Heirs of Alexandria

I just had a little orgy of reading the Heirs of Alexandria books, since the fourth one recently released and I wanted to re-read from the beginning.  What a great series.

Sometimes, when you have a collaboration, the book doesn’t flow properly, the voices of the authors are jarring and wrong.  That isn’t what happened here.

These are stories set in an alternate history, at the time of the Renaissance.   All the fantasy that people believed in at the time is real, from mermaids to magic, and it makes for great storytelling.   This is classic epic material, with great battles, political intrigue, knights, star-crossed lovers.    Set mainly in Venice, the characters are so well developed that you could easily guess how each one would behave in a given situation, and you get a little attached.

There is a great sense of humour running through the books that balances the drama, and makes for a fun read.

This is the story equivalent of comfort food for me.

I bought them all as e-books, and as a side note they are all sold without DRM, at the publisher’s request.


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Filed under Books, E-Books, E-readers, Review

LOVE: Honey Maid takes down the trolls.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, although the main focus is on books and bookstores, you will also notice that we are strong supporters of equal rights for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.  We’re against ignorance in general, and believe that reading is one tool of creating learning and compassion.

Honey Maid, a company formerly known more for graham crackers and s’mores than taking a stand, has just done something brilliant, and well worth sharing.

A recent commercial that they aired that shows a diverse selection of families has raised the ire of the small-minded, including my favorite group to hate, One Million Moms.  The commercial that raised their anger is below.

It’s a sweet, fairly classic commercial, and smart marketing by Honey Maid to get people in the kind of families that get protested by the Westborough Baptists buying their products.

What is really brilliant, however, is how Honey Maid responded to the outrage, and turned those hateful words into a thing of beauty.   Check it out:

Very classy, Honey Maid.  Well done.


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Filed under General Awesomeness, In The News

What We CAN Do.

The other day, in my bookstore, we had a small child who was dropped off by her caregivers.  This was a child who was definitely not old enough to be spending hours in a retail store, by herself.  I won’t go into detail, to protect her, but suffice it to say that the authorities had to be called and it was very painful for all involved.

I was having a lot of trouble moving past the incident, since the little girl involved was the same age as my own youngest daughter.  A little boy, who with his parents is a very frequent customer, asked me about the incident the next day.   He asked me many questions about the incident, some of which he had witnessed, including why someone would do that, would leave a child by themselves in a store.

My discussion with him and eventual answer  brought a coworker to the verge of tears, and helped me as well.  Here is the gist of the answer I gave him:

“Sadly, not everyone is a nice person.  Some people do bad things, and we have no control over that.   We can’t change how other people act, we can only control how we act.  So what we can do is try to be good people, be nice people, and when we see someone in trouble, we can help them.”


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Wolverine – The Musical!

Hugh Jackman, on BBC radio, singing a selection from Wolverine: The Musical.  You’re welcome.



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Maleficent – Full Trailer!

May 30th, hurry up.



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The Bear

I had two reviews submitted for this book on the same day, both by people who don’t tend to read this kind of story.  I am going to post both of them, because they are both really interesting perspectives.  My conclusion?  I will read this book, while holding my children, with all the lights on.  And try not to think about it the next time I go camping with my kids in Algonquin.

Merilyn’s review:

I did not want to read this book. The Author’s Note made it clear that this was no warm, fuzzy anthropomorphic bear-meets-person tale. It was fiction, but based on a true story. So, I did not want to read this book, but I glanced at the first couple of pages and found it riveting.

It is told in the voice of a young girl, almost six years old. Like a typical six-year-old, the narrative is a stream of consciousness, sometimes linear, sometimes darting backwards or sideways as something catches its fancy. The author inserts enough information for the naïve and innocent child to pass on the most chilling facts while not understanding completely what is happening. The juxtaposition of brutal violence with childlike self-centredness is deeply unsettling.

Once I started, I could not release the book’s grip on me, even though I felt like hiding behind my couch for the whole time it took me to read it. The author made me feel how Anna, the little girl, must have felt.

I cannot say I am glad that I read The Bear, but I have it inside me now, like the black dog in the book.



Melissa’s review:

The Bear by Canadian author Claire Cameron is the story of five year old Anna and her two year old brother Alex as they struggle for survival in Algonquin Provincial Park after their parents are killed by a bear.  The story is narrated by Anna, and while this sometimes means that it can be difficult to figure out what she’s talking about (for example she mentions bubbles on her legs, which turns out to be a rash from poison ivy), it creates a unique perspective that sets this novel apart.
The story begins with the family camping near lake Opeongo, reunited after a brief separation of the parents.  Anna is awoken by her mother’s screams and her father desperately pulling her out of the tent and throwing her and her brother in the family’s large cooler.  From the children’s perspective the attack consists of a black nose and claws as seen through an air gap in the cooler, and when they emerge the next morning their mother is lying in the grass, barely alive, and their father is nowhere to be seen. The mother tells Anna that she must take her brother and leave in the canoe, and so the children depart the camp thinking that their parents will follow later.  Due to her age, Anna doesn’t understand the danger of the situation; from her perspective it was a dog in the campsite, not a bear, her mother is too tired to move rather than mortally wounded and her father has left because he is angry with her.
Here is where the real heart wrenching story begins as two small children fight for survival as best as they can and how in the aftermath Anna comes to terms with what has happened.  I have nothing but praise for Claire Cameron, who didn’t rely on the horror of the initial attack to drive the story but created this wonderful character whose eyes we see through; we see her frustration with her little brother, trying to make her father proud so he won’t be angry with her anymore, her guilt for leaving her mother.  It all concludes with one of the best, most succinct endings I have ever read, with adult Anna returning to the site of the attack, finally able to let go of what happened to her family all those years before.
Once I started this novel it took precedence over food, sleep and most of my conscious thought.  It was an emotional roller coaster that was made all the more difficult for me because I have a niece and nephew close to the ages of Anna and Alex.  I haven’t been this affected by a novel in a long time and I whole heartedly recommend it.

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Boy Snow Bird

What a gorgeous, sad, amazing book.

Helen Oyeyemi has twisted the Grimmest version of Snow White – emphasis on twisted.

The story takes place in America, in the time of segregation in the south, Vietnam, the civil rights movement.  When Boy Novak, a nordic blonde (fairest of them all) with a troubled past leaves New York behind for small town life, she meets and marries a local widower, becoming stepmother to his daughter, Snow.  It is only when Boy gives birth to her own daughter, Bird, who is born with brown skin, that she (and the rest of the town) discover that the Whitman family are light-skinned African Americans, who have been passing for white, and the prejudice and turmoil barely concealed beneath the surface of the town and family come to light.

Oyeyemi plays with appearance, perception, and prejudice through the whole story, and does a masterful job of it.  Although the story is dark, it is ultimately hopeful, and definitely worth reading.  I highly recommend this fantastic piece of writing.  Read it when you have some quiet time, so that you can really focus on the beauty of the writing, and the absorbing plot.  Give yourself time to contemplate the concepts.  I am itching to find someone else who has read this so we can discuss it – it would be a perfect book club pick.  The themes of appearance, beauty, perception are very much in tune with so much of what is happening in the world today.  I loved this.

Happy (introspective) reading.


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