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Have you ever asked someone what they are reading only to have the answer be accompanied by a sheepish apology for reading it? “Oh, it’s my guilty read” they say, as though they were a 12-year-old caught reading  50 Shades of Grey.

 

Somewhere between learning to read and adulthood, the language we use to describe genre fiction changes and the general attitude towards it becomes outright snobbish.

Critics wrinkle their noses at ‘women’s fiction’, romances, or sci-fi as if they are somehow inferior to the ‘literary’ fiction’ title that is beautifully written but virtually unreadable.

 

And yet, while being nominated for an award or a strong media campaign definitely increases the popularity of some of these literary titles, for the most part, those aren’t the books that are receiving print runs in the hundreds of thousands, or flying off the shelves in bookstores and libraries.

 

In a 2014  New Yorker profile, bestselling author Jennifer Weiner, author of the recently released Mrs. Everything,  noted the disparity in how books like those that she writes are treated in comparison to perceived literary titles.  And yet, Weiner has a a degree in English literature from Princeton University, and her books have sold over 4.5 million copies.

 

To call Weiner's books fluffy and lightweight because she writes women's fiction is supremely unfair. Weiner’s characters are women with complex emotional lives who challenge stereotypes. Weiner writes these stories with charm and humour, and readers (including myself) respond in droves.

 

So why is there such a bias against genre fiction? One theory for the different treatment is the invention of the mass market paperback during WWII. Obviously, a hard cover book isn’t practical to stick in your pocket, and mass markets were cheap to produce, lightweight, and easy to carry around.

 

When paperbacks started outselling hardcovers, publishers started producing the more popular genre fiction in this new format to further bolster sales. As a result, genre fiction unfairly earned the reputation of being lesser than the realistic fiction being published in hardcover.

 

Speculative- fiction also suffers from a similar bias, with critics dismissing the genre as inferior and unbelievable. Believe it or not, when The Hobbit was first published in 1937, despite receiving a glowing review from Narnia author C.S. Lewis and The New York Times, Time Magazine didn’t review the U.K. or U.S. edition at all. When Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings books a little over a decade later, they received a similar reception, not receiving much critical notice until the sales of paperback reprints exploded on college campuses.  

 

I’ve always been a strong reader with varied tastes and I’m also a huge genre fiction reader. I read Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Robert Sawyer, all of whom are among my favourite authors, and whom I consider to be really great writers. 

 

Recently I read a really great  romance called Waiting for Tom Hanks. The heroine of the story is obsessed with the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom-coms of the 90s, and is waiting for her own Tom Hanks (a sweet, sensitive, romantic  hero)  to come along. The story reads like a 90s romance movie, and it was a quick, fun read that will appeal to romance fans, and to anyone who has ever wished for their own romantic movie hero.

 

It’s the kind of book that is usually dismissed with words like “light”, “breezy”, and “fluffy”, or with the phrase “it’s totally unrealistic but…”  and this is the kind of language that really drives me crazy.

 

When I read I want to be engaged ,and I want it to make me want to know what happens next. I want a good story with 3-dimesnional characters and good writing, and most importantly, I want to be entertained.

 

We all live busy, stressful lives and we have to work at fitting in time to read. Why shouldn’t that time be spent reading something we enjoy, and why should anybody be allowed to shame us or make us feel badly for reading it?  Who cares if the book is commercial or if it’s not going to be nominated for a prestigious award?

 

There are an estimated 7.4 billion people in this world, and countless cultures and tastes. Not everybody enjoys John Grisham any more than everybody will enjoy Washington Black. For that matter, there are few books that my mom, my dad, my brother and I have all read and enjoyed.

 

I’m certain that my dad will love Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens because it will appeal to his sense of humour, but it’s definitely not something he’ll be passing along to my mom or my brother. My brother really enjoyed Kite Runner, but my mom couldn’t get into it and found it depressing.

 

Just like anything else, not all books are created equal. There are good books and bad books, but genre has nothing to do with it. Whether it be romance or mystery or sci-fi, if that’s what you like, read it, and don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of answering the question “what are you reading?”

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

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I love a good sci-fi-dystopian thriller, and especially one that makes me think. Recently I read an advance copy of Rob Hart's forthcoming book The Warehouse and it's one that I can't stop thinking about. 

 

Like most of you, I’ve grown so accustomed to the presence and availability of things like cloud technology and online shopping that I scarcely give using it a second thought. If I can order something online from the comfort of my home and get it cheaper and faster than shopping in a store I will.  

 

Let’s face it. Bit by bit we are moving our lives online. From communication to shopping to entertainment, there is almost nothing the internet can’t give us.  With some companies now offering same day delivery, we barely have to wait for anything. But what if Amazon/Google ruled the world and our survival depended on them? This is the world Rob Hart imagines.

 

In a near future dystopian world, a megacorporation called “The Cloud” is everything. Big box retailers and independent businesses have almost entirely disappeared. Outside of the Cloud people are starving and unemployed, crime is so high nobody wants to go outside anymore, and the world is in shambles.

 

Getting a job at the Cloud is the best option for survival. It provides employees with shelter, housing, and entertainment, all paid for with credits to be used in the Cloud. Need something right away? Order it on the Cloud and it will be delivered to your door immediately. There  is nothing that the Cloud can’t give you as long as you work hard and follow the rules.

 

Assuming you pass the interview process and get hired, you’re sorted into an employment stream that management feels suits your abilities and experience. Maybe it’s not the one you were hoping for, but there are no bad jobs at the Cloud!

 

 All employees wear a wristband tracker that is a cross between an Apple Watch and Big Brother. It knows where you’ve been, where you are and what you’re doing. It opens doors, tracks when your shift begins and ends, and you can never take it off. Well actually, you can for a brief period of time at night while it charges, but it also knows if you’ve had it off too long. And don’t think about trying to cheat the system by handing it off to someone else, because it's specifically coded to you. 

 

Work performance is strictly monitored and ranked from 1 to 4 stars. Drop lower than 3 stars and next cut day, you’re out. No second chances, no explanations. Just out. Since there are pretty much no other options for work, you can imagine the pressure. Rank 4 stars and you live to work another day and get some perks or even a promotion. 

 

Disagree with his bullying approach to doing business? The market dictates as Gibson would say. The Cloud customer wants the lowest price possible. If a company wants their product sold on the Cloud, work with them to bring the pricing down to what they ask. If not, the Cloud will engineer a cheaper version and drive you out of business.

 

The novel alternates between two different voices, with each chapter beginning with a blog post from Gibson. From his viewpoint, he and the cloud have solved many of the world’s problems and are working on solving more. If the outside world is a dystopia, life inside the Cloud is a utopia. Gibson is dying, and he teases readers with a forthcoming announcement about who his successor will be.

 

One of the voices belongs to Paxton, a former prison guard and man who was driven out of business when he couldn’t meet the deep discount that Cloud was asking for his product.  His plan is to bide his time until his patent comes through, and then try again. When Paxton gets invited to be part of a special task force to uncover a drug smuggling operation within the cloud, he jumps at the chance. 

 

The other voice is Zinnia, an industrial spy who has been hired by a mystery employer to penetrate Cloud’s technology and figure out how things work.  It's a job she's done many times before, and it's money, so why should she care?  As the story progresses, their missions converge in unexpected ways all leading up to a shocking conclusion.

 

This is not your typical dystopia. This is a cautionary vision of the future that makes a statement about the danger of corporate power and greed and it terrified me! Google and Amazon already know my interests and my shopping habits. They know what items I’ve looked at online and tailor advertising to those specifications.

 

Amazon already has a frightening amount of power over its customers and its suppliers. Physical retailers are disappearing, and the future pictured in this book doesn’t seem so implausible. The author also touches on sexual harassment in the workplace and #MeToo when a creepy supervisor threatens Zinnia's position unless she gives in to his advances. 

 

This is book is receiving huge buzz. Film rights have been optioned by Ron Howard, excerpts have been printed in EW and online, and it was recently featured at Book Expo/BookCon in New York. If you’re looking  for a thriller that is riveting, fast-paced, and will make you ponder the future, this is for you!

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

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I have always enjoyed mysteries. I sleuthed alongside the Famous Five, Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden as a kid, and Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot and even Perry Mason as I got older. Mysteries play to our natural curiosity.  We love suspense, but we also hate not knowing the answers to all of our big questions. People are inquisitive by nature and we love having something to puzzle over and figure out.

 

When I moved into the adult fiction space after having done juvenile purchasing for my entire career, the term “cozy mystery” was something I hadn’t really encountered before. After quickly Googling the term, I discovered that they were basically Murder She Wrote in a book, and I LOVED that show. The show has been off the air for decades, but the book series is up to #49 so Jessica Fletcher Lives on. ​

 

 

Today, cozy mysteries are one of the most popular sub-genres of the mystery category, and they sell like hotcakes! Writers like Rhys Bowen, Alan Bradley, M.C. Beaton, Joanne Fluke and Alexander McCall Smith are consistent bestsellers, and there are new series and authors breaking through every day.

 

Mysteries are appealing because as bestselling author David Baldacci explained, in these stories, questions get answered, bad guys get caught and punished, and unlike real life which is perpetually messy and full of loose ends, everything gets tied up in a neat little bow.

 

In a cozy mystery, readers not only get all of the above, but there’s the added satisfaction of seeing an everyday person work tirelessly to solve a crime and find the answers we crave. The protagonist of a cozy mystery could own a garden shop, a bookstore, or a bakery. They could be a mystery writer, a librarian, a nurse, or work in a coffee house.  There is no limit to how the sleuth from a cozy mystery might occupy their time as long as they are amateurs and they have a flexible schedule with lots of free time to solve mysteries. These (largely) women have no special training as detectives, but they are smart, tenacious, and use logic and common sense to find and interpret clues.

 

Whenever I read one of these cozies, I always think about how great it would be to live in one. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to just wander through an idyllic community like Cabot Cove solving mysteries like Jessica Fletcher.  Even better, I’d like to be in a British cozy where all of the murders take place in a picturesque village  with pretty gardens, old manors, or sweet little cottages.  I imagine myself interviewing the victim’s friends, families and acquaintances, finding out information that they wouldn’t or couldn’t reveal to the police while sipping tea or lemondae and eating fresh-baked cookies or scones. 

 

There will probably be a few red herrings or false leads that initially throw me off the trail, If I get stuck, not to worry- I can talk it out with my faithful animal sidekick named something clever and cute who will point a paw at the real clue, and together, we’ll get back on track.

 

I share the clues I’ve unearthed with local law enforcement, giving them leads when their investigation is at a stand still. Since they all take place in small communities where everybody is connected, they not only know me, but are probably a friend/relative who will gently admonish me for interfering in their investigation, but ultimately be glad for the assistance. 

 

Since there is a killer on the loose, I know that there is some risk of danger, but I’m not that worried about it because I’ve taken self-defense classes and know how to take care of myself. By the time law enforcement rushes in to save me from my impending doom, I’ve already subdued the killer. If I’m really lucky, the killer was more than happy to explain exactly how and why they committed the crime. This person is no serial killer or psychopath. He or She is probably someone who lives in the community who felt completely justified in committing murder because the victim wronged him/her and probably a lot of other people too. In fact, nobody really liked the victim anyway, so they kind of did everybody a favour. 

 

Now that the crime has been solved, and justice has been served, everything goes back to normal. The crime quickly fades from the collective memory of the people, I go back to my day job, and I can finally take time to pursue the romantic interest I met during the investigation. Not a bad fantasy right? In real life I live in a large city of nearly 3 million people, and I can’t imagine the city police being particularly receptive to some random person trying to crime-solve. But then, thats why we have books, isn't it?

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

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It’s a sad fact that even our favourite authors are mere mortals, and whether we like it or not, they will eventually die. All hope is not lost however!  These days the death of an author doesn’t necessarily spell the end for our favourite characters. In some ways, the authors become characters themselves. 

 

On occasion, the author’s publisher or estate can contract another author  to continue a popular series or just keep publishing under that author’s name. James Bond and Sherlock Holmes live on in books written by bestselling author Anthony Horowitz; Hercule Poirot has continued solving mysteries under the skillful hand of Sophie Hannah; and Eric Van Lustbader took over writing the Bourne novels after Robert Ludlum’s death in 2001, having published 11 more books beyond Ludlum’s original trilogy. Even the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy continued beyond the death of Douglas Adams, when Eoin Colfer wrote And Another Thing... in 2009.

 

The first time I ever encountered this dead author trend was back in my teens when I noticed that the copyright of a V.C. Andrews book I was reading said “V.C. Andrews Trust”.  I learned that V.C. Andrews had died a few years before that, but her novels sold so well that her estate hired a horror writer Andrew Neiderman  to continue her books. Publishing this August is Beneath the Attic, a prequel to Flowers in the Attic, which will tell the story of the Dollanganger grandmother Corrine as a young girl. I haven’t read Andrews in years, but having read all of the Flowers in the Attic books growing up, I’m curious.

 

Tom Clancy, who died in October 2013, was best known for creating popular characters Jack Ryan and John Clark. At the time of his death, seventeen of Clancy’s titles had been bestsellers and several had been turned into movies, video games, or television shows. For at least the last decade, authors such as the New York Times bestselling author Mark Greaney, Mike Maden and Jeff Rovin have continued his series. The new titles continue to be bestsellers, and Jack Ryan lives on in an Amazon Prime series.

 

Swedish author Stieg Larsson died before any of his books reached publication, and never saw the international success that they would achieve. The first three books in the Millennium series were published posthumously in Sweden in 2005, 2006, 2007, and by March 2015, had sold over 80 million copies worldwide. The author had planned for ten books in the series, but died having completed just three full manuscripts. So what’s a publisher to do? Unlike the Tom Clancy and V.C. Andrews books, there wasn’t an immediate transition. It wasn’t until 2013 that Larsson’s Swedish publisher hired Swedish journalist and author David Lagercrantz to write a fourth book in the series.

 

The book was published in 2015 to mostly positive reviews, landed on international bestseller lists, and broke sales records. Book 5 was published in 2017, and book six, The Girl Who Lived Twice, will publish in August 2019. Lagercrantz has announced that book six will be the last book that he’ll write in the series, but whether or not that also spells the end for Lisbeth Salander is undetermined.

 

This is an interesting pheonomenon. Other than a movie/television series, which still continue with a new director, new writers, and new actors/actresses playing a main character (how many Bonds have there been?), there are few other industries that can do this. In cooking, music, or art, there is only one of that chef/musician/artist, and they can only claim to be in the style of the original. 

 

From a publishing perspective, it can be a huge risk. What if the ghost writer or new author fails to accurately recreate that character or isn’t as skilled at writing as his/her predecessor? An author can create a skilled imitation, but it may never be as good as the original or elicit the same reader/critical response. If Diana Gabaldon or George R. R. Martin were to unexpectedly pass away without completing their series, how easily could another writer jump in and finish what they started? For that matter, how easily would fans accept it if they did?

 

J.D. Salinger was so personally entwined with Holden Caulfield that he was as or more protective of him than his own children. While he was alive, he successfully managed to block the North American publication of a so-called sequel to Catcher in the Rye. He vehemently refused all pleas to adapt the book to film because in his mind, nobody but him could be that character (and he was too old to play him). I have no doubt that he’ll roll over in his grave when the book enters public domain and the character is fair game. 

 

As for Flemming, Doyle, Ludlum, or Larsson, would they be happy to know that their characters live on through these other writers, or would they be disappointed in what they have become? It’s hard to say what they would have thought, but as long as readers are still interested, their characters can continue indefinitely. 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world. 

 

Happy Reading!

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Lately I’ve been in a reading rut. Just by fluke, I’ve read a number of books recently that I was either neutral about or vehemently disliked. Some of those books were for evaluation as part of one of my committees. While I always approach these review titles with an open mind, it just happens some rounds that the books fall flat and I struggle to find anything that is noteworthy let alone worth a starred review.

 

Others of those titles were books of my own choosing by authors I have liked in the past, and those are the most disappointing. One of these authors traditionally writes romances but ventured into cozy mystery territory. I’ve read a number of the author’s romances and loved them, and a couple of them rank among my favourite books. I’m not typically a cozy mystery reader, but since it was by someone I like, I was willing to give it a shot. It took me about two chapters to solve the mystery, I felt nothing for any of the central characters and didn’t really buy into the romance. To make matters worse, I thought the writing was terrible, and that’s just something I have little tolerance for as I get older.

 

The second is a book by a popular mystery writer whom I’ve read on and off since high school and I’m also finding it disappointing. The plot feels clichéd and forced, the characters are weak, and the writing is also poor. My impression is that the author was attempting to use a topical subject to frame the mystery, but it’s one that’s totally overdone and isn’t handled as well as about 20 others with similar plots.

 

After coming off of so many 'meh' reads in a row, I started questioning my taste in books. Were the writers always that bad, or has the pressure to produce annually (or even bi-annually) caused a drop off in quality. I also wonder if it’s me and if I’m being too picky. Is it possible that I’m judging the books on an overall distaste for the particular genre or subject? Maybe, but if they’d been really good, I’d be holding them up as amazing books that are strong examples of the genre.

 

So how do you get out of a reading rut? In my case, I picked a book at random that I’ve heard a lot of great things about by an author I’ve never read before. When you have a lot of books qued up, sometimes it’s fun to open one without too much thought and take a chance. The worst that happens is I don’t enjoy it, and I am still looking for that great read that will shake me out of my reading rut. The best is that it turns out to be a great book and it’s exactly the medicine I need to get the bad taste of the last few disappointments out of my mouth. Luckily, The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff was the latter, and I loved it!

 

The novel is a dual story about Grace, a young war widow who finds a suitcase in Grand Central Station one day on her way to work, and that of Eleanor Trigg, the suitcase’s owner, who was tragically hit by a car earlier that morning and killed outside the station.  Eleanor helped establish and run the women’s unit of the SOE, training them as radio operators and sending them into occupied Europe to help the allies.  When someone betrays them, the field agents disappear, and are presumed to have been killed by the Nazis. At the end of the war, all but twelve of the women were accounted for, and Eleanor is determined to not only find out what happened to those lost girls, but also to find out who betrayed them. Through the photographs, Grace’s and Eleanor’s stories become intertwined, and Grace becomes desparate to finish what Eleanor started and bring closure to Eleanor, the lost girls of Paris and herself.

 

Jenoff’s book is pretty far from my usual type of read. It’s not that I don’t like historical fiction, but a lot of it tends to be either too didactic or too depressing for me (historical romance is something entirely different, and I do enjoy that quite a bit.)  It’s also a book that’s doing a pretty good job of selling itself, and since bestsellers don’t need my help to end up on library shelves, I only read them when they’re by an author I know and like.

 

That’s why this novel was such a pleasant surprise for me. Among a slew of WWII era titles, Jenoff brilliantly covered an aspect of the war that I knew nothing about and found fascinating, created extremely compelling characters, and seamlessly wove together the stories of Grace (the girl who found the suitcase), Eleanor, and Marie - one of the radio operators. I couldn’t put this book down and I stayed up way too late one night trying to finish it. I can’t remember the last time I did that, so I promise you that coming from me, that’s high praise!

 

If you’re thinking that this isn’t something you’d usually read and isn’t really your style, I urge you to reconsider. The writing is excellent, the story is engaging, and you’ll be as caught up in it as I was. I don’t know what my next read will be, but I think I try the experiment again and choose  a random book that I wouldn’t normally read. Who knows what other gem I might discover!

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

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I’m a sucker for dog stories. I've lost hours watching funny dog videos on YouTube and I love reading the shared stories of doggy antics on social media. A novel about a dog will usually find its way into my book pile, and I'm the first in line for dog movies. 

 

The irony is, with few exceptions, dog stories also make me cry-probably because as the central character in Gordon Korman's middle grade novel No More Dead Dogs pointed out, you pretty much know the dog is going to die in the end. In fact, the mortality rate of dogs in books and film is so high that there is a website called  https://www.doesthedogdie.com/ that allows readers/viewers to track whether or not the dog dies in a book, movie or video game. The site also has a section for cats, horses and other animals in general if you’re worried.

 

It’s hard to quantify what makes us such gluttons for punishment that we continue to subject ourselves to the emotional devastation of seeing a dog die in a book or a movie.  Dogs are often referred to as man’s best friend. They are part of the family. They give us unconditional love and loyalty. They give us companionship, joy, and laughter for as long as they live.  We know that our time with dogs is limited, but we love them for as long as we have them and are enriched by them.

 

Maybe we love these stories because we connect with them on a personal level. When we read a story about a dog like Marley, we nod and smile seeing something of ourselves and our dogs in the story. We become emotionally invested in these doggy characters, and care about them as if they are our own. These stories reflect our own experiences, and make us hug our dogs even tighter. 

 

One of my favourite books growing up was Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. Growing up, my family had a brother and sister pair just like Old Dan and Little Ann and I loved reading about the bond between the two dogs and their boy. I also remember bawling my eyes out when the dogs died. I smiled through my tears at the ending *spoiler alert* when Billy discovers the red fern growing between their graves which is a sign that an angel is watching over them (as per an in-book Indian legend that says only angels can plant the flower). It’s a beautiful and heart-wrenching book and it got to the point where I couldn’t even open the book without starting to cry, so I haven’t reread it in a while.

 

As an adult, two recent books (within the last decade) sit high on my list of favourites, mostly because they capture the bond that an adult has with their dogs. I adored my family dogs, but it’s a different experience when it’s your own dog.

 

From the first page of The Art of Racing in the Rain I was hooked, and I totally fell in love with Enzo the dog. The story follows Denny, an aspiring race car driver, through his trials and tribulations, but from Enzo’s point of view. Enzo is preparing for his life as a human and has some astute observations about humanity. His narration is witty and philosophical, and he shares his reflections on dogs and humans with the reader. The book perfectly exemplified the bond that my partner and I had with our dog, and of course, I could fully imagine what he would have to say if it were he who was narrating the story.

 

As I told everybody I gave it to, the book will make you cry and smile at the same time. I like to believe that my dog will someday return as a human who will come back into our lives, and that we’ll know him when we see him. This is a book I have continuously lent out, and it even got my brother - who was reluctant to read it - to stay up all night finishing it. The film adaptation of the book is currently in production, and I can’t wait to see my favourite book on screen!

 

My other favourite dog novel is Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley. I knew it would be difficult to live up to Art of Racing in the Rain, but Rowley does it successfully. This story is perfect for anyone who has lost a dog, as it’s about the grief we feel over their deaths.

 

The novel begins when Ted, Lily’s 42-year-old owner discovers a tumor on her head, which he calls the octopus because of its shape. He imagines the octopus is alive and is an enemy which needs to be defeated. Ted will do anything he can to save Lily, but eventually has to make the heartbreaking decision to euthanize her and end her suffering.

 

Once again it’s a book that will make you cry and smile. It’s profound, funny and just a beautiful read. It’s also semi-autobiographical, which adds to the authenticity of the story. I hoped against hope that Ted would find a way to save Lily, and I laughed and cried with Ted throughout.

 

With the recent death of my old dog to cancer, this book touches me even more profoundly. When I first read it, it made me more aware that my partner and I would eventually have to make that tough decision, and now that we have, I feel Ted's grief all the more.  Amazon studios has optioned this book for film, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it popping up on either the big or small screen sometime in the near future.

 

In a quick Google search for “happy dog stories” I was hard-pressed to come up with anything, but we love dog stories because they are human stories that touch our hearts, and that's something we can all appreciate! 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

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If you asked most people, the one thing they’d wish for other than more money is time. Regardless of your position in life, time is finite. There is only so much time in one lifetime and we always wish for more of it. From the time we are children asking to stay up for just five more minutes, there is never enough of it.

 

The exploration of mortality is a popular subjects in fiction, and was a central theme in the ancient Greek myths and epics, filled with immortal gods and demigods. In the 19th century, Bram Stoker gave us the immortal vampire Dracula, and Oscar Wilde examined the quest for eternal life in his gothic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian sells his soul in exchange for eternal youth and his portrait, not Dorian will age. Through his portrait, he comes face-to-face with his true self, and everything cumulates in a brutal but fitting end.

 

These themes have also extended to several recently published novels, and examine immortality from a more philosophical perspective. One of my favourite reads this year is the sleeper hit How to Stop Time  by Matt Haig. Thanks to a rare condition that has drastically slowed the aging process, 41-year-old Tom Hazzard has been alive for 439 years. While he could die from a gunshot wound, he’ll never get sick, and he could be a thousand years old by the time he could die of old age. 

 

This condition also means he has to start his life over somewhere else every 8 years or so when the people around him notice that he isn’t getting any older. He's also not allowed to fall in love. After all, forming attachments means he risks exposing not only his secret, but his heart.

 

One of the things I loved most about this novel was the way Haig explored the positives and negatives of being immortal. On the upside, he pretty much has all the time in the world to explore the things that interest him. How many times have you wished you had enough time to learn a particular skill or to pursue a hobby? Tom loves music, and having unlimited time has allowed him to master 30 instruments.

 

Tom has also lived history we can only read about. From the plague to wars to massive generational shifts, he’s seen it all. He’s played with Shakespeare, dined with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, sailed with Captain Cook, and encountered countless other popular figures in history. Fittingly, Tom’s current job is a history teacher, and not surprisingly, he’s pretty good at it.

 

There are also some lighter moments in the book such as when Tom muses over what birthdate to put on his Facebook profile, realizing that 1581 just isn’t going to work.

 

On the down side, being a literal old soul makes him an outsider and has effectively forced him into a permanent exile.  Anybody he once loved is gone, and he can’t get close to anyone because they would eventually realize that he didn’t look a day older and risk exposing him. Aside from the fact that most people would think he was certifiable if he tried to explain, there is a genuine danger that he could be turned into a lab rat and exploited by those who would try to profit from his condition.

 

The book really made me wonder if given the choice, would I choose to live forever. While I definitely wouldn’t want to be a child or a teenager forever, I wouldn’t mind being frozen in my 30s or 40s. Having all the time in the world to do everything I want to do (like making a substantial dent in my to-be-read pile) is an attractive prospect. I’d also love the opportunity to see how the world will evolve over the next several centuries, but not if I can’t share it with anybody. Not keeping any friends or putting down roots somewhere would be a deal breaker, as wood having to say so many goodbyes.

 

A new book called Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return by Debut author Martin Riker takes a different take on immortality, and it’s getting a lot of buzz.

 

The book starts with Samuel Johnson waking up in the body of the man who killed him. Unable to die, when one body expires he jumps to another, all the while searching for a way to get back to the son he left behind.

 

This idea fascinates me and it seems like a much more interesting and less lonely way to live forever. Sure, there’s always a possibility of getting stuck in a crappy body, but imagine being able to literally view the world through somebody else’s eyes! He’d also probably be the only person who could say he’s lived a thousand lives and mean it, which also has its perks. Comical and philosophical, it is a unique take on an old theme, and is worth checking out!

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

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The adaptation of books to a movie or television format is tricky. On the one hand, there is an expectation that the movie should and will follow the original source material closely. On the other hand, a visual medium is a very different animal than print, and for a variety of reasons, it’s impossible to literally adapt a book word-for-word to film or television.

 

One of the biggest challenges of course is time. While there are no set limitations for the length of a book, there absolutely are for screenplays. The average movie runs two hours or less, and a 400+ page book isn’t going to fit in its entirety.  Movies force a streamlining that often results in sub-plots and minor characters being cut.

 

Another challenge of books-to-movies is finding a way to capture the interior monologue of a character, particularly when the story is told from that person’s point of view. Limited voice-over narration is great, but nobody wants to watch two hours of narration. That’s called an audio book- not a movie. This was a particular challenge for the TV adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Under the Dome, which had a lot of characters who spent a lot of time thinking. In the end, some characters were combined or left out, action was stretched out over months and not weeks, and the writers had to find ways to transform thoughts into something more visual.

 

Ready Player One took eight years to make it to the screenThe novel primarily takes place in a virtual reality world, and contains numerous pop cultural references to movies and video games (including to director Steven Spielberg’s own films) which had to be cut. Then there was the added difficulty of finding a way to faithfully recreate the book’s numerous locations. Trying to build sets for all of them would have astronomically expensive, but thanks to computer generated backgrounds and motion capture technology, they made it work. 

 

The 2018 Rom-Com Crazy Rich Asians is an example of a film that managed to stay loyal to the text, but author Kevin Kwan admits that the books delve much deeper into the world of the movie and the characters. There were also a few character changes, pared down plot points, and some added scenes that weren’t in the book, but all were done with Kwan’s approval.

 

Ann Patchett’s novel Bel Canto had a much longer path to the big screen (16 years), but the recent adaptation starring Julianne Moore stays pretty true to the book and has the benefit of an all-star cast and enduring source material.

 

I have a love/hate relationship with adaptations.  An adaptation can either be great (ie Harry Potter), or awful (such as the 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower). Adapting a book for screen is no easy feat, but if the changes are so drastic that it has nothing in common with the book except for the name, it’s disappointing for both the writer and fans of the novel.

 

Then there’s the question of whether to read the book before or after seeing the movie. If I read the book first, I go into the movie with complete familiarity with the story and my own vision of what the character should look like. If the casting is too far off (as many felt was the case with Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher) or if the story veers too far from the source material, it’s difficult for me to enjoy the film as its own medium.

 

Seeing the movie before I read the book allows me to enjoy the movie as a movie, but once I’ve seen the movie, I’m reading the book with the movie in mind, and I'm constantly comparing the two. At the same time, seeing a movie adaptation first can inspire me to read the book, and in that case, I've been introduced to a great book I might never have read otherwise. 

 

Once in a very rare while, a movie adaptation is considered to be equal to or better than the books. Many people view the movie version of The Princess Bride as being as good as or better than the book, despite being different from the book. William Goldman was an accomplished screenwriter and adapted his own work for the screen which helps, but it’s a perfect example of both formats being enjoyed and appreciated on their own merits.

 

I also much prefer the Swedish film version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to the book. I felt that the movie did a great job of paring the story down to the most important elements and had better pacing then the book. The novel is nearly 500 pages long, and it definitely could have been similary streamlined. 

 

This coming year, we can look forward to adaptions of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette, A.J. Finn’s Woman in the Window and more, and I know I will be watching every single one of them with a critical eye and comparing them to the book.  

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy reading!

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The Holocaust is one of the most horrifying and devastating events in history, and while those who experienced it firsthand are fewer each year, Holocaust Education week is held annually in November and International Holocaust Remembrance Day occurs every January 27th  to ensure that the history doesn’t die with the last survivor.

 

Thankfully, as sales statistics prove, reader interest in the Holocaust endures for both modern and classic books on the subject. Elie Weisel’s memoir Night, chronicling his experience surviving Nazi death camps as a teenager is one such example.   

 

Since the original Yiddish publication in 1956, it has been translated into more than 30 languages, was an Oprah book club pick in 2006, and is widely studied in schools around the world. Today, it remains a fixture on the Publisher’s Weekly Biography/Autobiography bestseller list, and tops Amazon’s Jewish Biographies list. According to Publisher’s Weekly, the book has sold 209k copies as of November, 2018, and the book has sold more than 10 million copies overall.

 

My first introduction to the Holocaust was through Anne Frank's Diary. I still remember the first time I read it. I was around 8 or 9 years old and my teacher assigned it in school. I was way too young to fully grasp everything that Anne was talking about in her diary (particularly the stuff about sexuality), but I did understand the reason that she and her family had to hide and the tragedy of what happened to Anne and her family.  

 

When the movie Schindler’s List released 25 years ago this Christmas, it became a huge box office success, and brought fresh attention to Thomas Keneally’s Booker Prize-winning historical novel of the same name.  Oskar Schindler was a German man who found a way to save 1200 Jewish people from execution by employing them in his factories. It's a story of heroism and courage, and viewers/readers flocked to it. 

 

In recent years, the genre has become so popular that it now has its own category on Amazon and is mainstream in bookstores. From The Book Thief to this year’s hit The Tattooist of Auschwitz, these titles resonate with readers, so what is it about the Holocaust that appeals both to writers and readers?

 

I believe there are a few reasons. One is that the generation who fought in WWII and survived the Holocaust are in their 80s and 90s, and there is a renewed sense of urgency to share their stories before there’s nobody left to tell them.

 

Another is that good historical fiction on any subject allows readers to make connections between the past and the present. For children especially (and adults too), history can be highly abstract and it can be difficult to understand what something that happened so long ago has to do with them. I hated history when I was a kid because my teacher was dry and boring. She had obviously forgotten the most important part of the word history is ‘story”.  Holocaust fiction brings it to life in a way that most textbooks can’t, and makes facts matter.

 

Lastly and most importantly is the emotional connection. If there wasn’t someone to care about or root for, why would anyone keep reading? These characters persevere against all odds and in one way or another are heroes.

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is based on interviews that Morris had with the real Lale Sokolov in the three years before he passed away at age 90.

 

What makes this book successful is not just that it’s a Holocaust story, but a human story. It is a story of triumph, hope, resilience and love. Lale didn’t want to be the tattooist. It was a terrible task but one that he knew offered him a layer of protection and a chance to survive. When Lale inked the tattoo on Gita’s arm at Auschwitz, it was love at first sight, and he vowed to survive the camp and to marry her when the war was over.

 

Lale's story is like a beautiful flower in a barren wasteland. The fact that he and Gita survived at all is miraculous, let alone falling in love and finding each other after the war. It's about incredible courage, and love triumphing against all odds.

 

Readers want Lale and Gita to survive. They hope for the happily ever after. He is a hero for finding ways to help others when many wouldn’t, and for finding ways to give them hope. Gita was shipped out of the camp before he was, and all he knew was her name, not where she was from. At this point, it seemed like hope was lost and he’d never see her again, yet somehow they found each other. The couple was married in 1945, and were together until Gita’s death in 2003.

 

Some reviewers have criticized the book for focusing too heavily on the romance and of glossing over the horrors of the Holocaust, but I disagree.  In an age where the news is so bleak, we need hope. We need to be uplifted and to be reminded that even when things seem their darkest, something good can still exist.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy reading!

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Jodi Picoult got me my first job in this industry. Not literally, but indirectly.

 

Let’s start at the beginning. I have always been a voracious reader. My parents used to tease me that I was born with a book in my hand, and I learned to read at an early age. I was also that person who would not only hang out in a bookstore for fun, but couldn’t resist recommending something to people who were in the store. I also have a compulsion to fix shelves, but that’s another story.

 

Many years ago, when I was not that long out of university and still wondering what I could do with a degree in English literature, I saw a posting for a job fair at Indigo. Seeing as my philosophy was to buy 5 new books for every book I finished, so I decided to take a chance. I mean, I had to do something for money, and being paid to be around books all day seemed like a really good idea.

 

Fast forward to interview day. While I was waiting, for the manager to come out, I was drawn to a display table near the front of the store. On the table was The Pact and the summary caught my attention. Without even thinking about what I was doing, I opened it up to the first page and started reading. I was hooked!

 

I was about one chapter in when I was interrupted by the manager. She asked me what I was reading, and when I showed her, she told me that she was also reading that same book. I’d never met her before and I certainly didn’t know that this was her current read. I took it as a sign that I was meant to get that job. I also bought the book before I left the store because now that I’d started it, I had to keep reading!

 

If you’ve never read the book, the story follows the impact of the apparent murder-suicide pact between two teens on their families. What was happening in their lives that they felt driven to do something so drastic? How do the families reconcile this act with the kids they thought they knew? Twenty-years after its original publication, it’s still as relevant as it was then.

 

That experience not only launched my career in books, but has also made me a loyal reader of this author.  What I like most about her is her ability to address contemporary issues in accessible and interesting manner, and to make you think. How do you define normal when your Asperger’s child is accused of murder? If you are the grandchild of Holocaust survivors and your neighbor turned out to be a former Nazi SS guard, could you forgive him? What would it feel like to be a nurse and be told not to treat a patient because of the colour of your skin?

 

Her new title, A Spark of Light  asks readers to consider why a man would enter a women’s reproductive health services clinic, open fire, and take hostages. It is as thought-provoking and relevant as her previous books andI couldn't put it down. 

 

In honor of her new book, and new mass-market editions of her older titles, I thought I’d recommend  three other backlist titles that I most enjoyed.

 

I don’t think you can properly discuss this author without referencing My Sister’s Keeper. Of all her books, this is the most well-known, and probably her most popular. The book was made into a movie back in 2009 and really put her on the map. The story follows two sisters- Anna and Kate, and the moral conflict that comes with Anna’s family’s expectation that she be a permanent bone marrow donor for Kate, and Anna’s desire to lead a normal teenage life- even if it means her sister could die. Picoult is careful to make sure the reader can understand all the points of view, and you come out of it realizing that there are no simple choices.

                                                                                         

Sadly, school-shootings continue to be in the news and Nineteen Minutes, published a decade ago,  looks at bullying in high school, mental health, school violence, and how we can prevent incidents like this from happening. While she never tries to justify the shooter’s actions, she does look at some of the reasons why he did what he did, and looks at the impact of those horrific 19 minutes on not only the teens, but everybody in the town. This is a popular title in high school classrooms as well, and it’s heart-wrenching and riveting.

 

Leaving Time is a book that made me want to immediately go to the library and learn more about elephants. Unlike some of her more issue based books, it’s a story of a daughter’s grief for the mother that seemingly abandoned her years ago, and her determination to find out what really happened to her all those years ago. It’s amazing how many parallels there are between elephants and humans (did you know elephant’s grieve?), and it explores loss, grief, and the complex relationship between mothers and daughters.

 

There are countless other books by Jodi Picoult that I could put on this list, and a corresponding selection list of in-print Jodi Picoult titles is available on our website if you need to replace or fill in missing titles in your library.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

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