#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.

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.

#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!

Event Recap | Digital Detox at Penguin Random House Canada

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What better way to kick off the New Year than by taking a break from our digital devices and opting to curl up with a good book instead? I unfortunately didn’t take part in Penguin Random House Canada’s #DigitalDetox challenge in January (tip: if you want to detox with books, don’t read on your iPad), but I thought this event would be a great way to relax, treat myself to some time away from the screen, and pick up some yummy, healthy recipes to boot!

The event featured samples from Cook. Nourish. Glow., including a delicious cocktail: cardamom, rose and pink grapefruit gin fizz. Some of the food, including the olive and rosemary chickpea flatbread and millet-sesame croquettes with tamari dipping sauce, were a bit dry for my taste, but I really enjoyed the salmon balls with crunchy white sauce. Amelia was there as well, and she spoke to us about her book and about cooking healthy, delicious meals.

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The event also featured various tables with products and activities that promote health and relaxation, and the stop that immediately caught my eye was the Butter Me Body mini-spa station. Staff were on-hand to demonstrate some sugar scrubs and hand lotions, that were made from all-natural, Canadian-sourced ingredients. I selected the mango-scented products, which smelled delicious, and I loved how soft they made my skin feel without leaving any greasy residue.

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I also really liked the drawer organizing station inspired by Marie Kondo’s book Spark Joy. A floorplaysocks sign quipped that “Happiness is a tidy sock drawer.” My drawers are currently overflowing with hastily crumpled items, so I still have to try out these techniques and let you know if they do indeed cause happiness.

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As an aside, the swag bag we received included a copy of Life-Changing Magic, a journal inspired by Kondo’s book, and it’s my current favourite thing. The journal provides space to record whatever has sparked joy in your life in a particular day, and it has three sections per day, so one journal can last you up to three years. I love the act of taking note of the little joys each day, and I love knowing that, on days when things aren’t quite going my way, I can just look back on these entries and remind myself of all I can be grateful for in my life.

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The colouring station is another highlight from the event. I now want a copy of that Cats in Paris one, as well as this Paris Street Style colouring book I unfortunately didn’t get in the shot. Other highlights for book lovers and TV buffs include colouring books for Game of Thrones and Outlander

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I also happened upon a group learning gentle stretching techniques based on the “Essentrics” workouts Miranda Esmonde-White developed and wrote about in her book Aging Backwards.

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Finally, there was a whiteboard where we could post questions for an upcoming Twitter chat with Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things. If you’re a fan, join in on February 5 at 7 pm EST!

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It was great checking out the stations and meeting up with fellow book bloggers. The swag bag handed out at the end of the event was full of treats, including a sample of the Butter Me Body scrub, the journal I mentioned earlier, a signed copy of Cook. Nourish. Glow. and, another personal favourite, a coupon for a free cup of tea at David’s Tea. I also really love the quote on the Cheryl Strayed Post-It pad: “Be brave enough to break your own heart.” And I can’t wait to try out some of Amelia Freer’s other recipes.

Thank you, Penguin Random House Canada, for a wonderful detox event!

TV Preview and Giveaway | Childhood’s End Premieres on Showcase Canada Dec 14 at 8 pm

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CHILDHOOD’S END — “The Overlords” Episode 101 — Pictured: Mike Vogel as Ricky Stormgren — (Photo by: Ben King/Syfy)

Calling all fellow Canadian science fiction geeks! Arthur C. Clarke’s classic novel Childhood’s End is being adapted for the small screen and will premiere next week on Showcase! The three-night, six-hour miniseries follows the peaceful invasion of the mysterious Overlords, which begins decades of apparent utopia. The Overlords eliminate poverty, war and sickness from the world… but at what cost?

I’m also geeking out over the cast for this show. Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones!) is the ambassador of the Overlords, and likely about as trustworthy here as he was in Westeros. Julian McMahon is the founder of a research station, and while he’s probably best known for Nip/Tuck, I will forever know him as Phoebe Halliwell’s demonic boyfriend Cole in Charmed. Yael Stone, who is the utterly lovable but creepily stalkerish Lorna Morello in Orange is the New Black, plays a woman determined to find out the truth about the Overlords. Finally, Colm Meaney is in the cast as well, playing someone named Wainwright, and his name is certainly familiar to many Trekkies as Chief O’Brien.

Childhood’s End will be broadcast on Showcase in a three-night, six-hour miniseries event on December 14, 15 and 16 from 8 – 10 pm ET / 9 – 11 pm PT. 

GIVEAWAY (Canada only)

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Want to win a Childhood’s End prize pack from Showcase?

Enter here for a chance to win!

Contest runs from midnight on Dec 10 – midnight on Dec 14 and is open to Canada only. Good luck!

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Event Recap | Simon and Schuster Canada Fall 2015 Preview

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One of the best parts about being a blogger is finding out what great titles are coming up from your favourite publishers. So when Simon and Schuster Canada invited me to a Preview Party for their Fall 2015 children’s / middle grade / young adult titles, I jumped at the opportunity.

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As befits a children’s book party, Simon and Schuster Canada treated the little kid in all of the attendees by providing a table full of candies inspired by the various books in their catalogue. My favourite was the “pigeon poop” Oreo-chocolate-candies inspired by Kevin Sands’ The Blackthorn Key. They also had a selection of pop and a snow cone station.

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We got to hear about the various titles in their Fall 2015 catalogue. I was particularly intrigued by R.J. Anderson’s A Pocketful of Murder, mostly because I’ve always been a sucker for magic and mysteries, but also because of the book’s beautiful, whimsical cover. art.

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Another highlight is the new Kevin Sylvester book MINRS, about a twelve year old boy and his friends fighting for survival in a mining tunnel when their space colony is attacked. Sci fi, action and adventure are all my cup of tea, so I was glad to have been able to pick up a copy at the event.

I was also able to get a copy of Kevin Sands’ The Blackthorn Key, about an apothecary’s apprentice who has to deal with a cult killing the apothecaries in his city. I’ve just finished this book and it’s fantastic. Sands sprinkles his novel with codes and puzzles that his teenage protagonist Christopher must solve to get to the bottom of the mystery, and the answers are simple enough that we can somewhat solve right alongside Christopher, yet require just enough arcane knowledge (e.g. Latin, apothecary symbols) that we wouldn’t be able to solve it ourselves.

Also introduced at the preview is Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rulesabout a world where the children of royalty are held hostage to the various countries’ treaty of peace. I was able to read an advance reading copy from the Ontario Book Blogger Meet-Up, and I absolutely loved the book. The ending complicated my enjoyment of it somewhat, but I think it’s ultimately a testament to the author’s talent that she has crafted such a dark and complex world where there are no easy answers. The most mature of all the titles in this preview, and certainly one that I think will give university students and adults in general so much to chew on. My full review on Goodreads here.

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Finally, the publisher also presented two children’s books. Rob Gonsalves’ Imagine a World is just beautifully illustrated, and Adam Lerhaupt’s Please, Open this Book! is a highly imaginative take on what happens to characters in a book after you close the covers. Fair warning: you may not dare close another book again.

Event Recap | Fourth Annual Ontario Book Blogger Meet-Up

One of my favourite things about being a book blogger in Toronto is having so many other book bloggers in the area attending the same events. Here’s the thing: squee-ing over the once in a lifetime chance to see Judy Blume in person is pretty amazing. Seeing half a dozen familiar faces in the same room all squee-ing along with you is even better.

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So how awesome is it that five book bloggers banded together and decided to organize an event just for book bloggers to squee over books together? I remember hearing about the first Ontario Book Blogger Meet and thinking it was the best idea ever. Scheduling conflicts kept me from attending previous years’ events, so I’m really glad I was able to attend this year. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the event over the years, and I can say now — it was definitely worth the hype!

Organizers Book Blog Ontario posted a pretty comprehensive recap of the event, and you can read it here. It was held at The Ballroom, in downtown Toronto, which had yummy food, cute staff, and a relaxed vibe perfect for mingling and chatting about books. I got to meet and mingle with book bloggers from around Ontario, and chatted with awesome authors Sally ChristieErin Bow, Danielle Younge-Ullman and Leah Bobet. To give you an idea of how many bloggers turned up – I swear I probably got to talk to only about half the people in the room, and missed out on meeting authors Kevin Sands and K.A. Tucker. No clue about actual attendance numbers, but it’s pretty incredible to see so many people so passionate about books in one room…and to know that we represent just a tiny fraction of the entire book reading, book loving population in Ontario.

Mainly though, what I remember most from the event is being overwhelmed with gratitude. I feel unbelievably lucky to be a book blogger in Ontario, and to be part of such a warm, welcoming community.

So thank you, first and foremost to Angel, Wendy, Michele, Christa and Liz — the hardworking women behind Book Blog Ontario, who must have spent hours (days / weeks / months) putting this event together. They coordinated the author appearances, worked with publishers to put the swag bags together, booked the venue, and basically did all the hard work so the rest of us bloggers could have a great time. They did a great job, and you can read more about them here.

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Books in the goodie bag (not pictured: tea and other swag)

Thank you as well to the publishers who generously provided us with more than enough reading material for the rest of the summer. Thank you, Simon & Schuster Canada, Penguin Random House Canada, Scholastic, HarperCollins Canada, Harlequin, Raincoast, Hachette Canada, Dundurn, PGC, and Quirk Books.

I won a prize pack! (Awesome Book Nerd tote courtesy of Raincoast Books.)

I won a prize pack! (Awesome Book Nerd tote courtesy of Raincoast Books.)

Thank you to all the authors who attended, particularly to Leah Bobet and Erin Bow who kindly signed my copies of their books. It may be cliche, but it’s still always a thrill to realize that authors are regular people too, and you may fangirl like mad over their books but still have enough poise to eat a nacho dripping with guac in front of them.

I haven’t had a chance to read Leah Bobet’s An Inheritance of Ashes yet, but Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules kept me captivated from the very first page. Incredible world building.

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Finally, a heartfelt thank you to my fellow bloggers. It was so much fun hanging out with all of you and talking about books, the weather, and I’m pretty sure someone mentioned otters at some point. A special shout out to Jen, whom I haven’t seen in years — it was awesome geeking out with you again!

And thank you, fellow bloggers Michele, Hayley, Chandra, Gisele and Wendy, for the books, and an extra special shoutout to Lynne, who I think may be my book twin because we have such similar tastes in books.

Some book recommendations: Lindsey Kelk’s Always the Bridesmaid (so much frothy fun!), Melissa Clark’s Bear Witness (good, not great) and Frances Brody’s A Woman Unknown (really good British cozy!).

This has been a pretty incredible week of reading for me, mostly thanks to this event, and I’m getting giddy just thinking of which bit of bookish goodness I’ll pick up next.

Any suggestions?