Saturday 30 May 2009

Confessions of a Bibliophile #3 - Judge A Book By It's Cover

Often shoppers judge books by their covers, at least at first glance. Reading some of my favorite authors happened by chance as I picked up one of their books based upon the cover. Steven Brust's early novel Jhereg, is one example. This book came out when I was 13 - it was about an assassin witch. I loved the art work so much I used the font from the cover of this and others in the series to create the designs for one of my tattoos. Another book I picked up to look at just because of its cover was Orphanage by Robert Buettner; first published in 2004 it had a great retro Sci-Fi feel, and it reminded me of many of the early covers of Robert A. Heinlein's books, and in reading the cover I found out it was written in homage to Heinlein's classic Starship Troopers, which is an amazing commentary on war. So of course I had to buy it that very day. Third, The Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman, had something mystical about the cover and it had an effect upon me. I had the book for almost two years before reading it because I did not want the spell of the cover to be broken.

In years gone by I collected every edition of different books. Some of Piers Anthony's books have gone through 5 or 6 cover changes. Many classic science fiction books were originally only available in pulp, paperback editions - cheap to make and cheap to recycle to make new ones. I owned the complete Edgar Rice Burrows Warlord of Mars series originally published between 1917 and 1964. These books were transformational in the years after I first learned how to read. Let me digress for a minute. With a dual form of dyslexia and after repeating grade one, they just kept passing me on in school. I got through my book reports by renting VHS or Beta tapes, and paying close attention in class. The summer between grades seven and eight I was sent to a private summer school, and I went from reading at a grade 3 level to reading at a university level and reading over 400 words per minute. It was this whole world that opened up to me that I never knew existed. Reading became an addiction and books an obsession. I read many DAW books, a publishing company dedicated to Science Fiction books. At the time of their merger with Penguin Group in 2007 they had published 1400 books, and from the inception in 1972 until 1985 their books all had yellow spines and a yellow logo box on the front cover. Therefore as you browsed used book stores you could easily recognize the books even if they were not cover facing.

I am sure that you are aware that a great deal of planning goes into choosing covers for books. Publishers also change covers if a book has been out a while, if response was not what was expected. A few years back a book called The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks came out, in the original prereleases of the book there was no author or title on the front cover. But eventually the American arm of the publisher forces a small black diamond with this info. Later they changed the cover completely so that the title and author was in large blocks on the cover. I personally was more attracted to the original, it was so unique and different it immediately grabbed my attention. I often judge books by their cover, or if I do not know the author their covers induce me to pick up the book or to leave it on the shelf or table. It is all part of how books are marketed to us. The next time you are in a Chapters or Indigo books, check out the tables, check out the books on the end caps of the bookcases. These spaces are rented or sold to publishers. Some tables will be all books by one publisher, some will be thematic or issue focused. But most of these books on tables are there to get your attention, to inspire you to pick it up and hopefully purchase it. Another thing used to draw you to certain titles are book lists. At Chapters you receive a discount on the Globe and Mail best sellers' list, and then there is Heather's Picks. The owner of Chapters-Indigo has a table with her selection of books that influence her and are favorites. The other is Oprah's Picks - the day a book is mentioned on her show most Chapters, Indigos and Coles in Canada sell out. The stores start getting calls to reserve them before the show has finished airing. There is an interesting story about Canadian author David Adams Richards. One of his books was selected to be an Oprah Pick. When his publisher told him this, and that it would dramatically increase sales, he went to look at this list of Oprah's Picks. When he saw the books on the list he did not want his name associated with those other books and opted not to allow his book to be one of her picks. Yet all of these marketing tricks are designed to get you to pick up the book and hold it, In part to judge it by it's cover.

Seldom when book covers change do I appreciate it. I am a creature of habit and like things to stay the same. A few books that have changed the cover art for the worst, in my opinion, are Dust by Arthur Slade, Fidelis by A.R. Horvath, and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Some books that have pulled it off well are Orphanage by Robert Buettner, The Singer by Calvin Miller and Night by Elie Wiesel. So drop me a line and let me know what books you have judged by their covers and whether it was worth it. Yet all in all judging books by their covers has almost always served me well. Seldom have I been terribly disappointed and wished I had not read the book. So as you look at that next book cover, and its placement in the store, consider all the factors in the marketing behind it, before picking it up, flipping it over and reading the back. Yet as always remember you never know what you will find between the covers.

(First Published in Imprint 2009-05-29.)

Friday 29 May 2009

The Princess Plot - Kirsten Boie

The Princess Plot
Kirsten Boie

Translated by David Henry Wilson

Chicken House a Division of

ISBN 9780545032209

Reading a book in translation is always interesting, for questions will always arise in the back of your head. Is the original this good, is it better? Has something been lost in translation, but unless you read the original language also and can compare the two you just have to judge the book on its own? As such, this is an interesting story; it is the story of a plain girl Jenna, who one day after school is asked to audition to play a princess in a new movie. The talent scouts are set up outside her school, and she decided to defy her mother and audition. When the audition goes well she is asked to travel to meet the director for the final decision. There she is asked to play the real princess of Scandia, during her birthday celebration to see if she can really play the role - to give the real princess a day off.

However she soon realizes that things are not as they appear, from the real princess' uncle and Regent crying over her, to all the secrecy. Soon there are rebels and bombings and she is kidnapped. That's when the adventure really begins.

This story is wonderfully written. David Henry Wilson has translated many books into English and is an accomplished author himself. Between him and Kirsten Boie, they have told a fantastic story. The pace is well-done, the settings and characters are real and well portrayed, the scenes well laid out and the progression and the resolution entertaining and satisfying.

This book will make a great, fun summer read. It is light enough to be pleasure reading but serious enough to keep the reader entertained and turning the pages.

(First published in Imprint 2009-05-29.)

Monday 25 May 2009

Down the Drain! by Munsch & Martchenko

Down the Drain!
Robert Munsch (Author)

Michael Martchenko (Illustrator)


ISBN 9780545986007

I know that Robert Munsch's books are immensely popular. In fact a few years ago I was a huge fan and purchased and gave away copy after copy of many of his books. Yet I find in his more recent books that there is a cynicism and disrespect that I no longer enjoy.

In this story, Adam who winds up in trouble, ends up blackmailing his father to get him a new skateboard, new shoes, a dress for his sister and a hamburger. Those are not the kinds of lessons I want my children learning - that they only have to do what you ask them if you bribe them.

The story is supposed to be fun and humorous and the illustrations are great. But it is just not a story I can recommend. I find that some of the most cynical people in life are formerly religious, and even more so for Jesuits. Maybe that explains Munsch's writing and stories.

Thursday 21 May 2009

Peek a Boo! Playful Puppy by: Tim Bugbird

Peek a Boo! Playful Puppy
Tim Bugbird

ISBN 9780545986519

This is the second book in this series that I now have. I actually like it better. The colors are wonderfully vibrant, the textures even more unique. The books in this series are designed to help children develop their vocabulary, experience different shapes, textures, and differently-designed and functioning flaps. It is fun to watch my daughter sit and go through it again and again. A wonderful concept and design.

Tim Bugbird has created some awesome children's books with this series. The books are:

Peek A Boo! Curious Kitten
Peek A Boo! Playful Puppy
Peek A Boo! Animal Babies
Peek A Boo! Perfect Pets

Sunday 17 May 2009

The Devil's Other Story Book by: Natalie Babbit

The Devil's Other Story Book
Natalie Babbitt
Sunburst Books

ISBN 9780374417086

I first read Tuck Everlasting in a children's literature course back in 1999. I enjoyed it so much I tracked down a few other books b
y Babbitt and enjoyed them just as much.

This is a collection of short stories about the Devil. They read as moral lessons, much like Grimm's fairy tales. Each has a different point and purpose. It was a fun interesting book to read. I was never able to find a volume 1, The Devil's Storybook.

(First written as Journal Reading Notes in 1999.)

Friday 15 May 2009

Confessions of a Bibliophile #2 - I Love You

Have you ever fallen in love with a character from a book - were they fictional, were they real, were they dead? When reading, sometimes the characters or people become so real to me they are like friends. So I revisit them year after year, rereading the books. With others I wonder what they are doing after the time of the book, two years later, five, or ten years later. I wonder what they are up to. I have fallen in love with five women while reading about them, one fictional, two dead before I was born, and two living. In this week's column I will briefly describe each of them and hope it will inspire you to check out their writings or the writings about them.

Meg Murry is a fictional character created by Madeleine L'Engle. She appears in six of the books in L'Engle's Karios series of books. She is a child in the first books and a mother in the later books. She is a strong woman, an intelligent woman. She appeared so real in the pages. I tried her favorite sandwich and it became one of mine, toasted bagel with liverwurst, cream cheese, tomato slices. L'Engle is one of my all-time favorite authors and when I met her at a conference, she stated that recently she realized that one of her characters had just finished her PhD. Her characters were real to her, and time kept passing for them. Meg was the first woman I ever fell in love with in a book.

My first term here at UW, I took a course called RS100C Faith Quests with Dr. Michael W. Higgins. We read 13 books over the term. I fell in love with two of the women we read about and studied. The first was Etty Hillesum, when I read her book The Letters and Diary of Etty Hillesum. She was passionate about life, and she was determined to understand herself. Even after the Nazi advance and occupation she did not stop living. The last words we have from her are on a post card thrown from a train on its way to Auschwitz. She was an incredible woman, and her life is an amazing testament of the human spirit.

I am not sure what to call the next woman. I met her as Joy Gresham, the woman C.S. Lewis married, then fell in love with. Lewis wrote about her in his book A Grief Observed. It recounts his experience of her illness and her death. It was the basis for the film Shadowlands. Lewis originally published this book under a pseudonym N. W. Clerk. It appears the book was so well written, he received a number of copies from friends to help him with his grief.

Five Feet of Fury - That is the current blog of Kathy Shaidle. As a fulltime blogger since 2000, Kathy has offended nearly every one. I encountered her previous blog,, through other Catholic blogrolls. After reading her blog for a while I tracked down her books and read them. I have read most of her books more than once and her autobiographical piece God Rides a Yamaha six times (The God on the Yamaha was wearing a UW jacket with Math on the armband). It is a series of columns published after she was diagnosed with Lupus. I fell in love with her because of her vulnerability in this book. Yet most of her writings are sassy, humorous, poignant and very political. Kathy states: "Social justice is the stubborn application of unworkable solutions to imaginary problems." or "Racist' is the new 'commie."She is considered one of the top Conservative bloggers in Canada. Mark Steyn declares about Kathy "Kathy Shaidle is one of the great virtuoso polemicists of our day: If the "human rights" racketeers get their way, she'll be unpublishable in her own country. But, in the end, that's a reflection not on her but on them." In his intro to her latest book The Tyranny of Nice.

Finally, a Mormon woman from Utah, Terry Tempest Williams - and she does live up to her middle name. Terry's book Refuge is the story of life and the story of death - death of women from cancer, and death of birds in a flooded sanctuary. Williams is a poet, author, environmentalist, and is very passionate about life and life in the desert. Her books are moving and powerful; she writes about the clan of the one-breasted women. She states "I belong to a Clan of One-Breasted Women. My mother, my grandmothers, and six aunts have all had mastectomies. Seven are dead. The two who survive have just completed rounds of chemotherapy and radiation." All of her books are powerful and moving.

I fell in love with each of the women because of the power of words. Words can shape us, change us, challenge us and transform us. Each of the women profiled above can have lasting impact on your life. So check out the books and remember you never know what you will find between the covers, or who.

(First published in Imprint as 'I Love You' in the column Confessions of a Bibliophile 2009-05-15.)

Monday 11 May 2009

Book Meme - 15 in 15 Minutes

Book Meme - 15 in 15 Minutes

"This can be a quick one. Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes." First saw it on Shelly's Book Shelf.

So in no particular order:

1. Watership Down - Richard Adams
2. Duncton Rising - William Horwood
3. Refuge - Terry Tempest Williams
4. God Rides a Yamaha - Kathy Shaidle
5. Benchpress (trilogy) - Sven Lindqvist

6. Jacob the Baker (trilogy) - Noah benShea
7. An Interrupted Life - Etty Hillesum
8. Wild At Heart - John Eldredge
9. A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
10. Wheat That Springeth Green - J.F. Powers
11. Wrinkle in Tim
e (quartet) - Madelein L'Engle
12. The Singer (trilogy)- Calvin Miller
13. Life After God - Douglas Coupland
14. In Conversation With God - Francis Fernandez
15. God is Not Reasonable - Irma Zaleski

This was a harder meme to do than I thought. I could Make multiple list's of 15, children's books, fiction, non-fiction, religious ... If you want to play, post your answers and link back or a comment here.

Top Ten Lists

All Books Read Each Year
Favorite Books Year Each Year
Favorite Authors Year Each Year

Saturday 9 May 2009

Peek a Boo! Curious Kitten by: Tim Bugbird

Peek a Boo! Curious Kitten
Tim Bugbird

ISBN 9780545986526

This is a fantastic book for young children. It has different shapes and styles of flaps on each page; it also has numerous textures of different materials and shapes. My daughter played with it for almost an hour straight just opening and closing the flaps and playing with the textures. This book is part of a series and I cannot wait to see my daughter's reactions to the others.

Tim Bugbird has created some awesome children's books with this series. The books are:

Peek A Boo! Curious Kitten
Peek A Boo! Playful Puppy
Peek A Boo! Animal Babies
Peek A Boo! Perfect Pets

Monday 4 May 2009

Confessions of a Bibliophile #1 - To Write Or Not To Write

This summer I am applying for a column here in Imprint. I am doing so for a number of reasons, but first and foremost is to expose my love for books and all things bookish. I am a book addict! I have bought books rather than groceries - I have stayed up reading all night even though I had exams or work the next day but just could not put the book down. I have sat in Chapters and read a book from cover to cover because I did not have the money to buy it. One such book Starbright, by Andrew M. Greeley, I read 3 times in Chapters before I had the money to pick it up. I would even put a book mark in it and put it in the back of the stack till my next visit. Yet what does all of that have to do with writing?

You see I never expected to become a writer. I have a dual form of dyslexia and writing was never really an aspiration of mine. I never thought it would be even remotely possible. However a few years back, I was working as a zone lead in Chapters and developed some contacts in the publishing industry, and over time I started getting more and more free books, and getting them further and further before the books street date. The review copies are called by a variety of names: ARC (Advance Reader's\Reviewer's Copy), Galley Copies or Uncorrected proofs. I have received some of these as much as 8 months before a book's street date. I have had publishers send me PDF's of books because the ARC's were not even ready yet. I started writing reviews for publishers from which they would use excerpts in marketing campaigns. So I thought, why not try to publish in Imprint? I had not seen any book reviews in the paper for a while and each week in the arts section there were CD, DVD and Movie reviews. Most major papers have book reviews and usually a weekly section dedicated to book reviews. Then in May 2006 I published my first review in Imprint. Since then I have published almost 130 articles, and about 120 of them have been book reviews.

Over my years at the paper my involvement has been up and down some terms, depending on how much I was on Campus and other life events - having 2 children, being injured at work, surgery and more. Yet Imprint has remained a central part of my life, and my identity both as a UW student and as person. I am an author. So this term I am going to try to expand my horizons. I am applying for a column in the spring term for the paper. The process of becoming a columnist at Imprint is as follows: write a letter of intent, outlining the title of the column, the focus and the purpose, and include 3 sample columns. Then at the first staff meeting of the term, the current staff and members who become staff by successfully achieving editorial board status vote on the concept and determine your fate. If you already have a column and you wish to continue it you have to reapply each term. If I am successful over the next 4 months you will read my reflections, confessions and predilections as a bibliophile.

(First Published in Imprint 2009-05-01.)
[As a side note the column submission was accepted and will appear in Imprint over the next 4 months every other week, and a few days later will be posted here.]

Friday 1 May 2009

39 Clues - Card Pack 1

Card Pack #1 The 39 Clues - For Books 1, 2 and 3

ISBN 9780545083423

During the past term in Imprint I reviewed the first three books of the new and u
nique series The 39 Clues. What makes this series so unique is the fact that 7 authors are writing 10 novels to tell a single continuous story. In the series the Cahill's family matriarch passes away. In her will she leaves one million dollars to each family member, or they can trade that money-order for a clue that will lead to the treasure that will lead them to become the greatest Cahill of all time. There are four branches in the family: Janus, Ekaterina, Lucian and Thomas. Each branch has its own strengths and weaknesses. Our story follows Amy and Dan Cahill, orphans who choose to take the quest. The adventure crosses continents and has clues hidden in art, architecture, music and more. The books teach a lot about historical characters, events and places. These cards supplement the story, they are also used for online games to help you solve the 39 clues and the chance at $100,000 in prizes for solving the puzzles.This Card Pack supplements books 1, 2 and 3. There are 16 cards per card pack and a total of 55 new cards in these packs. Each card has a unique code used to enter it online, and add it to your collection to help you solve the 39 clues. The cards are great as collector's items go.One drawback is that you cannot really trade them, because even duplicate cards have different codes and can be used online for game play differently. The artwork is great and the cards are fun and interesting. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to how Scholastic is working these books and card packs. The concept of numerous authors writing a series together is great; it will introduce readers to a number of authors, and fans of some of the authors will be introduced to other writers. The online games are fun and interesting, the puzzles challenging and entertaining. The drawbacks that I see are: first the online game zones close down as each new book becomes available, and the online puzzles for the cards will end when the books finish. Now what I have read of the books so far is great and the books will stand on their own without the cards or online puzzles, but the online interaction definitely enhances the books and the whole adventure of it all. What I wish is that the daily prizes for each game zone end with the next book, but the zone stayed open for future readers to have fun with. That way the card packs would also have a continuing interest and market.

The books are great, the cards are well done and enhance the books and supplement the online game component. The fact that the cards and online is planned to have an end is disappointing. Even without the daily prizes and grand prize these add to the adventure of following Dan and Any as they follow the 39 Clues. But be warned - they
are addictive and you will want them all. As a side note it took me 6 Card packs to get the 1 Ultra-Rare card for this first set, and yet I was still missing 9 cards.

About the Cards in General:

  • Each of the 39 Clues books also come with a Set of 6 specific cards
  • Book 1 "The Maze Of Bones" you get cards No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6
  • Book 2 "One False Note" you get cards No. 17, No. 18, No. 19, No. 20, No. 21, No. 22
  • Book 3 "The Sword Thief" you get cards No.33, No. 34, No. 35, No. 36, No.37, No. 38
  • There will be around 355 cards to collect for all 10 books
  • The First Set has 73 cards - 55 From the Packs and 18 From the Books (No. 1 to 73)
  • + currently 17 or 18 Promotional Cards (400s)
  • (Additional cards will be created virtually online during the game and/or sold separately with specific packages and promotions)
  • Most o f the 400 level cards are available at the sites below, and are general use cards, The codes can be used by anyone.
Sites With More Info:

The 39 Clues:
The Maze of Bones - Book 1 - Rick Riordan
One False Note - Book 2 - Gordon Korman
The Sword Thief - Book 3 - Peter Lerangis
Beyond the Grave - Book 4 - Jude Watson
The Black Circle - Book 5 - Patrick Carman
In Too Deep - Book 6 - Jude Watson

The Viper's Nest - Book 7 - Peter Lerangis
The Emperor's Code - Book 8 - Gordon Korman

Storm Warning - Book 9 - Linda Sue Park

 Into the Gauntlet - Book 10 - Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Black Book of Buried Secrets - Rick Riordan
Vespers Rising - Book 12 - Rick Riordan

Card Pack #1 - Books 1-3
Card Pack #2 - Books 4-6
Card Pack #3 - Books 7-9
Rare Card Pack

The 39 Clues Cahills vs. Vespers
The Medusa Plot - Book 1 - Gordon Korman
A King's Ransom - Book 2 - Jude Watson
The Dead of Night - Book 3 - Peter Lerangis
? - Book 4 - Roland Smith
? - Book 5 - Linda Sue Park
? - Book 6 - David Baldacci

The 39 Clues Rapid Fire:
Legacy - Book 1 - Clifford Riley
Ignition - Book 2 - Clifford Riley
Hunted - Book 3 - Clifford Riley
Crushed - Book 4 - Clifford Riley
Turbulence - Book 5 - Clifford Riley
Invasion - Book 6 - Clifford Riley
Fireworks - Book 7 - Clifford Riley

(First published in Imprint 2009-05-01.)