was supervised by one of the foremost voices in Canadian YA reviewing and judging and writing, etc., etc.,

Said Foremost Voice hired me as her house-sitter one summer and for six blissful weeks I a.) picked up review copies from porch b.) brought review copies inside c.) recycled the cardboard in a big blue box on the porch d.) read lots of books ( including ARCs of Twilight and New Moon before I recognized Stephenie Meyers as the Spawn of the Devil). I also read a lot of books she already had in her MASSIVE YA and KIDS LIBRARY OF AWESOME....

....including Polly Horvath. I had to "write up" EOAW for my Kids/YA job and the revisit inspired me to share it with all of you.

Everything on a Waffle winner of the 2009 Jolted Award for silly names; hard-to-explain-giddy-plot and weird recipes (even though it wasn't published in 2009; it was a 2002 Newbery Honour Book)

Primrose Squarp is sure her parents are not dead. She is contradicting the evidence that they both perished at sea when her stalwart mother fled to save her stalwart father when he failed to return home from a fishing trip.

But, to the onlooker, they seem pretty dead so Primrose is an orphan *sigh*. No one in Coal Harbour BC wants to take her on as a responsibility: not even moth-ball smelling Miss Perfidy who gets paid to babysit Primrose by the hour.

Finally, they unearth the closest relative, Uncle Jack, who looks like a big lumberjack ( in my mind) and comes bearing plans to develop Coal Harbour into a major tourist attraction. He takes Primrose in and they have some larks.

Primrose also has larks at the Girl on the Red Swing diner where eccentricly sage Miss Bowzer serves everything ( including lasagna) on a waffle to give that there some CLASS.

Primrose narrates her story liquidly with short interrupted parenthesis boasting (recipe to follow).

Tons of imagery, exceptional proverbs, and zany, creative sentence structure make this a delight of Canadian lit ( even though Horvath is an adopted Canadian).

I really liked this book and recommend it to those who are seeking out Newbery books of yore.

Horvath has a decidedly different voice and it was a breath of fresh air after Nameless Urban Fantasy with Brooding Boy and Super Powered Girl with Alto Voice, Listless Eyes, and Non-Chalant fashion sense.

two Rachel Thumbs Up.

Also, Polly H. wins tons of awards so you should read her other stuff too!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Though Waters Roar: the Twitter Project

What can I say? I'm a bookseller at heart.

From now until the release date of Lynn Austin's Though Waters Roar, I will be tweeting about ONLY Lynn Austin.

Check out my Lynn Austin Twitter Challenge Share your thoughts via twitter hashtag (#Lynn Austin ) and pre-order your copy of Though Waters Roar.

It's so fun to give a nod or two at favourite authors, don't you think?

Austin's novels have influenced and empowered me in a strong way. I deeply feel she can inspire you too!

travel books

Ever since I was a little kid I have dreamt of going to Austria. Next year, I am finally making a massive trip: Switzerland; Austria; Prague!!!!

My little sister is off to do some phd work on Africa and we met up last night so I could say goodbye. She surprised me with books to help make my dream come true.

<-----An elated Rachel looks like this

Shakespeare gets Angsty and Hormonal ( if he wasn't already)

OMG I loved John Marsden’s Hamlet and Ophelia. And I heartily thank our friends at Harper Collins Canada for throwing it my way.

Yes 92.3% of the book is angst and hormones. But isn’t 92.3% of Hamlet all angst and hormones? Seriously.

When you contemporize Hamlet ( as, you know, we are all wont to do at times ), I think the fernickity part is deciding what soliloquies to keep in and what to keep out. Well, Marsden doesn’t keep them in. Any of them. INSTEAD, he makes our melancholy teenie philosopher ponder things in modern vernacular that align with the soliloquies without actually being them.


All the fun stuff is here: Polonious, poor old sheep dogs Rosencrantz and Gildenstern, the image I never got out of my mind since grade 12 ( of the funeral meats being the wedding feast: here, Hamlet joshes to Horatio about dry finger sandwiches); Bernardo; Hamlet’s dad; Laertes ( who is a jousting virile drinker here. Suits him well); Hamlet and Horatio’s touching friendship; Gertrude’s almost promiscuous chasing of Claudius; Hamlet’s compulsive indecisiveness, the play’s the thing… is all here.

Something is rotten in the State of Denmark and it is a growing teenager’s inability to grapple with the changes of his family dynamic while deciding who he is. Ostensibly, growing into himself and his developing ( and overtly) sensual feelings for a lady of the court.

The setting, perhaps like the Branagh version, seems timeless. The opening scene with Bernardo, Horatio, Hamlet et al is not outside the castle; rather playing football.

There are strokes of the modern here but it is very hard to pinpoint the time period. The only drastic change ( since character and setting are so pitch perfect ) is the modern vernacular. Of course, one is put in mind of another angsty sensual Shakespeare adaptation, the Baz L. Romeo and Juliet of yore. Whereas that was clever in infiltrating Shakespearian dialect and imagery into modern times ( think the drug-tripped Queen Maab speech; Tybalt’s gun brand being named “sword”), Marsden’s Shakespeare is modernized language ultimately true to plot and sense and feel.

With this, Hamlet and Ophelia is given a fresh breath of revitalizing air. For all of the teenage girls who pine after brooding Edward in the Twilight series or are caught up in who will win the hand of the combat-girl in the Hunger Games, we have classic stuff to counter their insatiable appetite. Hamlet and Horatio are active and attractive young men: brooding and unsure of themselves. Ophelia is a strong woman caught in an awkward society of patriarchy and restriction.

These are flesh and blood characters. True, there is more than a bit of overt sexuality but strings through Shakespeare.

Ultimately, the perfect read for the thinking teen ages 14 and up.


Monday, September 21, 2009

I knew I didn't read Villette 8400 times for nought

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James

Me at Indigo Friday last:

pick up book about CB!


Luckily, my humming and hawing desisted and the lovely folk at Harper Collins Canada supplied me with what turned out to be a pleasant delight. Like a cup of tea. Or a pumpkin scone. Or both at the same time.

I have to admit, my initial reaction was skeptical. The subject here is very dear to my heart. I own 17 copies of Villette ( ask any of my friends) and know some of CB's letters by heart.

Moreover, I have recently seen books where Charlotte Brontes solves mysteries ( but so do Louisa May Alcott and Jane Austen apparently) and I have not always been fond of the pastiche.

Here, I was soundly surprised. James' immersion into the subject; the phrasing and the complete Bronte-ness while writing Charlotte's "diary" was refreshing and fun. Charlotte's diary, like the woman herself, is a coupling of dark and light. Plenty of footnotes heighten the atmosphere and enlightened me on numerous time-authentic words and subjects.

At times a kunstleroman unearthing Charlotte's genius-in-embryo and at times a rip-your-heart-out parallel of the events in that greatest of tragedies Villette, I sped through the book. I applaud James for assimilating Bronte's prose and style-- and while there are tell-tale signs we are not reading the source--- she comes close in celebration and homage.

Events, letters, a stern understanding of Gaskell's famed biography: are the thread that binds this interesting literary tribute together. James' re-introduced my passion to a subject I had not engaged with since university ( not that long ago; but long enough for me to recognize that absence surely makes the heart grow fonder).

James painted a truthful canvas and allowed me to spin around in a world at once romantic and melancholy: an imaginative spree I would often take as a teenager --- roaming around the moors; calling for Rochester.

Perhaps the portion most dear to my heart was Charlotte's account of her time at the Pensionnat Heger: the experience which founded her most autobiographical novel, Villette. James uncovers the passion between master and pupil and draws readers back to the original source.

I really, thoroughly, heartily enjoyed this celebration of Bronte's life and developing romance with the curate Arthur Bell Nichols.

Any one who has ever peeked at a Bronte letter; or stole into Charlotte's Juvenalia; or re-read those parts in Jane Eyre ( you know THOSE parts), will find in this work not a stranger, but a welcoming friend. If James set out to revitalize my love for Charlotte Bronte (especially having witnessed her through a slightly different lens) she more than succeeded.

Harper's website : where you can purchase the book and browse inside

The Woman of Mystery by Hayley Dimarco

publisher: Tyndale

Hayley DiMarco's The Woman of Mystery celebrates a woman's grace, creativity, space and faith. It takes the modern woman on a journey to discover the true meaning of lasting love- --- one that lasts far longer than the frothy moment mid-chick-flick.

Structured in a readable fashion wtih short outlines and moments of reflection, women looking for a boost like caffeine will sink into this book quite easily.

DiMarco speaks to both single and married women of faith. She readily validates her voice on the single woman due to the fact that she married at 37 years old. The snippets of her life story throughout gave the book an altruistic and refreshingly personal appeal. In fact, I almost felt like Hayley was leading a small Bible study group chatting in an intimate setting, or across from me at coffee.

A few negative points...

I was distracted by cliched chick flick quotes that preface each segment of the novel. Especially because they prove quite contradictory when she urges women to stray from emotional pornography: one symptom of danger being the re-visitation of love stories.

While I enjoyed what DiMarco said about single women failing to start their life and putting goals on hold until they find a man ( thinking a relationship starts with a man), she immediately trails into a domestic cure. Independence through domesticity. An oddly contrary stance. DiMarco mentions buying a house ( I nod at financial independence but how much of our viewpoint of women is sculpted into matron of a house) and learning to cook. Sure, these are but two examples of DiMarco's urging of women to start life, but they are placed exactly after her plea for independence and I couldn't help linking the two.

With redemption to follow....

With the aforementioned exceptions, I was quite relieved and surprised at a strong female voice.

Her spirited approach to mystery and romance, her insatiable appetite for life and her plea for women to remember and embrace the romance in their every day life was heartening.

Her strongest suit continues in a paragraph on a woman's space: which put me immediately in mind of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own.

I don't often read Christian non-fiction of this ilk and I was happy to stray from the norm. DiMarco has a lot to offer women in the way of self-esteem, celebration and re-assurance.

Coming from this at a Christian angle made her book ever more delightful.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dogwood by Chris Fabry

publisher: Tyndale

This is going to be a bit of a differently shaped review for me.

First off, I am not going to rate Dogwood because I don’t know how best to. If the rating were for quality of writing alone, then Fabry would get 4 stars. He is exceptional at spinning a slow, rumbling West Virginia Yarn. He puts me in mind of Faulkner and Steinbeck and I have no qualms about his prose.

[somewhat irrelevant aside: Fabry also *cough* shares my LOVE for Harper Lee as is blatantly evident when he remarks on Atticus charming ( or attempting to charm) the surly Ms. Dubose in her front garden. I caught that, Chris Fabry. Just as I caught your speaking to a “midnight bathroom pilgrimage” in June Bug--- those are the exact words Scout uses when lying awake afraid that Atticus will notice Jem has gone to retrieve his torn trousers. Maybe its just an American phrase, but to me, I know my Lee) ]

If the rating were for best, flummoxed end since the days when M. Night Shamalyan wrote good movies then he would also get 4 stars. This book has an incredible twist. Even when you think you have figured out the “shock”, you realize you haven’t and you re-trace your steps by fanning pages backward in attempt to find any hints missed. 4 stars.

If the rating considered breadth of voice and the validity of four different narratives it would also get 4 stars ( though I tend to think that one---or at least two--- of the narrative voices could have been whittled away; but that could just be my reticence for a multiple-voiced structure).

But, I cannot rate Dogwood because I usually rate on my overall, post-reading euphoric, oft-jubilant impression.

That inherent sense-- that Ahh! This book spoke to me and it will to you and yay for literature

I am not sure what Rachel the person thinks of Dogwood. Rachel the Reader is impressed. Outside of the fact that it is an exceptionally well-written novel and completely worth your time and bursting with literary merit (I can think of few of its ilk or quality in Christian literature), it left a bad taste in my mouth. Not, of course, from the actual novel but the events and the end they catapulted into.

This reading experience (it gripped me in a tangible way so that I exhaled and felt immediate relief when the last page was turned so experience is the right word) was terse and melancholy. Bravo to Fabry for exploiting emotion on every page. But, rather than feel redeemed by the end, I felt somewhat hollow.

Certainly the book’s pivotal moment involves a sacrifice of great magnitude and grace: but at such tragic ramifications I was left deflated throughout.

I loved the character of Will Hatfield. I wish they made them in “real life”, so to speak. Recently released from Prison, mild-mannered Hatfield’s struggle to reintegrate into society reminded me of Jean Valjean and, thus, June Bug (see previous blog review).

I felt very untrustworthy of Karin, Will’s former flame but the realization of the novel in its entirety spoke to my bias.

All-in-all: I am perplexed, I am flummoxed, I am bewildered and a little saddened and frustrated and “what the heck!?” but that in itself is testament to the book’s QUALITY. For it is only in true reading experiences that the world you temporarily inhabited on page saturates your real life--- if only for awhile.

Another shout-out to Chris Fabry!: two books in one week read by me and both super! I am just needing some time to wrap my head around Dogwood. Perhaps, when I put my finger on the elusive “it”, I will come back and stamp a few stars on it.

by the way: this book won the Christy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


  • Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack? Sometimes on a weekend night, I will go and get a bag of jellybellys to accompany what I am reading. Other than that, usually not. I drink tea.
  • Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? It really depends on the book. When I am working ( I have a job as a reviewer), I pencil mark my books for sure and use post-its throughout. I was an underliner in school and on my own ( just ask Once Upon a Bookshelf). Often, my favourite books are underlined ( favourite passages that are just aching to stand out on the page) but I will purchase an unmarked copy. Reading is a very engaging and interactive experience and I am a very effusive reader: I physically respond to reading and one of the ways is to underline or star a passage. It is ownership for me.
  • How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open? Bookmark---often in the form of a post-it or train ticket if it is there. Sometimes my Aragorn bookmark. Or else I remember the page number. I am really good with page numbers
  • Fiction, Non-fiction, or both? Mostly fiction. But, I like to read the context of books I love so I read a lot of biography; lit crit and history
  • Hard copy or audiobooks? Hardcopy of my favourite authors whose books I cannot wait for in trade. Trade is my favourite format. I loathe being read to so I loathe audio books.
  • Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point? Depends on the book. Really.
  • If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away? Nope. Unless it excites or intrigues me. I love word sounds and the pairing of sounds with sentence structure and the way words fit into a book.
  • What are you currently reading? Dogwood by Chris Fabry
  • What is the last book you bought? The new Alatriste book by Arturo Perez Reverte: The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet
  • Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time? I read more than one. Usually one “comfort” book for just before I go to sleep ( a re-read: right now it is Les Miserables); one kids or YA book for work; one non-fiction ( right now a biography on the slave abolitionist Wiliam Wilberforce) and I always have the Bible on the go ( I am a Christian so this ties into my daily reading) and sometimes a Christianesque devotional---right now Grace Notes by Philip Yancey so subsidize my reading
  • Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read? Favourite place? A fall day down by the Toronto Harbour in a little Second Cup. I can read anywhere. I like my couch at home with lots of pillows and low light and tea. I like when I go to my parent’s house in Orillia and make use of the chaise lounge in the sun. It really depends on my mood. Sometimes Philosopher’s Walk( a park in Toronto near the University) under a tree.
  • Do you prefer series books or stand alone books? Depending on genre: YA and Mystery and nautical fiction SERIES!!!!! General fiction standalone
  • How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?) I literally own thousands of books. So much so that a lot of my mass markets are in layaway in big rubbermaid bins until I have my own library. I have bookshelves specifically for YA and childrens. My classics are separated ( alphabetically ) and my general fiction alphabetical; series are chronological (ie Aubrey Maturin ) if I have lit crit or biographies or related material on a certain book I put it with the author after the novels are lined up. I have a shelf just for Christianity ( alphabetical); history, etc. Let’s sum this up: alphabetical but in genre-specific regions.
  • Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over? CATHERINE WEBB'S HORATIO LYLE SERIES!

Monday, September 14, 2009

June Bug by Chris Fabry

publisher: Tyndale
rating: ***1/2

Let's get something straight----- you cannot market your book ( or have a publisher's weekly endorsement on the front ) as a contemporary re-telling of Les Miserables and not expect me to whimper until it is in my greedy little hands.

Save the Bible, Les Miserables has been the most profound and life-changing book of my life. I first read it at age 13 ( the Penguin unabridged Norman Denny translation) and have read it probably as many times as there are pages in the novel.

After I get said novel in my greedy little hands you should know that I will a.) spend the entirety of the novel with pencil brandished; post-it note near wrist finding unending parallels ( some probably unintentional) and b. ) that I will count it as a reading experience.

I was a little nervous. This is sacred territory for me. But Christy Award-winning Fabry


The eponymous June Bug and her father travel the American backgrounds in a worse-for-wear RV.

Parking at Wal Marts across the States, they revel in the glorious American geography. At One Walmart, June Bug sees an age-progressed photo of a child missing since the age of two. June Bug recognizes the photo of herself.

From there, stories intertwine and Johnson, the only father she has ever known, is forced to exhume the past.

Backstories of kind-hearted folks ( like the Wal Mart employee Sheila) and the restless pursuit of justice by a dogged Sheriff ( think Hugo's Javert) thread throughout a fable of grace and redemption. Pieces of the puzzle slowly meld together in fast-paced perfect narrative and the truth is eventually told: candlesticks, Christ and all.

Fabry (like Harper Lee before him) does an exceptional job of adopting the voice of a sweet, spunky child. He is more than a competent writer, he is a natural storyteller who reminds me a lot of Dale Cramer ( a favourite of mine). Les Miserables is a daunting book to undertake and my apprehension was eased somewhat when I discovered that Fabry's book is not so much a re-telling as a nod to the gargantuan book's theme of Grace. An homage, per se, to one of the greatest Christian stories ever told.

At first read, I thought there was a tendency for the novel to seep into "propaganda" type territory: the Iraq war; the unparalleled heroism of the American man when held up to the rest of the world; the overt patriotism turning every corner. But this in itself mirrors Hugo: whose novel is very much an exhibition of his love for France: in its highs and lows. The military motif and the need to better oneself through national service is not unlike Valjean's role in the National Guard at the July Revolution of 1832.

I am near-finished Dogwood and am absolutely thrilled to add this writer to my roster of perennial favourites.

I enjoy Fabry's quick and easy story telling; his candid shots of real life in all of its gritty grace and humanity; and his strong narrative.

I really liked the TitleTrakk review of this book and invite you to visit Chris Fabry at his blog
or at his official website

BBAW: Rachel's Picks--- her Blog Favourites

I have been following Book Blogger Appreciation Week ( mostly on twitter)

My favourite part is how many new bloggers ( with some savvy reading taste ) I have discovered.

I am all for its altruistic intentions and the celebration of BOOKS!

Today the topic in the BBAW is the celebration of bloggers each individual hankers after.

Y'know, when you open up your google reader and there is the bold number of things unread and it is EXCITING especially if you scroll down and see that one of your favourite bloggers ( like a favourite author, per se) has posted?


So, I thought I would direct you to some of my favourite book blogs on the web.

Just for sheer eclectic taste and the fact that she reads (and mostly enjoys) my recommendations ( or at least pretends to ), my first favourite blogger is Courtney from Once Upon a Bookshelf.

Courtney's was the first book blog I ever read and to show my appreciation for her aiding in my conversion into the bloggosphere, I asked her a few questions. Please read and get to know Courtney a little better:

1. All-time favourite book if I could only choose one: is by far L.M. Montgomery's Rilla of Ingleside. There's just so much going on in it that it never gets dull - there's awesome heartwarming stuff, but then there's also the stuff that breaks your heart. And the it shows a snapshot of Canadian life during WWI. As a Canadian, I think it's really important for us to know our history - we're constantly bombarded by American history, because they're our southern neighbour and we get so much of their media (oftentimes more of theirs than our own) that we almost know more about what they've gone through than what we've gone through as a country. It's vitally important for us to take a look at important events that had a massive effect on our own country growing up, and knowing how it became what it is today, and this is one of the best books that I've discovered that shows what home-life was like in WWI Canada.

2. First chapter book that I remember reading was probably Roald Dahl's the BFG. I don't remember much about it, and I haven't read it since I was young, but at that point in time I loved it. I think it was the idea of good dreams being sent by such a friendly giant was enchanting.

3. Are you a physical reader? Does reading ellicit some sort of effusive reaction from you? Definitly a physical reader. I laugh out loud through books all the time, so have to choose carefully what I read in public. In elementary school when we had to read silently in class, it was commented numerous times that I made faces whenever something bad was happening in the book - scowling, etc. So yes, definitely a physical reader.

4.Where is your favourite place to read? I don't really have a favourite place to read, but I read best if I am curled up in a blanket - even in the middle of summer. In the autumn, the winter and the early spring, I need to have a cup of (usually herbal) tea with me. I can have background music, or people talking around me, but I can't read if the television is on - not sure what the difference is there, but yeah. And I'm usually reading a few books at a time. A lot of people tell me they can't, but when I do this the books are typically different genres so I don't mix up characters and storylines in my head... though a mashup of an Arthur Slade book with WWZ would be quite fun to read. Hmm.

5.If you could live in one book, what would it be? I've never thought about this! Oh wait, yes I have. When I was growing up, I was always looking for doorways into Narnia. So! If I could live in any book, I would want it to be one of the Chronicles of Narnia - not sure which one, though. I've always longed for the magic of talking animals, and finding doorways into new worlds. Of the possibility of coming across rings to bring me to the world between worlds, with pools to every different world. Of witches and magicians. Of fawns and centaurs. Oh!

6. If you could have lunch with one author (living or dead) who would it be? Where would you go and what would you eat? I could say L.M. Montgomery, but quite frankly I find her rather daunting. I'd never know what she REALLY thought about anything. I think perhaps Jane Austen. We can talk about the life of the single woman - compare the differences of how society treats single women between then and now - and then perhaps gossip about those sitting at the tables around us. "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?" As for what we would eat, my imagination is not that good, but perhaps a good cup of English tea would be in order.

Next in book bloggers I love, I have Otahyoni: who doesn't just talk about books; but speaks of them often enough. Her parody of Twilight has gleaned thousands of responses (many heated) and been quoted in online magazines. People still comment and reply.

I met Otahyoni in an online Richard Jury ( the detective in the Martha Grimes novels) about 6 years ago. Since then we have become quite close friends: even though she lives in a different country than I do. We have been pen "email" pals for years ---sending books across the border at one another; talking on the phone. Last year, we "met" in person for the first time when we took a trip together to New York City. We saw a bookish play on Broadway ( the musical version of A Tale of Two Cities); we went to the Strand--- we saw very literary things. Otahyoni and I share a lot of similar tastes--- but some of our best conversations ( as is the way with all literary folk ) is borne of the times we don't agree.

Here is what Otahyoni had to say about the questions I asked her:

1.) I know this question isn’t fair, but what is your favourite book? If you had to just pick one?

If I had to pick just one book, the one book I have the most affection for, the one that sparks the most warm fuzzies deep in my soul, it’d be The Man with a Load of Mischief by Martha Grimes. Not impressive on any sort of literary scale, no, but it’s been with me for over half my life, and the characters are near and dear to my heart. This is the warm chocolate chip cookie of books, as far as my soul is concerned.

2.) what is the first chapter book you remember reading and why?

Oh, I don’t know! Probably the Boxcar Children. I remember carting home loads and loads of books from the library as a kid. Marguerite Henry, The Three Investigators, Walter Farley. I read the first few Sweet Valley High books before I got bored; same with the Babysitters Club. But I don’t remember the really early chapter books. Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, maybe? I have a feeling I went straight from picture books, Dr. Seuss, and the Berenstein Bears to stuff like the Boxcar Children.

3.) are you a physical reader--- in an effusive way---? Meaning, do you clap when something gets good (if you are alone ) is there some sort of reaction: a squeal or a “Tsk Tsk” when you are absorbed in a story?

Mildly. I do laugh out loud on occasion, but I only get really effusive if stuff is bad. Good stuff I just smile, giggle quietly to myself, then read it over again a few times before moving on. Bad stuff, though, has been known to make me go, “AHH!” I cry sometimes (which makes it very hard to read). I’ve even, on two occasions, thrown my book because it made me so angry. Once the first time I read Julie of the Wolves (real life schmeal life! she should have stayed with the wolves!) and the other when Lupin and Tonks died in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, even though I knew it was coming. It still upset me, book got chucked at the other end of the couch, and then I immediately scrambled after it so I could finish the book.

4.) what are your reading habits? A.) where is your favourite place to read b.) can you have background noise? C.) do you read more than one book at once?

a) My living room, with its squishy furniture. I sit either on the squishy couch, propped up in a corner or lounging in the middle with my feet on the coffee table, or I sit sideways in the squishy armchair, my feet dangling over the side.

b) Yep. I read with music on a lot, and when I’m at my parents’ house, I read through TV and movies all the time. Conversation, TV, music, traffic – as long as it’s not directed at me, I can tune it out completely.

c) Not usually, but right now I am, for possibly the first time. I have THREE books going right now – crazy. Reading an uber-long classic novel in fits and starts between other novels and a nonfiction book on my lunch breaks at work. Then there’s whatever novel I’m on at the moment.

5.) if you could live in any novel which would it be?

Either an Austen novel – but not as a main character. As a peripheral character. I just want to wander about and write letters and go to balls. Or The Man with a Load of Mischief, on the off chance I could get Melrose Plant to fall in love with me. I’d prefer not to be a murder victim, however.

6.) if you could have lunch with any author dead or alive who would it be? What would you talk about? What would they order? What would you order?

That one’s hard. I’d say Austen, but she kind of intimidates me, and I’m afraid she’d find me vapid and shallow. Maybe Catherine Webb, because I have a feeling we’d get along quite well. We could talk travel and writing and the theater and London, and I could try really hard not to fangirl over Horatio Lyle and Matthew Swift and fail utterly. Probably we’d hit up some hole-in-the-wall Indian or Thai place and have ourselves some curry, then pick a West End show for after.

See, book bloggers, if there is someone you have connected with on the internet, you CAN be friends in real life.

The sweetest part of the story? While in New York, Otahyoni and I wrote a collective "round robin" letter to Ms. Martha Grimes: the author who brought us together, thanking her for her work and the fact that because she wrote, we met. Martha responded and we both squealed at each other over the phone...for hours.

I really ADORE ( and I don't use this term lightly) Raych from Books I Done Read.

She is a fellow Canuck an all-around good egg and the smartest, funniest blogger on the internet. Bar none. She is fresh and funny and I would buy a book of her collected reviews and make other people buy it as well. She is giddy joy incarnate. READ HER

I also really like Kailana from Kailana's Written World. Kailana hails from Maritime Canada( one of my favourite regions of my fabulous country) and has an eclectic taste as well as a great sense of community.

From the publishing spectrum, my favourite blog is The Savvy Reader updated by the wonderful folk at Harper Collins Canada.

I am always excited to hear what is new in books, film and television when I visit My Tragic Right Hip.

oh yah! And authors too! I LOVE AUTHOR BLOGS!

Sometimes, as in the case with Libba Bray and Meg Cabot, I enjoy their blogs far more than their books. Strange, eh?

For what is new in Christian fiction, I often head over to Relz Reviews: though be ye warned... She rarely reviews in detail. Her blog is more an overview of what is up and coming.

And, as always, there is the great Catherine Webb: YA novelist extraordinaire who blogs under the pseudonym, Kate Griffin.

Finally, the following people need to have a blog now:

Derek Landy of the Skulduggery Pleasant Series

Lynn Austin ( to tell me how she writes things )

Enjoy Book Blogger Appreciation Week!

Happy Reading.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Dude, Ian Rankin's TOTALLY gonna be at IFOA: On authors and celebrity

I like IFOA ( Toronto's International Festival of Authors). It's like my film festival. Y'know how people go all agog when they spot a celebrity, crying "ooo! did I just see the back of Brad Pitt's cap?!"

Yah, well my celebrities are AUTHORS! Especially Mr. Rock Star Himself, Ian Rankin.

Ian Rankin is my absolute FAVOURITE author to see read live. Hands down.

Tell you why:

Remember in the days of yore when poets were seen as rockstars? I'm thinking early Romantics like the James Dean-esque Byron; Coleridge; Wordsworth--- and all the girls would flit their fans and dab at their cheeks and swoon ---- the 19th Century equivalent of the Beatles, per se?

This is not a trend that has easily died.

Take Neil Gaiman: tickets to one of his events sell out in a snap. You know he will show up all cool and calculated with overlong hair and the collar of his leather coat snapped up over a black t-shirt and rock the party with some quick jokes and dramatic reading.

Take Terry Pratchett: I have never seen him in person but I know that my friends have waited hours for autographs ( he signs every one ). In fact, in both cases, for the aforementioned, a typical venue would not suffice. Appearances are moved to churches; large auditoriums; venues where people can spill out into vestries and down outward stairs.

Ian Rankin is like my rockstar. The first signing of his I ever went to was at a pub on the Danforth. Every one was laughing and drinking and talking and some of Rebus/ Rankin's favourite rock ( perhaps this is why I connote rockstar here; his unabashed love for rock music) was droning a pulse in the background as he nonchalantly played xs and os in my copy of "Rebus: The Early Years."

Authors are, for the most part, bookish people. And sometimes, as stereotype dictates, they are a d'you say it.....erm.... socially eccentric. Their profession, for the most part, does not dictate they be strong minglers or public speakers and their oddities come across blazingly in person.

Other authors, like the ones I have mentioned, make personal appearance a part of the reading experience ( take that Russell Smith).

You wait in line for hours for an autograph with other die hard fans and, if you're me, you feel oddly fulfilled. My upbringing didn't leave a lot of leeway for rock concerts and celebrity squealing. I reserve it for signings ( well....signing[singular].... mostly Rankin) and personal appearances and readings.

That's not to say that every author is the atypical example of a great celebrity rock star.

I have attended plenty of lectures at IFOA where my eyes glared over at the empty amnesty/PEN chair; or to the gleam of the Globe interviewer's flourescently lit specs.

But, Ian Rankin is a sure fire hit! He's a hoot to hear read live and he completely engages himself in his text. He doesn't saturate his time at the front with anecdotes on the craft; so much as how he gets into the grittier side of Rebus' psyche and ...when he reads.... he seems so integrated with his character you forget which is which.

Do you have a favourite author to see in person?

It makes me cringe to think of Atwood's long pen and its attempt to sever the vital connection between reader and writer. How then could IFOA roll around siphoning fall from the colourful harbour to an exhilerating literary experience making the geekiest of book geeks *raises hand unabashedly* grab a book or two and run to a round-table?

NOTE: If you live in Canada and have never attended IFOA you are missing out. There are writers of all genres and calibres and there is definitely a subject to peak every interest. A world class event..... with rock stars!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Book Trailers are Dumb

A few random things:

  • Book Trailers are Dumb. I have never seen a convincing one. Libba Bray in a cow suit may be the one exception ( see it here)
  • Meg Cabot's blog is far better than any of her books
  • The two authors whose books I am most excited for any given year ( pre-order; check continually on for updates on release dates etc., ) are:
  • 1.) Catherine Webb --- whose Horatio Lyle series is by far my favourite thing in contemporary YA
  • 2.) Martha Grimes --- whose Richard Jury series is the best part of any book year
  • Scott Lynch needs to come up with ONE release date for Republic of Theives and stick to it
  • I should learn Spanish---if only to be able to read Arturo Perez-Reverte's Alatriste series without having to wait for translation
  • I may have bought the first Charles Finch novel because he looked nice in his photograph

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Faith n' Fiction Saturday: Read Dark to Shed Light

I love Faith n' Fiction Saturdays. I stalk numerous blogs and love reading some of the discussion topics which come up.

Today, MizB prompted a question I think is important for Christian readers on her blog:

On Should be Reading, she writes:

Question: As a Christian, will you read nonfiction (or fiction) books that are somewhat controversial, in that they may stray somewhat from the evangelical viewpoint (for lack of a better term)?

The answer, for me, is absolutely ....YES!

I am going to use a bit of a controversial example as a means of laying my argument.

A number of years ago, Heather Reisman, the CEO of the prominent Canadian bookchain Chapters/Indigo ( think the Canadian equivalent of Barnes and Noble) banned the selling of Mein Kampf from her shelves.

I completely disagreed with this move. Of course Mein Kampf offers a lot of controversy. But, I studied it in University in my European history class and, as I learned from learned University professors, one cannot hope of forging the path for a brighter future if one forgets the history that cemented what we are in the present.

In order for us to completely understand the make-up of our world and why travesties such as the Holocaust took place, we need to understand where we came from.
Knowledge is power--- and power comes from reading.

Mein Kampf is an extremely important book and I feel that most readers would treat it with the respect it deserves: not as a catalyst for antisemitic tendencies; rather a key to understanding the horrors of a tormented mind.

It is a historical document and, as such, cannot be overlooked--- no matter how uncomfortable or controversial.

I think, as Christians, it is extremely important to be well-versed in what is being output by the secular world: be it through film, television, music or books.

I, as a reader and a professional, have absolutely no tolerance for ignorance. If a writer or spokesperson shows a gap in knowledge on a certain subject while arguing their standpoint on that subject, they will lose not only my attention but my respect.

Take Harry Potter: oft scorned by Christians for its witchcraft and dark premise. I remember a girl coming up to me in university telling me she thought I was a Christian and, as such, she was shocked I would be caught reading a book which ( to quote verbatim) "would send me to hell."

I asked this girl if she had read Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. She assented.

What, I wondered, was the great difference: other than the fact that Tolkien was writing with a conscious pre-evangelum and Lewis was writing under the umbrella of allegory. Certainly for those informed of the background, Narnia and LOTR are overtly Christian.

But we neglect those who have no understanding of their inherent theological tenets. If a non-Christian does not understand the link between the fantastical realms displayed and Christ, would they not be reading stories immersed in the same magic, dark craft and witches so apparent in Harry Potter?

I infuse this rhetoric only to prove that Christians cannot take the side of a genre or series merely because it was written by a Christian. Rowling has stated ( and here I greatly paraphrase) that her series is surged with her own spiritual questioning.

Could Harry et al not lead people to moral and ethical contemplation on some of the spiritual matters saturating Lewis and Tolkien?

As Christians we should be armed to answer any question granted us. The world is seeking for something and we need to be able to relate to it. To sequester yourself is to remain ignorant and the seekers of today's generation have no tolerance for ignorance--- nor should they.

I was listening to a commentary on my dvd of Joan of Arcadia. Some Christians might find the content of that show controversial: a teenager hearing the voice of an omniscient, yet non-denominational God. Barbara Hall, the creator and writer of what remains one of the best-written shows of the past two decades, talks about the post-9/11 need for spiritual connection.

She explains that pre-9/11 a show that questioned the purpose of God; his presence; the way He manifests Himself would not be given the greenlight. However, after the atrocity that plagued my neighbouring country, people were searching for something higher.

The people you encounter in your day-to-day life are wrestling with something and, as Christians, we need to be informed.

Should we read that which is controversial: ABSOLUTELY! --- if only to be prepared should the controversial matter stem some sort of spiritual question.

How often does a film or book command attention for its parallel to theology ( whether or not it be the theology we ascribe to ? ) Think Star Trek , Battlestar Galactica, Terminator, the Dan Brown novels-----the aforementioned are all a platform where spiritual or theological "meat" can be found.

It is a perfect opportunity.

My "controversial" read this summer was Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: a fantasy satire starring an almost soft-hearted demon named Crawley, an archangel named Aziraphale and their plot in saving the world and humanity from Apocalypse.

Sure, I was reticent to immerse myself in a book which, to the Christian onlooker, might seem a little ...risque --- but it proved how open I was. And, it led to some amazing conversation.

Do not seclude yourself. As Christians we cannot create borders and boundaries: attend secular universities; become involved in non-Christian activities; befriend believers of all faiths and simply BE THERE! -- you never know when a great conversation opportunity may present itself; when a reader you discuss secular novels with may crave something the work of your Christian writer may alleviate; when you will have a chance to insert your belief in a subtle yet lasting way.

The evangelism of today, I believe, is not to be presented in a loud and boisterous judgmental way. People have seen Christianity mistreated this way and they are understandably questioning and sceptical. Instead, be Frances of Assissi: who stated that one can preach the Gospel daily ---if necessary, using words.

READ CONTROVERSY! Strong Christians will find it does not present any threat to the Christian walk; rather it offers understanding to a seeking secular world dying for intervention.


Some up-and-coming books I am jived about:

Friday, September 04, 2009

Canadian YA flag: Shane Peacock at McNalRob

Hey Torontonians,

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I hit the "new" McNally Robinson in Toronto --- located in....well... the most inconvenient location ever in the history of the world.

Anyhow, beautiful store; lovely Prairie Ink restaurant ( with amazing pinot grigio ) and a great selection.

Looks like they have some decent events coming up. One I am highlighting is Shane Peacock: YA author who wrote the Eye of The Crow and some other boy Sherlock Holmes books.

Peacock's YA is definitely for the demographic. So, if you are an adult who enjoys YA --- thinking that perhaps it will hold a deeper meaning or symbolism for adults in a subtle way--- you aren't going to get that. Nevertheless, the books are a lot of fun.

"Kids Event: Shane Peacock Reading and SigningThursday Nov 26 2009 7:00 pm - Events Space 2nd floor, Toronto Post a comment

Award winning author Shane Peacock reads from his latest title, Vanishing Girl, in an event for children aged nine and up.
The third case in the compelling Boy Sherlock Holmes series is full of as many twists and turns as the back streets of Victorian London.

A biographer, journalist, and screenwriter, he is also the author of several novels and plays. He has received many honours for his writing, including the prestigious Arthur Ellis Award for Eye of the Crow, the first of his Boy Sherlock Holmes series. Shane Peacock lives with his wife and three children near Cobourg, Ontario. "

well-played Shane Peacock

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Hunchback Assignments ( or saving the world from Stephenie Meyers one Arthur Slade novel at a time)

DISCLAIMER: As readers I think we sometimes take ownership of authors and books--- we stake our "professional" reputation on them (before I worked in publishing I was a bookseller and would sell Slade's books....a lot), we are excited when they succeed and, if we discover them before they are known by the greater public, we feel a sense of pride when they gain recognition and a wide readership.

The marketing of Hunchback and Slade's prospective Steampunk series strikes me as Harper's attempt at the Next Big Thing. If it becomes the Next Big Thing ( with key chains and happy meals and knapsacks and movies) ... I just wanna say, having read EVERY SINGLE Slade book ever.( including the "ologies" and those little ghost stories )... that I staked my "professional reputation" on this author long ago.... and I, of course, have impeccable taste ...

The Hunchback Assignments is a Steampunk retelling of Notre Dame de Paris by Hugo....but this time with steampunk, explosions, sinister plots and a grotesque London underbelly...
Modo was purchased from a traveling freak show at a young age by the enigmatic Mr. Socrates. Socrates and his body guard Tharpa educated Modo in all things military, cultural and intellectual: priming Modo for a great future as a shape-shifting spy. See, Modo has the ability to transform his deformed appearance and hunchbacked frame into anyone he wants: provided he clear his mind and concentrate.

When he becomes a teenager, Mr. Socrates leaves him to his own devices and Modo sets up practice as a shadowy private investigator who uses the rooftops and his shape shifting abilities to unravel mysteries in the darkest parts of Victorian London.

Meanwhile, Octavia Milkweed, a resourceful girl determined to shake the shackles of Victorian propriety, uncovers a sinister plot involving children tortured into strange creations. The reader discovers the kids are prey to the devilish Mr. Hyde whose unethical experiments are a hybrid of warped evolution, steam and industry.

Modo and Octavia intersect and learn they are both connected to Mr. Socrates and both vital to a dangerous mission involving corrupt politics; underhanded science and clues only the maze of the London sewers will reveal.

There is a lot to like about the novel. The first being its sheer originality. No two Slade books are alike and Hunchback is no exception. Next, the characters. Modo is utterly believable and touchingly vulnerable ( without naivete) and humane. A conflicted toy for a sinister master, Modo is a misdirected and awkward outsider whose unsymmetrical appearance reflects the emotional confusion within. Next, Octavia! I adored Octavia: a strong, feisty and opinionated heroine resourceful and sly who can shift in and out of accent and appearance as quickly as Modo can out of shape. Young readers will find traits in each to relate to.

The basic evil threading the plot: from Modo's early beginnings in a traveling freakshow; Hyde's grotesque experiments and the grainy and smoky Victorian perimeters wherein the story unfolds offer a chilling darkness I also enjoyed. The juxtaposition of dark and light: be it through appearance; theme or inward struggle will give young readers a lot to think about.

I enjoy YA novels that serve a binary purpose: to entertain young readers with surface appeal of a fast-paced enjoyably "meaty" story while being fun to dig into for older readers with a penchant for YA.

The writing itself is technically perfect ( unsurprising considering the source) . I am fascinated by the word-pairings; sounds, consonance and alliteration which prove the novel perfect to read aloud. There are also some underline-worthy sentences---- such as when Modo falls asleep and "into a story" ( loved that picture)

While Slade's previous novels dapple in theology ( see Megiddo's Shadow and Dust), here we have visceral, calcuated science( a bleak enemy) which, when pitted against the stark humanity and emotional resonance of an endearing, effusive protagonist presents a strange paradox.

From my understanding, the novel is the first in a series which will feature 19th C classics retold through a "Steampunk" lens. Wells, Verne and Doyle ( Wilde, even) seem quite logical offerings. Hugo, on the other hand, is a perplexing choice. Perhaps the Hugo portion of the story with its Romantic connotations represents the changing pace and world the Victorians underwent: from the philosophical Romanticism of the Century through the chugging Industrial revolution ushering in science, calculation, and, of course, steam and metal.

Hunchback explores the clash between both.

I think kids ( mostly thoughtful ones) will enjoy the action; the pace; the freakshow and mystery; the sewers and, most importantly, the connection they will establish with Octavia and Modo as well as the queer absurdity which makes the plot almost impossible to explain.

I found that this novel lacked a certain spark ( for a lack of an inexplicable explanation ) that Slade's other books possessed. But, I have a feeling he is just warming up to this element. In the next book in the series he will have staked his ground. The author obviously has an inherently "geeky" side and it is delightful to watch him play with it in here.

Perhaps, immediately, one might think: "It's not as good as Jolted". But they're just very different.

And, as my friend Court would say: "Of course it's not as good as Jolted! NOTHING'S as good as Jolted"

She may be right---- so, to be on the safe side, you should go to Chapters or Amazon or your nearest bookstore and BUY BOTH ....

visit Hunchback here
EDIT: Remember that gawdawful Russell Smith column in the Globe about how "authors don't need friends" and he needs no community and what's-her-face who wrote Transient Dancing just need the work to speak for them? A couple of weeks ago? That one? Yah. Well. Q&A with Mr. Slade defending author/reader community. I like this approach better.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins ---


The Hunger Games/ Catching Fire are turning into Twilight.

you know it. I know it.

Yes, I read them both. Yes, I liked the crafty and refreshing Utopian vibe.

Yes, I think they are a tad over-rated.

If I get one more tweet about this being the release date for Catching Fire or, similarly, one more gush about the book which shows up on my blog feed, I might have to throw something.


someone talk about something else.

Has ANYONE read ANYTHING else? Is it JUST this book? If so, congratulations, Catching Fire, you have turned into the TTC immediately after the Time Traveler's Wife hit theatres and people seemed to just discover a book that had been around forever.

Was that rant irrational and unfounded with no supporting evidence? pretty much.


*end rant*

GRACE NOTES: coming soon....

The very kind people at Zondervan were good enough to send me an ARC of Philip Yancey's new devotional: Grace Notes.

I grew up with Philip Yancey. In fact, two of my earliest Christian living books were The Jesus I Never Knew and What's So Amazing About Grace.

Yancey has had a huge impact on my family: he is one author every one of my immediate family enjoys.

My dad took me to hear him speak at Tyndale Seminary here in Toronto one winter and I was impressed by how down-to-earth he is--- and how easy to listen to.

As Grace Notes is printed in a devotional format: containing several of Yancey-snippets ( in the tradition, as the back cover says, of Buechner and Lewis), I mean to start tomorrow and see how it goes.

I will keep you posted.

In the meantime, feel free to pre-order a copy here.

A good thing to look forward to in blustery October---- or a great idea for an early Christmas gift.

Check out more Philip Yancey here