Saturday, April 30, 2011

Product Review: Calphalon Bakeware

Nothing goes better with reading than a delicious home-made snack, so when I had the opportunity to pick something to review from CSN Stores, I immediately knew I'd be getting some bakeware. After reading some other reviews I decided to go with products made by Calphalon including Classic Bakeware Cookie Sheet and Cooling Rack Set, Classic Bakeware 16" Pizza Pan and Classic Bakeware Medium Loaf Pan. The only hesitation for Canadian buyers like myself is the necessary customs cost for international duties, although most items are still a good deal especially since many offer free shipping. If you live in the United States the prices would be particularly good. In terms of service, CSN shipped the items quickly and they were packaged well, so it was definitely a good experience.

When I got them my first impression was that the bakeware was must heavier and sturdier than I expected, I guess that is what happens when you are used to getting whatever is cheapest! I haven't used the Loaf Pan yet as I'm still waiting on a honey bread recipe, but I have tried out the Pizza Pan and Cookie Sheets and I'm in love. The Pizza Pan is extremely large at 16 inches, which I didn't quite realize when I ordered it, but it would definitely by useful for cooking a larger pizza. The best thing about it is that not only does it clean in a second, but it has tiny holes in the bottom so that your pizza gets nice and browned underneath. Delicious!

I tested out the Cookie Sheets and cooling racks with my first attempt at making snickerdoodles, and they did an amazing job. The cookie trays are very large, so I only had to use one of the two when baking and fit over a dozen cookies on it. If I'd wanted to rotate the two trays when cooking, I could have made over two dozen at a same time, which make the large trays really efficient for holiday baking, plus the fact that they come with matching large cooling racks is really convenient. I didn't have to grease the trays and just gently wiped them down with a soapy cloth after cooking, it was an incredibly easy clean up. No scrapping burnt bits away like I'm used to! Then I cuddled up with my cookies and a good book.

My cookies on my new awesome bakeware:
Overall a great experience and I highly recommend both CSN and Calphalon Bakeware.

In My Mailbox (April 24th-30th)

Quite a mix of books in my mailbox this week, memoir, YA, non-fiction, historical fiction, noir, mystery; it was an eclectic mix, just like my reading tastes. 

{For Review}
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (Publishers Group Canada)
Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman (Publishers Group Canada)
Smuggled by Christina Shea (ARC) (Publishers Group Canada)
Limitless by Alan Glynn (Picador)
Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey (Thomas Allen & Sons)
The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser (TLC Tours)
The Man Who Killed by Fraser Nixon (D&M Publishers)
God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman (TLC Tours)
The Ask by Sam Lipsyte (Picador)
Don't Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon (TLC Tours)

Matterhorn is quite the tome, it's about the Vietnam War and apparently it took the author thirty five years to write- hopefully it will take less time than that for me to read it! Say Her Name is a memoir about Goldman's wife who died while on holiday with him and the grief and responsibility he felt afterwards, it sounds incredibly powerful and despite its bleak subject matter it is a book I am really looking forward to. I've also been looking forward to Smuggled so it was cool getting an early copy, it's a novel about a young girl who was smuggled across the border to escape the Nazis. The film based on Limitless (which was originally called The Dark Fields) just came out, so I'm excited to read the book as I prefer to do that before I watch the movie.

Jekel Loves Hyde was my only YA this week which was surprising, I haven't read Fantaskey before but apparently her debut was really good so I am definitely intrigued. The Filter Bubble is a non-fiction book about the internet for an upcoming book tour, hopefully it doesn't scare me away from blogging! The Man Who Killed is a noir thriller which takes place in Montreal in the 1920s and sounds like it could have an awesome atmosphere to the novel, it's all about political corruption and smoke-filled saloons. God Was A Rabbit sounds really interesting, as does The Ask, so I can't wait to read both. I'm on the book tour for three of McMahon's books and have read and loved one already (Promise Not To Tell) so I was excited to get her latest mystery thriller, Don't Breathe a Word.

Secrets and Shadows by Shannon Delany + Swag, including signed bookmarks by Daisy Whitney and Jennifer Brown (Thanks Lori!)

It's always exciting winning a giveaway, although in this case I won the sequel to 13 to Life and I'll definitely have to pick up the first book in the near future so I can dig into Secrets and Shadows. The swag was a wonderful surprise, autographed bookmarks!

Well that's it for me, what was in your mailbox this week?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Author Guest Post: John Pollack

The Best Puns

The best puns are always spontaneous, powered by context and surprise. Some of my all-time favorites occurred in the following exchange at the1995 O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships, in Austin, Texas. I was paired with an opponent and we were given a topic. Alternating, each of us had five seconds to make a pun on that topic, back and forth, until someone missed. It was single elimination.

The emcee—a tall Texan in a straw hat—introduced me and my opponent to the crowd of about 500. I was already outmatched; my adversary was a bespectacled, forty-something man named George McClughan who, as the judge pointed out, just happened to be a former champion. Talk about a bad draw.

The topic was “Air Vehicles.”

“George, why don’t you go ahead and start,” the judge said.

“Oh, all right,” my opponent said. “If a helicopter had babies,” McClughan asked, “would it be a baby Huey?” It took me a moment to get it—a clever reference to both the cartoon duck and the workhorse chopper of Vietnam. He was going to flatten me.

My mind flashed to all the aircraft hanging from the rafters back at The Henry Ford museum outside of Detroit, where I worked. “I hope I come up with the Wright Flying Machine,” I said.

“Wait, wait . . .” It was the judge, holding up his hand. “It’s gotta be a puh-un.” In his Texas drawl, pun was almost a two-syllable word.

“The Wright Brothers,” I said. “W-R-I-G-H-T—I hope I pick the Wright Flying Machine.”

A sudden cheer swept the audience. The brawl was on.

“That was so plane to see,” McClughan said, grinning.

I struggled to come up with a response, but saved myself at the last second with a crude pun on Fokker, the defunct Dutch aircraft maker.

McClughan didn’t flinch. “I guess if I’m going to B-52 next week I’m never going to C-47 again,” he said.

“Well…,” I said, scanning the audience, “I’m looking for a Liberator out there.”

McClughan toyed with me. “This guy’s pretty good,” he said. “I was hoping he’d B-1 bomber.”

I was finding my rhythm. “You don’t think I’d take to flight, do you?”

“I don’t know,” he answered casually. “You’re just up here winging it.”


In its economy and perfect congruence of sound and meaning, a pun couldn’t get any purer. I could pun for an entire lifetime and never make a better one, ever. It was a knockout punch, and the crowd roared. But that rangy Texan refused to fall.

John Pollack is a journalist, author, and former Special Assistant and Presidential Speechwriter to Bill Clinton. He has written for publications such as the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Advertising Age, and the Associated Press. He was named the World Pun Champion at the 1995 O. Henry World Championship Pun-off and has written speeches for corporate and public-sector leaders such as Jeffrey Katzenberg, Carly Fiorina, John Glenn, David de Rothschild, and actress Goldie Hawn. He currently works as a speechwriter and consultant for ROI Communication, an internal communication consulting firm. He lives in Manhattan. To learn more about John, visit his website

A review of The Pun Also Rises can be found on In The Next Room here.

The Pun Also Rises by John Pollack

I am the kind of person who is always making (and then laughing at) their own puns, usually ones which aren't very good or clever but which I enjoy nonetheless. So of course I had to read John Pollack's history of the pun, The Pun Also Rises. The book provides a brief overview of how the pun developed, the origin of various puns, as well as peoples' perception of puns over time.

The Pun Also Rises is divided into five chapters with a prologue in which Pollack competes in the World Pun Championships. Occasionally Pollack gets distracted and may ramble on for a page or two about how a historical figure never received love from his mother (Grimod) or what the anatomy of the ear drum is like. Although there are potentially interesting tidbits, they really having nothing, or very little, to do with the topic of the book and so I found them more distracting than anything. However, other readers might appreciate these offshoots more than I did.

The aspect of The Pun Also Rises that lost me most is Pollack's constant defense of the pun, supposedly against harsh critics who would eliminate all puns. Although he gives examples throughout history, none of them are contemporary, and I honestly cannot think of a single time I have ever heard of anyone claim to want all puns gone. Sure, not everyone finds them funny, but the implication of the book is far more serious than that and it is one I really felt needed more support if it was supposed to be believable.

That said, The Pun Also Rises is a fun enjoyable book which reminded me slightly of Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss for the way that it takes a topic that is not necessarily riveting and explains it in a way that is both interesting and informative. Pollack talks about all the important places we find puns these days, and inserts some subtle ones himself- such as the subtitle of the book. I'm also pretty sure that if I read the book again, there would be way more puns that I did not pick up the first time, and for that reason this is definitely not a book you want to rush through. Asides from the making me chuckle, like any good non-fiction, I learned a lot, and I would definitely recommend the book to individuals interested in linguistics and wordplay. Although I was slightly puzzled by Pollack's need to repeatedly defend the pun, overall The Pun Also Rises is a brief, informative and intelligent introduction to the history of the humble and wonderful pun.

Release Date: April 14th, 2011
Pages: 224
Buy the Book

This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Author Interview with Summer Wood

Summer Wood's second novel Wrecker was recently released and I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her powerfully and beautifully written book.

I know that Wrecker is a novel you spent quite a few years writing, and that was inspired by your own experiences. Did you start with wanting to write about foster kids and then come up with Wrecker, or did he come first?

This book was sparked by the experience of having been foster parents to four little boys, back when our own three sons were young. It was a tough and beautiful and horrendous and heart-overflowing kind of experience, and it opened my eyes to what it must feel like to be a kid who’s lost his mother, or a mom – a parent – who’s separated from her child.

Honestly, I did not want to go there in my fiction! I mean, who would? But then into my notebook walked Wrecker the boy, not at all a symbol of a condition or a predicament but instead something more like a flesh-and-blood, bruised and bruising, beautiful child, and I was captivated.

Wrecker the novel isn’t really about anything other than this extraordinary boy and his birth mom and the crazy band of eccentrics who raise him when he’s taken from her custody. Well, it is, but not by intention. That’s the great thing about fiction: the truth is in the story, in the integrity of the characters, in the emotional response it earns – not in how well it cleaves to the author’s idea of what she wants to say. 

What kind of research went into writing Wrecker?

Can I tell you what I didn’t do? I didn’t go to prison. I didn’t deal drugs. I didn’t shoot a cop or lose a child or nearly drown in the ocean or chain-saw down an enormous tree or have sex in a – (well, wait. I’m not going to go into the details of that.) Seriously, nearly everything that happened in the book grew out of my imagination and was written first, and then followed up by research to make sure I had the facts straight. For that, I talked to people, read a lot, returned to the place where it’s set to make sure I got the plants and topography and weather right. I studied maps and read historical reports. I learned a lot, really – tons more than made it into the book. But if I’d done it the other way around – researched first, and then tried to build a narrative from what I consciously knew – I don’t think I would have been as effective at getting to the emotional heart of the story. 

Can you tell me something about how the novel developed? Did you always have chapters which included Lisa Fay's perspective, for example? Did the book change much from your first draft?

Everything exploded (energetically) when I allowed myself to follow Lisa Fay into that prison. I didn’t want to do that. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to properly handle the material. I made up all kinds of reasons to avoid writing that. But when I did – when I jumped off the deep end, so to speak – was when the book came together in a form that made real sense to me; that brought all the stories together, with the boy at the center. It was a kind of magic, really. The kind of magic that will appear when you do the hard work and then you take a leap of faith. That’s what I love about writing: the way a story will suddenly transform before your eyes if you allow yourself the courage to follow it to its depths.

What are you working on next? 

The next novel is in the works -- a multi-generational love story (what else?) set in the plains of southern Colorado. It seems with each book I want to stretch longer, encompass more time: about a year in Arroyo, twenty years in Wrecker, and with this new one I'm closing in on a century. Horses, and men at war, and women in love, and a look at what it means to be "Western" -- now, and in generations past. Who knows where it will take me? But it's got my attention and I'm willing to follow.

Thanks for the great questions!

Summer Wood is the author of Wrecker, published by Bloomsbury in February 2011. Her first novel, Arroyo, was published in 2001 by Chronicle Books. She lives in Taos, New Mexico, and writes a blog at

Thanks so much to Summer for taking the time to stop by In The Next Room. Wrecker was an amazing novel, you can find my review here, that I highly suggest everyone pick up. To learn more about Summer's book visit her website

Author Guest Post: Gillian Deacon (+Giveaway!)

Earth Day Message From Gillian Deacon
Earth day shouldn't just be an annual tip of the hat to greener living. This year, make it the day you recalibrate your everyday patterns to be more earth-friendly all year long.

You don't have to be a treehugger to care about avoiding toxins in your everyday bodycare. Synthetic chemicals in personal care products contaminating groundwater and wildlife is alarming enough—but they’re also contaminating us. Those hard-to-read ingredients you squint at on the back of a product label? They’re building up inside your body and in your children’s bodies—on Earth Day and everyday.

Make today the day you start paying attention to that fine print. Turn a product over and read the ingredients label before you are seduced by the “green” imaging on the package. The good news is, there are lots of safer products on the market.

Good luck and I hope you’ll check out There’s Lead in Your Lipstick for more ideas on how to clean up your act!
Gillian's Earth Day Tip:
Make It Yourself: Moisturizing Mask
Greek yogourt is also very moisturizing and can be used as a base for this mask.
1/2 medium to large avocado
1 to 2 tbsp honey 5 to 15 mL
Puree ingredients together in a blender or whip by hand.
For dry, sensitive skin, add one tablespoon of oatmeal and on tablespoon of water.
Mix together into a smooth paste and apply to the face and neck area, leaving on for about ten minutes.
There’s Lead in Your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon (Penguin Canada). Copyright © Backbone Inc. FSO Gillian Deacon, 2011

Your Chance to Win:
One prize pack of There’s Lead In Your Lipstick and an Eco Kiss kit from Saffron Rouge.

Click here to learn more about There's Lead In Your Lipstick, and click here to learn more about the All Natural Eco Kiss Kit. This prize has a total retail value of approximately CDN $48.95!
Enter to Win:
In order to enter to win this There's Lead in Your Lipstick Earth Day Prize Pack, you must be a follower and leave a comment letting me know one thing you do to make the environment a better place. Make sure to include your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win, after which you will have 48 hours to claim the prize. You can spread the word for a second entry, just make sure to leave a separate comment with a link. This giveaway will run until May 11th 2011 at 11:59 MST and is open to Canada, including PO boxes.

Happy Earth Day and Good Luck Everyone!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Giveaway Winners: Underground, Wrecker

The winner of Underground is:
The winner of Wrecker for Hoppy Easter Eggstravangza Giveaway is:
Congrats and look forward to more giveaways soon!

10% Off The Book Depository Til May 16th!

The Book Depository is my favourite site for buying books online so I had to share this information. They have the cheapest prices I can find and ship using normal mail which is a lot more convenient for me than courier. They don't add tax on top of their prices and it's free shipping almost everywhere in the world!

For the next couple weeks you can save 10% off your orders, as many times as you want. What that means is you can only save 10% per order, but you can make as many orders as you want and get the savings each time! Which is awesome if you are as indecisive as I am.

The promotion ends May 16th 2011.

In order to have the option to enter a coupon you have to visit the site via this link.

That's right, click here!

The page it brings you to will give you all the information you need, but the promotion code you enter at checkout is PPN3WS

I'm already excitedly filling my (virtual) basket. What do you plan to buy?

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus by Sonya Sones

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus is the first adult fiction release from novel-in-verse writer Sonya Sones who has previously published four young adult books including What My Mother Doesn't Know. Although I hadn't read any of her YA, I had her positive things about Sones and so I was definitely interested to see how she took on more adult issues, something I haven't seen before in verse which usually seems restricted to YA. The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus tells the story of Holly, a writer approaching her fiftieth birthday who must be at least loosely based on Sones herself. For Holly, dealing with menopause is bad enough, but she's also got an editor breathing down her back, a teenage daughter about to move across the country for university, and a mother who's gone a bit crazy from all the steroids her doctor has been giving her. Plus, Holly's husband Michael is acting a little suspicious and she's alternatively worried about if he might be cheating and whether or not they'll have anything left to talk about once their daughter, Sam, moves out.

As I said, I was pretty surprised by the concept of an adult fiction novel written in verse but Sones definitely manages to pull it off as I quickly breezed through a book of about 430 pages. I'm including one example of a verse in the novel, although it's a bad one since I'm pretty sure it's the only one (or at least one of very few) that ryhmnes, but it's one that makes me laugh a little and shows what's so good about The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, the sense of humour Sones has:

First it burns with desire,
with uncontrolled lust.

You touch each other
and you combust.

But if no one remembers
to stir the embers,

to feed them, poke them,
tend them, stoke them,

the blaze that once sizzled
will sputter and fizzle.

Which is why
I always say:

thank the Lord
for lingerie.
It is probably accurate to call The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus chick lit, but it's chick lit in the best definition of the genre. The novel deals with female issues, particularly the aging married female, in a fun and enjoyable way. The book itself seems to have the same mood swings menopausal Holly suffers from, going from a cheerful to tragic and back again.

One aspect of the novel that was totally lost on me was the title, which matches the name of a poem in the book. Although there is nothing wrong with the poem, The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, I don't really think it was memorable enough to share the title with the book. I also don't really approve of using a store name in the title, as we don't have Neiman Marcus in Canada and I had no idea what the book was talking about when I first heard it. I assumed it was the name of a character and was waiting to be introduced to this "Neiman". Honestly,  I think the book deserved a better title. The other issue I had with the book is that I didn't particularly enjoy the writer's block story line. The best parts of the book are those that deal with Holly's real human relationships, not her avoidance of work.

Overall, The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus is a fun and enjoyable read that certainly deals with "marriage, motherhood and mayhem" but was also surprisingly touching. It was refreshing to read a book that deals so honestly with aging and what it is like when children leave home, but even though I am the still the child and not the mother in that relationship I found a lot to appreciate in the book. The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus is an honest and insightful book with a sense of humour about the fact that we may get older, but that doesn't mean we can't get a little wiser too.

Release Date: April 5th, 2011
Pages: 432
Buy the Book

This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. 

Waiting on Wednesday: Blood Wounds

I hadn't heard of Susan Beth Pfeffer before Blood Wounds but she's definitely caught my interest with this title. It sounds like a creepy mysterious book, and the cover just adds to the thrill. Looking forward to reading it when it is released. 
Willa is lucky: She has a loving blended family that gets along. Not all families are so fortunate. But when a bloody crime takes place hundreds of miles away, it has an explosive effect on Willa’s peaceful life. The estranged father she hardly remembers has murdered his new wife and children, and is headed east toward Willa and her mother.

Under police protection, Willa discovers that her mother has harbored secrets that are threatening to boil over. Has everything Willa believed about herself been a lie? As Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear her family apart.

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer will be published September 12th 2011 by Harcourt Children's Books.

What are you Waiting on this Wednesday? 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Raising by Laura Kasischke

"Heartbreak could be lived with if it weren't accompanied by regret."
The Raising by Laura Kasischke tells the haunting story of what happens after beautiful blond sorority sister Nicole is killed in a car accident that leaves her boyfriend, Craig, who was driving, unhurt but also without a memory of the events surrounding the accident. Shelly witnessed the accident and despite the official story that Nicole's body was burned beyond recognition in the crash, she knows that when she arrived moments after the crash, there was no fire, no blood, and Nicole was still very much alive. A year later, Craig is back on campus amid suspicions and gossip, but some say he's not the only one who returned. Rumour has it a dark-haired ghost of Nicole is lurking, and when Craig's room-mate Perry confronts Mira, a university professor who studies folklore of death, she decides to investigate further.

Although this is the first novel I've read by Kasischke, I was initially intrigued by it when I realized the film The Life Before Her Eyes was based on a previous book of hers. The emotional complexity seen in the movie is also found in Kasischke's writing, and The Raising is a creepy, well-written literary thriller. The novel alternates between Craig, Perry, Mira and Shelly as third-person narrators and each character is unique and developed. Kasischke is just as easily able to inhabit the mind of a nineteen year old sex-obsessed college boy as she is an aging lesbian or a mother with a demanding career who is trying not to let her relationship with her children and husband suffer too badly. She is truly a chameleon.

The story itself is both rich and complex, and although it starts fairly slowly and could perhaps have been trimmed down slightly, it feels completely haunting and real. Even though I called The Raising a literary thriller, the emphasis lies on the literary portion as the mystery moved quite slow at times so that even though I did really want to know how things turned out, I felt it was taking too long to get there. That said, once I made it about a quarter into the book I was unable to put it down. The ending itself was the least satisfying part of the novel for me, although it felt realistic it didn't have the strength of the rest of the novel. The other aspect of the book I found frustrating was Shelly at times, she seemed like a smart character but then made a series of terrible decisions that I never truly found believable.

Kasischke's writing is what truly captivated me in The Raising, and I was not surprised to learn she was also a poet. When I finished the novel I purchased her previous book, A Perfect World, and I suspect it will not be the last book I read by her. That's because even if the book veered slightly off-course at times, sometimes suffering from a touch of wordiness or slow pacing, I was always impressed by Kasischke's clear skill as a writer. She creates three-dimensional situations on the page for the reader, bringing them to life, so that it is easy to image the look on a character's face or the students unease when visiting the morgue in Mira's class. Ultimately, The Raising is a powerfully written mystery and Kasischke's vivid imagery is only one of the many reasons you won't be able to put it down.

Release Date: March 15th, 2011
Pages: 496
Buy the Book

This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. 

Separate Kingdoms by Valerie Laken

Separate Kingdoms by Valerie Laken is a collection of eight short stories, three of which take place in Russia and the remaining five which take place in the United States. Although the stories are unrelated, Laken shows the distinct differences between these two 'kingdoms' and different aspects of living in each country is explored throughout the collection. Many of the characters in Laken's writing are somehow damaged, there is a boy who is blind, a man who looses his thumbs, and a woman who has had her leg amputated. Even those who are not physically impaired often have another barrier to overcome, for example a lesbian couple looking to adopt a child. None of the characters in Separate Kingdoms are perfect, instead they are all human.

Laken's writing is quiet yet satisfying and her perceptive way of looking at the word is both appealing and bleak. Although many of her stories end without a clear resolution, they manage to feel complete, each one a distinct moment in time. In "Family Planning" two women travel from the United States to Russia to adopt a child, but as same-sex adoptions are not allowed they must pretend to only be friends. When they arrive, they find there is a second child also available and they must choose between the two children and decided which one to take home. Each woman wants a different child, and the decision they are forced to make is heartbreaking. In the story, Laken writes "A family was a thing that stretched out beyond where you left off, made meaning of you." This is a perfect summary for the collection, which is full of Laken looking into ordinary lives and making meaning out of ordinary moments.

The characters in the collection are troubled and confused, and the premise behind the stories is frequently an unhappy one. Ultimately, Separate Kingdoms is a strong and memorable collection because of the realistic ordinary darkness it contains and Laken's strong and beautiful voice does an incredible job of telling these stories. 

Release Date: March 29th, 2011
Pages: 224
Buy the Book

This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Giveaway: HumanKind

HumanKind invites readers into the world of the legendary advertising agency and the agency that inspired MAD MEN, Leo Burnett and gives a behind-the-scenes look at a global creative network that believes modern-day communication needs to start and end with people. Part coffee-table book, part conversation-starter, HumanKind captures readers from the very first page and challenges modern consumers while redefining marketing and advertising for a new generation and a new century.

HumanKind is a book about people, purpose, and changing behavior, and is a firsthand look at marketing that serves true human needs and not the other way around.

HumanKind provides entree to the moment of germination within the inner sanctum of one of the advertising industry’s most creative shops through interviews, conversations, transcripts, and images.

HumanKind is fully illustrated and includes a step-by-step demonstration of how Leo Burnett is applying its unique approach to forever redefine the very nature of communications itself.

Ultimately, it’s people—not advertising agencies—who create great “people’s brands.” Brands like McDonald’s, Coke, Nintendo, Fiat, Kellogg’s, and Blackberry. Leo Burnett has always chosen to put people first, and to apply a people-centric approach to brand building it today calls HumanKind.

Welcome, to a HumanKind communications company. And welcome to the story that explains it all.

You can win a copy of HumanKind by leaving a comment with the name of a company whose advertisements you find particularly memorable. Make sure to include your e-mail so you can be contacted if you win. Winners will have 48 hours to respond or a new one will be picked. This is open to the US only. No PO Boxes please. It ends May 9th at 11:59 PM MST. 

Click here to learn more about Leo Burnett. Click here to get an inside look at this gorgeous book. Click here to buy your own copy of HumanKind. Good luck everyone!

Wrecker by Summer Wood

Wrecker by Summer Wood is the story of an unexpected family, told over two decades beginning in 1965 with a three year old boy, Wrecker, whose mother has been imprisoned and who is now in the custody of his uncle. Unfortunately his uncle Len, has his hands full caring for his ill wife and so the responsibility of Wrecker is instead taken over by his hippie neighbours including Willow, Ruth, Melody and Johnny Appleseed. Wrecker is the story of how this unusual family raised a boy who had nobody, and the way that people can come together when they are bound by love.

Wrecker is not the kind of story I expected. Although the premise is certainly intriguing, I was still shocked by how immediately and powerfully I was taken into Wood's novel. To be honest the only complaints I have about this book are extremely minor. I wish that Melody's brother, Jack, had been introduced a little more thoroughly earlier Wrecker as he becomes a lot more involved in the last third and when his name was first mentioned it took me a little while to figure out who he was as he had been introduced so briefly. I also wanted to know a little bit more about Ruth's background, as the reader learns how Ruth came to the farm after an attempted suicide, but not very much about the time between meeting her lover, and Ruth's suicide attempt. Those two aspects aside, Wrecker was an incredible, powerful, and nearly flawless novel that I am certain will remain one of my favourites of 2011.

There are so many things I loved about Wrecker, but Wood's incredible writing and unique cast of characters are definitely the standout features. Throughout the novel, Wood often shifts the focus to different characters and for several chapters even returns to Wrecker's mother, Lisa Fay, to let the reader in on what is happening with her. The risk of such a technique is that the reader may never truly get a chance to connect with any of the characters. However, Wood's strong writing, in particular her ability to capture the tiny details meant that in this case, instead of one strong main character and weaker background cast, there is a full set of well-developed, interesting and unique individuals to fill out the story. That said, her strength was certainly with the females in this story as those were the ones I felt the most connection to, especially Melody and Willow.

In addition to the characters, Wrecker takes place in an incredible setting and Wood makes the forest and surrounding area where Wrecker is raised completely come to life. I just loved the story in general, it is so clear to the reader how much these people love Wrecker and as life can be so difficult for foster children it was nice to read a book that showed that even if something is not what you've planned for, good things can still happen. Although there were sad moments, overall Wrecker is a story of joy and it certainly makes the reader think about family and reminds you how important it is. The family Wood introduces the reader to in Wrecker may not be traditional, but that doesn't it any less wonderful. With enchanting writing, an incredible cast of characters and an even more amazing setting, Wrecker is certain to capture your heart. 

Release Date: February 15th, 2011
Pages: 290
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This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Stay by Deb Caletti

Stay is the first novel I have read by YA author Deb Caletti, and it is told in chapters alternating between two times in Clara's life. In the past, Clara has just begun to fall in love with the intense and captivating Christian, but as the present story implies, things do not go exactly as planned and Clara is forced to leave her city behind to spend the summer by the ocean where nobody can find her. Especially Christian. Stay is a story of what happens when love stops being safe.

Clara's voice is both believable and beautiful, and I really enjoyed Caletti's writing and so Stay has definitely made me interested in picking up other books by her. It is the second young adult novel I have read which has footnotes, the first being An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, and I did feel they worked well and helped add more dimension to her voice by letting the reader in on extra bits of information. However, at times I found Caletti got too caught up in using them, even when they were pointless, for example the one that a boat called Freebird is named after a Lynyrd Skynyrd song because its original owner liked the band, which really doesn't add anything to the story.

With so many current young adult novels making possessive, instalove, relationship seems desirable and realistic to teens, it was refreshing to read a book where the other side of the story is told. At first, Clara enjoys Christian's attention but eventually she realizes, "You take care of the people you love, but it’s true, too, that you take care of the things you own." Stay tells such an important story, and Caletti's way of explaining things, how a girl could let the situation get so bad, is authentic and powerful. At one point, Clara says:
"It’s strange isn’t it, how the idea of belonging to someone can sound so great? It can be comforting, the way it makes things decided. We like the thought of being held, until it’s too tight. We like that certainty, until it means there is no way out. And we like being his, until we realize we’re not ours anymore."
The only thing that made me uncomfortable about Stay was after getting out of such a horrible and serious relationship which was rushed both emotionally and physically, Clara seems to jump right into things with Finn, a new guy she meets during the summer, in a way that didn't seem healthy. After being so controlled by Christian, it would have been nice to see her confident on her own and not rushing into a new relationship, maybe it wouldn't have bothered me so much if her relationship with Finn hadn't been rushed, but emotionally, I really felt like it was. It does provide a contrast between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship, but it also makes Clara come across as far to dependent in a way that isn't healthy either.  

Overall, I found the premise of Stay to be both relevant, and well-executed. I loved the relationship Clara had with her father, and found that her voice was believable and lovely to read. Ultimately, Clara's struggle is heart-breaking, but provides such an important reminder about unhealthy relationships and Caletti's writing in Stay is beautiful and moving, I just wish the novel had provided a little more support for being happy and confident on your own before you move onto a new relationship.

Release Date: April 5th, 2011
Pages: 320
Source: Simon and Schuster Galley Grab
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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Canadian Book Challenge 2010-2011

Read 13 Canadian Books between July 1 2010 and July 1 2011
1) Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
2) Vanishing and Other Stories by Deborah Willis
3) Ape House by Sara Gruen
4) Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures: Stories by Vincent Lam
5) Room by Emma Donoghue
6) Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers
7) Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
8) The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood
9) As Long As The Rivers Flow by James Bartleman
10) Is by Anne Simpson
11) The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb 
12) Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner
13) Small Mechanics by Lorna Crozier 
14) Bees by Candace Savage
15) Folk by Jacob McArthur Mooney
16) Origami Dove by Susan Musgrave
17) Far To Go by Alison Pick
18) The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong
19) The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
20) The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong
21) The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong
22) Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari
23) Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston
24) Creep by Jennifer Hillier
25) Underground by Antanas Sileika

Completed: April 11th 2011

In My Mailbox (April 17th-23rd 2011)

A wonderful week for my mailbox... I just need to find some space to store them all because I am certainly running out! I only keep books on my bookshelf that are unread, and I also have a huge stack going of ones for blog tours I keep separate because there just isn't space elsewhere. Ah well, when I cuddle in with my books it is totally worth it.

{For Review}
The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock (ARC) (TLC Tours)
Breaking Up With God by Sara Sentilles (ARC) (TLC Tours)
Down From Cascom Mountain by Ann Joslin Williams (ARC) (TLC Tours)
In The Land of Long Fingernails: A Gravedigger's Memoir by Charles Wilkins (D&M Publishers)
The Raising by Laura Kasischke (ARC) (HarperCollins Canada)

Breaking Up With God and and In The Land of Long Fingernails are two great sounding memoirs I'm excited to read. I've already read and loved The Raising. The Paper Garden is about an artist who began working at 70, and it looks really interesting although I am a little sad I got an ARC which is black and white, while the finished copy will be full colour, so I will probably have to purchase one of those! Down From Cascom Mountain is about a woman coping after her husband's sudden death, which will definitely be heavy reading but Williams is supposed to be an incredible writer.
We All Fall Down by Nic Sheff (Little, Brown Books For Young Readers)
The Line by Teri Hall (Penguin Canada)
The Hard Kind of Promise by Gina Willner-Pardo (Thomas Allen & Sons)
The Lighter Side of Life and Death by C.K. Kelly Martin (Random House Canada)

I also got a nice batch of YA this week, including We All Fall Down a memoir about getting off of drugs, The Line which looks like a creepy Lisa McMann-esque novel, and The Hard Kind of Promise and The Lighter Side of Life and Death which both deal contemporary teen issues, friendship and love.  

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (Thanks Crystal!)

I won $20 worth of books from Crystal and the first one, Before I Fall, arrived safely weeks ago but for some reason Wintergirls never did. She contacted the Book Depo and they mailed it again and the gorgeous hardcover arrived this week. This is one of my favourite books ever, my favourite YA of 2010, and I definitely wanted to own my own copy and I'm so happy I do. Now I can reread it whenever I want.

The Captain Lands in Paradise: Poems by Sarah Manguso
Severance by Robert Olen Butler

My last two books I ordered arrived this week, including a collection of poetry by Manguso I am excited about as well as Severance which caught my eye when Sasha reviewed it and is short stories about real people who were beheaded, and what would be going through their minds in the minute and a half they still have brain function after they have head. 

Well, that's my week. What was in your mailbox this week?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Folk by Jacob McArthur Mooney

Folk is the second collection of poetry by Canadian author Jacob McArthur Mooney, following The New Layman's Almanac in 2008. It is divided into two sections, one rural and one urban. The first section focuses on the residents of St. Margaret's Bay after the crash of Swissair Flight 111, while the second takes place in the residential area surrounding the Toronto airport.

Water courses through the first half of the collection which includes poems such as "Station and Vicinity" which begins with:
"Every night in winter
a forgotten million snowflakes fall
on the ocean and so all
they learn about is water."
you really get a feeling for the town and the people, for what it is like there, but the result isn't overly poetic, at many times it feels more like telling a story than poetry. For example in "A Surface Normal (Five Points in the Life of a Wave)", Mooney writes:
"That October, on the fourteenth floor
of a brand-new building that I swear
was somehow haunted, I toss a penny off the balcony
and lose it in the jet stream. True story."
and yes, the reader can imagine the moment, and Mooney has captured it concisely and crystallized its simplicity, but it lacks the richness and depth that makes poetry truly move me as a reader, and it feels that in many of the poems this is something Folk has not quite achieved. Of course, this is not universally true, "The Mourner with the Alabama Plates" is still straightforward but manages to be haunting in its portrayal of grief, as a person comes to see where their loved one died, Mooney writes that "Grief / is a compulsion. Walk up to the dead / and lay your body on their bodies/ until you share a central chill."

I felt the second half of the collection had a stronger political voice to it, as well as a more poetic and lyrical tint, like in "The First Wave of Malton Housing Units Fail" which begins with the lines "It begins with believing / your warped and weakened want the best for you despite / their bad intestines. Their guttural melodies / burping through the night. Problem pumbing. Poor cement. / Houses erected to lend credence to the headlines / harnessed to the land. The Development Story. / The Immigration Angle."

The theme of the second half of Folk, a section filled with individuals looking for a home of some sort, is epitomized in "Riddles for Lester B. Pearson International Airport" where Mooney ends with:
is nationless. Everyone's a nation.
Everyone has something to declare."
It is a section about urbanization, about property and privacy and urban sprawl and the connection, and disconnection, between people. In "Monica and Brandon Gate", Mooney writes:
"The weather waned that March,
folded back the snow to show
a whole city of dead birds,
slumped forward on their silence like
a growth of cheap new houses."
The sprawl of cheap houses reappears in Mooney's repeated references to Malton, Ontario. In, "The Earth is Round: Six Approaches to Malton, Ontario", he writes that "The harvest lasted some four hundred / straight seasons, bales of self-sufficient towns sucked up / by the whirligig urban unfoundry." connecting the traditional (harvest) with the changes in the name of progress which have occurred. The second half of the collection stands in stark contrast to the first, with its ocean breeze and familiar neighbours. I definitely preferred the imagery of the second half to the first. Even though Mooney is writing on a less emotional topic, his imagery felt more developed and profound.

Ultimately, the potential of Mooney in the collection Folk is apparent, but at times so is the fact that he is a beginner, still finding his poetic place. Although his voice is memorable, it often lacked the richness and depth I craved to find beneath his words. Overall, Folk is an interesting and perceptive collection, but Mooney's poetry tended to be too straightforward and cold for it to be emotionally moving as well.

Release Date: March 29th, 2011
Pages: 112
Source: Publisher
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner

Better Living Through Plastic Explosives is the second collection of short stories by Zsuzsi Gartner, who previous published All the Anxious Girls on Earth over a decade ago. The dark satire present throughout the collection often reminded me of Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, a novel I unfortunately did not enjoy. For example in "Once We Were Swedes", Gartner writes:
"It was the year provincial health insurance had started covering Botox injections and teeth-whitening technology for the disenfranchised."
Offering the same kind of dystopian culture critique and later even describes the woman as having "pillowy Jolie LipsTM".  It is the same story which centres around a woman who speaks to her husband in IKEA slang, complete with a glossary at the end, she says things such as "Slabang" which means funny (alarm clock)- but I just didn't find the concept slabang. That was the problem I had almost instantly with Better Living Through Plastic Explosives, I simply don't find this kind of writing funny, and because the dark humour is almost by definition, emotionally distant, I didn't find myself connecting with the characters either. That's not to say I didn't enjoy portions or find them specific parts interesting, but it never got to the point where I was excited about the writing.

My favourite story in the collection was probably the very strange, "Floating Like a Goat", which is a letter from a mother written to her daughter's first grade teacher when she learns her daughter did not meet expectations in art class, "What I would like to focus on is your insistence that a drawing is not complete until the child has filled in the background." she writes.

In "Someone Is Killing the Great Motivational Speakers of Amerika", motivational speakers hide out in the woods for reasons I could never quite discern but I believe had something to do with bioenergetics though I am also not quite sure what that is or what the characters connection to it was. The characters themselves have a variety of interesting names, from Cinders to Pudding, although if those are their actual names or supposed to be nicknames I don't know. The story is full of mentions of current technology as being outdated, old Nintendo DS, nanos, and the new new Conan O'Brien show, but to me it felt mostly like meaningless name-dropping- it provided context but it didn't emotionally connect or even make me laugh.

One glitch that really bothered me happened in the final story, the title on in the collection, "Better Living Through Plastic Explosives" about a terrorist turned suburban mom. I was reading an advance copy, so hopefully this was fixed in the finished edition, but the main character's name switches back and worth from Victoria to Lucy which was very distracting. Unless somehow I was confused and they are actually two characters, in which case the story was even more over my head than I initially thought.

The collection as a whole comments on modern culture, twisting things to the extreme and then showing the reader what the distorted view looks like. At times this was interesting, but overall, Better Living Through Plastic Explosives was just not meant for me. I have already read plenty of positive reviews and there is nothing technically wrong with Gartner's writing, so I can honestly say this was a matter of preference. If you enjoy the kind of stories I have described in this review and Gartner's dark sense of satire, then you are likely to have a much better experience with Better Living Through Plastic Explosives than I did.

Release Date: April 5th, 2011
Pages: 256
Source: ARC From Publisher
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Author Guest Post: Rob Silverman (+Giveaway!)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK author Rob Silverman's
Top 10 Secret Ways to Entertain Kids in NYC    
  1. FoodsOfNY ( is a little known, but amazing company that specializes in walking and eating tours of New York City. Most NY folks do not know about this gem.  My whole family did the Greenwich Village tour and never had so much fun!  Kids love it and get to sample authentic NYC foods and for this tour. It's a wonderful way to see the beloved village-and get some great pastry!

  1. The New Museum on The Bowery ( is in a funky part of New York City just by NOLITA (north of Little Italy) and not often visited. A GREAT museum for the whole family. Very innovative and not many people know about it. Exhibitions use various forms of media too. Off the beaten track and a great secret! 

  1. MAKE ( This store is on the Upper West side and not many folks know that you can make soap, candles and a whole host of pottery items here. My family can whittle away hours here and it stimulates the kids' creativity and love of art. A great anytime activity.

  1. Go to Max Brenner ( near Union square and indulge in a Chocolate fantasy that will tickle your taste buds and satisfy your kids' sweet tooth.

  1. When Mom shops on Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue take the kids to the Sony Wonder Technology Lab in Midtown Manhattan. It's free, it's fun, it's cutting edge and very educational not to mention free of tourists. When the kids have had enough of that take them to the Sony store next door that recently opened up a Play Station lounge downstairs.

  1. Dress for the weather and do a Double-decker bus and/or boat tour of New York City without all the long lines and tourists. Or my favorite, take a horse and carriage at night in the Park when you can contrast the tranquility of Central Park with the mayhem surrounding it.

  1. Have a Bagel-Off!  Is the best bagel in NYC from H&H bagels? OR Ess-A-Bagel? (on Upper West and East sides).  Visit these NYC institutions to sample and vote. 

  1. Think Skating NYC style. Did you know there are 3 places? (two outdoor and one indoor to relive your childhood skating dreams and teach the kids). There is one in central park, one at Rockefeller Center and one indoors at Chelsea Piers (many don't know about Chelsea Piers).
  1. People watching NYC style:   Go to St Mark's Place/Square in the village, walk up and down the street and take in the sights and sounds of New York City and its hippy and bohemian roots. See the different types of body piercing and tattoos and the wackiest collection of T-shirts New York has to offer!

  1. Dress up and have a Ladies Who Lunch Day.  The spot is of course Fred's at Barneys on Madison Avenue. It is a great celebrity spotting place!   

About the Book
What is it like to live in the greatest city in the world?

New York City is so unique that it generates its own culture, its own attitude, and its own exclusiveness. These attributes bring with them tons of idiosyncrasies and quirks that need to be explored and commented on to truly understand what it is like to live, breathe, work, and play here. It’s what makes New York, New York so good they named it twice.

Learn more about the book at

One lucky winner will receive a copy of NEW YORK, NEW YORK: So Good They Named It Twice An Irreverent Guide to Experiencing and Living in the Greatest City in the World by Rob Silverman.

To enter, you must be a follower of this blog. Leave a comment letting me know if you've ever visited the Big Apple- and if not, do you ever plan to go? Make sure to include your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win!

The giveaway is open to US address only, no PO Boxes. It will end May 4th at 11:59 PM MST.

Thanks to Rob and Tandem Literary for sponsoring this giveaway. Good luck to everyone!

Waiting on Wednesday: Bitter End

I haven't read Hate List by Jennifer Brown yet but I've heard it's incredible so I was excited to learn about her upcoming release. Bitter End looks like a gritty real book dealing with an incredibly important issue.
When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole, a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her, she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate-someone who truly understands her and loves her for who she really is.

At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her best friends, Zack and Bethany, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all of her time with another boy? But as the months pass, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose - between her "true love" and herself.

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown will be published May 10th 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

What are you Waiting on this Wednesday?