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February 24th starts Freedom to Read week and I can’t think of a better way to start thinking about what this means than to read Globe & Mail writer Elizabeth Renzetti’s wonderful column “Censorship is alive and well in Canada – just ask government scientists”. Read this and make sure to pass it along to family & friends. Censorship isn’t just something that happens in other countries. Our alarm bells should have gone off a long time ago.

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Straphanger by Taras Grescoe is not a book for everyone. If you’re like alot of North Americans and addicted to your car you won’t be the least bit interested in reading this. And if you don’t know what a straphanger is you really do spend too much time in your car. But if you’re more inclined to travelling on foot, by bus or metro, or even bike, then you might like to read about how cities all over the world deal with creating an environment that is not focused on cars. Boy, are we ever in trouble here in North America. Here’s an interesting fact… the average American household owns 1.9 cars and spends $16,700 a year keeping them running, not including parking and tickets. That’s more than it spends on food and healthcare combined. Grescoe gives us a first hand glimpse of what it’s like to be a metro user in Paris (a city he loves by the way). They have more miles of track in their city center than London or New York. The chapter on Copenhagen made me drool, which isn’t hard because I love Copenhagen anyway. Between the bikes – everyone has at least one! – and the honour system on the subway (no turnstiles), they seem light years ahead of most cities in Canada. And when the Cityringen, a circle line that will add 15 new stations is completed in 2018, only the residents who live in the most isolated districts will be more than a 600 yard walk from a metro station.  Imagine! And more people commute by bike in Copenhagen (population 1.8 million) than cycle to work in the entire US. Shanghai China got its first subway line only 15 years ago and now it has the largest system in the world. Compare that to Ottawa where we’ve been debating and bickering over a light-rail system for the past 17 years and still haven’t put shovel to the ground yet. I found the chapter on Toronto sad. Opportunities lost, bad decisions made by city council, and way too much urban sprawl. He even mentions Toronto’s illustrious Mayor Rob Ford giving the axe to the approved transit plan for the future. The car definitely rules in TO. Grescoe lives in Montreal, which is where in 2010, the transit system was voted the best in North America. Go figure! (That boggles my mind.) He’s been all over, seen it all, and chooses to live there. And he’s really committed to public transit. The dedication at the beginning of the book says it all… “To desmond, who arrived, unexpectedly, after his parents rode the 80 bus to the hospital for a routine ultrasound.”

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Ross Pennie’s New Book

I’m a happy camper… I discovered, quite by surprise, that author Ross Pennie who wrote Tainted (which I REALLY enjoyed) has a new book out called Tampered. He’s  a doctor at the Brantford General Hospital and a Professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, and his books are medical mysteries. They are quite unique… and really, really good.

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Secret Daughter

Secret Daughter: A Novel by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (published by HarperCollins) has been on the best seller list for ages. It is one of those surprise hits.  It’s the story of 2 families, one in India, one in the USA, brought together by the adoption of an Indian baby girl named Asha by an American family in California. Growing up entirely American (but with an adopted father who was born in India), Asha eventually travels to Mumbai on a fellowship from Brown University as a journalist to do an article on children in the slums. This gives her a wonderful opportunity to connect with her Indian relatives, her father’s side of her adopted family, whom she’s never met. And of course, while there, she decides to try and find her birth parents. As Asha ages her American mother, Somer, has trouble dealing with the fact that she’s the only one in the family who has no connection to India and this eventually leads to a falling out of sorts between mother and daughter. And her birth mother, Kavita, has trouble dealing with the fact that she handed over her daughter to the adoption agency when she was 3 days old, and knows nothing about her since that heart-wrenching day. Is she still there, has she been adopted, is she even still alive? The book is full of emotion and feelings (“the emotional terrain of motherhood” as the back cover says), the trials of being an adoptive parent, and the loss of having to literally give away a baby. Gowda is a reat writer and her book is well worth reading.

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I’m going to bite the bullet and give it a try. I’ve accepted the challenge. Hubby has a Kobo. (In The Globe & Mail they said that buyers of e-readers are mostly men over 40 – well – DUH!! it’s a gadget.) The only thing I have to do is find a book that I think will be appealing and hold my interest because I’m entering into this endeavour with more than a little scepticism – I am a “feel-the-paper-in-the-book” kind of person. But I’m going to give it a try. Who knows!!

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Congratulations to ERIC PIERNI of Toronto. He will be receiving a copy of The Extraordinary Garden by Francois Gravel in the mail shortly. It is my all time favourite book and I hope he enjoys it as much as I do.

The 5 runners-up will each receive a $10 Starbucks coffee card compliments of CanPub Information Technologies Inc. (

I’ve really had fun doing this, wish I could have sent everyone a book, and am already thinking of what to do next year. Keep reading and sharing your picks with others and let me know what you think of my recommendations. Thanks guys!!

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Word of the Decade

An esteemed bunch of wordy people who are language experts has decided that Google is the word of the decade. Yea Google!! (It’s funny that these so-called experts weren’t able to find a word to represent the nameless decade.) Anyway, Google beat out 9/11, blog, text, war on terror, and Wi-Fi. Google received twice as many votes as blog, and both words completely outdid all the other nominees.

Tweet was the word of 2009.

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