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!

Penguin Random House Canada

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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!

 

A bookish retrospective

Hello, and happy new year! I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you are also amazed by how quickly 2016 went by. It happens every year, so I don’t know why it is such a surprise each time, but…I can’t believe it!

Every year people write about all the books they’ve read, and I was always left wondering how I would fit in on the spectrum of volumes read per year. So in 2016 I kept a list, and I managed to get 26 books read this year! That number has made me especially skeptical of those who read over 100 books a year. Unless their job is to read and review books, of course. But for anyone with a full-time job to read over 100 books a year, I have to wonder.

2016 Reading Highlights

  • I discovered a new series this year: A Victorian Bookshop Mystery series by Kate Parker. They are obviously fluffy reads, but I love that they are set in Victorian England; the protagonist is the proprietor of a bookstore; there’s a cat, murder, intrigue and romance. What’s not to love?! A wonderfully entertaining escape from reality.

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  • The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell. I enjoyed this novel about a descendant of the Brontë family, and I was especially impressed by the author’s insightful comments about the Brontë girls and how events in the lives of the other sisters seem to have ended up in Charlotte’s best-selling work, Jane Eyre.

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  • As some of my posts this year indicated, I re-read some books that I haven’t looked at in years. Re-reading books is always enjoyable, because it’s like visiting with old friends. I read The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, which is one of my all-time favourites, and I think I will try to tackle The Moonstone this year, which I haven’t cracked open in close to 20 years.
  • I renewed my acquaintance with Agatha Christie. I read lots of her books in high school, but hadn’t picked one up in years! So after following @agathachristie on Twitter and reading about The Bibulous Bibliobiuli‘s challenge to read all of Christie’s works last year, I thought I would re-visit those classics, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I try to pay equal attention to M. Poirot and Miss Marple.

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Who knows what this new year will hold? If I could make a wish, it would be for the space to build some shelves that can hold all the books in my home. Aside from that, I can’t wait to read more M. L. Longworth books, find out what happens in the newest Birder Murder installation (being released in May), and meet more new books, as well as re-visit some old familiar ones. Oh, and let’s not forget the next illustrated Harry Potter book, due out in October!

On that note, I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year! All the very best in 2017 – may your tea always be hot and your bookshelves always full.  🙂

Classics Re-visited

Earlier this year I mentioned that I planned to re-read some of the classics I’ve read years ago, and I did! I read The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, and The Hobbit. I’m hoping to add The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier to my list by the end of this year.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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This is one of my favourite books. I first read it in high school, and it has remained a favourite for all these years. I even named my cat Percy after the hero 🙂 It takes place at the time of the French Revolution, during Robespierre’s reign of terror. In a gripping tale of suspense, espionage, mistaken identity and love, we meet the daring British men who smuggle French aristocrats out of their homeland to safety, at great risk to their own lives.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
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This is also a favourite of mine, if only because it was so surprising. Written in 1859, the story is incredibly creepy and chilling, and when I first read it (also years ago), I had no idea that semi-early Victorian writers could produce works that would keep modern readers glued to the page. Collins is often cited as the creator of the detective novel, by whom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It begins by drawing us in right away, and continues as we meet the man whom our heroine is engaged to marry, and who is not at all what he appears to be. There is greed, more mistaken identity, murderous cunning and a brilliant plot that brings a very satisfying conclusion.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
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Many people are familiar with The Lord of the Rings and middle earth. My father read this book to me when I was about 10, and the only thing I could remember of it was the description of Gollum. I realized it was high time I re-visited this classic and read it over the summer. It was fun to watch the movies afterwards (I always enjoy comparing books to their movie versions), and I’m glad I read this book again. What an epic tale! And while I rarely delve into the fantasy genre, it was highly entertaining to read of the dwarves’ quest for their stolen treasure, and to meet all the different creatures they encounter on their journey.

If you’re looking for something to read and have not enjoyed these classic tales before, or if you have read them but it’s been a while, I recommend all three and hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Harper Lee

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If you are at all acquainted with the book scene, you already know that a new book by Harper Lee is set for release this summer. ‘New’ may not be the most accurate word, since she reportedly wrote it before she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, but it is just now being released. However, the joy that first came with the announcement has been tempered by some doubts about this sequel. Yes, it is a sequel, featuring an adult Scout. And, below are links to a few articles that might help to chronicle the evolution of reactions to the news about Harper Lee’s new novel:

NYTimes.com: Harper Lee, Author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ is to Publish a Second Novel from Feb. 3, 2015

BBC.com: Harper Lee: ‘Trade Frenzy’ and ‘concern’ over new book from Feb. 4, 2015

NPR.org: Harper Lee’s Friend Says Author Is Hard Of Hearing, Sound Of Mind from Feb. 4, 2015

BBC.com: Harper Lee dismisses concerns she was ‘pressured’ into book release from Feb. 5, 2015

And so, with baited breath, we wait for Summer 2015 when this book will be available for us to decide whether it’s a good thing or not. I do think that HarperCollins would hesitate to publish it if it weren’t very good, though..

News: ‘Netflix for Books,’ Choose Your Books With Care, and Interactive Children’s Classics

There is a lot of news relating to books out there right now! That’s something that always makes me happy. Here are some articles for you to peruse:

Publishers Are Lining Up Behind ‘Netflix for Books’ Services. But Why? on Wired.com is about two startup companies that have partnered with Macmillan, and who were already working with HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. The question this article poses is, why do publishers agree to partnerships with bottom lines amounting to “an always-accessible lending library with an infinite number of copies?”

I found, Three thousand reasons to choose your reading carefully a very thought-provoking piece that really confirmed my feeling that a book I’m not enjoying isn’t worth my time. But what if it’s a classic? Or, what if a special person loved it, and thinks you will too? These days, with life being so hectic, is reading a book that you aren’t enjoying at all, really worth finishing?

Ann Arbor startup MagicBook aims to bring classic children’s books to life at mlive.com is an article about something that people like me have a tough time with. Part of me loves the idea of an interactive, almost living, version of children’s classic stories. It’s wonderful to see those old characters come to life. But… isn’t the point of books a means for children to develop an attention span? Interactive eBooks like this article talks about, make me think of the interactive Alice in Wonderland that came out a few years ago. It’s neat, it’s fun, but again…is it really necessary? It is counterproductive?