Booking Through Thursday: Borrowing

Shakespeare & Co

Shakespeare & Co | Artist: Ray Hartl


On Thursday, November 18th, Booking through Thursday asked:

Who would you rather borrow from? Your library? Or a Friend?

(Or don’t your friends trust you to return their books?)

And, DO you return books you borrow?

I could not begin to tell you what diet pills really work but I can tell you that my friends and I share books all the time. What I like about this is that we’re generally lending or borrowing books that we like – they come with the Friend Seal of Approval. What I don’t like is that I have a dog who sometimes steals books and gnaws on them, and I live in terror that he’ll do this with someone else’s books.
Most of my friends are good about returning the books I want back, and passing on to others the books I enjoyed, but have no need to re-read.

As to libraries…as a child, the public library was one of my favorite places on earth. In one town, the librarian often had several of us kids over to play at his house, with his girlfriend’s son (it was the 70’s…hanging with the librarian or your preschool teacher wasn’t alarming, then). As a young adult, I also frequented the library, often with my mother, later with my husband, but he’s so bad about returning books that it’s expensive and embarrassing.

Also, our local library is pretty awful. Oh, I mean, it’s pretty, and there’s free coffee and a bunch of comfy chairs, but the collection is appallingly bad in the branch near our neighborhood, and the main branch smells like old people, and not in a “I love you, Grandma, you smell like roses” way, but in a “this could be a really bad nursing home” sort of way, and it’s dark, and has miles of empty shelves, and it’s just too SAD to go there.

And, in truth, I get enough quiet working at home as a writer, so when I go out I don’t want to go to a place where anyone thinks they have a right to shush me. Bookstore-cafes, where there are lively discussions and froufrou espresso drinks are MUCH more my style.

Review: Six Clicks Away, by Bonnie Rozanski

Six Clicks Away
Six Clicks Away
Bonnie Rozanski
Kindle edition, 309kb, September 2010
Buy this book from Amazon

Product Description (from
As miraculous as our wired world may be, everything connected to everything else eventually shows its downside. A rumor, a virus, a financial crisis – these days, they all cascade throughout the world in record time. SIX CLICKS AWAY tells the story of a single ripple through a tangled web, and how one person can affect us all.

In Bonnie Rozanski’s captivating novel, the social network becomes a stage for six indelible, interconnected characters: a lonely writer in Toronto, pining for her lost love; an unemployed engineer in Seattle who finds himself working at the Pike Place Fish Market. There is a young collections operator in Bangalore, India, who can’t stop caring about the people from whom she collects; and a seedy real estate magnate who gets his just desserts. Finally, there is a down-on-his-luck actor, an old friend of the Dalai Lama, who finds enlightenment from a most unlikely source.

A chain of falling dominoes is set in motion when Jeremy and Rachel, an unlikely duo of a geek and a Jersey girl, contact a friend on, the largest social network on the planet. That friend contacts another, and another, each link bringing the pair one step closer to the goal of reaching the Dalai Lama, their choice of exotic target on the other side of the world. What they expect is that their simple classroom project will demonstrate “six degrees of separation,” the idea that everyone on this planet is connected in six short links to everyone else. What they get, however, is a cascade of the unexpected.

As the product description says, there’s a strong element of “Six Degrees of Separation” in Bonnie Rozanski’s latest novel, and I have to confess, it’s this element that made me say yes when she emailed to offer me a review copy (an electronic one – yay for green publishing!) I sent her document to my Kindle for comfortable reading, and found myself laughing, nodding, and otherwise reacting to this book as if I knew the characters (I’m pretty sure I went to school with some of them.)

I enjoyed all the characters, especially Jersey girl Rachel, whose accent I could clearly hear in my head, the way you can look at a picture of a modern sofa and know exactly how it would feel beneath you. I loved the invention of the facebook-esque MyFace social network, and I thought the publication of this novel was especially timely since it coincided with the movie The Social Network.

There are any number of novelists who try to use the Internet as a plot device. Most of them fail by either being too trendy, or being so far out of date that it pulls you out of the story. Rozanski, on the other hand, has given us a story where the ‘net is as much a character as the human characters, but manages to feel completely organic within the world in which her novel takes place.

If you’re at all geeky, or just love a good read, this book is for you.

Goes well with: diet Dr. Pepper and nachos.

Green Books Campaign: Bayou Underground: Tracing the mythical roots of American popular music, by Dave Thompson

Bayou Underground
Bayou Underground: Tracing the mythical roots of American popular music
Dave Thompson
Paperback, 256 pages
ECW Press, September 1, 2010
Printed on FSC-certified paper that is 30% recycled/post-consumer waste product
Buy this book from Amazon >>
Live in CANADA? Buy this book from Indigo

This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco- friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.

The campaign is organized for the second time by Eco-Libris, a green company working to make reading more sustainable. We invite you to join the discussion on “green” books and support books printed in an eco-friendly manner! A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

Product Description (from the publisher):
Permeating the shadows and the darkness of the bayou—a world all its own that stretches from Houston, Texas, to Mobile, Alabama—this study of marsh music leaves New Orleans to discover secret legends and vivid mythology in the surrounding wilderness. The people and the cultures that have called the bayou home—such as Bob Dylan, Jerry Reed, Nick Cave, Bo Didley, and a one-armed Cajun backwoodsman and gator hunter named Amos Moses—are unearthed not only through their own words and lives but also through a study of their music and interviews with visitors to and residents from the region. The interviews with Jerry Reed and Bo Didley, who both died in 2008, are among the last, emphasizing the book’s importance as a piece of cultural preservation. Part social history, part epic travelogue, and partly a lament for a way of life that has now all but disappeared, this is the gripping story of American music’s forgotten childhood—and the parentage it barely even knows.

Bayou Underground doesn’t come with a digital download code or CD of all the music it references – it couldn’t possibly offer ALL the tracks anyway, but from the very first page of the introduction, I was wishing that at least the tracks being used as chapter titles were available for me to listen to while I read, because while I’d heard of some of them, others were new to me. Despite this, however, Thompson’s book, which is part music history, part memoir, part Americana, had me instantly hooked.

Partly, I suppose I fell into this book after picking it from the list offered for this year’s EcoLibris Green Books Campaign because the combined forces of HBO’s two Louisiana-based series, True Blood and Treme – and especially the latter with it’s special devotion to the music of New Orleans – have had me on a personal mission to better educate my musical ear with respect to blues and jazz this year, and partly it’s because Thompson is an amazing writer, and knows how to hook an audience with a strong opening chord. In this case the first chapter, or “track one” opens with an exploration of Elvis Presley and “swamp rock,” but even though the author leads with a headliner, the book only gets better from there.

Like me, Thompson was inspired by literature. He specifically cites Anne Rice’s first vampire novel Interview with the Vampire (a favorite of mine since I read it when I was 17) and Barry Jean Ancelet’s Cajun and Creole Folktales as the two books that drove him toward a deeper exploration of the music of Louisiana – and I mean ALL the music. He dissects the differences between Cajun and Creole tunes, talks about jazz, blues, and rock, and turns this book into, not just a guided tour, but almost a seance, calling the great musicians – some famous, others less so, into the reader’s presence.

While the music history was fascinating (and sent me to iTunes and / or Napster more than once while I read this book, which I’m going to have to re-read, because I think I missed bits) it was the mythology, folklore and culture that I most appreciated. From local in-jokes about needing directions to a chapter that references Swamp Thing, alligator changelings and the Loup-Garou, not to mention those vampires (both the Rice and Charlaine Harris (Southern Vampire Mysteries) versions), this book is murky, moody, and marvelous, and if you’re anything like me you’ll find your toes a-tapping and your spine a-shivering, often at the same time.

Bayou Underground is a must-read for any serious scholar of American pop music, or American pop culture, as well as for anyone who just wants to know where Louisiana music got it’s distinctive sound.

Goes well with crawfish po’boys and cold beer, or beignets and cafe au lait…or both.

200 Bloggers, 200 Books

On Nov 10, at 1 p.m., 200 bloggers will simultaneously publish reviews of 200 books printed on eco-friendly paper to raise consumer awareness about considering the environment when making book purchases. Participation this year has doubled from 2009.


Green Books Campaign

PRLog (Press Release) – Nov 03, 2010 – On Wed., Nov. 10, at 1 p.m., 200 bloggers will simultaneously publish reviews of 200 books printed on environmentally-friendly paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using greener methods, Eco-Libris aims to raise consumer awareness about considering the environment when making book purchases. This year’s participation of both bloggers and books has doubled from the event’s inception last year.

The 200 books to be reviewed are in a variety of subjects including cooking, poetry, travel, green living, and history, and come from 56 publishers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K. that are participating in the Green Books Campaign. This diversified group of publishers includes both small and large presses who all print books on recycled and/or FSC-certified paper.

Participating publishers include among others Penguin Group, Scholastic, Barefoot Books, McClelland & Stewart, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, Sterling Publishing, DK Publishing, Harvard Business Press, Island Press, North Atlantic Books, McGraw-Hill, ABRAMS and Picador.

“Although there’s so much hype around e-books, books printed on paper still dominate the book market, and we want them to be as environmentally sound as possible,” explains Raz Godelnik, co-founder and CEO of Eco-Libris. “Their share is still relatively small, but you can find a growing number of books printed responsibly and we hope this initiative will bring more exposure to such books. Through this campaign we want to encourage publishers to increase their green printing options and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.”

Doug Pepper, president and publisher of 100-year-old publishing house
McClelland & Stewart, says he is delighted to participate in a program that ties in with the company’s mission. “The Eco-Libris Green Books Campaign’s positive “take action” message perfectly reflects our consistent use of recycled papers and our commitment to sustainable publishing as a whole,” Pepper says.

Among the bloggers who will review the books there are many who participate in the campaign for the second time. One of them is Kim Allen-Niesen of the blog ‘Bookstore People‘. “Participating in the Green Books Campaign was such an education in green reading. I didn’t have any idea how many publishers and writers are committed to creating books with as small an impact on the environment as possible. I discovered unique books because they were printed on recycled paper and I learned that books I’ve read for years are printed in a low impact manner. I’m looking forward to more surprises during this year’s campaign, “Allen-Niesen says.

This year’s campaign is supported by Indigo Books & Music, the largest book retailer in Canada, as part of its efforts to draw attention to the need for more environmental paper in book publishing. This is a core goal of Indigo’s environmental program, reinforced by Indigo’s industry leading environmental paper policy.

Michelle White, Director, Sustainability at Indigo Books & Music said, “Indigo has a strong forest conservation mandate and we believe that physical books printed on environmental paper are a sustainable choice. We commend Eco- Libris for reinforcing this message and engaging and motivating readers to take this issue into consideration when purchasing books. In fact, Indigo provides information online and through in-store kiosk that allows consumers to make informed decisions about where the paper content of their book comes from”. Learn more at

Learn more about the Green Books Campaign and find a list of all participants at

# # #

Founded in 2007, Eco-Libris ( is a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices in the industry, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. To achieve these goals Eco-Libris is working with book readers, publishers, authors, bookstores, and others in the book industry worldwide. So far Eco-Libris has balanced out more than 150,000 books, resulting in more than 165,000 new trees planted with its planting partners in developing countries. To learn more visit

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Review: The Flim-Flam Fairies, by Alan Katz

The Flim Flam Fairies
The Flim-Flam Fairies
Author: Alan Katz
Pages: 32
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Buy from >>

Product Description (from

Say the word “fairies” and it conjures the image of little winged beings made of gossamer and light, exquisitely dressed in shimmering gowns or twirly little bejeweled skating costumes. Not so with The Flim-Flam Fairies. Be prepared for the crazy antics of the Fart Fairy, Snot Fairy, Dirty Underwear Fairy, as well as a few other less-than-enchanting fairies as they persuade their way into and out of children’s lives in attempts to take over the Tooth Fairy’s under-the-pillow enterprise. A silly story that will have the kids falling into their pillows with laughter!

To be honest, I’d never heard of this book until a friend recommended it as a good audio selection for my nephew, who is dealing with a serious illness. If you’re between the ages of four and eight, you’ll love this book, because it’s got pictures that are rich enough to almost be art prints, as well as a story that gathers up all the gross, disgusting, imaginative things that kids love, and mixes them with fairies. I mean, how cool is that?

In terms of plot, there really isn’t much, as this is more a series of introductions of these disgusting alternative fairies and a game of gross one-upping, but it’s silly and fun and perfect for young kids.

Teaser Tuesdays: Six Clicks Away, by Bonnie Rozanski

On Teaser Tuesdays readers are asked to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between 7 and 12 lines.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given.

It’s a chilly November Tuesday with a slate-grey sky promising a cold rain. I am working from my kitchen table today, a fall bouquet smiling at me, and one of my favorite mid-weight sweaters keeping me warm, so I can leave the back door slightly open. It’s the perfect day to alternate working with reading lovely books (although, since I’m wading through a stack of review books, that IS working).

Right now, I’m reading Bonnie Rozanski’s latest offering, Six Clicks Away, which she kindly sent me to review. In fact, she sent it in electronic format, and I transferred it to my Kindle. I’m enjoying it immensely, so thought it would be an appropriate teaser today:

Way in the back of the Second Cup Coffee Shop on College Street off of Spadina in Toronto, at a tiny table hosting one laptop and a grande latte, sat Julia, frizzy-haired, frenetic and angry.

“Is this Amazon Customer Service?” Julia was yelling into her cell phone. “Hello? Hello?”

The guy in back of the counter flashed her a dirty look and a wave to keep it down. He had nothing against a moderate amount of white noise. After all, the whoosh of steam from the espresso machine, the surround sound of low conversation, rustling papers, and tapping of keys were all integral to the Second Cup experience. But he had to remember that his clientele was mostly University of Toronto types: studying, preparing lessons, or writing papers, and they wanted some modicum of quiet. Anyway, he had a sneaking suspicion that this loud, aggressive lady was American. Canadians would know better.

Sadly, I can’t give a page number since I don’t have it in bound format. Still…it’s a great book, and it’s making me smile.

It’s also making me desperate for a venti, soy, no-water chai.

After we vote, I guess.

Review: Under Orders, by Dick Francis

Under Orders
Under Orders
Dick Francis
Buy it from Amazon >>

Description (from Booklist):
After an absence of six years, Dick Francis comes thundering up the track with a thriller that resoundingly demonstrates that the acclaimed author, if anything, may have gained a few steps. Francis re-summons his most popular protagonist, Sid Halley, a champion jockey turned sleuth, whose racing career was shattered when a horse fell on him and then an adversary mangled his left hand. Last seen in Come To Grief (1995), Halley, who brings racing knowledge, spirit, and resilience to whatever case he tackles, remains one of the most exquisitely developed characters in crime fiction. This adventure starts with Cheltenham Gold Cup day, during which one racegoer drops dead, a horse collapses after a stirring win, and the victorious jockey is discovered shot to death in the parking lot. Juggling several sleuthing assignments, Halley finds himself working not only for the father of the slain jockey but also for a Lord who wants to know if the races his horses run in are being fixed. The plot keeps delivering shocks as Halley’s investigation is derailed by threats and violence against his new love. And Francis once again proves himself a master of detail, seamlessly incorporating fascinating facts about DNA technology, myoelectric hands, Internet gambling, and even stitches. Wow. Connie Fletcher

After seeing Secretariat the other week, I was desperately craving Dick Francis novels. I’m sure there are other writers who bring the racing world to life just as well, but his books always offer the perfect blend of mystery, horses, humor and even a touch of romance, all dressed up in British English. I mean, you get the sense that former jockey-turned-detective, Sid Halley would even remember to send thank you cards after going to dinner, without being reminded.

As this was my first Dick Francis novel in years (I’ve read almost everything he wrote prior to about 1998, and am now catching up), it took me a few pages to get back into the rhythm of his writing – but only a few. Soon enough we were clipping along at a lovely canter, and I enjoyed reading about Sid’s trouble with his artificial arm (nice use of that to foreshadow the climax of the novel, btw), his lovely, solid relationship with his Dutch scientist girlfriend, and his continued friendship with his ex-father-in-law.

I also enjoyed the mystery (two, really, one involving an online betting system, the other involving race performances) – and the fact that even in his last years, author Francis continued to embrace modern technology. Cell phones, online gambling, fixing races – his research is always evident but never showy, and really, the only flaw in Under Orders is that, like most Dick Francis novels, it ended too quickly.

Goes well with: fish and chips and a beer