Friday, January 17, 2014

Another Great Night Out With Authors

I had an amazing time at a recent ChiSeries Toronto reading on Wednesday night. A great crowd, I got to share the stage with two amazing writers and a couple of fantastic musicians.  Good times.

Looking forward to another Toronto reading event with multiple for a reading series called Night Out With Authors.

Monday, January 20, 2014
featuring   Mark Leslie,  Kate Maddison,   Margaret Moore and   
Open Mic for Writers*
Doors Open at 6:30 at the Tranzac Club Readings begin at 7:15

One of the things I love about Night Out With Authors is that the have Open Mic for Writers as part of the evening.

This allows writers who want a chance to share their work or even cut their chops on getting public reading experiences a great chance to do so.

There is a $5 cover to get in that night, but it does look like it'll be a wonderful evening.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

January Brings Cold Plus Cool Readings

I am delighted to be one of the authors featured at this month's ChiSeries Toronto readings on Wednesday January 15th from 8PM to 11PM.

I will be reading alongside the amazing Gemma Files (whom I haven't seen in ages it seems) and the wonderful Emily Pohl-Weary (whom I'm looking forward to meeting).  Kari Maaren will be the evening's musical guest.

I have only been to a couple of the ChiSeries readings, but have avidly enjoyed each one. Great people, good conversation and fun readings.

Here is the Facebook Events page for it.

If you're in the neighbourhood of Augusta & Dundas (Augusta is about halfway between Bathurst & Spadina on Dundas St. W), pop in for a fun evening.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Top 10 Books Read in 2013

For the past several years, I have written post summarizing the best 10 books that I read in the previous year.  I have found it a lot of fun. Of course, since I'm such a slow reader and I quite enjoyed MOST of the books I read each year, it's really hard to narrow it down to only 10.  My "short-list" is likely closer to 20 books, which makes it really difficult, since some amazing reads ended up not in the top 10.

Here are the basic rules I follow for this annual post:
a) The book has to be completed within the calendar year. So, even if I started reading a book the previous year it only counts when I actually finish reading it.  I also don't include books that I abandoned mid-way through reading (which I do quite often I'm afraid - sometimes I get back to them, when I do, I count them only once completed)
b) This is a list of books I READ in 2013 - so this isn’t a “Best Books of 2013” lists - it’s a personal list of my favourite books which I read in the last calendar year.  (Thus, there will be plenty of titles that were published well before 2013 on my list)
c) I don’t count the children’s picture books that I read with my son. Not because I don’t think of them as books - they are wonderful books - but we go through them so quickly (and so many times) that I couldn't possibly keep up with tracking them. (I DO, however, count mostly text based young reader and young adult books that I read - usually because they’re not books that can be read in a single short sitting -- ie, they take longer to consume and thus aren’t likely to be missed on my list)

A few summary stats:

I read 53 books in 2013.  Not bad. I was shooting to hit at least 52 and did okay. Not great. Not shabby. Satisfactory.  Of course, 4 of those books were graphic novels and 7 of them were under 30,000 words.  But I still considered the reading experience unique and worth culling out separately.

  • 38 FICTION
  • (4 were graphic novels)
  • (18 of the books I listened to in audio format)
  • (9 of the books on this list were read in print - 26 of them were eBooks) - I did, however, purchase 12 of the books print.  (Yes, I buy more print books than I read - I bought at least another dozen or so books for myself last year that I haven't yet read and at least two dozen more books that were given to other people......curse of the book nerd)

Here are the TOP 10 FICTION BOOKS that I enjoyed the most reading in 2013. 

THE BLACK BOX - Michael Connelly
I love Harry Bosch, and this is another enjoyable read. Beautiful story, great twists, incredible mystery.

Another triumph from Pyper - a terrifying thriller ride following a Milton scholar on a trip through hell as he tries to find his daughter who was taken by a demon. 
DOCTOR SLEEP - Stephen King
I was impressed with King's look at how the traumatic events of "The Shining" affected Danny, including the alcoholism and drug abuse related to trying to block out his "talent." 
DEVOURED - Jason Brant
Brant is a solid writer whose prose and this post-apocalyptic thriller with an intriguing plague that turns people first into "slow zombies" and then more dangerous powerful "vampire-like" creatures kept me hooked from beginning to end

FANGIRL - Rainbow Rowell
I was told to read "Eleanor & Park" first, but this one captured my attention first. I love the way Rowell riffs off Harry-Potter type craze and particularly how she explores the world of fan fiction from the writer's perspective.

FAT VAMPIRE - Johnny B. Truant
This could, so easily, have turned into one of those short cute jokes turned into a SNL type skit that runs way too long, but Truant takes the premise and portrays Reginald (the hero) in a sympathetic and compassionate light. It's funny, but also suspenseful and satisfying. I immediately went on to read Fat Vampire 2: Tastes Like Chicken. (There are 6 books in total in this great series

This one hung out on my "to read" pile for quite a while. I kicked myself for having waited to get into it. Despite the tear-inspiring moments and teenage angst, there are some fun and interesting characters that kept me reading and enjoying thoroughly.

GONE GIRL - Gillian Flynn
Wow. So I avoided this one because it was so damn popular and I guess I didn't realize how much of a fantastic thriller it would be. It caught me by surprise and delighted me.  The "he said" / "she said" dual-ling perspective was incredibly well done by Flynn.
ORIGIN - J.A. Konrath
An incredible techno-thriller with all the elements that makes Michael Crichton great combined with a good solid dose of sci-fi arguments regarding religion and the universe merged with a nice punch of fear and terror.

A TAP ON THE WINDOW - Linwood Barclay
Barclay's thrillers are always satisfying, and this one, involving missing people, small town cover-ups, other secrets that may or may not have something to do with suspicious activities from the police, and the tragic suicide of a teenage son, is no exception. Brilliantly written.

Here are the TOP 5 NON-FICTION Books that I read this past year:

Owen is a wonderful inspiration, and this incredible little book is perfect for writers, artists and creators of any sort. Owen provides tremendous perspective on such things as not sacrificing something you want the most for something you want the most this moment

THE POWER OF HABIT - Charles Duhigg
A wonderful look at habits, including the underlying reasons behind the habits that we make, the hidden motivations that drive us to continue our habit-forming ways, and the reason why it is virtually impossible to break a habit, but not to replace one.

SALT, SUGAR, FAT - Michael Moss
Startling, intriguing and informative. You'll never look at the food industry or processed food the same way again. I'm actually a little surprised I haven't bought some land and starting growing all my own food after reading this.
I bought this after watching Eager on stage at a digital book event in New York. He was engaging and informative and entertaining, so I bought the book shortly after his talk. The book itself is well-done and, despite having read numerous books on promotion, I made a ton of notes in the margins of this one.

TRAFFIC - Tom Vanderbilt
Before reading this book I always thought that "late mergers" (the folks who rush to the end of an open lane whenever a lane is ending on a highway) were selfish jerks. But, understanding traffic flow better, I realize the longer people stay in that lane, the better traffic flows for everyone.  (So long as the jerks don't cut people off and drive like idiots while doing so)

Above I have linked to each author's own web page.  For purchasing the books, I'm sure there's a "world's longest river" that everybody knows about, but I'd like to also recommend trying to keep the money you spend on books as local as possible and check the books our at your favourite local bookstore. has a listing of  indie bookstores in Canada and the US. (And, hey, if you're in the US, your favourite local bookstore is also likely able to be able to sell you the eBook too, via a collaboration between Kobo and the ABA......check out  There, I'll get down off my soapbox (for now).