Does the weather affect your reading choices?

In all my life, I don’t believe there has ever been this much snow on the ground for such a long time without a thaw! As a snow lover I am thoroughly enjoying every soft, sparkling second. All the cold and snow have kept me indoors more than usual, though, so I have been able to chip away at my never-ending To Be Read pile.

As I was selecting a book to read, I wondered whether the wintry weather had an impact on my choice. Beach reads are obviously meant to be read in the summer, preferably while on vacation. But what about cozy mysteries, are they always read in the winter months, by a fire or with a cup of tea (or both)? Lately I have been conscious of something that makes me choose a gloomy mystery over less atmospheric non-fiction nature writing, but I’m not sure what the cause is. In case anyone is out there thinking I just didn’t want to start reading something ‘dry,’ that is not the situation in this case. I truly love the natural world, and I therefore find nature writing very interesting! It’s just that I was vaguely aware of some underlying instinct that seemed to result in my final selection.

I think we can all agree that the weather affects our mood, and I suppose our mood would have an effect on what we choose to read, so maybe it’s not exactly the weather that causes us to read something light, or something a bit heavier.

What do you think? Have you noticed that the genre of books you read tends to vary with the seasons? Or am I on my own with this one?

Books as Therapy

I think it’s time for another post about bibliotherapy – the practice of using books as tools for improving, promoting or maintaining mental health. Wellness and mental health are extremely important, with our lives getting busier and busier, and stress increasing with every new addition to our calendars.

Reading helps us escape from the pressures of everyday life

Is there anything more satisfying than recommending a book that someone else reads and enjoys? I absolutely love those moments. Readers’ advisory is not bibliotherapy, but if finding someone who likes the same books as we do warms our hearts, imagine the thrill of prescribing a book that helps someone on such a foundational level as their mental wellbeing.

In her Guardian article, Move over Freud: literary fiction is the best therapy, Salley Vickers breaks it down for us, spelling out some social problems (‘chronic loneliness and isolation’) and a therapeutic solution that involves reading: “reading in groups . . . significantly ‘improves self-confidence and self-esteem.'”

The Conversation has a great article about the history of bibliotherapy, which came into its own after World War I. Many returning soldiers were so traumatized from their experiences that they had a difficult time re-adjusting to civilian life; but prescribed reading helped many sufferers to work through their trauma. I know I have written about her before, but one of my heroes is Sadie Peterson Delaney, who pioneered bibliotherapy, and worked very closely with veterans as well as children.

Image courtesy of The Steampunk Home

On the other hand, bibliotherapy is still an imprecise science. A book that one person connects with might not be helpful to someone else. In their article, 5 Books That Will Make You Happier, According to Bibliotherapists Good Housekeeping sites therapists who recommend The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt as a good book to read if you are feeling pessimistic about the future. I found that book very depressing and not at all positive or uplifting, so in my opinion that’s an inappropriate recommendation for someone who is already feeling pessimistic. This article leads me to believe that there could be quite a margin of error in the practice of bibliotherapy, but I suppose that could be said about many things. Overall, I still love the idea and am eager to connect with someone who has been an official participant in bibliotherapy.

Is there anyone out there who would like to share a books-as-therapy experience? I would love to hear your thoughts!

What a year!

Overall, was 2018 a good year for your reading? A good year could mean you reached your goal for the number of books you hoped to read. Or it could mean that generally, you liked the books you read. For me, I wouldn’t say it was a great year. I read fewer books than I hoped to, and there were a lot of books in there that I really did not enjoy. My least favourite 2018 reads are:

  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  • The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish
  • Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee

On the plus side, there were some new titles I discovered last year which I really enjoyed. They are pictured below, and I honestly can’t recommend them highly enough. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a book I will always cherish, because it opened my eyes to the the astonishing intricacies of the little guys we see on the sidewalk every morning in the summer. I will forever appreciate snails now that I’ve read this book.

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock was very unusual, and extremely well written; there’s nothing like a breath of fresh air just when you need it.

As someone with a heart for books (especially old ones), history, mystery, and quaint, ancient English towns, Charlie Lovett’s The Lost Book of the Grail was the literary equivalent of eating a delicious dessert every time I picked it up (which wasn’t often, because I rarely put it down!):

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett

I am happy that I discovered some new gems in 2018, and even though I read a few books I didn’t enjoy, no reading is ever a waste of time. The books we don’t connect with still teach us things – about ourselves or something else. And learning is always a good thing!

To see a list of the books I conquered last year, please click the following link:

Thank you for stopping by. I think last year was my worst for blog posts, but I will try to post more this year. Although truth be told, I do find it difficult to come up with original things to blog about. But please hang in there! I appreciate everyone who pops in to read my thoughts ❤

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!

 

You gotta read this!

Hi everyone! I am so sorry I have been such an infrequent blogger this year. Interesting, original blog posts have been hard to come up with, and life has been so busy that I haven’t had many opportunities to read. But I hope I will be able to create more posts as we move into the second half of 2016.

This year, my goals is to re-read some of my favourite books, as well as to read some of the classics that I still haven’t read yet. Future posts will bring you up to date on my progress in those areas, but this post is about some new, interesting, and entertaining books I’ve read lately that I highly recommend.

  • The Case of the Secretive Sister by Nilanjan P. Choudhury

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I first heard of this absolutely delightful book from another blogger, The Bibulous Bibliobiuli. His review here is definitely worth reading to get more of a sense of this witty, engaging read. It’s published in India, and I have not read much contemporary Indian fiction, but this was a quick read that was fun from cover to cover. Perfect summer reading, or just to get away from everything for a while, I know you’ll be glad you read it.

  • Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

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This is the second book I’ve read by Amy Stewart, and I thoroughly enjoyed them both. Girl Waits With Gun takes place in pre-WWI America, and is based on true events. The author brings the past vividly to life in this story about a thug and his gang of hoodlums who hit a horse-drawn buggy while they are driving in their car. The three Kopp sisters were in the buggy at the time of the accident, and the story unfolds as they try to get the driver to pay up for the damages. A very satisfying story with a dose of history as well!

  • The Great Pearl Heist by Molly Caldwell Crosby

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The Great Pearl Heist falls into the true crime category. It’s a well-researched tale of the amazing theft of the world’s most expensive necklace. It happened in London in 1913, and as well as full details on the theft itself, we also learn a lot about policing and the art of detection at that time. For a synopsis, click here – but I have to warn you, if you don’t already, you will want to read the book after you learn more about it!

Book Art: Malena Valcarcel

It’s been far too long since I’ve done a post on Book Art (almost exactly a year, oh my!), but I realized that although I have admired the gorgeous creations of this artist for some time, I somehow failed to do a post about them.

Malena Valcarcel is a book artist from Spain, and has a wonderful shop on Etsy. For the exceptional quality of work, her items are very reasonably priced. She even makes jewelry! Click on the pictures to go to the items on Malena’s website.

This is one of my favorites:
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And look at this one. Amazing!
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Malena’s work is incredible and ships anywhere in the world. I hope you have enjoyed looking at these treasures, and I also hope you head over to Etsy and treat yourself to some bookish art! 😉

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Interview with Words and Peace blog

Hello, Readers! A fellow blogger and I wanted to get to know each other a bit better, and also wanted to do a little advertising, so we’ve decided to co-publish an interview we did with each other on our blogs.

Emma from Words and Peace is posting my answers to these questions on her blog, and I hope you will enjoy her responses below, and also stop by her blog and get to know her!

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  1. What made you want to start a blog?

First of all, I would like to thank you Jess for interviewing me. The idea was born during BBAW, I’m glad we finally took the time to do this. Your followers who are interested in your answers can come and read them on my own book blog.

I launched Words And Peace in September 2010.
I have always loved reading and talking about books, to anyone ready to listen.
One day, I discovered evolution had produced a rare species, book bloggens. I was overjoyed to discover other members were not far from me, just a few computer keys away, and that I could communicate with them in a common language. So we started talking, and one day, I decided to join their lively community. I have not regretted it once.
So when I can’t talk books with people around me, I can always go and find other book bloggens members. Through them, I have discovered zillions of books I would never have heard about otherwise.

  1. What is it about books that is special to you?

I devour about 110 books every year, and I practice book polygamy, that is, I always read several books at the same time. I usually have one or more going on in print, one or more in a digital form, and always one in audio form. I am always in the process of reading a religious book, Lent or not, and I try to have another one pertaining to nonfiction as well.

So far, nothing that exceptional for a book blogger. Maybe more special is the fact that as soon as I have a minute when my hands are going to be busy and my brain free, I do not listen to music or podcasts, but to an audiobook: preparing dinner, doing the dishes, dusting, ironing, exercising or painting (I’m also an artist). Also during long road trips.

And I have decided not to have TV at home, so I basically have around 5 hours of leisure time every night to read. I usually do not read before 6pm, too busy with work (tutoring and translating novels), but after that, I can relax with a good book.

  1. What are some of the unexpected rewards that have come to you as a result of your blog?

When I started book blogging, as said above, I was just looking for a place to talk about books with others. In the process, I got familiar with all kinds of events related to book blogging, such as, among many other things, virtual book tours.
Visiting many other book bloggers and participating in blogging events made me become more aware of new releases and discover more closely the world of publishers. Little by little, I realized how many books published every month were set in France. So the idea gradually grew in me that there was a niche for me if I combined these two things.
That’s how book blogging led me to start my own virtual book tour company, in 2013, focused exclusively on books related to France.

For years, I’ve been aware of a heated debate among book bloggers, whether getting a book for free to review is pay enough, or whether you should get remunerated for talking time to read a book and write a review. There seems to be a brand new trend opening right now for book reviewers, where some companies are willing to pay to get some good quality honest reviews –we are not talking about “bribes” by sales platforms here. I have been recently accepted by one of these companies and another invitation is pending, so I have the feeling book blogging is going to morph for me and open onto other things down the line.

  1. Is blogging everything you thought it would be?

Book blogging has opened up wide horizons for me, much wider than I ever imagined, as far as connections with bloggers, authors, and publishers are concerned.

I had never thought either that it would push me to write public pieces on a regular basis in English, which is not my native language. It is quite exhilarating, even though I am aware of the persistent presence of syntax mistakes.
It has also offered to me the unexpected opportunity for more visibility regarding my translation jobs – I translate English novels into French, and I have the feeling this is also going to grow.
Besides, for whenever I have time, I also have a book project of my own. It will be the fruit of both my book blog and my virtual book tour site. I published an anthology a few years ago, so it would be really thrilling to put together a second book.
So book blogging has ended up being so much more than I thought it would be!

Thanks Jess, for your wonderful questions.

Emma at Words And Peace and France Book Tours

Words And Peace is also on FacebookTwitter, Google+Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube

And you can see here the novels I have translated so far

*** Thank you for this fun opportunity to spread the word about a fellow book-lover’s blog. All the best to you, Emma, and to those who stopped by to read our interview. ***

I Never Would’ve Read That!

Over the years, friends and family have broadened my reading horizons considerably. Gifts and reading recommendations have influenced me to read things that I never would have read on my own. Some examples of recommendations are: Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, Headhunters by Jo Nesbø, and Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Each of these are books that did not catch my eye in the bookstore or library, but came with such persuasive insistence that I would enjoy them, that I felt I should at least give them the 50-page trial. And while each of them are totally different genres, they were all page-turners that I thoroughly enjoyed (and now recommend to others).
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My parents gave me the adorable, heart-warming story of Dewey the Library Cat by Vicki Myron for my birthday and I was unfamiliar with this amazing true story. I would never have picked it up if I’d seen it on the shelf at a bookstore, but after I unwrapped it and read about the poor kitten who was left for dead in the library’s book return and lived to brighten countless lives, I couldn’t resist it!

Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King was a birthday present some years ago now, and as with Dewey, I was a little surprised when I unwrapped it. But, I had such a high regard for the friend who gave it to me, that when they told me that they had not only enjoyed it, but thought of me when reading it, I gave it a go. And I did love it! They were right – Ross King brings the history of the Sistine Chapel ceiling to life in an unforgettable, intriguing way.

Yet another birthday brought me Secret Sanction, the first in a series by Brian Haig, and I thought, “Hm..” when I opened it. Military suspense/thrillers are okay, but once again, not something I look for. I enjoyed it so much that I bought all the others in the series. Haig’s dry wit actually had me chuckling out loud throughout the books while I also enjoyed the action and suspense.
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In fact, the bookmark pictured here in Dewey, and that fun mug are gifts too. 🙂 Have you received gifts or recommendations that prompted you to read something you would otherwise not have considered? It’s always such a nice surprise to have your horizons broadened enjoyably!

I heart Little Free Libraries

Do you have a Little Free Library in your neighborhood? I’ve never seen one in real life, but I love the concept of them!

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Photo retrieved from http://www.shareable.net /blog/ever-wondered-how-little-free-libraries-change-neighborhoods

In December 2014, the Globe and Mail published an article about them entitled, When your neighbor’s yard is a library. The article paints an appealing picture of neighbors getting to know each other and swapping books they never guessed would appear in these impromptu libraries.

If you don’t have one near you, and you’d like to put one up, there is a fantastic website called LittleFreeLibrary.org that has absolutely everything you need to start your own. You can learn about the movement’s history, you can buy supplies and/or accessories to make your own Little Free Library, you can register it, you can also buy The Little Free Library Book – a volume I would like to add to my own collection. There are marketing materials to help spread awareness of your new Little Free Library, and many more useful resources. This website is a great resource to anyone who wants to start one or who just wants to find out more about them.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not), not everyone in the world loves Little Free Libraries. Last February, The Atlantic published, The Danger of Being Neighborly Without a Permit and I think you can guess what that article is about (sad face). NOW Toronto also released an article in August 2015 about the under belly of Little Free Libraries – that people were putting garbagey books in them just so they didn’t have to throw the books away: Little Free Libraries have sprouted across Toronto, but yield few treasures.

Little Free Libraries are, in my opinion, a wonderful idea and I would definitely put one out if I could. But what do you think? Do you like the idea, or do you think they should require a permit and are just a way for people to throw out books they don’t like with a clear conscience?