Tag Archives: Random House

The Bear

I had two reviews submitted for this book on the same day, both by people who don’t tend to read this kind of story.  I am going to post both of them, because they are both really interesting perspectives.  My conclusion?  I will read this book, while holding my children, with all the lights on.  And try not to think about it the next time I go camping with my kids in Algonquin.

Merilyn’s review:

I did not want to read this book. The Author’s Note made it clear that this was no warm, fuzzy anthropomorphic bear-meets-person tale. It was fiction, but based on a true story. So, I did not want to read this book, but I glanced at the first couple of pages and found it riveting.

It is told in the voice of a young girl, almost six years old. Like a typical six-year-old, the narrative is a stream of consciousness, sometimes linear, sometimes darting backwards or sideways as something catches its fancy. The author inserts enough information for the naïve and innocent child to pass on the most chilling facts while not understanding completely what is happening. The juxtaposition of brutal violence with childlike self-centredness is deeply unsettling.

Once I started, I could not release the book’s grip on me, even though I felt like hiding behind my couch for the whole time it took me to read it. The author made me feel how Anna, the little girl, must have felt.

I cannot say I am glad that I read The Bear, but I have it inside me now, like the black dog in the book.

Brrr!

Merilyn

Melissa’s review:

The Bear by Canadian author Claire Cameron is the story of five year old Anna and her two year old brother Alex as they struggle for survival in Algonquin Provincial Park after their parents are killed by a bear.  The story is narrated by Anna, and while this sometimes means that it can be difficult to figure out what she’s talking about (for example she mentions bubbles on her legs, which turns out to be a rash from poison ivy), it creates a unique perspective that sets this novel apart.
The story begins with the family camping near lake Opeongo, reunited after a brief separation of the parents.  Anna is awoken by her mother’s screams and her father desperately pulling her out of the tent and throwing her and her brother in the family’s large cooler.  From the children’s perspective the attack consists of a black nose and claws as seen through an air gap in the cooler, and when they emerge the next morning their mother is lying in the grass, barely alive, and their father is nowhere to be seen. The mother tells Anna that she must take her brother and leave in the canoe, and so the children depart the camp thinking that their parents will follow later.  Due to her age, Anna doesn’t understand the danger of the situation; from her perspective it was a dog in the campsite, not a bear, her mother is too tired to move rather than mortally wounded and her father has left because he is angry with her.
Here is where the real heart wrenching story begins as two small children fight for survival as best as they can and how in the aftermath Anna comes to terms with what has happened.  I have nothing but praise for Claire Cameron, who didn’t rely on the horror of the initial attack to drive the story but created this wonderful character whose eyes we see through; we see her frustration with her little brother, trying to make her father proud so he won’t be angry with her anymore, her guilt for leaving her mother.  It all concludes with one of the best, most succinct endings I have ever read, with adult Anna returning to the site of the attack, finally able to let go of what happened to her family all those years before.
Once I started this novel it took precedence over food, sleep and most of my conscious thought.  It was an emotional roller coaster that was made all the more difficult for me because I have a niece and nephew close to the ages of Anna and Alex.  I haven’t been this affected by a novel in a long time and I whole heartedly recommend it.
Melissa

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One Hour With Roberta Rich

I was very excited (and nervous) about this meeting with Roberta Rich.  I love meeting people, especially authors, but one on one is a bit intimidating.  I still feel like I’m pretending to be a writer, as a blogger, and this lady is definitely the real thing.  Would I think of good questions?  Would I remember to let her talk (once you get me going, duct tape is occasionally necessary, particularly on the topic of books)? Thankfully, even if I had no idea what I was doing, she definitely did.

I brought up her former law career, and the fact that most lawyer/writer transitions ended up with legal thrillers.  Instead, she went with a midwife in 16th century Venice.

RR: There is a bit of legal… there’s a bit of Jewish law in The Harem Midwife.  You know, when I started writing, I was writing mystery stories, contemporary mystery stories, and I was writing… those were about a divorce lawyer in Vancouver.  Those are still in my filing cabinet, and have yet to see the light of day.  And in 2007 I was in Venice and I was in the Jewish ghetto and I was quite transfixed by it, and had the idea for a novel that was set in the ghetto.  I kind of wrote the novel that I wished had been available for me to read, because there are no novels that are set in the Jewish ghetto except for mine… It is a rich environment and I was quite surprised that I didn’t find anything.  This is a gap.  This was definitely a gap.

I told her I liked how she presented the conflict between morals and law, in both books.  Hannah, the midwife in question, keeps coming up against the laws of the country, the good of her family and community, and having to balance them against her moral duty, her ability to help people.   Should she do nothing, in order to protect herself and her family and community, or should she help when able?  Particularly at the time these books are set, as a member of the Jewish community a wrong action on her part could set off retribution against everyone Jewish. This is still relevant today, that conflict between what is legally right, and what is morally right.  That need to be aware of your effect not just on your own sense of right and wrong, but how your actions could potentially, for good or ill, affect everyone around you, particularly in this age of social media and instant fame.

Which, of course, us being in Toronto, brought up Rob Ford.

RR: It’s very hard to turn around these days without seeing Rob Ford’s (unflattering mutter) face everywhere you go.  He’s shameless, really, isn’t he and there are people who think it’s okay! We don’t want an average guy running a city. We want superior guys, right?

Exactly, Roberta.  Can we get her on the voter’s list, somehow?

So, back to the books.  I told her I had been up ridiculously late reading her books, had, in fact, read them back to back.

RR: Did you read them in sequence?

BP: There are people who read books out of sequence? But yes.

And then she asked me which one I preferred.  All of a sudden, I felt like I was being asked to tell a mother which one of her children I liked better.  Um…

So told her that I preferred The Midwife of Venice, because her descriptions were so vivid, I felt like I was right there.  The Harem Midwife was also excellent, but was a little more plot focused, with a little less character development.  In The Midwife of Venice, I felt immersed, I could see the sights, smell the smells.

RR: Well, I hadn’t really considered writing a sequel, I must say, to The Midwife of Venice, and I was quite bowled by the success of The Midwife of Venice, delighted of course, and Random House offered me a two book contract. So then, of course, I had to apply my mind to what I was going to write. So I wanted to write a sequel and the logical place was Istanbul, Constantinople, and I had been there several times, and so I was very happy at the prospect of doing research.  So, I was there, and I had been there years and years ago, and then I went back with my husband, we were there for two weeks, and then we went back the following year, and we travelled to Istanbul and various other places in Turkey. It’s a very interesting country.”

BP: One of the reasons I really enjoyed your books is because it’s funny, you think that all that stuff is in the past, but it’s not as in the past… as we would like to believe. Like polygamy.

RR: Polygamy is an interesting topic for me. The idea of the levirate marriage, for example.  I was talking at a book club in Toronto last year, about the idea of a levirate marriage, and a woman at the book club, who was Muslim, and her family was from India, said that that had happened in her family. So, levirate marriage, which happened five hundred years ago in my book, is something that happens in modern life.  There are… so called “honour killings.” It’s a terrible name for it, it’s a dishonour, not an honour killing.

I told her about the hymen repair surgery specialist in Toronto (Do you think it’s too late for me?” she snickered). The idea of virginity being a vital commodity is raised more than once, particularly in The Harem Midwife.

RR: I’ve spoken to a couple of doctors about this. There is no real way to tell from examining a woman whether she is a virgin or not. Girls that are sporty and athletic probably don’t have hymens that are intact. It’s not a thing that you could tell.  When you see women as property, it suddenly becomes very important.

We moved on to the book business. Amazon (my nemesis) was a topic of conversation.

RR: Amazon is really selling at a loss, they don’t care what they sell their books for. There have been a number of articles about Amazon recently, and their labour policies, which are nasty, nasty.  They’re paying some kids minimum wage to work in these vast warehouses, they’re under the gun, time-wise, they’re – I couldn’t believe this when I read it – the one in Arizona is not air conditioned.  That’s a serious problem in a place like Arizona.  These kids are running around, running around, running around… they have a beeper that tells them how long it should take them to get to a particular stack of books, get a book, and put it in a box, and if they don’t make that, that time limit, they get beeped! I think that would make me crazy.

I mentioned Chapters Runnymede’s imminent closing, and recommended she visit  She expressed disgust at it being turned into a drug store. “Oh god, oh that’s so depressing. ” were her exact words.  Right there with you, Roberta.

RR:   I thought, two years ago (I don’t really know anything about the business from before two years ago) I thought e-books were going to take over, take over, take over.  And it was twenty percent then and it’s forty percent now but I think, it seems as though it’s going to continue at forty percent.  People like holding a book in their hands.  And it’s not just people my age. It’s also young people.  With social media… I often wonder how much information… well, there’s a tremendous amount of information about me, I’m sure.  For anybody who’s interested in finding it out. But, we’ve sacrificed privacy for convenience, haven’t we? That’s the trade-off that most of us have made, myself included.

I recognize the irony that this article is being shared on at least three different types of social media.

I gave her, as a souvenir of Toronto, a maple bacon chocolate bar, which considering that they’ve been making maple-bacon flavoured everything here the last while, including a burger at the Ex, seemed quite apt.  She did a credible imitation of being glad to get it, which I hope she was, but you know, not everyone thinks maple bacon chocolate sounds wonderful.   We chatted about Toronto, and its historical buildings, and from the window I pointed out the church spire that used to be Toronto’s tallest structure.  She said she thought that Toronto had done a better job of maintaining its history than Vancouver (her hometown), and was enjoying her visit greatly.  She was staying with a friend in Toronto’s Cabbagetown area, and had determined that if she ever lived in Toronto, that is where she would live.

She had a quick glance at my web site, and thought it was hilarious that the first article that popped up was the one about copies of Fifty Shades of Grey in the library having herpes virus.  She teased me that I was supposed to be encouraging reading, wasn’t I? I said Fifty Shades was an exception to that rule.   She said she read the first chapter, it was available as a free download, and thought it was boring, and the heroine insipid.  She’d had people tell her, a hairdresser, for example, that it had just aroused them incredibly, which she found laughable.  “It obviously doesn’t take much to arouse them, does it?”  Did I tell you I love this woman?

We parted after an hour.  I thoroughly enjoyed the interview.  She headed off for lunch, and I headed home, very impressed.  Roberta Rich is a hell of a woman, and a hell of an author, and you should go buy her books.

Happy reading – and thinking!

Christie

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An Hour With Roberta Rich

I was very excited (and nervous) about this meeting with Roberta Rich.  I love meeting people, especially authors, but one on one is a bit intimidating.  I still feel like I’m pretending to be a writer, as a blogger, and this lady is definitely the real thing.  Would I think of good questions?  Would I remember to let her talk (once you get me going, duct tape is occasionally necessary, particularly on the topic of books)? Thankfully, even if I had no idea what I was doing, she definitely did.

I brought up her former law career, and the fact that most lawyer/writer transitions ended up with legal thrillers.  Instead, she went with a midwife in 16th century Venice.

RR: There is a bit of legal… there’s a bit of Jewish law in The Harem Midwife.  You know, when I started writing, I was writing mystery stories, contemporary mystery stories, and I was writing… those were about a divorce lawyer in Vancouver.  Those are still in my filing cabinet, and have yet to see the light of day.  And in 2007 I was in Venice and I was in the Jewish ghetto and I was quite transfixed by it, and had the idea for a novel that was set in the ghetto.  I kind of wrote the novel that I wished had been available for me to read, because there are no novels that are set in the Jewish ghetto except for mine… It is a rich environment and I was quite surprised that I didn’t find anything.  This is a gap.  This was definitely a gap.

I told her I liked how she presented the conflict between morals and law, in both books.  Hannah, the midwife in question, keeps coming up against the laws of the country, the good of her family and community, and having to balance them against her moral duty, her ability to help people.   Should she do nothing, in order to protect herself and her family and community, or should she help when able?  Particularly at the time these books are set, as a member of the Jewish community a wrong action on her part could set off retribution against everyone Jewish. This is still relevant today, that conflict between what is legally right, and what is morally right.  That need to be aware of your effect not just on your own sense of right and wrong, but how your actions could potentially, for good or ill, affect everyone around you, particularly in this age of social media and instant fame.

Which, of course, us being in Toronto, brought up Rob Ford.

RR: It’s very hard to turn around these days without seeing Rob Ford’s (unflattering mutter) face everywhere you go.  He’s shameless, really, isn’t he and there are people who think it’s okay! We don’t want an average guy running a city. We want superior guys, right?

Exactly, Roberta.  Can we get her on the voter’s list, somehow?

So, back to the books.  I told her I had been up ridiculously late reading her books, had, in fact, read them back to back.

RR: Did you read them in sequence?

BP: There are people who read books out of sequence? But yes.

And then she asked me which one I preferred.  All of a sudden, I felt like I was being asked to tell a mother which one of her children I liked better.  Um…

So told her that I preferred The Midwife of Venice, because her descriptions were so vivid, I felt like I was right there.  The Harem Midwife was also excellent, but was a little more plot focused, with a little less character development.  In The Midwife of Venice, I felt immersed, I could see the sights, smell the smells.

RR: Well, I hadn’t really considered writing a sequel, I must say, to The Midwife of Venice, and I was quite bowled by the success of The Midwife of Venice, delighted of course, and Random House offered me a two book contract. So then, of course, I had to apply my mind to what I was going to write. So I wanted to write a sequel and the logical place was Istanbul, Constantinople, and I had been there several times, and so I was very happy at the prospect of doing research.  So, I was there, and I had been there years and years ago, and then I went back with my husband, we were there for two weeks, and then we went back the following year, and we travelled to Istanbul and various other places in Turkey. It’s a very interesting country.”

BP: One of the reasons I really enjoyed your books is because it’s funny, you think that all that stuff is in the past, but it’s not as in the past… as we would like to believe. Like polygamy.

RR: Polygamy is an interesting topic for me. The idea of the levirate marriage, for example.  I was talking at a book club in Toronto last year, about the idea of a levirate marriage, and a woman at the book club, who was Muslim, and her family was from India, said that that had happened in her family. So, levirate marriage, which happened five hundred years ago in my book, is something that happens in modern life.  There are… so called “honour killings.” It’s a terrible name for it, it’s a dishonour, not an honour killing.

I told her about the hymen repair surgery specialist in Toronto (Do you think it’s too late for me?” she snickered). The idea of virginity being a vital commodity is raised more than once, particularly in The Harem Midwife.

RR: I’ve spoken to a couple of doctors about this. There is no real way to tell from examining a woman whether she is a virgin or not. Girls that are sporty and athletic probably don’t have hymens that are intact. It’s not a thing that you could tell.  When you see women as property, it suddenly becomes very important.

We moved on to the book business. Amazon (my nemesis) was a topic of conversation.

RR: Amazon is really selling at a loss, they don’t care what they sell their books for. There have been a number of articles about Amazon recently, and their labour policies, which are nasty, nasty.  They’re paying some kids minimum wage to work in these vast warehouses, they’re under the gun, time-wise, they’re – I couldn’t believe this when I read it – the one in Arizona is not air conditioned.  That’s a serious problem in a place like Arizona.  These kids are running around, running around, running around… they have a beeper that tells them how long it should take them to get to a particular stack of books, get a book, and put it in a box, and if they don’t make that, that time limit, they get beeped! I think that would make me crazy.

I mentioned Chapters Runnymede’s imminent closing, and recommended she visit  She expressed disgust at it being turned into a drug store. “Oh god, oh that’s so depressing. ” were her exact words.  Right there with you, Roberta.

RR:   I thought, two years ago (I don’t really know anything about the business from before two years ago) I thought e-books were going to take over, take over, take over.  And it was twenty percent then and it’s forty percent now but I think, it seems as though it’s going to continue at forty percent.  People like holding a book in their hands.  And it’s not just people my age. It’s also young people.  With social media… I often wonder how much information… well, there’s a tremendous amount of information about me, I’m sure.  For anybody who’s interested in finding it out. But, we’ve sacrificed privacy for convenience, haven’t we? That’s the trade-off that most of us have made, myself included.

I recognize the irony that this article is being shared on at least three different types of social media.

I gave her, as a souvenir of Toronto, a maple bacon chocolate bar, which considering that they’ve been making maple-bacon flavoured everything here the last while, including a burger at the Ex, seemed quite apt.  She did a credible imitation of being glad to get it, which I hope she was, but you know, not everyone thinks maple bacon chocolate sounds wonderful.   We chatted about Toronto, and its historical buildings, and from the window I pointed out the church spire that used to be Toronto’s tallest structure.  She said she thought that Toronto had done a better job of maintaining its history than Vancouver (her hometown), and was enjoying her visit greatly.  She was staying with a friend in Toronto’s Cabbagetown area, and had determined that if she ever lived in Toronto, that is where she would live.

She had a quick glance at my web site, and thought it was hilarious that the first article that popped up was the one about copies of Fifty Shades of Grey in the library having herpes virus.  She teased me that I was supposed to be encouraging reading, wasn’t I? I said Fifty Shades was an exception to that rule.   She said she read the first chapter, it was available as a free download, and thought it was boring, and the heroine insipid.  She’d had people tell her, a hairdresser, for example, that it had just aroused them incredibly, which she found laughable.  “It obviously doesn’t take much to arouse them, does it?”  Did I tell you I love this woman?

We parted after an hour.  I thoroughly enjoyed the interview.  She headed off for lunch, and I headed home, very impressed.  Roberta Rich is a hell of a woman, and a hell of an author, and you should go buy her books.

Happy reading – and thinking!

Christie

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Meeting Chris Hadfield

Now, before you get too excited, I met Chris Hadfield for all of twenty seconds, most of which were because I brought five copies of his book for him to sign.  I do love Chris Hadfield, and think that he is possibly the coolest person ever, as an astronaut/musician/photographer/pilot/father… the list goes on.  The reason I went to see him, and get the books signed, was far more important, however.

I have an eight-year-old daughter who wants, with all her tiny being, to be an astronaut.  I don’t mean in a “maybe a fairy princess or a doctor or an astronaut” kind of way.  I mean in an “I will go into the air force and get them to pay for my engineering degree at university and then start training for Mars” kind of way.  And what made her really, really excited about space was me sharing Chris Hadfield’s posts on facebook, videos, science experiments, music.  She realized that she could be an astronaut who loved music.  Or maybe a musician who loved space.  So when I heard Chris Hadfield was going to be signing his brand-new book in Toronto, it wasn’t even a question, we were going.  Sadly, my older daughter was feeling very ill, so she couldn’t come with us.  We promised pictures, and headed downtown.

We got there early, and boy it’s a good thing we did.  The Indigo store hosting the signing was huge, two floors, and by the time Chris Hadfield was going to speak, the line took up two floors too.  Kudos, by the way, to the Indigo events staff and the marketing guys from Random House, for doing an incredible job of managing a huge, huge crowd of people and making that line go faster than I thought possible. The line snaked through the shelves, and we passed the time chatting with other people in line, and looking at the books on the shelves.  Boy, if you have to wait, a bookstore is a great place to do it.  My daughter bonded with the woman directly behind us in line when she revealed that she had the Star Finder app on her smart phone, and they passed the time together gleefully looking for favorite constellations.  Geek heaven.  The only truly awkward moment was when the line stalled in front of the sex books, and I thought I was going to have to do a lot of awkward explaining of titles and covers.  Thankfully, I managed to direct her eyes elsewhere for just long enough.

Heather Reisman, Indigo’s CEO, interviewed Chris Hadfield (she calls herself Chief Booklover and I want her job), and she could have been a TV host to rival Barbara Walters, so skillfully did she guide the talk.  She invited the kids in front up to the stage so they could see.  She asked him the question she knew everyone was wondering, which is “How the heck do you pee up there?”  And she managed to corner him into admitting that Canada needed better science and tech funding, particularly for space exploration.  I’m also fairly sure she volunteered him for Prime Minister, which I would happily get behind.

Chris Hadfield is remarkably down-to-earth (ha ha) for someone who has become an international icon.  He credited his wife and family with the inspiration for putting so much of his space life on social media, and was modest about his accomplishments, attributing them to always aiming his life in the direction of readiness, just in case the call to be an astronaut ever came.  When he described waiting to find out whether he had been accepted for Canada’s space program… I think the entire audience held our breaths and waited for that phone call with him.

That is what his book is like, too.  Warm, humble, and you are rooting for him the whole time.  There are unbelievable stories, and excellent wisdom and advice from someone who managed to get hold of his impossible dream, and then share it with the world.  I am reading it with my daughter.  It is one of the coolest things we have ever done together.

I don’t know what we’ll do to top that night, though.  The night Chris Hadfield said to her “Go.  Be an astronaut.”

Wow.  It may have only been a few seconds, but it was an important few seconds.  My daughter’s hero just told her to live her dream.

Happy dreaming.

Christie

P.S. This is the fun display I made of his book:

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Breaking Book News

Some big news in the book world.  Some of it is only big for me, some of it will cause some major changes, but all of it is going to be interesting.

1)

That’s right, Penguin and Random House have merged.  The official day one for the now global publishing company was July 1st, and they are going to be a powerhouse.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some more mergers in the near future as other publishers scramble to have the same kind of reach.  The official website is www.penguinrandomhouse.com

2)

New Discworld book! Terry Pratchett has announced there will be a brand spanking new novel out before Christmas, called Raising Steam.  It will be out October 24th, and I will  be snatching up the first copy I can.  I will hurt old ladies if necessary.

3)

Although Maurice Sendak swore never to write a sequel, apparently some people have decided to do it for him – or at least try.  HarperCollins has filed an injunction with Kickstarter against a couple of guys who are trying to raise funds for an illustrated poem they’re touting as the spiritual sequel to Where the Wild Things Are.  More info here on Galleycat.

 

Happy reading!

Christie

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Wave – A Memoir

Every once in a while, there is a book so powerful that you have to stop reading so you can breathe.  This is one of those books.

Sonali Deraniyagala was in Sri Lanka with her family when the tsunami hit, in 2004.  She was the only survivor.

I met her at Random House, where she was talking about her book.   She said that she wrote the book for herself, to try, as she said, “to make sense of the water itself.”  To banish fear.  It took her five years to write it, and she never thought anyone would want to publish it as a book.

Usually I’m eager to ask authors questions about themselves, their books, but in this case it seemed cruel.  She lost her husband, her parents, and both her children – and managed to write about it.   I will be satisfied getting my answers from the book, although even that seems like prying.

She manages to convey, very well – too well for comfort, what it is like to live with that loss.   I wanted to go and get my children from school and just hold onto them.

She did survive, and is  still surviving.  You realize that she is choosing life, every day.

Amazing.

Christie

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