Designed to make you want to read books!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Author Bio - Jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer was born on June 25, 1981 in Los Angeles, California. He is a Columbia graduate and Rhodes Scholar, who found out the hard way that any clever young man who works as a technician in a neuroscience lab is likely to wind up dirt poor as well as frustrated. Now a Contributing Editor at Wired and the author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist. He is also a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and Radiolab and writes the “Head Case” column for The Wall Street Journal. "Lehrer fancies himself – and not without reason – as a sort of one-man third culture, healing the rift between sciences and humanities by communicating and contrasting their values in a way that renders them comprehensible to partisans of either camp." His newest book Imagine is a phenomenal read and I'm very excited to bring it to you next week!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Guest Book Review by Gina Macdonald - Prisoner of Tehran

This year on Canada Reads, Arlene Dickinson championed a book called Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat. After hearing the debates and listening to Arlene speak about the book, I knew I had to read it. It was absolutely riveting. I read it in a day and a half, and the only reason I put it down was to sleep, eat, and maybe say hello to my parents. Nemat’s all-too-true story about her imprisonment in Evin was completely engrossing and sometimes read more like a horrifying novel than a memoir.
            The memoir begins with Nemat’s description of Pearson airport in Toronto, how it seemed like such a normal, welcoming place, and how she was lucky to be in a place like Canada. We are then taken back to Iran, where she describes her family life, her first encounter with her future husband, and finally her arrest after speaking out against the government at her school, at age 16. For the rest of the memoir, we learn about her trials in prison, her forced first marriage to a man she does not quite learn to love, and her relationships with the other women she meets in Evin.
            It would be impossible for me to correctly sum up the amount of terrible things described in the book as well as Nemat wrote them. As I mentioned, at some points it felt like I was reading a novel, a fictional account, rather than a true relation of these events, because it was at times too terrible for me to believe it actually happened.
            As well, this book was the first time Marina Nemat told her story; even her husband had no idea the things she went through in Evin until he read the manuscript. Prisoner of Tehran is a brave book to have been published, both because Nemat survived her ordeal and then decided to share her experiences with the world. Nemat’s strength really comes through in her writing, and it’s definitely something I would recommend anyone and everyone to read.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Author Bio - Marina Nemat

Marina Nemat was born in 1965 in Tehran, Iran. Marina Nemat grew up Russian Orthodox in Iran and was in high school when the Shah was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini. She was outspoken in opposing the regime's policies and at the age of 16, was arrested and thrown into Evin, Iran's notorious political prison, where she was tortured and came very close to execution. "There were (and are) thousands of prisoners in Evin prison, and, in the eighties, the vast majority of us were teenagers". She suffered here for a very long time. "I had lost my family, my religion, my freedom, my dignity, and even my name. How much can you take away from a person before she crumbles into dust?" She came to Canada in 1991 and has called it home ever since. In Canada, Nemat worked at Swiss Chalet while secretly writing her harrowing life story as a therapeutic diary. She is currently teaching a creative writing course in Farsi at the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies. Her memoir The Prisoner of Tehran is an international bestselling book and was a favorite on Canada Reads, though it was strategically voted out first. Keep your eyes open for Gina Macdonalds second guest review featuring The Prisoner of Tehran!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Book Review - Aleph

This was another one of those books I took a chance on. I'm not a very spiritual person by nature and I don't necessarily agree with all religious views but this book had a very interesting idea behind it. The idea behind a book is what's important and regardless of the story itself, that is enough to grab my attention.
Aleph is a remarkable story of self-discovery. In one of his most personal novels to date, Paulo Coelho shares his experiences from his journey all the way along the Trans-Siberian Railway.
After feeling the loss of meaning in his life, he is determined to find it again. Just before he begins his journey, he meets Hilal, a strong and determined young woman who shares the same goal that he is out to accomplish and believes that they can achieve it together. It is while the two of them are together that we first encounter an aleph. It is suggested that the past, the present, and the future, are all happening simultaneously. An aleph is a space where, if you are near someone you've met in a previous life, you will both see visions of the time you have experienced together in the past. Paulo is certain that his feeling of loss is being caused by a wrong he has committed in one of his past lives. The person he wronged is Hilal.
Paulo Coelho takes you along on his spiritual journey to find himself. It is an intensely personal, and fascinating experience. I found the idea of the aleph to be highly interesting. It is not a concept I've ever considered before. I think it's a beautiful idea that two people from a past life could meet again and share everything that has ever happened between them as though no time has passed. This book is definitely an interesting read and I was very impressed with it. For everyone out there with an open mind, I strongly recommend this book to you!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Author Bio - Paulo Coelho

Paolo Coelho was born on August 20, 1946, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Coelho attended Jesuit schools and was raised by devout Catholic parents. He determined early on that he wanted to be a writer but was discouraged by his parents, who saw no future in that profession in Brazil. In the 60-s in Brazil art was forbidden by military dictatorship. Worrying about the future of their son and trying to protect him from prosecutions of the authorities, his parents sent Paulo at age 17 to be under the care of a psychiatric hospital. He was committed to an asylum one three separate occasions. Coelho eventually got out of institutional care and enrolled in law school, but dropped out to indulge in the "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" of hippie life in the 1970s. He was jailed three times for his political activism and subjected to torture in prison.Once he left prison he tried to work but was dismissed without explanation. It was at this point that he decided to spend his time traveling. The casual meeting in Amsterdam resulted in his meeting with the Catholic Order RAM which was created in 1492. There Paulo learned to understand a language of signs and omens. Being sent in pilgrim travel to Santiago de Compostella, Coelho overcame 80 kilometers on a legendary track of pilgrims.
Coelho is an outspoken activist for peace and social justice, and also supports the free distribution of his work. He and his wife Christina split their time between Rio de Janeiro, and France. His latest book Aleph is a bestselling novel and I'm excited to be able to share it with you next week!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Book Review - The Placebo Effect

I really enjoyed this book and I especially enjoyed it because it surprised me. I had been looking forward to reading it for a few weeks now and even with my prior enthusiasm, this book was better than I thought it would be.
Decker Roberts has an unusual gift. It's something he has always had and is very valuable to a great many people. Decker has the ability to tell with absolute certainty when people are telling the truth. He lends his talents out to anyone who wishes to use them, for a fee. Privately of course. To the vast majority of the world his ability remains a secret, but to a select few, his ability is one of the most valuable assets in the world. Decker is a synaesthete. An individual with unique talents created from a mixing of the senses. He is part of a secret network of such people, though he doesn't fit in. He is special. After a strange encounter with another man of equally impressive abilities, Decker becomes the target of a dangerous enemy with an international reach. As his life is made progressively more difficult, Decker is forced to go on the run. As if things aren't complicated enough, the NSA are also on his trail for reasons unknown. Everything begins closing in around him and even those he trusts most begin to turn on him. And worst of all, they have his son.
The Placebo Effect is a thrilling story with a unique idea behind it. I think it focuses on some very important aspects of life; the ability to tell the truth and the importance of family. It's something that I am seeing less of every day and I admire David Rotenberg for bringing our attention to these things. This was a great read and I recommend it to all of you.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Author Bio - David Rotenberg

Even from an early age he had a strong and developing interest in writing. "I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t thinking of stories, then writing them. When I was seven years old, my oldest brother got a portable typewriter for his Bar Mitzvah. I was transfixed by it. I Would sneak into his room and use it". For a long time, however, the writing faded as David traveled around Europe and tried to make something of his life. It was after this time when he began writing scripts again. Now, David Rotenberg has been a master acting teacher for over 20 years. He has directed on Broadway, in many major regional theatres and for television. He has also published six novels. It wasn't until 2007 that his writing career really took off. He currently has a multi-book deal with Simon & Schuster, the latest of which is The Placebo Effect. It's a great book and you wont want to miss it!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Book Review - Something Fierce

This nonfiction was the winner of Canada Reads 2012! After a week of heavy debate among the Canada Reads panelists, Something Fierce came out on top and I felt that this had to be the next book I shared with all of you!
Carmen Aguirre is the daughter to a revolutionary family. Her family is constantly moving from place to place and she never has any friends for very long. It is a lonely life for a child. Her mother and Bob are in the Chilean resistance. For weeks at a time, Carmen and her younger sister Ale are left with other families. When they grow older, they are left to fend for themselves while their parents are away. How does a child live when every day they fear they will never see their parents again? That the secret police could come barging in at any moment and take you away? Rather than face neglect and loneliness at home, both Carmen and Ale seek solace in boys and spend as much time away from home as possible. As she grows older Carmen joins the underground herself. But after years and years of continuous revolution, will there ever be an end in sight? With an ever widening gap within her family, Carmen continues to fight. For her rights. For her freedom. For Chile.
Carmen Aguirre tells the story of her life down to every detail and every fear that she had to overcome. I found her story very intriguing. Not only does it give great insight into the world of a revolutionary, but it shows you the lesser known side of a revolutionary that loses the fight and what happens afterwards. It makes you realize how different our countries really are. Compare your childhood to hers and they will be nothing alike. I think it's always good to gain a new perspective, and why people see the world the way they do. Carmen Aguirre was a revolutionary, and now she passes her story on to you. She has survived Something Fierce.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Author Bio - Carmen Aguirre

Born in Chile, Aguirre and her family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada as political refugees after the infamous Pinochet coup of 1973. Returning to South America in 1979, the family was not allowed back into Chile and Aguirre subsequently became active in the Chilean resistance. She spent much of her younger life living in fear. "Fear that my political convictions would not be strong enough to keep myself committed to a cause that I believed in but which clashed with my other desires: to live a “normal” life, to sleep a full night’s sleep, to dance and laugh and talk nonsense without my radar up, without having to watch every word, every choice I make." Now she is a multi-faceted actress, writer and playwright and has an extensive background in the film and television industry. She not only shares an interest in these areas but also has exceptional talent. She has written and co-written 18 plays and has been nominated for the Siminovitch Prize, the biggest award in Canadian theater. Although Carmen found her calling as an actor and storyteller at the age of three, when her parents took her to the circus in the south of Chile, she did not decide to dedicate her life to her artistic calling until the age of 22. Her newest book, Something Fierce, is a memoir on her childhood living as a revolutionary daughter. It is a very intimate account of her life with an eye-opening perspective on the life of a revolutionary. I hope you're all looking forward to the review next week!