Author Archive

Book Awards

- September 24th, 2014
Fans of fiction and non-fiction alike received valuable recommendations for their winter reading lists as the city announced the finalists for the 2014 Ottawa Book Awards and Prix du livre d’Ottawa.
The awards recognize the top English and French books published in the past year by local authors. 
2014 Ottawa Book Awards Finalists:
English Non-Fiction
  • Joe Clark, How We Lead: Canada in a Century of Change
    (Penguin Random House of Canada)
  • Charlotte Gray, The Massey Murder
    (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd)
  • Robert Sibley, The Way of the 88 Temples
    (University of Virginia Press)
  • Andrew Steinmetz, This Great Escape: The Case of Michael Paryla
  • Paul Wells, The Longer I’m Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006 – 
    (Penguin Random House of Canada)
English Fiction
  • Henry Beissel, Fugitive Horizons
    (Guernica Editions Inc)
  • Rita Donovan, Maura Quell
    (Buschek Books)
  • Barbara Fradkin, The Whisper of Legends
    (Dundurn Press)
  • David O’Meara, A Pretty Sight
    (Coach House Books)
  • Sonia Tilson, The Monkey Puzzle Tree
2014 Prix du livre d’Ottawa Finalists:
French Non-Fiction
  • Philippe Bernier Arcand, La dérive populiste
    (Poètes de brousse)
  • Lise Paiement, Une goutte d’eau à la fois…
    (Les Éditions David)
  • Catherine Voyer-Léger, Détails et dédales
In accordance with the Prix du livre d’Ottawa guidelines, there were not enough submissions to allow for an award for French Fiction this year.
Descriptions of short-listed books and author biographies are available online at

Knausgaard’s Boyhood Island

- September 23rd, 2014

I don’t want to come across as unhappy or a complainer, but there are times when there is no rhyme or reason as to what books get sent to me.

I got a copy of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Boyhood Island, book 3 of his six-volume series that looks at his life. I’ve read book 1, A Death in the Family. Wonderful writing. Captivating. Critics, for the most part, love the books. Rave reviews everywhere.

I’m actually quite pleased but surprised that I received a copy. First, why not send me book 1 and 2? I don’t need book 1 but I’d take it. And as readers of this blog know, there is no way I’m going to read book 3 before I read book 2. That’s a huge no-no in my reading world. I just can’t do it. It’s one of the reasons why when I start a new mystery featuring a recurring character, I always check to see how far back I have to go to start at the beginning. When I first started reading Elizabeth George, I had something like 14 novels to read before I could catch up. And of course, while I’m reading them, she publishes three more books. So I finally caught up a few weeks ago after two years of reading her novels among many others.

I’ve been tempted to buy book 2, even though it’s a fair bit longer than the first. Book 3 clocks in at 490 pages, so a decent size. After buying four books this past weekend as a treat to myself (Ian McEwan, John Le Carre, Walter Mosley and John D. MacDonald), it looks like I have another one to add to the list. I also want to get the new novels by Jane Smiley, Elizabeth George and Will Self. The book budget is being blown out of the water this fall.

So, what will I do with Knausgaard? Try to save a few of my weekly allotment of spending dollars so that I can buy book 2 and read it first.

Another new Kindle

- September 22nd, 2014

Amazon revealed a new lineup of Kindle and tablet products. They have a new and improved basic Kindle which sells for $79. What really caught my eye was the new Kindle Voyage, a high-end e-reader for $199. It’s the thinnest Kindle yet and has the best screen resolution. It sort of reminds me of the Kobo aura HD.

So a couple of things stood out for me. It’s very thin. Depending on the size of your fingers, this could be a good or bad thing. I’ve always found with the iPad mini and the Kindle Paperwhite that the best way to hold them is to let one of the corners of the device rest in your palm. My fingers sat on the back of the machine to keep it stable and my thumb acted as the page turner, although it is a bit of stretch to reach over far enough to do a swipe. Trying to pinch the device and hold it is not as easy as you think because there’s so little real estate to pinch. It’s why I prefer the older Kindle as far as Kindles go.

Amazon says they are getting closer to creating a device as thin as a sheet of paper. Why? Are readers demanding an e-reader that is thin as a sheet of paper? How light do you need to go?

The other neat feature is that there are sensors beneath the bezel. Gently push and the page turns. For those who still like to touch or swipe, that function still works.

Now the price. $199 isn’t that bad if the Voyage is really that much better than the Paperwhite. Even though there have been stories about e-reader sales declining, there still is a market for a quality e-reader. I’ve blogged before that I think the iPad mini is the ultimate e-reader, but I could change my mind if the Voyage is truly an upscale reader. I once had the aura HD for two weeks and at the time blogged that it was the best e-reader I had ever used. (This was before the iPad mini). I seriously considered spending the money for one, but with over 200 Kindle books at the time, I didn’t like the idea of not having access to my Kindle library.

The Voyage could change my mind if: screen resolution is as good as they say; battery life is still as good as it is now; the speed of accessing books in the library, browsing the library is better than it is now on the Kindle. I have more than 300 e-books and I can browse them a lot more quickly with a tablet than I can with my older Kindle.


Cloud versus device

- September 18th, 2014

I have  a question for readers of this blog? If you have an e-reader, or tablet, do you like to leave your books int he cloud or do you download them to your device?

I use the iPad mini and for a couple of years, I kept my books on my device. But Kindle app users will note that at the bottom of the screen is a toggle that allows you to go back and forth between cloud and device. Books download so quickly that I started to only access my books from the cloud. The only books on my device were the books I hadn’t read yet. But if for some reason I wanted to browse my library, it was easy enough by simply tapping the cloud button.

Then I started to get paranoid. What if Internet access was down? What if Amazon just decided to delete my books, which they can do if you’re violating any of their policies (which I don’t think I am). What if I went on vacation and forgot to download some books ahead of time? Yes, I know, most hotels have free Internet. But recently I decided that I want all my books with me and the best way to guarantee that is to have them all on the device.

So what type of reader are you? A cloud reader or a device reader? Let me know.

Book bucket challenge

- September 16th, 2014

I saw on Facebook a thing called the book bucket challenge, a takeoff on the ice bucket challenge. The idea is to list the 10 books that have influenced you the most. I’d have trouble coming up with my 10 because I’ve read so many books over the years and I don’t remember them all. But here are five that stand out.

Hunting for Hidden Gold: This Hardy Boys books was one of the first books I received from my mother who passed away when I was 12. I don’t remember my mother being a reader but it’s not necessarily something I would have noticed at that age. I actually received quite a few Hardy Boys books over the years and I still have them.

The Dynamite Flynns: Written by Leslie McFarlane, this is a book about two hockey playing brothers that I got as a kid. It was a book I had for a long time. It might be with the Hardy Boys at my sister’s house.

Great Apes: This was the first Will Self novel I read. I think it was 1997 when I bought it on a trip to Florida for a job interview. Up until that time, I was mostly a mystery reader. I had tried some literary fiction, but often was bored. I needed action. I needed a story to move in an obvious manner. I needed something solved. Reading about a slice of life, I just didn’t get the point. But reading Great Apes opened my eyes to other genres other than mysteries.

The Dreadful Lemon Sky: This Travis McGee novel by John D. MacDonald opened my eyes to what I call smart mysteries, novels that focus on character and observation as well as action or plot. I was 13 or 14 years old and I spent every weekend at the family cottage. Two young people — although I thought them old at the time — lived in an old run-down farm house nearby. We called them hippies because they matched the stereotypes. They didn’t work. In the summer, Randy would pick tobacco in Ontario, then live on EI or something through the winter. Often they weren’t up until mid-afternoon and stayed up all night. Or so it seemed. Randy took a look at my book and record collection and then started making some suggestions. The Dreadful Lemon Sky was one of those books. He said it was significantly better than any Ian Fleming novel I had been reading.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. This was a real challenge at the age of 13, or at least it was from me, but Randy considered it a must read. I still have his copy of the book all these years later. He also gave me a copy of Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. (That’s six books I can think of)

So how did these books influence me? Well, the books I got as a child simply opened my eyes to reading. It was fun to read. I enjoyed it. It’s something I still enjoy and look forward to doing on most days.

The last three books opened my mind to the power of books, how they could change your thinking or the way you viewed the world. Even if I didn’t agree with the author, I knew that there were other beliefs out there a lot different from what was in my own little world.

Great Apes made me realize books didn’t have to be easy reads. Great Apes was not an easy read. In fact, Will Self is not always an easy read, especially when the author is on record saying he doesn’t write for readers.

I’m sure there are many other books that had made an impact on me. I’ll do some thinking and see if I can come up with four more.