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Early reviews of Rowling novel mixed

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No doubt Winnipeg bookstores are enjoying strong sales for the long-awaited first grown-up novel from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

The Casual Vacancy hit shelves first thing Thursday. And no matter what anyone thinks of it, it is guaranteed to be the fall season's top-selling title.

The early reviews are wildly divergent. People magazine calls it "a tough, ambitious book full of heartbreak and grim social commentary."

The Globe and Mail is less enthusiastic: "a mishmash of cardboard characters, a convoluted yet preposterous plot, cartoonish marital discord ... and stereotypical conflicts."

One thing is for sure, however. These will not be the last words.

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One of Canada's most influential business leaders will publish a memoir next month with HarperCollins Canada.

Frank Stronach, 80, founded the business that grew into Magna International a few years after moving to Canada from Austria in 1954. Whether or not his daughter Belinda's misadventures in the Liberal and Conservative parties will make the final edit is anyone's guess.

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Winnipeg Méira Cook, who launched her first novel, The House on Sugarbush Road earlier this month with Winnipeg's Enfield and Wizenty, is one of five finalists for the $5,000 Walrus magazine poetry prize for her poem The Devil's Advocate.

Readers have until Monday to vote online for her poem for a $1,000 Readers' Choice Award in the inaugural running of the competition, held by the Canadian magazine.

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An anthology of aboriginal writing and a British-style cosy murder mystery were added to Manitobans' reading lists this month.

Twelve Drummers Drumming (Doubleday Canada), by mystery writer C.C. Benison (pen name of Doug Whiteway), won the Manitoba Reads competition last week organized by the Thin Air writers' festival, McNally Robinson and CBC Manitoba.

Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water (Portage and Main Press), a selection of historical and present-day stories, poems, speeches and other writings, edited by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair and Warren Cariou, won this year's On the Same Page competition, held by the Winnipeg Public Library and the Winnipeg Foundation.

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A book by Jack Kerouac's one-time girlfriend sheds light both on the Beat Generation icon's writing technique and the influence of his French-Canadian heritage.

According to a profile in the Guardian newspaper, Joyce Johnson, 77, writes that Kerouac's writing was shaped by a childhood speaking French-Canadian joual and learning English as a second language. She also writes in her new book, The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac that the story of Kerouac as a pilled-up hepcat who wrote his breakthrough novel in three weeks is a myth. She says his work was really the result of years of effort to get each paragraph right.

booknewsbob@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2012 J8

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