Is there anything better than summer reading? (of course not!)

Have you been able to work on your To Be Read pile this summer? For the first time in years, I have actually had time to whittle away at my TBR list, and it’s been wonderful.

Last week I read The Slow Waltz of Turtles by Katherine Pancol. It’s a sequel to The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles, which I really enjoyed. Yellow Eyes was definitely quirky and original, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Slow Waltz of Turtles was a bit grittier, but I still liked it – not quite as much as its predecessor, though.
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I am an unabashed lover of animals, insects, nature and all things related to our natural world, so I was excited to read The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel. Lewis-Stempel is a renowned nature writer, and wow, it did not disappoint! Throughout the entire book, I was preparing myself for the horrible demise of the creatures I was growing to love (the hares that the author was protecting and indirectly providing for, for instance) but although nature and her carnivorous ways were well depicted, the book ended on a positive note, and my fears were allayed. (I might have also bought it because of the cover.)
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To change things up a bit, I also read an Agatha Christie mystery, The Murder on the Links. As well as being a nature lover, I’m also a cozy mystery enthusiast, and Agatha Christie does cozy mysteries like no one else. What better way to relax and unwind, than going through an exercise of the “little grey cells” with Hercule Poirot?
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So what have you been reading this summer? Have you found new books and added them to your TBR pile? Or have you been diligently ticking off those titles that have been looking at you for months? Maybe both! Whatever this summer brings you, I hope it involves many hours of literary happiness. ❤

Preventive Maintenance for Books

There’s no doubt about it, spring is on its way! Although today it is very cold here, so that might seem hard to believe. Nevertheless, warmer temperatures will be with us soon, and air conditioners will be humming once more.

With a change in the weather in mind, it’s time to do a quick assessment of your book collection’s health.

  1. Make sure your books are not in the basement or attic, where temperatures fluctuate the most, and the air can be very damp.
  2. Check that your books are not on an outside wall, where dampness can settle into them.
  3. Move shelves away from the blast of heating and cooling vents.
  4. Make sure your books aren’t jammed too tightly into their shelves, so they can breathe. Ensuring proper air circulation helps to prevent damage caused by moisture.
  5. Give those treasures some love with a duster. Dust and other particulates that settle onto the tops of books are harmful too, if it is not removed from time to time.
  6. Be sure to keep your collection out of direct sunlight: light damage is cumulative and irreversible.

I’m sure these tips are already in practice for the majority of my readers, but just in case anyone needed a reminder, I hope this short list was helpful.

Happy Spring, and happy reading! xo

Bookstagram

The Art of Marbling

The average person on the street will tell you they don’t know what marbling is. But I bet they’d recognize it if they saw it. You know those colourful endpapers that look like someone painted them? Well, that’s marbling!

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That looks familiar, doesn’t it? The image above is from the Folio Society’s beautiful edition of The Duke’s Children. While we tend to think of marbling as something that lives only in the endpapers of old books, did you know it is still practiced today? In fact, there are contemporary marbling artists all over the world, whose creations will take your breath away.

Marbling is done by layering paint on top of water or oil (contained in a deep tray), and carefully applying, then removing, a sheet of paper (or other material). There is a LOT more to it than that, but that’s the basic concept. Here’s what wikipedia says about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_marbling

Studio Robert Wu – Toronto, Canada
I was first introduced to Robert Wu’s work as a student at the University of Toronto’s iSchool. Our professor brought in some of Mr. Wu’s work, and I was instantly mesmerized by it:

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The Marbling Art of Robert Wu (8 of 39)      http://studiorobertwu.blogspot.ca

I went home that night and scoured studiorobertwu.com, amazed by what I saw. I decided that as a bibliophile, my home library (paltry though it is) would never be complete without at least one of Mr. Wu’s creations on the wall. I have not yet taken that step, but that’s only because my ‘favourite’ often changes – there are so many to choose from:

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Under the Willow Tree (22 of 39)       http://studiorobertwu.blogspot.ca

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Peacock (17 of 39)          http://studiorobertwu.blogspot.ca

Studio Robert Wu not only does marbling that is suitable to hang on the walls in your home, but Mr. Wu also does endpapers, bookbinding, miniature works, and more. I highly recommend you check out his website or Etsy page. Or go to @studio_robert_wu on Instagram for some neat videos and more beautiful art.

Jemma Lewis Marbling & DesignWiltshire, England
Jemma Lewis is another marbling artist, whose media include not only paper, but also textiles. And not just paper for endpapers, but dictionary pages, pages from children’s books, you name it.

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Hand Marbled Silk No. 3 from Jemma Lewis Marbling and Design

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‘Purple Bouquet’ peacock pattern from Jemma Lewis Marbling and Design

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Marbled Children’s Book Page ‘Secret Seven’ from Jemma Lewis Marbling and Design

I just can’t believe the talent and skill that goes into these creations, and I hope that more people become acquainted with this art form so that it gets the attention it deserves. My goals for owning marbled art keep expanding, with every new marbling artist I discover! Check out Jemma’s Instagram account @jemmalewismarbling, as well as her website to see more stunning examples of her work.

KatyEbruSiberia, Russia
Katerina Savelyeva practices Ebru, which I understand is the Turkish word or term for marbling. Katy also has an Instagram presence @katyebru, and the artwork displayed on her account is absolutely gorgeous. Some of the videos help to show the scope of her work, as well. Although a lot of Katy’s website is in Russian, the pictures don’t need translations to show more beautiful examples of marbling art and technique.

I hope these pictures and links have provided a nice change from the everyday for you. And if you happen to come across a book with marbled endpapers, maybe you’ll take it home with a renewed appreciation for the artist, and the talent that went into it.

 

The ups and downs of 2017

Hello, and happy new year! I hope 2017 was full of literary joys and adventures for all of you, and I hope 2018 continues to delight and surprise us.

Throughout the year I read several new books that were not really ‘new,’ in that although I had not read them before, they were from series I enjoy, such as M. L. Longworth installments or Agatha Christie novels. They were not exactly new, but delightful all the same.

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M. L. Longworth books

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My Agatha Christie collection so far…

Others were books I found through rabbit holes that one so easily falls into when looking at Amazon suggestions and reviews. One such gem was The Relic Master. I have mentioned it in a previous blog post, and I can’t recommend it enough. A healthy dose of history, mystery, some action, and a little romance, made for an edition to my collection where I was sorry to reach its end.

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The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley

Another unexpected surprise was Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I didn’t have high hopes for this one, but it far surpassed the ones I had. Murder, devious plots, mistaken identity and a little romance make this another one that was hard to put down.

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Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

And speaking of books from the past, I re-read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. It’s probably been twenty years since I first read it, and I have to say, I really liked it! I am an unabashed Wilkie Collins fan, and this confirmed my high regard of his work. At over 500  pages, it looks like it could be a bit of a slog, but it went very quickly with lots and lots of mystery and intrigue, and of course some romance as well. If you haven’t read it (or The Woman in White, my all-time favourite) I can highly recommend it.

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The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

I also read a few books this year that were a little underwhelming, the most notable of which was The Circle by Dave Eggers. It was actually just the end that I disliked. To avoid spoilers I won’t go into detail, but I will say that the protagonist’s final actions were thoroughly unsatisfactory, in my humble opinion. Which leads me to another story I didn’t love, and that was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I am glad I have finally read it, but it wasn’t a story that resonated with me. That’s not to say that it wasn’t well written or engrossing, both of which it was. It just wasn’t my favourite.

I could go on and on, but I try to keep my posts from rambling, so I will sign off for now. If you would like to see all the books I read in 2017 (a whopping 38), please click on the link below.

Books for 2017

A very happy and healthy new year to each and every one of you. May your year be full of love, laughter, and wonderful BOOKS!

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Murder at Christmas

December already . . .  And so many wonderfully seasonal books out there to keep you cozy on a frosty winter’s night. For example, one of literature’s most beloved detectives stars in Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, which I haven’t even read yet (gasp)! But I will be starting it shortly – I just have to wrap up Crimson Snow, first.
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I read a lot of mixed reviews for Crimson Snow (which is a collection of stories), so I really hemmed and hawed about adding it to my collection. But I am so glad I picked up a copy, because the stories are everything I hoped they would be. They are all set in the past, which makes them interesting from a historical perspective, and because they are short stories, you can sit down and read one from start to finish in a relatively short sitting. And in the Christmas season, where there is so much to do and so much going on, you might only have a few minutes at a time to sit down with a book.
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All the stories in Crimson Snow are murder mysteries, but with protagonists who are not as well known as Albert Campion, Hercule Poirot or Lord Peter Wimsey, for example. Nevertheless, the stories are quaint and enjoyable, with neat and tidy endings. Also, Martin Edwards’  introduction to each story is full of interesting tidbits about the author or the history of the particular story – so it’s educational, too!

Another great Christmas read is Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon. This is a full-length novel, also set is the past, having been originally published in 1937. It’s actually quite creepy at times, with all the loose ends tied up nicely at the end, and there are multiple murders to keep you guessing throughout.
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I’m sure you all have your Christmas reading well in hand at this point. But just in case anyone out there needs some additional ideas, I hope these have helped. Merry Christmas!

Brave Young John MacKinnon

Hi everyone! Guess what? I am now related to a bona fide, genuine, published author! My big brother has put a book out on Amazon, and I hope you will all check it out. It’s called Brave Young John MacKinnon, and if you enjoy Anglo Saxon lore, this is definitely for you. It is a very short story, but it vividly portrays the struggle of a young man in his quest to defeat the dreaded ogre of Englishland, who will no doubt remind of you that stickler English teacher we’ve all had to encounter.

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The tale is meant for children, although adults will certainly relate to the message written between the lines. I don’t want to give any more of it away, so I hope this post piques your interest, and you head straight over to Amazon.com to check it out!

It never ends well

As soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized that an unhappy or unresolved ending is sort of the point, for dystopian novels. Being somewhat new to the genre, I kept hoping that in the end, Good would rise up and overthrow the evil regime that had oppressed everyone during the story. Alas, happy endings don’t ever seem to happen.

My first foray into dystopia was with The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I read the first book which of course made me want to read the next one in the trilogy, but I also wanted to wait to buy it once it was in paperback so it matched the first volume (I know, I know).
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So while I waited for Catching Fire and Mocking Jay to come out in paperback, I read other books, one of them being 1984, since it has become quite popular in the last few years and I felt bad that I hadn’t yet read it.

As I read that dystopian classic, I realized where Collins had likely gathered many of her ideas, noting a lot of similarities between the two books. As I finished 1984 I was really surprised (in a bad way) by the ending. No overthrow of Big Brother? No victorious uprising with truth and freedom winning the day? I found that a depressing end to the story. But as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it has only recently dawned on me that a depressing end is the goal here. Or at least, the point.
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Once the second and third Hunger Games books came out in my required format, I read those and was also disappointed by the extremely depressing and not-at-all satisfying end. All my hopes and anticipation of good finally triumphing in the end were dashed.

My most recent (and probably final) foray into the world of dystopia was The Handmaid’s Tale. As with 1984, its revived popularity combined with my mild feelings of guilt over still not having read that portion of Western literary canon, caused me to pick it up and get it over with. As I trudged through it, I kept thinking that sadly, I would not be able to join the multitudes who declare their undying love for this work. But then, as I caught myself thinking this while washing the dishes or getting ready for bed, I admitted that the book was indeed very thought-provoking, and therefore possibly better than I was giving it credit for.
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I am someone who needs, if not exactly a ‘happy ending,’ then certainly an ending that does not provoke feelings of despair or defeat. I put myself in my characters’ shoes, so if things don’t end well for them, they don’t end well for me, and I really prefer it not to be that way. So, as I finished The Handmaid’s Tale, I was glad to find an epilogue that points to the regime’s downfall. That glimmer of hope helped perk me up a bit. But as I was saying to my dear husband, “the thing about dystopian novels is, they never seem to end well.” And so, dear readers, I will be sure to avoid them in my future reading adventures.

Looking for something different?

Hello and happy summer, everyone! I didn’t think it would be possible, but this year has been even busier than last year was. Has anyone else noticed that? Despite being run off my feet while the days become weeks and weeks dissolve into months, I have found time to enjoy a little literary peace and tranquility.

Himself  by Jess Kidd
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I have to admit, I was immediately drawn to this book because of the cover. As a honeybee enthusiast and admirer, I couldn’t resist picking this up at the bookstore and was pleasantly intrigued by the synopsis. There are some brief moments of graphic brutality that caused me to question my choice, but I persevered and I’m glad I did. This book was an enjoyable step out of the norm and I really liked it. As per my usual, it’s out of the ordinary and would definitely be at home in the ‘quirky’ category.

The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley
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Oh my goodness, was this ever a fantastic book! I highly, highly recommend it. Once again, this is beyond the scope of your average mass market read; a really engaging look into Renaissance-era art and forgeries. Intrigue, murder, scandal and a touch of romance make this a wonderful escape from the everyday. If you are looking for something different, this is another book you might just love.

Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
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This one was a real surprise. I don’t know why I always expect older books to be kind of slow, but this was amazingly gripping. I am a huge Wilkie Collins fan, and I think Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s style is similar in a lot of ways (but slightly less wordy). There was murder, tons of mystery, secrets galore, suspense almost from the very first page, and a delightfully happy ending. Again, this is one I would definitely recommend.

What are you reading this summer? If you’re looking for a break from the ordinary, I hope these books will give you a nice change, leaving you refreshed and ready for your own next chapter!

Keep your treasured books safe!

Hi everyone! I hope wherever you are, you are seeing signs of spring. We had a bitterly cold weekend, but I hope that was the last of the winter’s rage. Speaking of winter, and the cold, I thought now would be a good time to remind you that while books can last a very long time, they need to be cared for properly in order to do so.

Important-to-remember rule #1: Moisture and books do NOT go well together.
Try to keep you bookshelves on interior walls, and out of damp places like attics and basements. Mold loves paper, and it doesn’t need much help to start growing. As well as avoiding the damp, make sure you don’t jam books on your shelves if you’re running out of space (like I always seem to be). Proper ventilation around and through bookshelves will help keep your books from getting moldy or musty.
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image retrieved from Redwood Environmental Services

 Important-to-remember rule #2: Light damage is cumulative and irreversible.
Have you noticed that posters or fabric that regularly get a lot of sun fade or discolor? Even things that might not get direct sun will fade over time, and books are just as susceptible to light damage as anything else. That’s why if you go to see a museum exhibit that features books, the lighting is very dim. And if you go more than once, the book(s) on display will likely not be turned to the same pages, because the curator wants to limit the amount of light that the pages get exposed to. Light not only causes fading and discoloration, but it speeds the chemical breakdown of books as well, leading to brittle pages that crack and break more easily. Try to keep your books away from light, and especially out of direct sunlight.
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image retrieved from NEDCC

I’ll keep this post short and sweet, as those are the two biggies in terms of damage, and also the two causes of damage that are easiest to prevent. For those of us who don’t live in a museum, and who don’t have all the latest tech at our fingertips to control humidity and light, keeping your books out of the damp and out of the sun is a good start!

Penguin Random House tour!

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This week brought the privilege of touring Penguin Random House Canada’s gorgeous new facilities in downtown Toronto, sponsored by the Ontario Library Association’s 2017 Super Conference (#OLASC). As soon as we walked through the front doors, the wonderful smell of new books greeted us, and set the tone for the tour.

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Reception area at Penguin Random House Canada

When Penguin merged with Random House in 2013, it just so happened that the leases on their separate business offices were coming due shortly thereafter. Because of this fortuitous coincidence, a brand new location was renovated to house the new, combined company. We had a lovely tour guide from the architectural firm that built the new office, and she was wonderfully informative, showing us all the innovative designs that were used to build the open-concept space that truly fosters creativity and collaboration.

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We were invited to view individual work stations, as well as meeting rooms and casual spaces designed to promote spontaneous interactions and conversations. The end of the tour brought us to the brand new retail store that opened over the summer (@PenguinShopTO). Even though it is only 158 square feet, this little shop holds a great many treasures for book lovers including paperback and hardcover books, mugs, bags, water bottles, and more!

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Full disclosure though, the tour would have been even better if we had learned about what Penguin Random House actually does as a publisher. The tour was focused on the space where all the magic happens, but not on the magic itself. All in all, however, it was still a great way to spend an hour, and I think everyone on the tour would agree that it was interesting, informative and a lot of fun!