About Jaclyn

I'm a total bookaholic! Fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, YA, science fiction, I read practically anything and everything. I also love talking about books, and chatting about books with people who love them as much as I do!

#BingeReading with Penguin Random House Canada

So I come home on the Friday of a long weekend, and at my door, I find this:

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In the box is an invitation to join Penguin Random House Canada in #BingeReading this weekend. And what a binge this will be!

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For fans of Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy, mark your calendars! Book 3 The City of Mirrors will be on sale this May 24th. I loved the first book so much that I took all 800 pages of its hardcover version around with me on the subway, and I can’t wait to revisit that world and find out what happens next.

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This has also got to be one of the coolest marketing pieces around. What better antidote to a busy workweek than one thousand, nine hundred and thirty-six pages of pure, unadulterated reading bliss?

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And just in case it’s past  my bedtime and I still can’t put the book down, they’ve even included a pretty in pink reading light!

And as if all this wasn’t quite enough of a bookish binge, I also happened to receive this book for review earlier this week:

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I adored the first book in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time (based on The Winter’s Tale), and Shylock’s infamous speech in The Merchant of Venice has long been my favourite Shakespearean monologue, so I’m really geeking out over this. (Also, I just discovered a video of David Suchet as Shylock delivering this very speech, so I’m just in total geek heaven right now.)

Thank you, Penguin Random House Canada for this beautiful #BingeReading package!

Now, if you will all excuse me, I think I’ll spend the rest of this long weekend wrapped up in a warm, cozy blanket, popcorn and candy at arm’s reach, and lost in the world of one among many good books.

Review | Bounders, Monica Tesler

25785674Twelve year old Jasper is a Bounder. He may not quite fit in with the other kids in his class, but the very things that make him different also make him uniquely suited to outer space. In Bounders, Jasper embarks on his first space mission, where he and his friends soon learn that: (1) there’s a mysterious alien being held captive by Earth Force and its existence is being kept top secret, and (2) Bounders are the only ones who can use Earth Force’s new and classified technology, gloves that allow them to quantum bound without a ship.

Bounders is such a fun story. Middle grade science fiction, Bounders just has a lot of fun with the whole space adventure story. Jasper and his friends geek out over the special technology they get to use, and it’s near impossible not to get caught up in their excitement. It was fun reading about their training on a space station, which includes a pretty awesome set of chutes that zip you from one place to another.

The mystery of the captive alien was intriguing, as are the various hints that Earth Force may not be as heroic as they seem. A field trip to a planet feels especially shady, with an Earth Force aeronaut demanding to see a local community close up despite their guide’s reluctance. It feels uncomfortably like the entitlement of a colonizer, and it’ll be interesting to see Tesler unpack these dynamics later in the series.

The idea of tweens saving the world isn’t new, and there are lots of other books out there with the same idea. What sets Bounders apart is the sense of sheer joy Jasper’s point of view provides. You can tell Tesler is having as much fun writing this adventure as Jasper is experiencing it, and that just makes it overall such a delightful reading experience.

I do have some concerns with the book, mostly from some good points raised in this Goodreads review. The reviewer pointed out concerns such as the use of the Magical Disabled Person trope, the idea of eugenics being wrong only because useful characteristics were bred out, and the simplification of a wide range of neurodiverse conditions into a single skill set. To be fair, I also share in that reviewer’s belief that the author’s heart is in the right place. As well, I’ll be honest: I don’t know if I would have caught this had I not read that review, but having read it, I admit it affected my experience of the book, and I think these are important points to raise.

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Thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Excerpt | The Hunter and the Wild Girl, Pauline Holdstock

25861172Set in 19th century France, The Hunter and the Wild Girl tells the tale of two outcasts: a feral girl who had escaped captivity and was hiding in the woods, and a reclusive hunter named Peyre whose life changes when he encounters the girl. The book has been lauded as a dark fairy tale, and reviewers have described the author’s writing as difficult to get into, but well worth the effort (National Post and Quill and Quire).

Here’s the thing: I couldn’t get into it at all. This is not to say that the writing or the book is bad. In fact, I gave this book a few more attempts than my usual three strikes rule before giving up, and I think it’s because I recognize a certain beauty in its language. The book design is beautiful as well, with a bit of a crinkly cover design that suggests age and roughness, and deckle edge pages within that connote weight, a story beyond the ordinary. I think that the text has a kind of beauty as well, a rather dense and rich rhythm that invites unpacking. It’s not for me, but I think other readers may appreciate what Holdstock has created.

So, decide for yourselves. Below are two randomly selected passages from the beginning of the book, each featuring one of the main characters. I don’t know if these are a fair representation of the book, but I hope they give you an idea of the language throughout. If you find yourself intrigued and wanting to learn more, then do give this book a chance. Perhaps you are just the kind of reader it needs.

Up on the bluff now, the wind finds her as soon as she stands. She runs with it at her back. By afternoon she is far away, at one with the high garrigue, the rough sanctuary of scrub and rock that is her home. She moves with ease along the ridge where there seems no path. At length, seeing a small bush where yellow leaves have withered, she stops. She finds a sharp stone and with her back always to the wind she begins to worry and chisel at the base of her bush. She pinches humpbacked bugs from the crevices between the rotten roots. They try to squirm away as fast as they are revealed, and just as fast she eats them. Bitter and husky they are and not to her taste and she goes on. Her life is returning to her whole and unforgotten, like waking to a day as ordinary as another. [pp. 10]

Peyre wakes not as the fragile toper of yesterday, nor as the uneasy watcher who rose in the night to padlock his chickens and secure his front door. He is restored. His self as returned. Intact, it can steer his dangerous mind through another day, ride it with the reins taut and its vision blinkered, turning it from the boy who lies always at the edge of sight. He starts on yesterday’s list even as he leaves his bed, his body assuming the dreamlike quality of the sleepwalker while his mind engages fully with its subject — the outstretched wing of an owl, its primaries extended like fingers that would comb the air, its markings as if a painter ran a brush of white in bands across the wing half closed. [pp. 48-49]

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Thanks to Goose Lane for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review | The Immortals, Jordanna Max Brodsky

25746707In The Immortals, the first in Jordanna Max Brodsky’s Olympus Bound trilogy, the goddess Artemis is now living in Manhattan as PI Selene DiSilva, who rescues female victims of abuse and punishes their abusers. When she arrives too late to save a murder victim, she vows to exact revenge on the murderer. Also on the hunt of the killer is Theo Schultz, the victim’s ex-boyfriend and a professor of the classics who notices that the murder has the markings of an ancient Greek ritual.

The Immortals is a nerdy fun read, a Greek mythology of The Da Vinci Code. Theo and Selene’s investigation reveals ancient artifacts, arcane rituals, and a series of murders that somehow have mythological significance. The Greek gods and goddesses at this point have left Olympus, and are fading in strength as their relevance to the contemporary world fades. Gods like Apollo (God of Art and Music) and Dionysus (God of Wine) are still going strong, but others like Selene as Goddess of the Hunt and Demeter as Goddess of the Hearth are fading away as hunting becomes less popular and the hearth is replaced by electric heating. Selene’s search for the murderer is complicated by her realization that she seems to be getting stronger with each death. Worse, her mother Leto is dying, and Selene must face the possibility that if this ritual renews the power of Greek gods and goddesses, the murders may be what is needed to save her mother’s life.

The murder mystery is fascinating, and I particularly geeked out over the scenes in the American Museum of Natural History. I also love the relationships between the characters — Selene’s pain at her mother’s impending death, and the estrangement between her and her twin brother Paul (Apollo) ever since an incident over two thousand years ago. (Readers more familiar than I with Greek mythology may know what happened; I found out a bit later in the book and found it fascinating.) There is also the attraction between Selene and Theo, which she feels the need to fight, partly because she has vowed to remain eternally chaste and also partly because of a long ago heartbreak with another man, Orion. Theo is just a total Robert Langdon type, who is sweet and dorky and prone to going into lecture mode when explaining particular aspects of the crime scene.

If you like Greek mythology, arcane puzzles and nerdy murder mysteries, The Immortals is definitely worth a try.

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Thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

#CanLit in Mississauga | Coming Soon

Heads up Mississauga #CanLit lovers: some exciting news coming your way this winter/spring!

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Image courtesy of the event website

In conversation with Charles Pachter and Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, March 29, 6 pm, Noel Ryan Auditorium, Mississauga Central Library

Tickets: FREE, book on Eventbrite

First up, Margaret Atwood (yes, the Margaret Atwood!) hits the stage at the Mississauga Central Library on March 29th. I am a huge fan of Margaret Atwood’s work, so you can bet I booked my tickets immediately and will be staking out a claim on a front row seat.

Atwood and Pachter will be in conversation about their book The Journals of Susanna Moodie (first published in 1970 and reprinted in 1997). The book features poems by Atwood, taking on Moodie’s voice, about life in rural Canada in the early 19th century, and Pachter’s illustrations of these poems.

The event is organized in line with Mississauga Museums’ exhibition The Journals of Susanna Moodie, featuring prints on loan from the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and can be viewed at the Bradley Museum until April 17, 2016.

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13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

Publication date February 23, 2016, YA Fiction

Mississauga will also be getting its time in the #CanLit sun in Mona Awad’s upcoming novel 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. The story is set in Mississauga (or as the book’s protagonist Lizzie calls it, “Misery Saga”), and features an teenage girl’s struggle with her weight and body image. The author will be visiting Montreal and Toronto (check out the full list of publisher’s events for this book), so heads up if you’re interested.

The book sounds hilarious, and I definitely have it on my TBR pile, so keep an eye out for a review forthcoming on this blog.

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Image from Facebook

The Pitiful Human Lizard Issue # 7 by Jason Loo

Publication Date April 20, 2016, Pre-order at your local comic book shop

I’ve long been a fan of Jason Loo’s Pitiful Human Lizard comic book series about a self-deprecating Toronto superhero whose adventures are hilariously endearing.

In issue 7, coming this spring, our hero is stranded in the suburbs of Mississauga, with only his costume and not enough cash for bus fare back to the city. Will he get back home in time for work the next day? Will he discover the seedy underbelly of Square One’s parking lot? And above all, will he team up with iconic former Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion? We’ll have to wait until April to find out!

Review | The Productivity Project, Chris Bailey

25733994Many of us have likely been there: we have too much to do and not enough time to do it all. Every New Year, there is a new slate of books promising to help us improve our productivity and learn to get more done in a limited amount of time. Author Chris Bailey geeks out over productivity, and dedicated an entire year of his life in testing out various productivity techniques in order to weed out the useless ones and find the nuggets of gold. The result is The Productivity Project.

The book is full of useful tips, such as the following:

  1. Find out your personal periods of peak performance and schedule your tasks accordingly. For example, the standard work day may be from 9 – 5, but if you find you work best between 10 – 12 and 3 – 5, then schedule your most important work for those hours.
  2. Set aside a Maintenance Day. Rather than try to do chores like groceries and laundry intermittently throughout the week, push off all that you can until a Maintenance Day, when you can tackle them all at once. This will free up your concentration during the rest of the week to focus on more important things.
  3. Externalize your work by making notes on all the things you have to do in both your professional and personal lives. In this, Bailey imagines the brain much like Sherlock Holmes’ mind palace and the tasks we need to accomplish as clutter that needs to be put away for us to focus. By writing our entire to-do list down, we eliminate the need to think and worry about it, and can then focus on actually getting things done.

All of this and more are very useful techniques, and Bailey has a very practical, straightforward style that makes this book an easy read. I also appreciate the estimated reading time at the beginning of each chapter, as well as how he ends each chapter with a suggested exercise, including estimated usefulness, degree of difficulty and time commitment. Both his tone and the way the chapters are set up convey a respect for the limitations on his readers’ time, and helps us break up the reading into manageable chunks throughout our week.

One concern I had, I suppose, is that I didn’t really feel like I learned much that is new. In contrast to another book on productivity I read recently, Brian Tracy’s Eat that Frog!, which I found so useful that I actually noted my key takeaways from that book on Post-its in my workspace, I’m not sure what, if anything, so struck me when reading this book that I would post it at my desk.

I also found the book to be vague when it comes to explaining some of the techniques and more importantly, how exactly Bailey measured his success. Partly this may be because he was being productive about researching productivity, so I suppose the book itself is a measure of success. But, for example, in the chapter on procrastination, Bailey experiments with techniques to not procrastinate, and then compares his “before and after” time breakdown:

(BEFORE)

  • 19 hours on reading and research
  • 16.5 hours writing
  • 4 hours conducting and participating in interviews
  • 8.5 hours doing maintenance-type tasks
  • 6 hours procrastinating (page 56)

(AFTER)

  • 17.5 hours reading and research
  • 15 hours writing
  • 5.5 hours conducting and participating in interviews
  • 2.5 hours doing maintenance-type tasks
  • 1 hour procrastinating (page 67)

Here’s the thing: he never explains where those extra five hours go. The time spent on most of the other tasks also decreased, so it’s not like giving up the five hours of procrastination gave him more energy to work more on various tasks. It’s possible that not procrastinating meant he was able to get more done in a shorter amount of time, and the extra five hours from procrastinating and extra nine or so hours from other tasks went to having fun instead. But as it is, I don’t know how this time tracking comparison proves that not procrastinating makes you more productive.

I also don’t quite understand how Bailey defines or measures productivity. Partly, it’s because his project is so meta — he’s being productive in researching and writing about productivity, so unless he provides his entire resume and bibliography, this book is the single quantifiable marker of his productivity. But also because he simply asserts that he is more productive, without quite explaining what he means by that.

For example, in the chapter on productivity peak periods, he tells us he’s discovered that he is most productive at two particular periods in the day. How does he know that? Did he measure how many pages he was able to write per hour? Did he have an external consultant rate the quality of his work on an hourly basis? Or is it simply a generic feeling of when he felt most productive? Which I must clarify is nothing to sneeze at; we all know the feeling of being “in the zone.” But again, I wish Bailey made this clearer, so I wouldn’t have to infer it myself.

Overall, it’s not a bad book, and Bailey does have some good advice for being productive. This book also provided a pleasant distraction from my morning and afternoon commutes, as I ended up reading most of it on the subway.

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Books, Be Mine: Valentine’s Day 2016

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Here’s a pretty awesome campaign by Simon and Schuster Canada for Valentine’s Day 2016. Valentine’s Day is for spending with your true love, so what better way to spend the day than with a book?

Every day leading up to Valentine’s Day, Simon and Schuster Canada will be sharing excerpts, quotes and other bookish fun on their Facebook event leading up to February 14th, so check it out if you’re looking for ideas on which books to spend the big day with.

Some ideas they’ve suggested include:

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And if you’re looking for a bit of a longer term love affair with books this year, check out the Simon and Schuster Canada Look Book, filled with samples of their Spring 2016 Fiction catalogue! It’s free to download on several ebook formats.

My personal Look Book highlights? I love Iain Reid’s memoir The Truth About Luck, and his upcoming I’m Thinking of Ending Things has been listed by the Globe and Mail as one of the most anticipated Canadian books in 2016. I’m also a big fan of Peggy Blair’s work, and am pretty excited to find out what happens next to Inspector Ramirez and his team. Keep an eye out as well on my blog for forthcoming reviews of Glory Over Everything and Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, both of which have caught my eye and are currently on my TBR.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for this fun idea, and may you all have a bookish Valentine’s Day!

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