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).
image1
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.
image2
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.
IMG_2593

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
IMG_2550
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
IMG_2579
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
IMG_2423
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

image1

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.

image4
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.

image3

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!

image2

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!

 

Harper Lee

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 12.01.16 PM  Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 11.43.42 AM*image retrieved from biography.com

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..

High School Books

In high school English class, we all had various books assigned to us. In grade 9 I read The Chrysalids and Lord of the Flies, both of which I thoroughly unenjoyed.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 11.08.12 PM     Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 11.10.16 PM     Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 11.12.57 PM

In grade 10 it was To Kill a Mockingbird, and I honestly don’t remember any books from grades 11 or 12. My last year went out with a bang, featuring a spectacularly depressing book by a Canadian author, The Stone Angel. (Yes, that was back when there were 5 years of high school here. But that’s for another post. Or even another blog.)

So now I ask you, dear readers, what did you read in high school English (aside from Shakespeare)? Please share! A synopsis and your opinions would be lovely, but I don’t ask you to invest a lot of time. Just some titles and comments. I’m looking forward to comparing our experiences!