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Books scare people. That might seem like an outlandish statement, but it’s true. Not the physical item per se, but the content that’s in them. Throughout history, books have been a popular target of censors. Whether it be because of, sexual situations, racial or religious issues, violence or political viewpoint, People have tried and continue to try to remove books from school and library shelves. Luckily, few books actually get banned in Canada, but many still get challenged.

 

When I was in high school, I was extremely lucky to never have encountered any kind of censorship (that I knew of). I had the privilege of taking many genre courses with really interesting reading lists that included frequently challenged titles such as A Clockwork Orange and The Color Purple. We were also never challenged on what personal reading material we brought to school or choose for independent study with the exception of evaluating its suitability for the project.

 

The other day I read a fantastic YA novel titled Suggested Reading which is a story about standing up to censorship and fighting against banned books. The protagonist learns that the school has banned a list of 50 YA novels such as Speak, Catcher in the Rye, and Perks of Being a Wallflower, and decides to start an “underground library” in her school of these banned books. The book reminds us of the power of words to transform, educate, and challenge us in ways that we often can’t predict.

 

We are very fortunate in Canada that intellectual freedom is guaranteed to us under the Charter of Rights and Freedom. Intellectual freedom is our right to seek out information from all points of view without restriction, and free access to ideas.

 

Libraries are a key part of how we exercise this right. A library provides ideas and information to the public in a variety of formats with the goal of allowing people to educate themselves about these different ideas regardless of how the librarian or individual feels about it. I learned very early on in my role as a selector to keep my feelings out of it. I can like or dislike a book or author for my own reasons, but I have no right to withhold a book on that basis.

 

In Canada, Freedom to Read Week is celebrated annually in the last week of February as an affirmation of our right to intellectual freedom, and several events are held in libraries across the country throughout the week. In honour of this event, I thought I’d highlight a few common titles by Canadian authors that have been banned or are frequently challenged in Canada, many of which I read in school, and some of which might surprise you.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

 

I first read this iconic novel in University and was both feared it and loved it. I feared it because I was just starting to understand the debate on women’s rights and what we label “right wing” politics. I loved it for its brilliance and for making me think. Not surprisingly, it’s on the ALA’s top 100 banned books of the decade for the 90s and 2000s. At its core, dystopian fiction is a warning about where the author fears we’re headed but it’s also about freedom.  The freedom to think, say, believe and live what and how we want. These books aren’t meant to be comfortable, and perhaps that’s why they are so frequently challenged. Handmaid’s Tale (and recently the graphic novel) has been challenged for violence, offensive language, and sexual content, and it definitely falls into the “because it scares people” category.

 

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler

 

This classic Canadian novel put Mordecai Richler on the map, but in 1990, a group of parents in Essex County wanted the book removed from high school reading lists due to sexual innuendo, vulgarity, and sexual expression. Notable Canadian authors defended the book, but the board advised teachers and principals to avoid using potentially controversial novels in class.

 

The Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Monroe

 

When Alice Monroe published this coming-of-age novel about a young woman’s passage into adulthood and sexual experience in 1971, she made waves. The book met a highly publicized challenge in Peterborough, Ontario when the school board banned the book due to “explicit language and sex scenes”.  Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye were also included on that list for similar reasons. According to CBC, this censorship attempt was the catalyst for the creation of Freedom to Read Week.

 

The Diviners, Jest of God, and Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

 

At the same time that Alice Munroe was facing challenges for Lives and Girls and Women, Margaret Laurence was also facing challenges and subsequent bans in numerous schools due to what Christian Fundamentalists deemed “blasphemous" and "obscene”.  The Diviners is widely considered to be the author’s masterpiece and to be one of the greatest Canadian novels ever written, but it has continued to face challenges over the years. Laurence, who was already dealing with depression and alcoholism was deeply disturbed by the public attacks on her books, but she didn’t speak out until she was faced with a new round of censorship in the 80s.

 

The Wars by Timothy Findley 

 

Timothy Findley’s 1977 novel The Wars was one of those life-changing books for me when I was in high school. I did my O.A.C. author study on Findley, and I think that his portrait of a 19-year-old Canadian officer fighting in WWI was one of the first books that really made me understand the horrors of war. It’s undeniably a difficult book to read, and Findley presented the war in all of its brutality. In 2011, a group of parents in Bluewater District School Board in Owen Sound, Ontario fought to have the book removed from school shelves, complaining about the violence and sexual descriptions. The novel also faced pre-publication censorship with attempts by the publisher to remove a homosexual rape scene. Findley was also vocally opposed to censorship, and defended other authors like Laurence whose works were challenged.

 

As long as there are books, there will always be somebody who steps up to object to them and attempt to impose to limit our access to potentially valuable and powerful material, and the best way to combat that is to resist by reading and discussing those books.  As Alice Munro said, “I think that as soon as one step is taken you have to start resisting because that makes the next step easier.” For more information on Freedom to Read Week and details on events across the country or how to get involved, visit their website.

 

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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Whether we realize it or not, books are not just a solitary activity. Book lovers love to share their thoughts about the books they are reading, and to recommend books to friends, family and colleagues. Seldom do we just shelve a book immediately after reading, never to think about it again. Instead, we share our reading choices on Social Media, mention it in conversation, or give it to a fellow book lover to read.

 

Book clubs have existed in some form since at least the 1630s when Puritan groups got together to discuss the bible, and have taken many forms since then.  In 1727, Benjamin Franklin organized the Junto Literary Society to discuss philosophy, morality, and science. In 1840, the first bookstore sponsored book club in the United States began in Boston, and they have continued to grow and evolve.

 

According to Booknet Canada, as of September 2018, 7% of Canadian adult book buyers belong to a book club, 28% of readers belong to a book club or reading group (whether they buy books or not), and 8% of those surveyed said they found their last read through a book club.

 

Traditionally, book club picks were selected by members of the group, the library, or the book store, and members would meet in person to discuss the book.  This changed in 1996 when Oprah Winfrey, the queen of daytime television used her power and influence to “get the whole country reading again”, and launched a televised book club.

 

Beginning with Jaqueline Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean, she invited viewers to read the book, and then hosted the author on her show a few weeks later. In the 15 years of her original club, she recommended 70 books, many of which have become bestsellers.

 

In 2012, Oprah launched the 2.0 version of her book club in conjunction with her magazine, and television network, this time incorporating social media platforms. Later this year, she’ll be officially reviving her book club again, this time on the new streaming platform Apple TV+.

 

In many ways, celebrity book clubs are one of the best things to happen to publishers and authors since the founding of the book-of-the-month club in 1926. Prior to the onset of bookstore chains, a book-of-the-month club selection was one of the best ways to get wide distribution for your book.

 

Today, having a celebrity such as Oprah recommend your book can increase sales by the millions. Oprah has 15 million followers on Instagram and 4.4 million followers on twitter, and her endorsement is publishing gold. Recently, she announced The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates as her latest pick, and the book will almost certainly land on bestseller lists.  

     

Two other celebrities influencing readers are actresses Sarah Jessica Parker and Reese Witherspoon. Parker is a voracious reader, and recently completed a two-year term as honorary chair of Book Club Central for the American Library Association. She is also the editorial director for her own imprint SJP for Hogarth, where she acquires books that appeal to her own taste as a reader.

 

Witherspoon launched her book club in 2017, and it was born out of her love of reading. Witherspoon is an avid reader, and she casually started posting pictures of the books she was reading on her Instagram. The club grew into something more formal from there, and now has 1.1 million members.

 

Since 2017, Witherspoon has selected  28 titles, many of which have landed on the New York Times Bestseller list, Her 2017 selection of debut author Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing is currently #9 on the Globe and Mail Bestseller list, has spent 54 weeks on the NYT bestseller list, and was the top selling print book in the U.S. for the first half of 2019.

Would the book have been a bestseller regardless? Possibly, but it’s more likely that the 1.1 million U.S. sales can be attributed to the power of Witherspoon’s endorsement.

 

Witherspoon’s September 2019 pick The Secrets We Kept by Laura Prescott was inspired by the true story of the CIA’s mission to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the U.S.S.R. where nobody would publish it, juxtaposed with the love story between author Boris Pasternak and his mistress Olga.

 

Naturally the book has rocketed to bestseller status, and film rights have been acquired. The publisher reportedly paid $2 million for rights, signaling that they expected big things from it, but being a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick has almost certainly helped.

 

Normally, celebrities don’t influence me to read a book, but this one intrigued me, and I ended up really enjoying it. I learned something about a period in history I knew nothing about, and I was invested in the characters and the story.  I confess I’ve never read Zhivago, but after reading this, I want to. It has also made me take notice of Witherspoon’s other picks, a number of which I’m interested in reading.

 

While enjoying this one title doesn’t mean that I’ll actively seek out future celebrity book club recommendations, as a book lover I appreciate what they do for discovery and exposure, and anything that gets millions of people reading and talking about books is good with me!

 

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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When it comes to categorizing fiction, mystery, thriller, and suspense are words commonly used to define genre, but if you’re anything like me, you might have trouble defining exactly what the difference is between them.

 

While the three do overlap a great deal, they are actually separate genres. To make matters more complicated, the terms tend to be used so interchangeably, that identifying where in your library they belong, or even making a recommendation to a patron eager for one or the other becomes a challenging task.

 

In recent years, the mystery, thriller and suspense genres have been grouped under the crime fiction umbrella. In these genres, authors write about a crime that has happened or is about to happen, there’s an investigation of some kind, and a resolution where at least some of the reader’s questions are answered. So with all of these commonalities, how do you know which is which?

 

Let’s start with mystery. A mystery story is one where a crime is committed at the beginning, and the rest of the novel is devoted to figuring out the truth about the crime. Regardless of what kind of mystery it is, there is someone investigating the crime. That person can be a traditional detective, a police officer, or an amateur sleuth with a day job.

 

The novel is also basically one big puzzle, with all of the “pieces” needed to put it together being contained within the novel. Readers of mystery novels typically enjoy trying to solve the crime alongside the investigator, and personally, I get a certain amount of satisfaction from figuring it out before the investigator does. 

 

Shari Lapena’s novel An Unwanted Guest is an example of the locked room type of mystery that was perfected by the Queen of Crime Agatha Christie. In a locked room mystery, the murder is committed under circumstances where it would be seemingly impossible to get in or out of the crime scene, includes a number of suspects with no way to leave or be rescued, and the plot is resolved at the end.at the end. Christie's famous novel And Then There Were None is one of the bestselling crime novels of all time, and Lapena’s book has a similar feel.

 

The guests arrive Friday night for a weekend stay at an Inn in the Catskills and are immediately snowed in with no way to leave, no phone service or internet access, and no power. One of the guests is murdered, and naturally, the murderer has to be one of them. As the weekend progresses, the bodies start piling up, and it’s a race against time to figure out who the killer is before it’s too late.

 

Thrillers are a bit more difficult to define- especially since many thrillers can also be something else. The protagonist is in danger right from the outset, and the plots are extremely action driven. Thrillers are high stakes, non-stop action, contain plot twists, and move at a rapid pace. In these stories, solving the crime is less important than the obstacles placed in the hero’s way, and how they overcome them.

 

Thrillers can be psychological, crime, mystery, action, military, legal, or spy, and illicit an intense reaction from the reader.  Series like Jack Reacher, and Alex Cross or Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects are examples of popular thrillers, the latter being a good example of the psychological subset.

 

Suspense novels are also tricky to define as they tend to be more subtle. Suspense novels are about the build-up and the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you know something is about to happen. Reading a suspense novel is like cranking the handle on a jack-in-the-box and waiting for the figure to pop out when the melody is done. You know before you start turning the handle that the joker is going to pop out, but you still jump when it does.

 

Adrian McKinty’s The Chain is a great example of a suspense novel.  On a day that starts out like any other, Rachel receives a phone call informing her that her daughter was kidnapped while waiting for the school bus. The caller is the parent of an already kidnapped child, and informs her that she is now part of something called the chain.

 

Rachel has 24 hours to follow specific instructions that will get her daughter back which includes kidnapping another child to keep the chain going. If she fails to do what she's told or tries to involve the police or anyone else, they will kill her and her daughter and find a new target. Who is behind the chain is secondary to what Rachel must and will do to get her daughter back. It’s intense and terrifying, and the kind of novel you read in one sitting.

 

Regardless of which genre you prefer, there is one key component that is present in all successful mystery/suspense/thrillers and that’s suspense. The author makes the reader feel excited and/or anxious about what’s going to happen next. Suspense is what drives me to stay up all night reading because I can’t put it down, or has me so engrossed that I miss my bus stop (which I have numerous times) and don’t hear the phone or the doorbell when it rings. That feeling is what draws me to these genres over and over again, and why the world will always embrace them both on the page and on screen.6 

 

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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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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