Julie’s Holiday Gift Guide

Light-lifting_cover

As some of you know, I have another blog gathering dust that I didn’t think anyone read anymore. But I was pleasantly surprised when one of the readers of that blog emailed me and asked for my annual holiday book giving guide!  I’m happy to deliver. These are my favourite books of the year,  the gifts I’ll be giving to loved ones. There’s something for everyone, I think, and this year I’m not going to break it down to His and Hers, etc.  These are all great reads for anyone. Period.*

Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod

Alexander MacLeod’s Light Lifting  is the most exciting thing I’ve read this year, and I want to give a copy to everyone I know. He’s been compared to Alice Munro, and I agree completely (those who know me know this is the highest praise I can give). His stories are electric, visceral, wise, and so awesomely physical. My body was buzzing while I read. He’s that good.

The Tiger  by John Vaillant

Set in Russia’s Far East, a suspected poacher’s remains are found near his destroyed cabin. His body, and his belongings have been brutally destroyed. An investigation by Yuri Trush, the lead tracker and conservationist with Siberia’s Inspection Tiger, reveals that it was not a random attack: the tiger was methodical and seemingly vengeful.

With fascinating insight into Russia’s social history, as well as the magnificent, endangered Siberian Tiger, this is an engrossing, informative story of man and nature, and our struggle to coexist.

The Imperfectionists  by Tom Rachman

Set in Rome, this debut novel centres around a struggling international English-language newspaper. With each chapter telling the story of a different character—reporters, foreign correspondents, editors, executives—the book reads like a collection of short stories. The narratives interspersed with short chapters on the paper’s 50-year history, the novel also explores recent challenges to the newspaper business: technology, loss of advertising, competition for readers’ attention.

Perfectly structured, with compelling, memorable characters, The Imperfectionists is intelligent, ironic and perceptive.

The Wave  by Susan Casey

Susan Casey investigates the increasingly brutal and baffling “rogue waves,” giants that come out of nowhere and sink ships and pummel oil rigs. She speaks to mariners, climatologists and insurers to try to understand what is causing these waves, and how they impact our planet. Along with the experts, she also speaks to the people who perhaps understand these waves the most: big wave surfers like Laird Hamilton who thrive on the white-knuckle rides these monsters deliver.

This is a fascinating book from an environmental standpoint, but I enjoyed the perspectives of the surfers even more (and this is a big part of the book). What motivates them to take such risks? How does it feel to ride a 100 foot wave? How do you get back on the board after you nearly losing your life? The Wave provides answers to these questions, and reading the book is as exhilarating as it is enlightening.

For the kids (age 4-8)…. Dog Loves Books  by Louise Yates

Dog is a book lover. He decides to open a bookstore, but no one comes. Someone comes by for tea and leaves in a huff when he tells them he doesn’t sell tea. Someone comes in for directions, but doesn’t want to buy a book. Without any customers, Dog is bored—until he remembers he can read his books and be transported to far off places. And when a real customer finally comes, he gets to do his favourite thing—share the books he loves.

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This is a charming story (for book lovers of all ages) and Jane adores it.

 

*Are your loved ones reading eBooks?  These are all available in eBook format, and you can gift those too!

Throwdown! with Bobby Flay

Throwdown

Saturday night my family had the pleasure of hosting my good friend and fellow blogger Karen Green along with her darling family for a Bobby Flay Throwdown!

 

Karen decided to cook up her famous meatloaf while I prepared Flay’s version of the recipe. We let the kids run wild while we drank beer, I mean toiled in the kitchen. 

  

Both dishes came out of the oven looking beautiful (note the nice crusty topping on each) and we were both proud of our efforts.  But, according to the Throwdown rules, we had to turn the judging over to our families.

 

Kg_and_jf

  

The girls mostly ate fries and salad, but Karen won their vote.

 

Girls

 

Owen took the Throwdown concept a little too literally. All of his meatloaf went on the floor.

 

Owen

 

But in the end, the adults unanimously choose Flay’s recipe as the favourite.  Having three different kinds of meat definitely helped. And we all loved the balsamic glaze.

 

Winner: Bobby Flay’s Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf with Balsamic Glaze (pictured right)

 

Meatloaf

 

 

We Need to Talk About Kevin and Room

I’ve read two books recently that really shook the mother part of me. This Ain’t Your Mother’s Book Club’s doing Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin this month. What a great choice for a club entirely comprised of parents. This is a book that keeps you awake at night, and raises all sorts of interesting questions about reliable narrators, nature versus nurture, forgiveness, responsibility. I think we’ll be talking for hours about this one, and I am going to bring two bottles of wine this month.  Highly recommend this book.

 

I also managed to squeeze in Emma Donahue’s Room , which everyone is talking about. It doesn’t disappoint. I worried about reading it on the heels of Kevin, as the premise is equally disturbing. But unlike Kevin, this book is ultimately hopeful and redemptive, and you will be able to sleep at night after reading it. I also worried about the book being narrated by a child the age of my daughter. I thought Donahue would either write realistically, and it would be painful to read after a while, or it would be unbelievable. She manages to find a perfect balance between capturing the language of a young child, without it being distracting.  Highly recommend this one too.  Check out this excellent trailer:

 

 

Now it’s time for something a little lighter. A couple of my friends are asking on Twitter for something “happy” to read.  Can anyone suggest something?

The Wave by Susan Casey

Wave

I had just intended to dip in to Susan Casey’s The Wave, but I was soon swept up, and I rode it out to the end.

 

Susan Casey (author of The Devil’s Teeth) investigates the increasingly brutal and baffling “rogue waves,” giants that come out of nowhere and sink ships and pummel oil rigs. She speaks to mariners, climatologists and insurers to try to understand what is causing these waves, and how they impact our planet. Along with the experts, she also speaks to the people who perhaps understand these waves the most: big wave surfers like Laird Hamilton who thrive on the white-knuckle rides these monsters deliver.

 

This is a fascinating book from an environmental standpoint, but I enjoyed the perspectives of the surfers even more (and this is a big part of the book). What motivates them to take such risks? How does it feel to ride a 100 foot wave? How do you get back on the board after you nearly losing your life? The Wave provides answers to these questions, and reading the book is as exhilarating as it is enlightening.

 

Want to know more? Watch this:

 

Sanctuary Line by Jane Urquhart

Sanctuary_line

There are a few books each season that I wait for like a kid waiting for Christmas. Last year it was the new Alice Munro collection. This year it was Jane Urquhart’s new novel, Sanctuary Line. I had a chance to read it on my e-reader ages ago, but I held out for the finished book as I do for most of my favourite fiction authors (I’m glad I did wait; this is a gorgeous package and I want it on my shelf now that I’ve read it).

 

Set in the present on the shores of Lake Erie, the novel’s narrator, Liz Crane, is an entomologist who has moved into the deserted farmhouse where she spent the summers of her youth. While she studies the migratory patterns of Monarch butterflies, she copes with the recent death of her cousin Amanda Butler, killed in Afghanistan. Liz gradually reveals the Butler family’s colourful history, as well as the story of her first love, Teo, one of the seasonal Mexican workers who traveled to the farm each summer.

 

A novel about difficult migrations, understanding and forgiveness, Sanctuary Line lives up to all of my high expectations. Beautifully written, intricate and wise, it will deeply satisfy fans of The Stone Carvers and Away. And if you have not yet had the pleasure of reading Jane Urquhart, you can start with this (and then I’m sure you will be looking for more).

The Tiger by John Vaillant

Tiger

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m trying to read more non-fiction (and I haven’t been very successful). But once in a while I come across fantastic narrative non-fiction that is more exciting than many novels, and enlightening to boot. John Vaillant’s The Tiger is that kind of book.

 

Set in Russia’s Far East, a suspected poacher’s remains are found near his destroyed cabin. His body, and his belongings have been brutally destroyed. An investigation by Yuri Trush, the lead tracker and conservationist with Siberia’s Inspection Tiger, reveals that it was not a random attack: the tiger was methodical and seemingly vengeful.

 

With fascinating insight into Russia’s social history, as well as the magnificent, endangered Siberian Tiger, this is an engrossing, informative story of man and nature, and our struggle to coexist.

 

Learn more about the tigers at the author’s website:  http://www.thetigerbook.com/.

 

Check out this video with the author:

August Update

Wow, where has the summer gone? I have been reading a little, but the trip to SFU really made July fly by. Then I needed to make things up to my kids, so in the past week I’ve been to Wonderland, Centre Island and the beach. Whew!  I don’t have time to blog individually about the last few books I’ve read, but here’s a little update for the record.

 We Have Always Lived in the Castle – my favourite Vicious Circle book club pick yet. Fabulous, atmospheric gothic novella by Shirley Jackson.

 Stanley Park by Timothy Taylor – the perfect book for my flight to Vancouver.

 Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldeman – a moving look at how two very different mothers cope with a tragic accident.

 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – what can I say? I didn’t want to be the very last person on earth to read this. I did quite enjoy it.

 Hopefully I’ll finish Michael Crummey’s Galore in time for book club on Tuesday.

 I plan to get back to posting reviews here very soon. In the meatime, here’s a few pics from Vancouver.

 Hope your summer has been grand!

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Last Update from SFU

This is my last update from SFU.?? Sales conference is in a few hours and we???re going to sell the shit out of our fabulous list.?? I???ve said it before, but the list really does feel real. I find myself talking about how a book kept me up all night, and I almost believe it myself!

The program has been fantastic, and I???ve learned lots. Doing P&Ls has been a huge eye-opener for me.?? Our list is far more commercial than I ever would have thought going in, and it???s because we decided from the beginning that we wanted to keep the lights on.?? So we ended up with a wide range of titles, from a big blockbuster, to our quirky underdog, Sticking Needles in Kittens (you wouldn???t believe how we fought for this title!)

Doing covers was so much fun. A team of 3 designers had just a couple of days to turn around 28 covers! They did an amazing job.?? I will post ours in a few days.

Tonight we???ll be rewarded for our hard work with a boat cruise in the harbour. There???s a big fireworks competition going on right now and we???ll have a spectacular view. We???re all picking up extra booze, so there???s no chance of running dry. It should be a fine finish to an intense two weeks.

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Update from SFU

We???re just about to start week 2 of the Book Publishing Immersion Program at SFU. I finally had a little free time yesterday, which I spent outside by the water recharging (it was so very necessary).

It???s kind of hard to convey how intense this is. We worked until midnight a few nights last week, running on coffee and adrenaline. There were a couple nights when I was coming up with new books and writing TI???s for them at 10 pm, barely able to form a coherent sentence. Friday night was the worst; we were all exhausted, and had some drama in our group (someone quit) so we threw up our hands and went to the pub.  It was exactly what the doctor ordered.  Saturday we got it together, and we finally have a list we???re really proud of. It???s crazy, these books become so real in our minds???I???m going to be sad when I don???t see them in bookstores.

This week we make covers (can???t wait!) and we end with sales conference. I have some fun ideas for sales conference, and I think it will be a blast.

Now, back to work!  Will try to update again in a few days.

An Update from Vancouver!

I’m in Vancouver for two weeks for the SFU Book Publishing Immersion Program. This is day 2, and for the second day in a row I’ve woken up before dawn (it always takes me forever to adjust to a time change).

  Day 1 was intense! After a full day of lectures, our newly formed groups headed to our offices to nail down our Publishing company profiles, and identify our objectives. Then we had to come up with 4 of our 6 titles and write TIs for them by 10 pm.  It was a flurry, and truly finished under the wire. By the end of the day I could barely form a sentence (and definitely not a coherent one).

  Despite the demands, I’m loving it so far. Will probably not have much time for updates, unless I keep waking up ridiculously early (let’s hope not).