Saturday, February 21, 2015

Life-Changing Books

Can a book change your life? Staunch readers will invariably say so. For those people, as well as those who just love lists, comes the crowdranking Ranker, whose various lists include one that does just that: ranks books that “Changed My Life.”

The most life changing books, ranked by the wisdom of the crowd of hundreds of people. If you are looking for books that will change your life, these have the themes, characters and story-arcs to do it. From the courage and determination of Frodo as he ventures into Mordor to the conviction of Atticus as he defends a man a whole town has already condemned, there are countless books to add to your list of books to read to change your life.

Top Ten “Books That Changed My Life”
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  3. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  4. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  5. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  8. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  9. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
See the other 90 here.

New Sherlock Holmes Story Discovered

We’re beginning to wonder what on Earth could be next! First the To Kill A Mockingbird prequel was announced. Then a lost Dr. Seuss manuscript was uncovered. And now… a long-forgotten story by the master himself, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Scottish historian Walter Eliot has discovered a short story written by the Sherlock Holmes creator in support of a rebuilding project for a local bridge. From The Telegraph:
It is believed the story -- about Holmes deducing Watson is going on a trip to Selkirk -- is the first unseen Holmes story by Doyle since the last was published over 80 years ago.
Mr Elliot, a great-grandfather, said: “In Selkirk, there was a wooden bridge that was put up some time before it was flooded in 1902. The town didn't have the money to replace it so they decided to have a bazaar to replace the bridge in 1904. They had various people to come and do things and just about everyone in the town did something.”
What Doyle did was donate “Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, by deduction, the Brig Bazaar” for inclusion in a book of short stories published to conceder with the fund-raising bazaar.

You can read the complete story here.


Friday, February 20, 2015

New Dr. Seuss Book to be Published in July

February 2015 may well be remembered as the month lost works by beloved authors were uncovered. First, of course, the To Kill a Mockingbird prequel, due now to be published this summer. And now a lost (or perhaps discarded) Dr. Seuss book, What Pet Should I Get? has come to light. From The New York Times:
Random House has announced the publication on July 28 of “What Pet Should I Get?,” the story of a brother and sister searching for the newest member of the family. The manuscript had been in a box that was discovered in the home of Dr. Seuss (otherwise known as Theodore Geisel) in the La Jolla section of San Diego, shortly after his death in 1991, and set aside. In 2013, Mr. Geisel’s widow, Audrey, and longtime secretary and friend, Claudia Prescott, went through the box and found the nearly complete manuscript, along with other unpublished work. 
Cathy Goldsmith, the vice president and associate publishing director at Random House’s children’s publishing division, said in a statement that the book seems to have been written between 1958 and 1962, given that the brother and sister are the same as those in “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,” which was published in 1960.
Are there ethical questions at play here? Probably. Theodore Geisel, who wrote as Dr. Seuss, was a notorious perfectionist. It’s quite possible this is a work he did not think was up to snuff, else why not submit it to his publisher himself? Though when he died in 1991, Geisel had left no specific instructions regarding the fate of What Pet Should I Get, we can’t help but be reminded of the debate which sprung up prior to the publication of the Nabokov novel that was ultimately published as The Original of Laura in 2008.

Whatever the case, a brand new Dr. Seuss book will be published in July, the first one since Oh, the Places You’ll Go! came out in 1990, the year before the author’s death.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

This Just In… Crescent City (An Alec Winters Series, Book 1) by Chariss K. Walker

Alec Winters quietly moves through the streets of New Orleans, the Crescent City, looking for predators -- those who destroy and prey on innocence. Trained in close-hand combat, he uses these skills when necessary to kill the offenders. Sometimes, his military training isn't needed at all. Sometimes, the only thing it takes to end the lives of wicked, evil men is one look at him. 

After two suspicious murders in only a short time, the main problem Alec faces in his quest of redemption is a nosy reporter. Vivien Simon came to the metropolitan area to do a series on the effects of Hurricane Katrina -- with crime rates on the rise, her interests are drawn to the seedier aspects of the city. She’s hoping to get the story that will make her career. When she discovers that both murder victims were pedophiles, Vivien begins a newspaper and blog campaign that frightens parents and turns the city upside down. 

Some say the perpetrator of the murders is an angel while others insist it’s a devil. With contrasting accounts, Vivien wonders if a vigilante is on the loose -- or worse, a serial killer. She’s hell-bent on discovering the truth, but her persistence and stubbornness might bring her closer to death and damnation than she ever imagined. 

No one can stop the Angel of God… and they wouldn't want to get in his way.

You can order Crescent City here. Visit author Chariss K. Walker on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Game of Thrones Fans in for a Surprise

Those who love the oft-bloody Game of Thrones television series, based on the books penned by George RR Martin, are in for a surprise in season five. According to the author, even fans of the books won’t know in advance who will get axed. From Esquire:
While those with novel knowledge were a step ahead of the virgin crowd, their safe days are over. Like Nostradamus, Martin arrived to Sunday night's Writers Guild West Awards with an apocalyptic vision, telling Showbiz411 that characters set to die in Game of Thrones Season Five didn't necessarily die in his original tomes. "Even the book readers will be unhappy," Martin says. "So everybody better be on their toes. [Showrunners] David [Benioff] and D.B. [Weiss] are even bloodier than I am."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, season five will premiere at a red carpet gala at the Tower of London.
The premiere, on March 18, will mark the first time a season of the HBO fantasy series has debuted in Europe ahead of the U.S. Sky is HBO's pay-TV partner in Western Europe and airs Game of Thrones across its markets in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

James Franco to Star in Stephen King Adaptation

A nine-episode adaptation of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 has been announced, with James Franco now tapped to play the starring role. From Vulture:

[Franco will] also be a producer on the project, which is from J.J. Abrams’s Warner Bros. TV–based Bad Robot Productions. Franco will play the central character in the show, a time-traveling English teacher named Jake Epping who heads back to 1963 on a quest to halt President Kennedy’s assassination. 

See the full piece here. January Magazine’s review of the book is here.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fifty Shades Film Opens to Good News

The film adaptation of E. L. James’ 2011 novel will open in time for Valentine’s Day dating, but theatre goers can anticipate more sex than romance. Roughly one fifth of the film is devoted to sex scenes and those who are familiar with the the premise of the book already know that what we’re not seeing in the film will be implied. From The Sunday Times:

Fifty Shades of Grey is set to be the raunchiest film for more than a decade, featuring a dozen erotic scenes that account for a fifth of its running time.
Reports from previews ahead of the film’s launch on Valentine’s Day suggest it features about 20 minutes of sex during its 100-minute running time.

And even prior to its official release, the film starring Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Marcia Gay Harden and Luke Grimes has been given the nod for two sequels. Both Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed will be adapted for the screen. From MTV news:
The news was announced on Friday morning (February 6), when Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, director Sam Taylor-Johnson, and author E.L. James hit New York’s Zeigfeld Theatre for the “Fifty Shades First” fan screening event. The fans in attendance started freaking out almost immediately, to the point where one might even say their inner goddesses were soaring.


Second Harper Lee Novel Fans Literary Flames

It is unsurprising that, during debates of whether To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee intended her about-to-be-published novel, Go Set a Watchman, to be published or not, the ghost of Truman Capote should raise his head.

There have always been rumors that Capote, a childhood neighbor of Lee’s, actually wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. But those close to Lee scoff.
For Lee’s place as America’s First Lady of letters has been soured by persistent rumours that it was Capote and not her who was largely responsible for the original story about small-town Southern life in the Fifties and a heroic lawyer who tries to save a black man from a terrible injustice. Capote went on to have a long and glittering literary career, but Lee retreated into reclusive obscurity, stating she had said all she needed to say in print.

For sceptics, it has always defied credibility that an unknown writer could produce a single, perfect novel and then pack away her typewriter for good and completely disappear from public life.

Surely she would want to write more. Could her half-century of silence — not to mention her drastic falling out with Capote — have a more extraordinary explanation? The circumstances surrounding the sudden appearance of this new book, Go Set a Watchman, similarly almost defy belief.
Later, Lee and Capote’s estrangement added to the rumors:
While he was boasting of an affair with Errol Flynn and being pals with Greta Garbo, Lee retreated behind a small circle of trusted friends and maintained a wall of public silence.
When Lee helped to promote the acclaimed 1962 film version of her book starring Gregory Peck, Capote sneered: ‘I think it very undignified for any serious artist to allow themselves to be exploited in this fashion.’
Lee told a neighbour: ‘Truman was a psychopath, honey.’
Her older sister, Alice, was more precise, claiming: ‘Truman became very jealous because Nellie Harper got a Pulitzer [Prize, for literary achievement] and he did not.’
The announcement of the summer 2015 publication of Lee’s second novel have fanned the rumor flames.
Some now say that what has been called the ‘Loch Ness monster of the literary world’ — the dispute over this revered book’s authorship — may finally be solved by this second Harper Lee novel. But will it? 
If Go Set a Watchman — being published unedited — is far inferior, does that really prove she must have had help with her later masterpiece?
And if it turns out to be every bit as brilliant, couldn’t a counter argument simply run that Capote might have written both books? No doubt we will learn more later this year.
Perhaps the best approach is simply to be grateful that a story of such elegance and power as To Kill a Mockingbird was given to us at all.
The Daily Mail story quoted above is here.

Innovations in Reading

Let’s get people reading! That is the subtext -- and more! -- of the National Book Foundation’s “Innovations in Reading” program. And the biggest part of the upside? The most innovative individual or foundation out there will take home a $10,000 prize.
The National Book Foundation’s 2015 Innovations in Reading Prize will award $10,000 to an individual or institution—or partnership between the two—that has developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading. In addition, the Foundation will select four honorable mentions. Applicants should be VITAL demonstrating Vision, Ingenuity, Transformation, Achievement & Leadership.
Applications must be in by February 28th, and you can get full details here.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Performance Paleo Cookbook: Recipes for Training Harder, Getting Stronger and Gaining the Competitive Edge by Stephanie Gaudreau

You’ve heard to it referred to as the Caveman Diet. And, no: you don’t eat cave men. Rather, at its simplest, on the Caveman Diet you don’t eat things that would have been available to prehistoric humans, avoiding foods like dairy products, grains, legumes, processed oils and refined sugars. Plus you eat meat. A lot of meat. No vegetarians need apply. The goal is to lose weight, increase energy levels and detoxify the system. This is not the place for those who choose diets for ethical reasons. Results are the thing. Results that are sleek and firm and strong. Full stop.

In The Performance Paleo Cookbook (Page Street), author Stephanie Gaudreau takes all of this to new levels. This is not Paleolithic Diet 101. Rather Gaudreau’s book focuses on using food as fuel to bring your personal machine to whole new performance levels. For a first take on high performance eating, you could take a run at a book Gaudreau co-wrote in 2014: The Paleo Athlete: A Beginner’s Guide to Real Food for Performance. Nor was she even then a newcomer to the Paleo diet. Her web site, Stupid Easy Paleo has been running hard since 2011 (ancient history in the Paleo diet world). Gaudreau’s mandate with the book is very similar to that of the web site: simple, easy-to-follow recipes that “stay true to the roots of Paleo” along with great resources for a paleo lifestyle.

Gaudreau knows her stuff and it shows. The Performance Paleo Cookbook is filled with nutrient-dense recipes you are unlikely to find anywhere else. Imagine Blueberry Pork Patties. Curried Lotus Chips. A Swiss Chard Salad that is beyond belief and a whole lot of desserts that will put wanna-be cave people into dinosaur heaven.

This is great stuff. True to form, Gaudreau makes something that can seem complicated quite simple. And in The Performance Paleo Cookbook she does it beautifully and with style. A great (and perhaps necessary) addition to the gym rat’s cookbook shelf as well as those considering new options for age old questions. ◊

Linda L. Richards is editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.

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This Just In… Be a Critical Thinker by Donald L. Karshner

“Donald Karshner offers students and teachers alike practical guidance to developing and applying critical thinking skills in a wide array of common situations, ranging from watching television to parsing political arguments to governing organizations and people wisely. Anyone who seeks to be consciously engaged with the world today will find value in this thought-provoking book.” -- Douglas Rorapaugh, a Pastoral Counselor and Theology teacher 
When reading the newspaper, listening to politicians or discussing current events, how can you determine whether the facts and opinions shared are truthful and accurate or misleading and false?

Donald L. Karshner has had a lifelong interest in developing critical thinking skills. Inspired by his granddaughter, who was open to suggestions as she went off to college, Karshner began compiling his advice on honing critical thinking. This book evolved from the few pages he had written for his granddaughter. 

Be a Critical Thinker offers a clear process for applying critical thinking skills to scrutinize ideas, facts and interpretations, even when they are inconsistent or contradictory.

By applying the skills of critical thinking, you will be better equipped to clarify your thinking process, to intelligently critique what you read and hear, to correct errors, to dispel misunderstandings and ignorance, and to make a positive contribution to a discussion or debate.

You can order Be a Critical Thinker here. Visit author Donald L. Karshner on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


For Sale: JD Salinger’s Writing Retreat

Anyone wanting to create a life as a recluse writer could do worse than Catcher in the Rye author JD Salinger’s New Hampshire estate, currently being offered at $589,000. From Top Ten Real Estate Deals:

The Cornish home where Salinger lived and wrote from the 1950s to the 1980s is now for sale. Cottage-like, charming and ensconced in a lush setting of nature on a quiet road in his quest for privacy, Salinger also bought the land on the other side of the road, ensuring that no other house could be built whose owners could gaze into his personal life. It’s a secluded 12 acres with plantings of foliage and flowers around trees, paths, woodland trails and green lawn with dappled sunlight. There is also a creek and view of Mt. Ascutney over a valley of treetops. The 2,900-square-foot home blends seamlessly with the surrounding woodland and consists of four bedrooms, two baths, a combined family room-kitchen with fireplace, large living room with beamed ceilings and an apartment above the garage where Salinger would escape during marital conflicts. Another interesting thing about the house is the tunnel that connects the basement of the house with the basement of the garage, the purpose of which was never discovered. 

Salinger died in 2010 at age 91. If you feel like it’s been a while since you heard anything about him, get ready for the silence to end.
During his years of seclusion in New Hampshire, Salinger continued to write, but never published, a series of books that expanded on the lives of some of his most popular characters, including The Catcher in the Rye. Before he died, Salinger carefully laid out a directive in his will for a publication schedule of the books beginning in 2015.

Miniseries Based on Rowling Novel Set to Air

For those who just can’t get enough J.K. Rowling, a miniseries based on her novel, A Casual Vacancy, will air in the UK on the BBC mid-February and then on HBO in North America in late April.
EastEnders’ Sarah Phelps is writing while In the Flesh’s Jonny Campbell is directing the series, which will focus on a seemingly picturesque English village with a lot of tension underneath the surface. Michael Gambon, Keeley Hawes, Rory Kinnear, Monica Dolan, and Julia McKenzie star.
Entertainment Weekly has more here.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Harper Lee’s Controversial Second Novel

Her debut novel won a Pulitzer Prize in 1960. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most beloved books in the English language. It sells in excess of three quarters of a million copies each year. And yesterday’s announcement that a second novel by Harper Lee would be published this coming summer nearly broke the Internet.

Go Set a Watchman will be published July 14. HarperCollins will come out of the gate with two million copies and we no longer have to wonder what the top selling book of 2015 will be.

Lee announced through her publisher that she wrote what will be her second published novel before the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. She said the book, “features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout.”

The announcement, as well as the author’s quotes regarding publication of the book, came entirely through her publisher.

“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realized [the original book] had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

Since Lee is now 88 and somewhat infirm, suspicions of foul play have been loud and pointed. “Be Suspicious of the New Harper Lee Novel,” a Jezebel headline advised.
Tonja Carter, Harper Lee’s attorney since Alice Lee retired at the age of 100, acknowledges that the author—who was left forgetful and nearly blind and deaf after a stroke in 2007—often doesn't understand the contracts that she signs. "Lee has a history of signing whatever's put in front of her, apparently sometimes with Carter's advice," Gawker reported last July. 
“The existence of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ was unknown until recently, and its discovery is an extraordinary gift,” said HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham in a statement.
But was the gift willingly given?
But in an interview with Vulture, Lee’s editor, Hugh Van Dusen, asserts his confidence that all is as it should be.
Vulture: It’s easy to be skeptical about her willingness to publish a book that had been forgotten for 55 years.  
Van Dusen: You mean was she unwilling to have it published? No, no, no, no. We would never do that. She’s too valuable an author to fool around with that way. It would never happen. We wouldn’t dare do that.
Further, Van Dusen seemed confident that there would be no breaking news on the topic. “I don’t think anything there's going to be anything more revealing than what's in the press release,” he told Vulture.

Considering Lee’s reclusive reputation, her advanced age and just how venerated Mockingbird has been, it seems unlikely we will ever truly know if Lee had intended for this lost manuscript to be found and published.

What we do know: those of us who have loved To Kill a Mockingbird are going to enjoy seeing Lee’s vision of a fully grown Scout. And those of us who love books can rejoice, as well. Any time a book-related announcement can raise so much dust we are reassured that reading and book culture are alive and well.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

James Franco Puts Together All Star Cast for Steinbeck Adaptation

Variety reports that James Franco will direct and star in an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s sixth novel, In Dubious Battle from 1936.
James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vincent D’Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris, Bryan Cranston and Danny McBride will star together in the adaptation of John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle,” which Franco is also directing, 
AMBI Group is financing the film and producing with Rabbit Bandini Productions and That’s Hollywood Pictures Productions.
The original novel portrays the struggle between labor and capital in 1930s America as close to all-out warfare. Published in 1936, “In Dubious Battle” is considered Steinbeck’s first major work. Set in a fictionalized valley in California, the story explores themes Steinbeck later continued to develop: group behavior, social injustice, man’s inhumanity to man. A labor conflict between migrant apple pickers and the local growers’ association is the backdrop against which Jim Nolan (Franco) becomes involved in the labor movement and rapidly matures as he learns what it means to do organizational fieldwork.
You can see the full piece here.


This Just In… Anne Frank 80 Years A Memorial Tour in Current Images by Ronald Wilfred Jansen

Anne Frank 80 Years A Memorial Tour in Current Images: Frankfurt am Main, Aachen, Amsterdam, Camp Westerbork, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen by Ronald Wilfred Jansen

“I want to go on living, even after my death!” -- Anne Frank, Diary, March 25, 1944.

Anne Frank 80 Years Photographic Impressions. A memorial tour in current images including historical photos Anne Frank.

You can order Anne Frank 80 Years A Memorial Tour in Current Images here. Visit author Ronald Wilfred Jansen on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Amazon Might Hit the Bricks

Amazon is considering picking up part of the beleaguered RadioShack chain in order to “bolster its brick-and-mortar operations,” according to Bloomberg:
Amazon has considered using the RadioShack stores as showcases for the Seattle-based company’s hardware, as well as potential pickup and drop-off centers for online customers, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private. 
The possible move, discussed as part of RadioShack’s looming trip to bankruptcy court, would represent Amazon’s biggest push into traditional retail. Amazon joins other potential bidders, including Sprint Corp. and the investment group behind Brookstone, in evaluating RadioShack stores, people familiar with the situation said. RadioShack has more than 4,000 U.S. locations and is moving toward a deal to sell a portion and close the rest, according to some of the people. Sprint has discussed buying 1,300 to 2,000, they said.
The implications of such a move are far-reaching:
Retail locations would put Amazon on more of an even footing with Apple Inc., which has hundreds of stores in choice shopping districts. While Amazon’s Kindle has been a breakthrough success, some of its other devices haven’t connected with consumers. Its Fire smartphone didn’t sell well and contributed to a $170 million inventory writedown in the third quarter of last year.
See the full piece here.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Natural Food Trends Altering Consumer Habits

When over 60,000 people flock to Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim next month, they will, in part, be looking for the next big thing. If that’s the case, they’ll be in luck. New Hope Natural Media, who put on these Natural Product Expos, have done some of the homework. Together with NEXT Trend, an out fit that provides business intelligence for the natural products industry, they’ve identified what they figure will be 2015’s biggest trends.

1. Protein power: Protein is the star again -- with food, beverage and supplement products featuring new, innovative protein sources and higher levels of protein per serving. From pea protein to cricket protein to products containing a mixture of both plant and animal protein, these ingredients are hot.

2. Paleo on parade: The paleo trend continues to gain momentum, with the emergence of a new paleo certifications, and more packaged foods made with simple, whole food ingredients that follow the paleo doctrine of no grains, processed sugars, dairy or legumes.

3. Mission matters: More and more natural products companies are starting with a philanthropic  mission and building a suite of natural, organic and healthy products to support and grow that mission and create a positive social impact.

4. Heritage to hipster: “Old school,” traditional ingredients long known for their nutritional benefits such as apple cider vinegar and turmeric are popping up in new ways in foods, beverages and even dietary supplements.

5. Coconut reimagined: Coconut has been a hot ingredient for several years now, but now we are seeing the debut of new healthy packaged products featuring coconut in imaginative, new ways that provide the health benefits of coconut—often in place of less-healthy ingredients.

6. Probiotics pop: Probiotics also continue to be hot, showing up in new supplement formulations, cosmetics, greens powders, snacks and even fresh-pressed juice.

7. Clean, simple ingredients rule: Innovation is showing up as simplification, as the ingredient lists for products continue to get shorter and cleaner. There are many new food and beverage offerings that include only high-quality, whole food ingredients. The move to cleaner, food-based ingredients could also be seen in supplements and personal care.

8. Vegan on the down low: The number of vegan foods and beverages is once again on the rise, but this year many vegan brands choose to emphasize the quality ingredients, delicious taste or mission of their products more so than their vegan positioning. The end result is a much more accessible offering for mainstream audiences.

9. Back to the source: “Local” is for more than just the farmers market, with a growing number of exhibitors touting the sourcing stories behind their products. From ketchup made with only New Jersey grown tomatoes to an entire supplement line featuring only ingredients grown in Nepal, the farm-tofield movement is taking on more local flavor.

10. Water 3.0 : The success of coconut water -- which is now almost a $1 billion beverage category since its emergence on the scene in 2006 -- has everyone on the hunt for the next healthy billion dollar beverage concept. Emerging are numerous product concepts that are based on healthy, natural, lowcalorie waters taken directly from plants. Examples include maple water, birch water, almond water, artichoke water, cactus water, olive water and watermelon water. Innovations in extraction processes and packaging are creating new opportunities for these types of plant water products. The fact that these offerings also tend to be minimally processed and made with only a few ingredients also position them well for the growing number of “Wholegrarian” consumers who seek out nutrient-dense foods and beverages made with real food ingredients.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fictionally Speaking, Women Win

Fewer and fewer men read fiction. They compose only about 20 per cent of the fiction market according to surveys. Some lay this off to genetics, suggesting that the way men’s minds work discourages them from entering into another’s experience the way fiction demands.

Leonce Gaiter: “Fewer and
fewer men read fiction.”
“Boys and men are, in general, more convergent and linear in their thinking; this would naturally draw them towards non-fiction,” wrote author Darragh McManus, pondering the question.

Others, like Jason Pinter, suggest that the overwhelmingly female publishing industry simply overlooks books that appeal to men because they fall outside the female experience. In other words, men now suffer the same fate women suffered at the hands of a male-dominated publishing industry for so many years -- and payback’s a bitch.

Others suggest that boys are discouraged from reading at a young age by children’s books that fail to engage them. Give them the proper material, the story goes, and young boys will engage with reading. They point to the fact that young males were principal consumers of the Harry Potter books as proof. “More boys than girls have read the Harry Potter novels,” according to U.S. publisher, Scholastic. “What’s more, Harry Potter made more of an impact on boys' reading habits. Sixty-one percent agreed with the statement ‘I didn't read books for fun before reading Harry Potter,’ compared with 41 percent of girls.”

I always balked at these rationales because I read fiction all the time. However, thinking on it, I had to admit that I avoid modern fiction like the plague. I have tried the popular plot-thick page-turners and the feel-good tearjerkers and the occasional cause celebre with a literary reputation.  So many have left me so cold, that I simply won’t shell out the cash for a paperback or e-book version, much less a hardcover.

Trying to assess what I found lacking in most of the current novels I attempt, I find their utter reliance on the world around them (and me) supremely dull. So many work so hard to place characters in a world I will recognize. Too many work hard to create characters with which I (or their prime demographic audience) will ‘identify,’ and recognize as someone they could be, or someone they know.

It then made sense that men would ask why they should read something “made up” about this world when there was plenty of factual reading material on that subject. I have never approached fiction to re-visit “this world.” I’m already here. Instead, I want an alternative—a vision of this world exhaled through the writers’ and characters’ hearts, minds and eyes. Exhaled with the distinction of the smell of an individual’s breath. Fitzgerald’s Long Island in The Great Gatsby is his own creation, no kitchen sink recreation. Fitzgerald’s people and prose warp this place into something utterly unique.

Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles is his distinctive projection of that city. You don’t pick up Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me with the idea of identifying with the protagonist. You don’t grab Faulkner to meet the boys next door or titter with recognition of your kith and kin. You don’t visit Patricia Highsmith to look in a mirror. You pick them up to enter worlds as fantastical in their way as Harry Potter’s. I read fiction to meet characters I otherwise would not. I read fiction for the larger than life -- not a retread of this one. I want to watch and think with characters who are nothing like me, who dare what I never would, who experience in ways that I cannot.

In an article titled, “Why Women Read More Than Men,” NPR quoted Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain suggesting a biological reason why women read more fiction than men:
The research is still in its early stages, but some studies have found that women have more sensitive mirror neurons than men. That might explain why women are drawn to works of fiction, which by definition require the reader to empathize with characters. 
What horseshit. Reading, and reading fiction, require no such thing. They require that you understand and grow intrigued by characters and situations. You need not imagine yourself as them or believe that they behave as you would.

Perhaps more men stopped reading fiction when fiction stopped presenting unique worlds, and settled for presenting this one so that readers could better “identify.” Maybe we’re too megalomaniacal to “identify” with that. We want words recreated, not rehashed.

“Shall I project a world,” asks Oedipa Maas in Thomas Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49.” Somewhere along the line, in tandem with the female domination of the publishing industry and fiction readership, the ideal of doing so fell from vogue. Instead, writers rely on identification with this one. Male readers seem have checked out. ◊

Leonce Gaiter is a prolific African American writer and proud Harvard Alum. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, NYT Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Washington Times and Washington Post, and he has written two novels.  His newly released novel, In the Company of Educated Men, is a literary thriller with socio-economic, class, and racial themes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Don Quixote’s Long-Lost Remains Found

Actually, the long-lost remains of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. From The Telegraph:
Forensic experts reported that they had discovered two series of tacks forming the thumb-sized initials “MC” on a coffin in the crypt believed to contain Cervantes’ remains. The bones inside the coffin, which are apparently mixed up with those of other burials, are now being analysed to see if they belong to the writer. 
Although Cervantes is Spain’s best-known writer, and said to be the first novelist, the exact whereabouts of his earthly remains has been a mystery for centuries.
And just in case you thought authors in the good ol’ days of the 16th century were the ones who landed the bucks, there’s this:
The penniless author was buried in April 1616 in the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians, a nunnery in Madrid’s historic Barrio de las Letras quarter. But after the building was reconstructed in 1673, the precise location of the grave was lost.
And though the search was exhaustive, it finishes well ahead of schedule:
Some 20 forensic scientists began the latest series of excavations last April, locating five different possible locations for graves using a geo-radar system inside the convent’s walls. The aim was to complete the investigation by early 2016, when there will be joint celebrations to mark the anniversary of the deaths of both Cervantes and Shakespeare – who died 10 days before the Spanish author.
The full piece is here.


This Just In… Lila and the Dandelion by Sheryl Hershey

Lila is a little girl who listens with her heart and speaks with her hands. She and Dandelion help make the world a better place in this children’s book.

You can order Lila and the Dandelion here. Visit author Sheryl Hershey on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Crime Fiction: The Burning Room
by Michael Connelly

(Editor’s note: This review comes from Anthony Rainone, a contributing editor to January Magazine and a (too-infrequent) contributor to The Rap Sheet. He lives in Brooklyn, where he writes screenplays, novels and stories.)

Los Angeles is a city in the midst of rapid change. Hotels are being renovated and renamed. Detectives are wearing expensive tasseled shoes instead of the traditional gum-soled footwear. Firmly entrenched in this neo-City of Angels, old-school LAPD Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch stands ready to do endless battle on behalf of his credo: Everyone counts or no one counts.

Each new entry in Michael Connelly’s series is a bittersweet undertaking, and The Burning Room (Little, Brown) is no different. The clock is ticking on Bosch’s mandatory retirement and his posting to the Open-Unsolved Unit. This implies that contemporary Bosch is also perhaps nearing the end of his fictional run, after 17 novel-length adventures. The character is aging in real time, so unless the author chooses to do a Barnaby Jones-type thing -- portraying an aging man using his intellect and guile, and not his decreasing brawn, to put bad guys behind bars -- we may be seeing the end of Bosch. Of course, there are tantalizing other possibilities. Maybe a new series with Bosch’s daughter, Maddie, taking up the mantle; the offspring of Bosch and deceased ex-FBI agent and gambler Eleanor Wish is already interested in police work. There is another, perhaps more thrilling possibility, however. Last year, in an interview at the Center for Fiction in Midtown Manhattan, the author alluded to back-dating Bosch and writing novels set during the time his protagonist was still in uniform. And we shouldn’t forget the Amazon TV series Bosch, which is set to debut next month. This reviewer would pay top dollar for any or all of these options.

In The Burning Room, Bosch has a new partner, Lucia “Lucky Lucy” Soto, to indoctrinate with his principles and take up his baton. Soto seems a very good candidate for such responsibilities. Like Bosch, she lost a partner and killed a suspect. She also carries childhood scars, just as Bosch does, with the same burning desire to avenge those past wrongs. At first, Bosch doesn’t know what to make of Soto. She earned her detective shield by killing armed robbers while a patrol officer, and thereby garnered a coveted spot in the Open-Unsolved Unit. While earnest in her approach to the job, there is something suspicious about Soto. Only once Bosch is satisfied with her loyalties does he realize (along with the reader) that this is a dynamic personality. Soto boasts a richness and an edginess that remind me of my two favorite former Bosch partners: Jerry Edgar and Kizmin Rider.

This latest novel starts with the primary cold-case murder: the death of a Mariachi musician, Orlando Merced. Through the years, Connelly has taken his readers on his own inspired geographical tour of various L.A. locales. Here, he introduces us to Mariachi Plaza, where Mexican musicians gather to wait for gigs, and where the latest fatality occurs. The victim in question is recently deceased, but he was originally shot 10 years before. Connelly is a master at telling a small story cocooned inside an overlay of larger thematic rings, all radiating outwards. The theme of terrorism in The Overlook (2007), for example, or of mob activity in Trunk Music (1997) -- the plot of which instead hinged on infidelity. In The Burning Room, the murder of Orlando Merced. initially investigated as a gangland drive-by shooting, quickly develops into something else when a bullet lodged near Merced’s spine is finally retrieved at autopsy. It is up to Bosch and Soto to sort through a decade’s worth of rusty facts and testimony to find the truth. In a city constantly reinventing itself, though, the degradation of the human soul that resorts to murder stays constant.

While barely into the Merced investigation, Bosch is pulled away into a second cold-case that has major implications for Soto: the Bonny Brae apartment fire, which took place 21 years ago. “Nine people, most of them children, perished” in an unlicensed day-care center housed in one of the apartments. Soto was 7 years old at the time and staying in that day-care herself when the blaze broke out. Some of the children left dead in the tragedy were her friends. After first being dubious of Soto’s intentions to solve the case in her spare time, Bosch soon realizes that that long-ago fire provided one of Soto’s chief motivations to become a cop. He understands this because he took the time to solve his mother’s murder in The Last Coyote (1995), and learned much from it. Like two thoroughbreds racing against each other, the Merced murder and the Bonny Brae disaster pull Connelly’s investigators -- and his many readers -- along a course offering an increasing tempo and perilous turns. Old thematic adversaries appear again. Bosch fights against the uptight administrative behavior of his new boss, Captain George Crowder. And in both of these fictional cases, the detectives who originally investigated the crimes see Bosch and Soto as the enemy: two cops who think they know better. The truth is that Bosch does know better. Ultimately, the snake-headed monsters of politics and wealth clash with simple greed, and Connelly once more reveals the dark underbelly of sunny L.A. Both cases come down to base passions, and both are resolved in tragic ways.

At this point in his career, Harry Bosch is like finely distilled bourbon: you can taste the layers, but you’re not sure how they got there. True fans, however, can recall what ingredients helped shape him: how he fought for his professional life in The Concrete Blonde (1994); the damage that was done to his relationship with Rachel Walling in Echo Park (2006); the countless battles with former Deputy Chief Irvin Irving, most recently in The Drop (2011); and the death of his ex-wife and only true love, Eleanor Wish, in 9 Dragons (2009). Bosch is why we buy and read the books, and why we will continue to follow him, in all his glorious incantations in the near and far future. ◊

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Best Novels of the Century

Even though we’re just 15 years into our new century, BBC Culture has polled the critics to come up with a list of the top novels of the 21st so far. Topping the list is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. The book is “about New Jersey ghetto-nerd Oscar, who dreams of being the Dominican-American Tolkien and finding love.”

From The Guardian:
The list also includes Zadie Smith’s debut novel White Teeth, Jeffrey Eugenides’ tale of hermaphrodite Calliope Stephanides, Middlesex, Ian McEwan’s Atonement, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, set amidst the Biafra conflict. Adichie’s Americanah, and Smith’s NW, also feature in the overall top 20, which includes three works in translation: Austerlitz by WG Sebald, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, and 2666 by Roberto Bolano.
But the Guardian seemed more concerned with what wasn’t there:
But it does not feature some of the last 14 years’ most acclaimed works, from Franzen’s latest novel, Freedom, to Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Instead, BBC Culture’s critics completed their line-up of “The 21st Century’s 12 greatest novels” with Ben Fountain’s award-winning debut Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, distinguished by its “sheer wise merriment”, according to critic Steven G Kellman, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad and Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. “Chabon’s capacious, propulsive and many-storied novel is exquisitely written, emotionally rich and historically and morally profound,” said Booklist senior editor Donna Seaman.

Here’s the top dozen:

1. Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)
2. Edward P Jones, The Known World (2003)
3. Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (2009)
4. Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (2004)
5. Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections (2001)
6. Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000)
7. Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010)
8. Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2012)
9. Ian McEwan, Atonement (2001)
10. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)
11. Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000)
12. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)

Monday, January 19, 2015

New in Paperback: The Last Pirate by Tony Dokoupil

If you missed The Last Pirate: A Father, His Son, and the Golden Age of Marijuna (Anchor Books) when it first came out in the spring of 2014, you have a great chance to catch it now in paperback. If you enjoy memoirs featuring larger-than-life characters and strong hits of comedy with all of life’s drama, you’ll enjoy Tony  Dokoupil’s account of growing up as the son of the 1980s dope king of Miami, Anthony Edward Dokoupil.

Dokoupil ran the US operations of one of the largest marijuana rings in the 20th century. By several accounts, “Big Tony” was personally responsible for the distribution of at least fifty tons of the stuff.

“Little Tony” writes beautifully. A senior writer for NBC news, Dokoupil the journalist examines his memories and incorporates deeply personal stories into a tale that reflects not only the story of his own family, but provides an interesting and sometimes even illuminating tale about how drugs have fit into the American picture.
If you smoked Columbian weed in the 1970s and 1980s, I owe you a thank-you card. You paid for my swim lessons, bought me my first baseball glove, and kept me in the best private schools in south Florida, alongside President George H.W. Buch's grandsons, at least for a little while.
It is this personal voice that elevates The Last Pirate beyond a simply  interesting story about a colorful and somewhat tragic character. As the book begins, Dokoupil describes the end of his father’s drug dealing days in colorful strokes:
Each day ended with the ocean smeared purple, the men holding their ladies close, and the kids clustered on the bow, dreaming of shipwrecks, pirates, and buried treasures. Thew old around was fenceless and so was the future. But the Old Man was restless in this paradise. He had broken a cardinal rule of dealing and become an addict himself. Coke and hookers mostly. He left the party early in search of both.
 Dokoupil has spun pure gold. Moving, sometimes funny, gorgeously etched and compellingly told. Whatever you come to The Last Pirate expecting,  Dokoupil delivers more. ◊

Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.

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Fewer Children Reading for Fun

A survey of survey of 2,558 US parents and children has turned up some distressing news: the number of children reading for fun is in decline. From The Guardian:
The number of American children who say they love reading books for fun has dropped almost 10% in the last four years, according to a US study, with children citing the pressure of schoolwork and other distractions.
And a new aspect of the study confirmed something that parents of readers have always known. Kids that are read to when they are teeny are more likely to read on their own.
Scholastic also surveyed the parents of children between the ages of zero and five for the first time this year in an attempt to discover what made children frequent readers. The report found that a six to 11-year-old child is more likely to be a frequent reader if they are currently read aloud to at home, if they were also read aloud to five to seven days a week before starting nursery, and if they are less likely to use a computer for fun.
The full piece is here.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

This Just In… In His Way by Rebecca Duvall

Rebecca Duvall writes: 

Throughout much of my married life, I lived under the illusion that I had it all together: it was everyone else that needed fixing. Several years into my second marriage my husband, a Deputy Sheriff, became a workaholic and was never home. Meanwhile, I became a volunteeraholic, too busy to face the fact that we had become two strangers under one roof, raising three kids. 

God revealed Himself to me through the different women I volunteered with. As my heart slowly opened to God’s presence, my marriage came crashing down around me. As I cried out for God’s help, I discovered my husband’s affair. I found myself surrounded by faithful people who gave me the strength to face the problems in my marriage and the tools needed to begin fixing it. 

Over the next four years, my husband’s health deteriorated and he was forced to retire. Through this, God continually showed me I was In His Way and then, when He knew He had my attention, He would proceed to show me how to do things In His Way. In the end, what God told me to do, saved my husband’s life, and our marriage. What was broken is now fixed by the grace and love of God.

You can order In His Way here. Visit author Rebecca Duvall on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Today: Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee by William C. Davis

Few names from the era loom as large as those of the top generals from North and South each: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. In story and fable, both men have been elevated to the place of myth.

Author William C. Davis (Three Roads to the Alamo, The Pirates Lafitte) combs through the four historical meetings the two men actually had in an effort to uncover details that might have impacted where they both ended up.

Davis has said that Crucible of Command (Da Capo) is not a conventional biography. “I’m not interested detailing every incident of their lives.” Rather, “the focus is on their moral and ethical worlds, what they felt and believed and why.”

On that journey, Davis states more than once that, without the Civil War, neither man would have come close to his potential. “Without the war, Grant would have remained a civilian working in his father’s leather goods store… Lee… was dissatisfied with the army, with his life and just about everything else when the war came. It is not too much to say that both were heading nowhere when the war plucked them out of their old lives.”

Once activated, though, both men had a huge part in shaping the post-war nation.

Davis is the author of more than 50 books, and he demonstrates his experience in Crucible of Command, a magisterial dual biography that rises far, far above the average. Davis balances fact and research with searing action and penetrating personality. This very entertaining history is much more than the sum of its parts. ◊

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This Just In… Bridge Beyond Betrayal by Stephanie Parker McKean

In her Christian mystery-romance-suspense, Bridge to Nowhere, Stephanie Parker McKean sends the adventure-loving Miz Mike on her second Three Prongs mystery, combining adventure, excitement, danger -- and even murder -- with romance in a spicy reading mix. 

When successful mystery writer Michal Rice spots a dead body in a red pickup truck, she springs into action. But no one believes her and she is left searching for the elusive truck and murder victim herself. When she learns the identity of the murdered man, once again no one will believe her, not even her fiancé, Marty Richards. 

When Mike unexpectedly joins a party of bone dowsers and the body is found, Marty accuses her of witchcraft and turns against her: the ultimate betrayal. But when someone is arrested for the murder, it is the wrong someone. Mike can’t let an innocent person suffer while the real murderer escapes and she risks her life to bring the killer to justice. Her quest attracts an unusual mélange of helpers, including wildlife safari park manager Frank who is determined to replace Marty and win Mike’s heart. 

You can order Bridge Beyond Betrayal here. Visit author Stephanie Parker McKean on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Cookbooks: The Gluten Free Revolution by Jax Peters Lowell

It turns out that The Gluten Free Revolution (Holt) is such a good name for a book, it’s been used twice. Once less than a year ago on a book by blogger Caroline Shannon-Karasik and published by Skyhorse. And now on an intentionally encyclopedic work by Jax Peters Lowell, who “fired the first shot” on the gluten free revolution. Both books are valuable and have their place (though probably should have their own titles) but this isn’t a contest, That said, if it were, Lowell’s would win by virtue of thoroughness and weight alone.

The subtitle conveys Lowell’s intent: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know about Losing the Wheat, Reclaiming Your Health, and Eating Happily Ever After. Which is a lot of claims to pack into one subtitle. Still, Lowell goes a long way to deliver. From simple explanations of both the rise of interest in gluten-free foods to what the words actually mean to how to incorporate gluten-free eating into a variety of diets and lifestyles.

The recipe section is the largest in the book and its also where The Gluten-Free Revolution really comes into its own. Carrot cake, lasagna, cupcakes, and even Buckwheat Crepes Gratin with Cauliflower, Chanterelles, and Cave-Aged Gruyere, so clearly, no one is going to starve lugging this one around.

If you are on or are cons[iderig a gluten-free diet, The Gluten Free Revolution provides a very lucid foundation to a new and more healthful way to prepare food. ◊


Sunday, January 11, 2015

This Just In… Anne Frank, Silent Witnesses: Reminders of a Jewish Girl’s Life by Ronald Wilfred Jansen

Ronald Wilfred Jansen visited Anne Frank’s home addresses in Frankfurt am Main, Aachen and Amsterdam; her hiding place the Secret Annex; and the Westerbork, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps where she was imprisoned. His book describes her history and the objects that today still remind us of the environment in which she lived. 

Jansen’s motivation for writing the book was that it was one of the last opportunities he would have to contact the people who knew Anne. As a result, Jansen was able to uncover some new facts about this remarkable young woman and her world. 

Other contemporaries of Frank’s also contributed fascinating information about her surroundings. By tracing her footsteps, the author gained a more complete picture of Anne Frank and her environment.

You can order Anne Frank, Silent Witnesses here. Visit author Ronald Jansen on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Fiction: Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

A beautiful moment in history is brought to life in Vanessa and Her Sister (Ballantine) with a correspondence between an as-yet-unknown group of young artist and writers who despair of ever amounting to anything. The title’s Vanessa is the painter Vanessa Bell, sister to theVirginia who would later become Woolf. Their friends include an as-yet-unpublished E.M Forster and Lytton Strachey. John Maynard Keynes is job hunting.

Here we have a fictional reworking of what-might-have-beens. An imaginative collection of notes, journal entries, postcards, letters, telegraphs, epiphanies and dreams, all wrought by the hand of Priya Parmar (Exit the Actress), who seems here to magically revisit history on our behalf, concocting a delicious and imaginative quilt from a time long past filled with names we know well.

Though the group of friends is endearingly wrought, the focus is on the sisters, Vanessa and Virginia, here coming into their maturity with alarming results. As Vanessa falls in love and pulls away into her own life, Virginia feels abandonment and a despair that at times borders on madness.

Vanessa and Her Sister is memorable and unique. Though the work is fiction, it leaves us feeling like we know a bit more about the secretive story between these dynamic sisters. ◊

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Paris Tragedy

There is nothing we wish to add to the bare facts about the horrific events that occurred in Paris yesterday. The news is everywhere at the moment and we feel there is nothing real we can contribute beyond our sorrow. From Publishing Perspectives:
The horrifying attack took place yesterday, Wednesday, January 7 at the offices of Paris-based satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo: two masked, armed men killed twelve people, including cartoonist Charb, the director of the publication, and celebrated political cartoonists Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski, wiping out the majority of the staff, which was holding an editorial meeting at the time of the attack. As the men fled, they shouted, “The prophet has been avenged,” and “We killed Charlie Hebdo,” a statement that is as chilling as it is true. Two of the cartoonists, Cabu and Wolinski were in their late 70s and early 80s, and had collaborated in the 1960s with the magazine Hara-Kiri, which was the inspiration for Charlie Hebdo.
We bow our heads.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Cookbooks: Choosing Raw by Gena Hamshaw

In the last month or so I’ve been in no fewer than four restaurants where mashed avocado on toast was featured on the menu. Generally completely as is, but with maybe some red pepper or lime sprinkled over top. Minimalist. Pure. Perfect. And around eight bucks a pop.

Now, understand: I’m not complaining. And I did, in fact, partake of the offered avo goodness on a couple of occasions. (And more than a couple at home.) But it was not until reading Choosing Raw: Making Raw Foods Part of the Way You Eat (Da Capo/Life Long) by Gena Hamshaw that I thought of this as raw food. Which, of course, it is. Hamshaw elevates it with style rather than a lot of messing around. “I find avocado to be a better toast topping than butter or cream cheese ever was, and it’s so much richer in antioxidants and healthy, unsaturated fats.”

Though even for raw “cooking” the recipe for Simple Avocado Toast is… well… simple, effortless health is the key to Choosing Raw. “Plant-based eating can feel like a seismic shift at first,” writes Hamshaw, “but the truth is that planning a healthy vegan diet isn’t so different from planning any kind of healthy diet.”

This down-to-earth approach to the entire question sets Choosing Raw apart.  From her explanations about her personal journey -- beginning with veganism for health reasons and coming later to the ethical aspects. And then, as a nutritionist, coming back to the heart of the matter:
In the absence of enzyme theory, it makes sense to ask why anyone would bother eating raw food. My answer is that the benefits of raw food go far beyond the enzymes! Raw foods are hydrating, rich in fiber, and full of antioxidants. They’re innovative, colorful, crisp and fresh.
Because this is a new field for many, Hamshaw includes a FAQ section as well as one on myths and misconceptions. There is also a section on setting up the vegan kitchen. And those just getting started on a raw or vegan lifestyle will find the author’s 21 day meal plan especially helpful as it can act as  a roadmap to what can at first seem like a very new and different way of life.

The Bulk of Choosing Raw, however, is given up to what we stood in line for: the food. Hamshaw starts us off with basics: hand made almond milk. A basic green smoothie. Cashew cheese. And then recipes from every part of each day and meal. A few favorites: the Raw Pad Thai is based on kelp noodles, cabbage and a lot of traditional flavors. And Hamshaw’s Pumpkin Quinoa Risotto with Pomegranate Seeds is more than a nod at traditional risotto. And for those vegans who are missing their dairy, the Cashew Banana Yogurt is a satisfying and healthful alternative. At lunchtime, the Dilly Raw Vegan Sunflower “Tuna Salad” provides a great sandwich filler and the Raw Lasagna kind of really isn’t, but it IS delicious.

There are 125 recipes in Choosing Raw and it’s a terrific book. Even those not interested in pursuing a raw foods lifestyle will find their knowledge and recipe file enhanced. ◊


Zuckerberg’s Book Club

What do Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and media maven Orpah Winfrey have in common? Well, probably more than a little, but what we’re looking at today is Zuckerberg’s newest venture: a book club.

Zuckerberg started out his Facebook year by announcing that his “challenge for 2015 is to read a new book every other week -- with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.”

The first book mentioned on Zuckerberg’s newly created Facebook page A Year of Books is The End of Power by Moisés Naím (Basic Books, 2013). Subtitled From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be, “It’s a book that explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power that was traditionally only held by large governments, militaries and other organizations,” Zuck writes. “The trend towards giving people more power is one I believe in deeply, and I’m looking forward to reading this book and exploring this in more detail.”

Since The End of Power was in Amazon’s number 86 position at time of writing, it would seem likely that Zuckerberg’s literary pronouncements might pack the same wallop Oprah’s did at the height of her powers in the 1990s.

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Goose Lane at Sixty

In 2015, the distinguished all-Canadian publisher, martime-based Goose Lane Editions turns 60.

Last fall, to mark the anniversary, the house published a fantastic collection, tiny but splendid collection. Goose Lane selected six “tiny perfect stories” and published them in six, well… tiny perfect books. Each story is individually bound, though offered as part of a set under a specially designed sleeve.

The resulting package is… well, truly special, representing, in a way, Goose Lane’s glorious past, as well as it’s shining future.

Included is Alden Nowlan’s “A Boy’s Life With Napolean,” published posthumously in 1988. Also included are titles by Lynn Coady, Douglas Glover, Shauna Singh Baldwin, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Mark Anthony Jarman. The collection is precious, in the best possible way, and memorable. A sliver of the best Canadian writing of all time: which, when you think about it, sums illustrious sexagenarian Goose Lane up pretty well.

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

New This Week: The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Pragg

Menna van Praag’s highly anticipated second novel (after 2013’s The House at the End of Hope Street) delights with elements of fantasy, fairy tale and magical realism. Beautifully written and vibrantly shared, it’s a tough tale not to fall in love with.

Cora Sparks, a scientist, lost her parents under mysterious circumstances many years ago. Since then, Cora has immersed herself in her work and in the corners of her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. What Cora doesn’t know -- though we all suspect -- is that one should never underestimate the power of a good dress. And there is magic waiting in the shop’s corners that will help her realize all of her dreams: even the most important ones.

Make no mistake, The Dress Shop of Dreams (Ballantine) is a classic love story, but the well applied tastes of magic and fairytales bring the tale to a different level. Menna van Praag knows how to tell a story. And she does it with charm and even panache. The Dress Shop of Dreams is just the right tale with which to begin a fantastic new year of reading. ◊

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This Just In… The Book of Barkley: Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever by LB Johnson

It is a story, not one of science, and one that may not be remembered past this one lifetime. It is the story of someone who did not know his destiny, but followed it with unfaltering step, bound to his human companion, not by vows or paper, but in the name of the trust that was the best part of his nature. 

It is a story of the one that taught her to love, even as he occasionally barfed on the carpet. It is simply the tale of a black Labrador retriever named Barkley. It was the beginning never anticipated; belief that there were no limits that made tragedy inevitable, a gentle nuzzle that made the walls fall away, and the pull of the leash into the day’s infinitude. It was an ending she did not expect; a leash laid across the chair, an empty bed, a glass tipped over, spilling the blood of wine. The noise that an empty room makes is as clear as tears.

In between, there are the stories, of friends, of joy and dog hair, of a small pink ball with feet known as Mr. Squeaky, which became the mortal enemy at dawn, as she tried to sleep. It is the story of rambunctious trespasses such as “the bacon incident” and the loving trust that bound a lonely road warrior and a dog together in unspoken understanding.

The Book of Barkley is a tribute and memoir that will resonate with everyone who has reached out without thinking to their pet... only to remember that their beloved friend is no longer present. The Book of Barkley is a love story that will enrich every animal lover's library.

You can order The Book of Barkley here. Visit author LB Johnson on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Friday, January 02, 2015

Literary Thoughts for a Brand New Year

“The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.” -- Maya Angelou
It’s a brand new year. And who better to help us shape and inspire the year that will be than our favorite authors?
“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.” -- Anaïs Nin
Though, as The Huffington Post reminds us:
Great writers don’t always offer the words of undiluted inspiration we’d like; their keen insight and penchant for honesty about the human condition produces observations about our weakness, our sins or about how painful history can shadow our futures (“The past is never dead. It's not even past,” as William Faulkner wrote).
HuffPo collects “15 galvanizing passages from your favorite authors” here.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Got You Covered!

We’ve already seen which books The Rap Sheet chose as their top picks for 2014, now come have a peek at the contenders (and final winner) of the top crime fiction covers. This is always a terrific field!

The final blow-by-blow is here.

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This Just In… Saint Wally by Courtney Taylor

Walter Matthews kills himself and arrives in Heaven’s Waiting Room, where he witnesses a misdeed that quickly culminates in the abduction of the Almighty. 

Getting God back is a responsibility charged to Creation’s Vice President, Jesus H. Christ, who isn’t quite sure he’s up to the job. So begins an interDimensional adventure with a cast of trillions, in which Jesus and Walter have to restore the Good Lord to His throne before All Existence is destroyed.

You can order Saint Wally here. Learn more about author Courtney Taylor on the web here. ◊

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Children’s Books: The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley

You remember that scene in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol where Scrooge asks about two children, a boy and a girl, huddling under the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Present? The Ghost tells him that the children are Ignorance and Want.

In The Last of the Spirits (Bloomsbury) they are real children, street kids who, in fact, sneaked into Scrooge’s home while he was off with the spirits and took refuge in his dining room, which is at least a little warmer than the streets. The story is told from the viewpoint of the boy, Sam and his sister Lizzie. They once had a home and parents, but their father died in debt and their mother soon after.

Sam is angry with the world, especially one Ebenezer Scrooge, who had snubbed them when they pleaded for a little money. So that night, when they are trying to sleep in the graveyard and run into the ghost of Jacob Marley, on his way to save Scrooge’s soul, they follow, with Sam thinking that a piece of lead piping applied to the old miser’s head might improve him greatly and get them some of the money he refused them the first time.

Sam, too, it seems, needs and benefits from visits from the three spirits...

This is a nice take on the original novella, with Scrooge’s story happening on the side, with the children watching and listening to bits and Sam being a little irritated with the Ghost of Christmas Present for using them as props in the show he is staging for Scrooge. It probably means more if you are familiar with the original story, but can be read by itself and, who knows, might encourage children to look for the original story once they’re old enough to follow it. ◊

Sue Bursztynski lives in Australia, where she works as a teacher-librarian. She has written several books for children and young adults, including Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly and, most recently, the YA novel Wolfborn. Her blog The Great Raven can be found at

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