November 24, 2011

CBC CanadaReads 2012 Launch Party

It was quite a turnout at yesterday's launch party held at the CBC atrium in Toronto.  The lobby was filled with loyal fans of CanadaReads. Here's how it works.  Five celebrities pick a book from a list of 10 chosen by the public. They debate their merits live on air to claim that theirs is the best book. It can get quite passionate at times for the panelists as well as the numerous twitterers and bloggers that follow the event.  CBC's official blogger this time will be Terry Fallis. The author won last year's competition with his book The Best Laid Plans.  
It's the first time the competition features non-fiction writing. There's a huge range of topics; hockey, imprisonment in Iran, revolutionists in Chile, rock stars on tour and a Siberian tiger. Something for everyone.
Learn more about the books and the panelists here.

November 11, 2011

Louis Riel - A Must Read For All Canadians

The graphic novel is particularly effective when used to cover historical events. Unlike your typical history textbook, the graphic novel facilitates the breakdown of complicated subject matter into a series of engaging cartoon drawings.  The flow of images and limited text accentuate the root cause of historical events and their aftermaths.   The result is a story that separates the forests from the trees.  Louis Riel by Chester Brown is one of the best examples of this genre.  
The author describes the events leading up to Louis Riel’s arrest for treason and eventual execution in 1885.  The careful notes and bibliography are proof that the author researched his subject extensively.  Along with the accurate account of events, the eye catching drawings, Brown captures the human emotions.  Many times I felt anger, shame and dismay as the story unfolded.  The author didn’t tell me to feel this way. It was the manner in which he presented the facts.  He allows the reader to make his/her own judgement call as the events unfold.  A must read for every Canadian and sure to stir debate in any Grade 9 history class. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be for picked for the CBC’s CanadaReads program in 2012. 
Overall Rating *****  (4 stars out of 5)

October 23, 2011

Where There's Smoke... There's No Fire

A colleague of mine said “Memoir writing is the new scrapbooking. “ It seems everyone has a story to tell.  The problem is not everyone’s story is interesting, at least not to your average reader.  The cover of this book is meant to attract X-File fans.  What fan could resist learning more about the iconic Cigarette Smoking Man, a character full of mystery and intrigue? Let me warn them right now that the bulk of the book is dedicated to Canadian and British theatre which oddly enough is why I was attracted to it.  And contrary to the X-files, there is nothing paranormal or alien oriented about the growth of theatre in Toronto and Vancouver.  At worst a few office tantrums and extra marital affairs are exposed but they are real and in the author’s mind explainable.  Intermixed is the never ending name dropping.  You know how boring actors are on Oscar night when their speeches list every director, producer, hair stylist they ever worked with? Well try reading 200 pages of that, except Davis wouldn’t finish his speech by thanking God.  All kidding aside, the memoir does offer some insight on acting and the importance of developing networks to succeed.  I only wish it read more like a novel instead of a resume.  Pictures of family, theatre groups and ski races would have helped to personalize it.  Overall Rating ***** (2 out of 5)

September 16, 2011

Business Lunch in Lux

Smithsonian Magazine posts one of my articles. It's not related to books. It's about enjoying food in a cafeteria in Europe. I wish all cafeterias were like this one.

August 19, 2011

The Convict Lover Needs to go Back to Jail

The book club read only one book this summer and I'm sorry to report that despite all the awards it received, the majority of us didn't like it.  The Convict Lover's concept is intriguing.  An author buys an old house in Kingston, Ontario  and finds a bunch of letters in the attic.  They are notes written by a convict serving time at the penitentiary just after WW1.  The author invests years researching Canada's penal system, the convicts history and the recipient of the notes, a farm girl, to form a story.  Sounds promising right?

Here are some of the comments ;
"The prose was not alluring. It was like reading paint dry, never mind watching it dry."
"There was no plot, no character development. A boring Laura Ingalls story."
"It's not a love story.  I did appreciate learning more about the prison.  My favourite part was the map at the very beginning."

Overall Rating ***** (1 star out of 5)

July 23, 2011

Interview with Author of The Social Animal

In case my review didn't sway you to read The Social Animal perhaps this interview with Charlie Rose will. Enjoy!

July 15, 2011

The Social Animal Will Make You Happy

Are you the type who enjoys psychology articles but can’t stand the complicated medical lingo? If so, you might want to check out The Social Animal.  Author David Brooks presents the latest research on the subconscious mind as a fictional story.  The narrative tracks the lives of two characters from pre-natal birth, young adulthood, marriage and parenthood till old age.  Periodically there is an injection of research studies using plain language to help explain their behaviour.  Brooks does an excellent job at convincing readers on how powerful the subconscious is.  
I have to say that since I’ve read the book I’m far more willing to question my opinions on education, poverty and relationships.  My favourite concept was the notion that man doesn’t have free will but has free won’t.   I can attest that this statement is an excellent conversation starter at parties. Along with the navel gazing you'll find out why dinner parties with friends is a huge part of happiness. Social animals we are indeed!
Overall Rating ***** (3 stars)

June 20, 2011

Hawaiian History at its Best - Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

Say “Hawaii” and I immediately have visions of classic TV shows like Hawaii 5-0 and Magnum P. I.  Who can forget those cheesy Elvis movies? The one where he played a guy called Chad as in “Oh Chad, I’m so glad you’re home from the war. Did you miss me? Watch me hula.”  I picture lots of floral leis draping the necks of tanned surfer bodies that strut on the beach wearing bowling shirts in bright bold patterns.
Then I start reading this book called “Unfamiliar Fishes” and the image is totally altered, permanently.  That’s ok. I learned a lot about Hawaiian history and I laughed often because Sarah Vowell is one witty gal.  She reminds me a bit of Michael Palin and his travel shows where well researched educational material is tossed with a pinch of sarcasm, odd facts and jokes to keep it light. If you enjoy history with a twist of humour then I think you’ll like this. I did. It will certainly add a new dimension to your next visit to the islands.
Overall Rating ***** ( 3 stars out of 5) 

Canadian Book Covers on Display at the Design Exchange

If you are on the Financial District of Toronto and are a book lover, may I recommend a free exhibit at the Design Exchange museum? It’s called Out of Sorts and it features books from Canadian publishers with a focus on cover designs.  It’s a lovely display and provides a restful break from the hustle and bustle of the financial market.

Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

The book club has discovered a new favourite author!  Everyone enjoyed the book about the bush pilot in Northern Ontario and his niece who wanders to the big cities down south in search of her sister. If we had one complaint it would be that we should have started with the first novel from the trilogy instead of the second. We didn’t know! Oops. Here are some comments from members;
- About ¾ quarters of the way through it, I couldn’t put it down. I had to finish it and find out what happened to the bush pilot. His story was so engaging. He was my favourite character by far.
- I was upset by the violence and drunkenness the author describes in the northern aboriginal communities. At the same time I admired the knowledge of the land and how precious it is for survival.  The hunting scenes and numerous references on coping with the elements were unique.  As a reader you instantly understood the criticality of finding food, having shelter and an aircraft that runs.  I felt relieved that the younger characters showed an interest in preserving these traditions and that elders were able to mentor.
- The structure of the book was fantastic.  I loved how the chapters we’re either from the niece’s point of view or the uncle’s.  Both were confessing and their stories overlapped brilliantly.  Time jumped back and forth filling in gaps, explaining situations and leaving openings for the future.
Overall Rating ***** (4 stars out of five)

June 09, 2011

Blood, Bones & Butter - A Chef's Memoir

I often browse websites to pick new books. One of my favourite is Abe’s best sellers list since it’s based on sales and not what publishers want to promote. “Let the people choose!” I say. I scan the descriptions and if one sparks an interest I place a hold at my local library. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Blood, Bones and Butter. I vaguely recall it described as a memoir of a restaurant owner. Long story short; I read it in 3 days! I could not put it down. It’s not a string of undercover, lurid tales of running a restaurant in NYC. It’s far more reaching. It’s the life of author/chef Gabrielle Hamilton from childhood to middle-age. Sure there are lots of descriptions on food that will have you screaming “I must go to Greece NOW!”  My favourite passages however were the ones covering her relationships. They range from Norman Rockwell family ideals to absolute unrecoverable breakdowns. She’s brutally honest when it comes to her emotions and opinions. I admire her bravery and her self-reliance. She’s the type of person you’d want to drop by your kitchen and have a cuppa while prepping green beans.     
Overall Rating **** (4 stars out of 5)

June 01, 2011

Penguin Canada Features Book Club in May Newsletter

Thanks to Penguin Canada for featuring the book club and publishing our comments on The Help. We all look forward to the movie.

Penguin Canada - The Help

May 13, 2011

Two Generals Deserves Four Stars

The minute I picked it up, I knew I would love this graphic novel.  Physically it’s an exquisite piece. It’s incredibly handsome and manly.  The deep red cover with its engraved lettering mimics the leather notebooks used by officers during WWII. The size and weight felt very familiar in my hands and the elastic marker further enforced the idea that I was reading someone’s private diary.  I remember thinking, I hope I like this book because I’d want to give it as a gift. Recipients would be impressed with the packaging and remember the exchange.  Happily the content does not disappoint. 

It’s a wonderful story based on the author’s grandfather’s service as a Canadian soldier during WWII in France.  The panoramic sketches of the Normandy landing are breathtaking. Some pages contain nine panels of drawings containing no verbiage.  They remind me of stained glass window memorials but instead of cliché scenes of war patriotism, they show the reality of war; fear, sickness and prayer.

Overall Rating (*****) 4 stars out of 5.

May 11, 2011

The Help is Number 1

The book club had lots of fun discussing “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.  Everyone gave it a thumb’s up.  That's why it's now our number 1 pick. We can’t wait to see what Hollywood does with it.  The movie comes out in late summer.  Here are some comments from our members;
It’s the only book I’ve read twice.  I loved it.

All the characters had positive traits as well as faults.  Nothing was black and white which made the story much more interesting.  It wasn’t preachy.  
I’m amazed at how recent this story takes place. When I began the book I thought I was in the 30’s. At one point, someone talks about Patsy Cline’s death.  I had to Google to find out when that was. It was 1963!
Overall Rating (*****) 5 stars out of 5

April 06, 2011

Maus by Art Spiegelman

I started taking an interest in the history of the graphic novel since reading Essex County as part of Canada Reads.  During my research I read that Maus was considered a classic of the genre.  Imagine my surprise when I saw it at my library’s “Hot Books” section the very next day.  That was a sign. I had to pick up despite already having too many books on the go.  After scanning a few pages it immediately took precedence on my pile of books. 
The author recounts his father’s experiences as a holocaust survivor during WWII.  They say memory is particularly acute when strong emotions are tied to events. Humans remember joyful occasions like reciting weddings vows more vividly than routine conversations like ordering a coffee at a café.  The same is true for sad or painful events.  Reading the words and viewing the images in Maus stirred up powerful emotions in me.  His father’s story is now permanently etched in my brain.  Regardless of the number of books I’ve read or films I’ve seen, when someone mentions holocaust, Maus will come to my frontal lobe.  It’s an honest, respectful, informative book on the holocaust.  An enormous accomplishment when you consider the genre.
Overall Rating (*****)

April 05, 2011

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I’m not sure what led me to reserve this book at my local library but I’m glad I did.  Egan’s book “A Visit from the Goon Squad” is an entertaining read and I’ll be sure to pick up her previous books when I return this one.   Her writing style is unique for each chapter. It had me confused a bit at the beginning but I began to look forward to the changes as I progressed.   The words often had me chuckling out loud.  I also felt deep sadness and at times even a bit of envy.   You see, I never was a “cool” kid growing up.  Reading about the band members was my way of living rebellion.  Part of me wanted the characters to prosper and succeed. The other half wanted to see them fail to convince myself that I didn’t miss out on anything.  Silly isn’t it to feel this way because of a book? But it does move you and make you reflect.  Creative, contemporary and smart, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a pleasant one indeed.
Overall Rating (*****)

March 15, 2011

Mary Ann in Autumn - The "Real" San Francisco Treat

Armistead Maupin’s latest “Mary Ann in Autumn” does not disappoint.  If anything, it re-kindled fond memories of the Tales of the City TV series.  I was addicted to the series featuring Laura Linney as Mary Ann and Olympia Dukakis as the matriarch Mrs. Madrigal.   I didn’t have a VCR back then so I had to rush home and watch it as per PBS’s schedule.  Every episode was gripping and missing one meant missing a big part of the plot. This book brought all those feelings back and I couldn’t stop reading once I got started.   If you aren’t familiar with the series, I recommend that you read/watch the preceding Tales of the City segments before reading this instalment.  There’s pure joy in getting re-acquainted with Mary Ann and her entourage.  Maupin brilliantly ages them and one can relate to the consequences that time entails on the mind and body.  The friendships remain strong and the political fight is still present.  This is contemporary, entertaining fiction at its best.
Overall Rating (*****)

March 09, 2011

A Sad Time for Toronto Heritage Lovers

It was with deep sadness that I learned that Paul Oberman died on Monday in a tragic airplane crash in Maine. A year ago I had the pleasure of meeting him at Woodcliffe’s company headquarters. I was struck by his warmth, curiosity and sense of style.  After my presentation he gave me the greatest compliment an IT consultant could receive; “Your presentation was clear and interesting. It was about IT but even I understood it!”  He then gave me a gift; an iPod shuffle! I will treasure it always. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and staff.

February 28, 2011

Oscar Night - Best Wines Under $13

Luckily I had planned a wine tasting during the Oscars last night.  The final tally was close but we all had the same bottles in the top 3.  Picking an overall winner was not an option.  We were running low on supplies and the chicken wings hadn’t come out yet.   See pic for final results. 
We did agree that the Curtaja Nero D’Avola from Sicilia ($13.00 + a nickel) deserved a special mention. It paired very nicely with the wings.  The others were wonderful with cheese. I think I’ll make this wine tasting a tradition for Oscar night.  It really saved the party… along with Twitter commentary.  

February 25, 2011

I'll Never Pay a Kid to do a Chore Again

Sometimes after reading a lot of fiction I switch to non fiction for a change of pace.  In my case it's usually business books.  I've recently finished two bestsellers and I'm amazed at how they challenged my long held beliefs on work.
The first is "Drive" by Daniel Pink. It examines what truly motivates humans based on science and how traditional business practices are failing to capture this energy.  Companies will have to change their attitudes in this knowledge based economy in order to thrive.  Today's prevalent "carrot and big stick" management methods must be retired. He lists practical advice/strategies to encourage "Drive" for individuals, managers and teachers. After reading this book, you will never offer your kids cash  in exchange for chores. Read it and you'll learn why.  

The second book is called Linchpin by Seth Godin. He believes that many companies will send any work that can be easily replicated elsewhere where it is cheaper.  The "good ole days" where companies looked after their workers are over.  The book provides advice on how workers can survive this fundamental shift in company priorities.  He encourages them to find companies that recognize the creative value of their employees.  He also describes how successful workers build on their individuality and their talents. Becoming artists in a sense.

Both books have similar messages and I recommend them equally however if you are a teacher/parent/manager then "Drive" is a must-read. The concepts are excellent conversation starters at parties.  Everyone is affected by outsourcing, bad bosses, getting children engaged in school activities, etc...  There's something for everyone in these books. It's not just for business folks or HR types.
Overall Rating (***** )

February 23, 2011

Valentine’s Day à la Maine - Smithsonian Magazine

Here's a little something I submitted to Smithsonian Magazine.  It's the first time a real magazine has posted my work so I'm quite flattered.  It was also the first time I ever submitted an article to a magazine. Imagine my delight when they complemented me on the contents.  I was on cloud 9 for days. 
My apologies to my vegan friends.  Sorry.  I'm a real foodie.

Here's the link

February 21, 2011

Audio Books Aren't Just for the Blind... They Are for the 401

Like most Torontonians, I came from elsewhere.   If you are like me, you head back east to visit friends and family on a regular basis. But you dread that 401…especially on a long weekend right?  Sure you can fly Porter or take VIA but in the summer it’s difficult to justify the added expense.   
During the Da Vinci Code craze I bought the audio (abridged) version.  We drove to Ottawa and by the time we reached our destination we couldn’t leave the car.  We actually stayed in a parking lot to finish a section of the CD.  The 4.5 hour drive flew by! The drive home was the same even though we were both disappointed with the ending.
We tried to reproduce the feeling with Stuart McLean stories. They were entertaining but it wasn’t the same as a crime/mystery thriller where you’re just itching to find out more.  We went back to music after a few stories.
On our last trip to Winterlude we listened to Echo Park.  It was an Audio pack I bought way back when there was a store on Bay St that specialized in these things. Unfortunately I think it’s now a Subway’s? Tim Horton’s?   Echo Park is a great audio book for the road.  We are on disk 5 of 9 and we’re wondering how soon we can get going somewhere so we can find out what happened.
Next time you head out to the 401, try an audio book. Start after the big apple when traffic calms down and pretty soon you’ll arrive at your destination in a great mood.

Best Wine Under $13 CAD. Preparation.

Now that the holiday bills have been paid we're able to raise our wine budget a bit.  What is the best wine under $13.00 CAD ? With the help of Dan, my local LCBO product consultant I'm bringing 2 wines to the table. I won't reveal them till after the contest which will take place Oscar night.  I feel very confident in my choices.
The best under 10$ winner was the J.J McWilliam Cabernet-Merlot.  For Oscar night I'll bring its sister, the Shiraz-Cabernet as well. Who's gonna win for Best Film ? No idea... but I'll be toasting them with our winner. Cheers!

February 18, 2011

The Best Laid Plans - Chapter 1 on podcast from CBC

CBC has the first chapter of The Best Laid Plans as a podcast. Here's the link.

I'll be sure to listen as I'm undecided if I want to read and the waiting list at the library is huge! Let you know what I think soon. Thanks to the CBC and Terry Fallis for doing this.

February 17, 2011

Lullabies for Little Criminals - update

Just started the book and the first chapter is very promising.  We're meeting in March to review. Stay tuned.

February 15, 2011

Essex County - Review

Despite my exposure to numerous commentaries from the Canada Reads debate, nothing prepared me for the incredible sadness I felt after reading this book. I'm full of melancholy and wondering is the kid going to be okay?  Set in rural Ontario and Toronto, the graphic novel Essex County describes how innocent people faced with tragedy/loneliness are able to cope or in many cases not cope with these events.  It's also about the generosity of individuals in helping others.  Barbara Streisand is right; "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world".
The drawings are excellent. I adored how their style changed depending on the timeline and viewpoints.  A captivating work of art.  I will have to reread as I'm sure I have missed some messages and would like to study the drawings more.  Unfortunately my childhood tendency for reading cartoons too quickly is difficult to tame.
Overall Rating (*****)

February 12, 2011

By Nightfall

From the first few pages I knew I needed to find out what would happen to this couple. The writing is brilliant and the book was read in a few days. It is NYC, 2010 at your doorstep.  I dislike reviews that give the plot away.  Let me just say that it is a wonderful story of a couple who have been  married for a long time and the ups and down that go along with that. It's narrated by the husband, an art dealer balancing his love for beauty and the reality of making money. In his mid-forties he questions everything; past, present and future.

Overall Rating  *****

February 11, 2011

The best wine under $10

Every year I organize a get together in Ottawa for Winterlude with dear friends from Montreal. They love coming to Ontario because wine is so much cheaper here. This year we had a contest. What's the best wine under $10? See pic for the scientific results.  The  winner is J.J McWilliam Cabernet-Merlot.
BTW, the ice on the Rideau Canal was amazing this year. If you haven't tried it you must go. It's a Canadian classic and lots of fun. As for books, mes amies raved about "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. It's on the bedside table gals. Thanks for the suggestion.

February 09, 2011

Canada Reads - Day 3 - The Finale

Did I say "The Best Laid Plans" shouldn't be a winner? Well guess what.... it won !!!  Hmmm .... could the design diva be wrong? I may just have to find out, especially after meeting a huge Terry Fallis fan in the line up this morning. The 2 hours wait flew by this morning because of her. Her name is Evadne Macedo  and we chatted about writing, human rights, social media, etc etc...  She made Terry Fallis sound like the most kindest, generous author around so I'm pleased that he got the prize.

As for me I went to see Lorne Cardinal afterwards to congratulate him on defending Carol Shields "Unless". I just love her writing so much.  We both agreed that she was an easy target because of her brilliance and success.  When I asked him if he would do Canada Reads again next year, he said he would love too. Whatever book he picks I'll be reading it for sure.

February 08, 2011

Canada Reads Debates - Day 2

Used the CBC's  live Internet video and chat feed for today's debate. Awesome! I loved the live chat during the session. It reminded me of the book club sessions that we have. The opinions were varied and numerous. Some were still reeling that Essex County was no longer in the running.
The biggest story was Debbie admitting that she didn't finish The Best Laid Plans due to boredom and not enjoying the humour. Whoa !!!.... what a backlash she got from that. I think she saved me some money and time so I'm grateful for her honesty.  CanadaReads helps us determine what the clubs next book will be. If a well read person can't finish the book, well that's a strong sign that it shouldn't be the winner.  Georges' book "The Bone Cage" was voted off today.  So 3 books are left for tomorrow's session. Who will be the winner? Hmmm ...we'll have to wait and see.

February 07, 2011

Canada Reads debate - Day 1

After standing in line for over 2 hrs the CBC finally let us in.  It's a beautiful studio,  laid out like a boxing match but instead of a ring, there are 5 red chairs around a table.  The crowd is a pleasant mix.  On a Monday morning I was expecting to see a bunch of blue hairs with walkers. We are talking "radio"here.  However, it's surprisingly young.  Or maybe I'm getting old?  The celebs arrive and we're off. The 50 minutes fly by and many were disappointed that Essex County was selected to go.  Sara did a wonderful job defending it and kindly pointed out that there may be a generational gap at the table.  When Lorne described his love for one of its characters, it convinced me that I should read this book. It's on my list.  In honour of Sara and her brilliant debating skills, I will read it soon.

February 04, 2011

Michel Rabagliati's - "Paul in Quebec" ... top notch graphic novel

I love graphic novels. Reminds me of my childhood when my mom would bring home the latest Asterix and Tintin. I returned to "la BD" as an adult when I discovered Michel Rabagliati's work. His latest "Paul in Quebec" actually made me laugh and cry like a regular novel.  Below is a link to a video where he is interviewed at Angouleme. It's in French but I just had to pay a tribute to him since I love his work so much.  He mentions that they are making a movie based on his novel in 2012.  Video by Drawn&Quarterly.

New selection announcement: Lullabies for Little Criminals

Ok. So we've moved on and the book club has decided to pick Heather O'Neill's Lullabies for Little Criminals.  This one is available in libraries too or you can grab a used copy easy enough. We're aiming to review after Valentines.

I started just 2 pages of Michael Cunningham's "By Nightfall" and it looks very promising. I may have to finish that this weekend.

January 31, 2011

Burley Cross Postbox Theft - Review (1 star out of 5)

After 3 weeks (?) I am barely halfway through this book.  I along with others felt reading the book was homework rather than pleasure. We decided to drop it and move on to something else. The lack of narrative (it's an epistolary novel) was one of the reason I disliked it. I also normally like British humour but most of the letters just weren't funny in my opinion.  You know when you watch an old film comedy from the 30's and you mumble to yourself "Did people really think this was funny back then?". It was that kind of feeling throughout. Time to switch the channel. The one star was for learning the word "epistolary".
Overall Rating (*****)

January 21, 2011

Musical "Les belles soeurs" based on Michel Tremblay's play is coming to TO

One of our book club's favourite authors had his popular play "Les belles soeurs" converted to a musical in Quebec a few years ago. The musical continues to be a huge success in "la belle province".  Now a Toronto group is aiming to produce an English version.  I saw the original play in Winnipeg back in the mid nineties.  I loved it but my American co-workers in town for short term Y2K contract work failed to appreciate the humour.  Sometimes I think one has to grow up in Quebec to understand it's culture.  I can't wait to see how the musical turns out.  Here's a link to the French musical touring Quebec

January 18, 2011

Burley Cross Postbox Theft

Burley Cross Postbox Theft is our January selection. We all wanted something a bit lighter than "Room" to start off the new year.  We're also broke from the holidays and some of us were able to find this in one at our local libraries.

Look for a review in about a month.  What wine to pick?  hmmm maybe a lager is in order to match the British theme.

January 13, 2011

The Imperfectionists

Oh what a treat it was to listen to Tom Rachman describe what inspired him to write this book and how he managed to do it.  The Univ of Toronto's Innis College invited the author for the launch of the paperback version.  He walked in dressed like someone who's lived in Europe for a while. Polished casual wear with sleek leather shoes even though there's snow outside.  Oh and then there's the British accent.  Before he even speaks he's dreamy. 
What's wonderful is when he does reach the podium and speaks after an introduction describing the praises for his first novel (NY Times endorsements,  top 10 books of the year from Macleans, etc), there isn't an ounce of arrogance displayed. In fact it's quite the opposite. There is a man who describes his struggles with career choices, with editorial criticism, with feelings of defeat and endless questioning of his own abilities.  You can sense the work and effort that he poured into this novel and how lucky we are that he didn't give it up.
It was his realization that he was an imperfect journalist that inspired the book and it's themes. The novel revolves around a small newspaper in Rome that experiences the economic and technical challenges faced by all newspapers today. It's a wonderful book and even if you aren't in media you'll appreciate the office camaraderie, politics and business challenges faced by most organizations today.  BTW Brad Pitt bought the rights to it  for film production.

Overall Rating **** (4 stars out of 5)

January 08, 2011

On the Proper Use of Stars

If you like to be transported in a different time but based on actual historical records, than you will like this.  Originally published in French this book recounts the Franklin expedition on both sides of the Atlantic. The book is slated for a movie which I think will do well. Just the words alone lend themselves to elaborate sets, costumes and exotic locations. From powerful Europe to the emptiness of the Artic.  Overall Rating *** (3 stars out of 5)

A Good Wine from France for $15 at LCBO Vintages

I lived in Quebec during the 90's and because of the liqour commission's special relationship with France, it was difficult to obtain Californian, South African and Australian wines. When I moved to Ontario I became hooked on non-French wines. But today I made an exception. A Paris Silver medal ? and for 15$. Why not try it?  It was wonderful and I may stay in this region for a while.

January 05, 2011


So this one was the talk of 2010. One of the top 10 according to the NewYork Times.  I liked how the book scared me. So much so that I had to keep reading and finished it in a weekend.  However I will say that it's not the type of book I enjoy and I wouldn't rush out to get her next one.  The real benefit was I sounded semi "with it" at the Xmas parties because of its popularity.  Members comments ;

"I loved it. The narrative as a 5 year old child was so well done. Incredible!"
"I didn't really get much out of this book.  It felt more like a screenplay or movie script."
"What is real and what is not ? There were a lot of concepts here that I found interesting."

Overall Rating **** (4 stars out of 5)

All My Friends Are Superheroes

Different from anything you've read before. A definite read if you like psychology, temperament studies and human interaction. This book appears to be silly but will actually make you think and ponder for days to come.  A perfect selection for a book club as it promotes a lot of discussion. Apparently a TV series is in the works. Some comments :

"I read it 3 times I loved it so much. And each time it got better and I got more out of it."
"I wrote a piece on who my superhero was after reading this book. It's inspiring."
"I won't be able to attend a party now without trying to name heroes."

Overall Rating **** (4 stars out of 5)


Our second book was the eventual winner for CBC's Canada Reads for fiction in 2010.  I liked the book but for the life of me cannot recall how the other members felt.  It was a page turner for sure and had extremely odd storylines... but not so odd that they are unbelievable.  I don't mean unicorns ... I mean more like Sasquatch believable. 

Overall Rating *** (3 stars out of five)

The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant

Our first selection for the book club.  A translation from the French novel or should I say Quebecois original written by Michel Tremblay.  You'll need an org chart to track the characters for this one. Some comments from members ;
"It's a part of Canadian history that I never knew about."
"I hated it... what is this story about?"
"I loved it... it was so alive and full of humour which reminded me of home in Montreal."
"Very complicated as the structure is not linear however I did enjoy."
"Loved the symbolism describing motherhood, the Quebec political landscape, etc... A cat / dog fight indeed"

Overall Rating *** (3 stars out of 5)