the bookish life

my geeky love for books and bookish things

Tag: canadian

Book Review – Zero Repeat Forever by G.S. Prendergast

I won Zero Repeat Forever in a Goodreads giveaway! I’d never heard of it before entering the contest, but I thought the summary was pretty interesting. And it’s Canadian!

zero repeat forever

He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind. Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall. His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting. Until a human kills her…

Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance. Shelter in place. Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have? Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend.

Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival comes to depend on trusting each other… – Goodreads

Zero Repeat Forever is a really unique bit of dystopian science fiction. It’s gritty and dark, with well written and complex central characters. The rest of the characters are a bit flat, but it doesn’t take away from the story much. While the pacing can be slow at times, the overall story arc is strong, and it has a hell of a cliffhanger. I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel.

4/5

Book Review – The Science of Orphan Black by Casey Griffin & Nina Nesseth

Stepping away from the spooky Halloween books for a moment. Time for SCIENCE!

Orphan Black

Delve deeper into the scientific terms and theories at the core of the Peabody-winning, cult favourite show. With exclusive insights from the show’s co-creator Graeme Manson and science consultant Cosima Herter, The Science of Orphan Black takes you behind the closed doors of the Dyad Institute and inside Neolution. Authors Casey Griffin and Nina Nesseth decode the mysteries of Orphan Black — from the history of cloning, epigenetics, synthetic biology, chimerism, the real diseases on which the clone disease is based, and the transhumanist philosophies of Neolution, to what exactly happens when a projectile pencil is shot through a person’s eye and into their brain. – Goodreads

Orphan Black is one of my favourite TV shows, and I’m bummed that it’s over. I picked up The Science of Orphan Black at FanExpo this summer, and had the opportunity to talk a bit with one of the authors. So I was super excited to dive into this book – and I wasn’t disappointed.

This book is really well thought out and researched, and super easy to read without a science background. It’s packed full of fascinating nuggets about the show, and makes you realize just how brilliant this show really was. I’m now in the mood to re-watch, now that I’m aware of all these extra tidbits. If you’re a fan of the show, I highly recommend giving The Science of Orphan Black a read.

5/5

Novel Editions – September Unboxing

I’ve been drifting away from YA these last few months. I’ll still occasionally read the genre, but have really been gravitating toward adult fiction – and enjoying it a lot more. As much as I love Owlcrate, I’ve been itching for an adult book box to try out.

Not surprisingly, most of my book and box recos come from my fellow bookstagrammers.  So, when Novel Editions appeared in my feed a few weeks ago, I just had to give it a shot. It’s local (!!) and features a paperback adult novel each month. September’s theme is Old Hollywood, with nods to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Great Gatsby and The Seven Year Itch.

Old Hollywood

I love how some of the items reference an Old Hollywood classic without being overly obvious. Like the eye mask being the same one Holly wears in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Or how the Green Light candle doesn’t mention Gatsby on the label at all. They’re like cool little winks to those who have seen the movies and read the books. And all the items come from small Etsy shops – I like that.

The book itself came with a letter, explaining why it was selected. I’ve been eyeing The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo for awhile so I’m excited to jump into it. It was also wrapped in kraft paper with ribbon – a nice touch that protected the book in transit.

Overall, I’m impressed. Novel Editions is a thoughtfully curated box at a price point on the level of other popular boxes (especially once you consider the exchange rate and shipping). Single month purchases don’t roll over each month, but you can buy 3 or 6 month packages too. Right now it only ships within Canada, but they do hope to eventually open internationally. It looks like the September box is still available, and October has been opened up as well. October’s theme is Falling for Mystery. I’m an Agatha Christie nut, so I’m all in! If you do happen to order a box, drop my name (or Instagram handle) in the notes section of the order form – they have a referral program!

Happy reading!

 

Coast to Coast: A Canadian Book Release!

Today was the release party for the adorable new children’s book, Coast to Coast: A Canadian Journey.

Writer Tinisha Powell and illustrator Valeria Gonzalez started ValTin Publishing in 2004. Their first book, Colours of the Rainbow: A Multicultural Journey was a university assignment turned passion project about Lucy, a little girl who learns about 10 different cultures through 10 new friends. They’ve now continued Lucy’s journey with their latest book Coast to Coast, in which Lucy travels across Canada experiencing all the things that make Canada great.

Valeria & Tinisha

Signing Coast to Coast

As pretty much any Canadian will tell you, this summer has been one long party celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary. ValTin Publishing has launched Coast to Coast in celebration of the big 1-5-0, with plans to continue Lucy’s journey in the future.

On to the book itself! Coast to Coast is adorable. Each page focuses on a province or territory and uses colourful illustrations and playful rhyme to share facts about each region. It’s clearly well-researched and really fun to read. I grabbed a couple of copies for my nephews, and I’m sure they’re going to love them.

I also grabbed a copy for YOU! I’m hosting a giveaway on Instagram, and the prize is a signed copy of Coast to Coast: A Canadian Journey. Follow my account, look for this image and try your luck!

Giveaway

You can also buy both books by visiting ValTin Publishing.

 

Book Review – The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

I love when random library picks turn out to be total gems. I downloaded The Witches of New York based on the cover – it’s pretty and a little mysterious. And happily, the book itself is a solid bit of historical fiction.

Witches of New York

The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (‘Moth’ from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and “gardien de sorts” (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients.

All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment. Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor’s apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind? – Goodreads

McKay hit the nail on the head for all of the important stuff: the plot was quick, entertaining, and full of engaging characters (with a rather unsettling villain). I loved her descriptions of the setting and time period – I could picture it all easily. And much of the story is centred around Cleopatra’s Needle, which was freaky timing! A couple months ago, I received a box from The Mysterious Package Company that focused a lot on Cleopatra’s Needle – it even included a tiny model of it (see the picture above). The Needle came from Egypt and was brought to New York in the late 1800s – the history of the obelisk (and it’s sisters) is fascinating and fun reading if you’re at all inclined. Ok, backing off from the slightly off-topic tangent!

The three witches central to the story practiced witchcraft that seemed closer to modern day Wicca than any fiction I’ve read before. It was actually pretty refreshing to see a positive and nature-based portrayal of a witch – I’ve gotten a bit tired of today’s pop culture interpretation (especially in YA fiction). It’s funny, I’ve been leaning more toward adult/literary fiction lately – perhaps I’m in need of a YA break.

This book is one of those solid reads that leave you wanting a sequel. It actually ended with a bit of a mystery so that McKay certainly could pull it off. If she does, I’ll definitely read it.

3.5/5

Book Review – M in the Abstract by Douglas Davey

I picked up this book at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival last summer. Douglas Davey was there for the Young Adult portion, and he read some excerpts of M in the Abstract. I couldn’t resist getting a copy for myself.

M in the Abstract

M is for Mary whose real name is Mariposa. She is a troubled girl who is haunted by mysterious dark shadows. She knows little about her father, and her mother can’t accept her for who she is. Mary’s attempts to dare to make connections with other people are doomed to fail as long as the shadows loom within her – until she figures out how she can gain control of them and use their power. – Goodreads

M’s coping mechanism for her mental illness consumes her life. The Goodreads summary makes it sound like there is a supernatural element, but in reality the shadows are all in her head. They’re a bit terrifying to read about, and I can’t imagine experiencing my depression in that way. But I can completely relate to some her teen awkwardness and loneliness.

During his talk at the festival, Davey expressed concern about attempting to capture a female voice. I don’t think his concern is warranted; the dialogue is crisp and M’s internal thoughts feel genuine. His character development is also really solid. The unnamed city M lives in is actually Davey’s hometown of Guelph, which I loved reading about – I went to university there and it brought back memories.

It was really nice to read some YA that is more set in reality than the current popular books in the genre. And I would recommend this to anyone looking for some thoughtful, YA Canadiana.

4/5

Book Review – The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

This was a total cover-buy. How could I resist a book about Portugal? Quite simply – I couldn’t. My family is from the Azores and unfortunately, I’ve never been for a visit. I hope to someday, but until then I’ll do my travelling in books.

High Mountains of Portugal

The High Mountains of Portugal is told in three intersecting narratives, touching the lives of three different people and their families. We begin in the early 1900s, when Tomas discovers an ancient journal and sets out from Lisbon in one of the very first motor cars in Portugal in search of the strange treasure the journal describes. Thirty-five years later, a pathologist devoted to the novels of Agatha Christie, whose wife has possibly been murdered, finds himself drawn into the consequences of Tomas’s quest. Fifty years later, Senator Peter Tovy of Ottawa, grieving the death of his own beloved wife, rescues a chimpanzee from an Oklahoma research facility and takes it to live with him in his ancestral village in northern Portugal, where the strands of all three stories miraculously mesh together. – Goodreads

Full disclosure: I am not a fan of Martel’s other book, Life of Pi. I read it a long time ago and it left me feeling annoyed (which is really all I remember about it). But I was determined to go into The High Mountains of Portugal with an open mind. I really shouldn’t have worried.

This book is stunning. Weird, but also stunning. It’s really hard to describe. It has religion, loss and grief, travel, supernatural events, and a chimp. And the chimp isn’t just in the last story – it’s an element that carries through the entire book. The stories are told in a slow, meandering pace; you’ll need some patience to get through it in order to really appreciate the nuance of each tale. It’s beautifully written, and Martel manages to tie all three stories together in a thoughtful, subtle way.

Yann Martel has redeemed himself in my eyes (and my library). This book is a keeper, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a beautiful story that will twist your brain a bit.

5/5

 

November Owlcrate – Wonderland

End of the month – time for Owlcrate! This month’s theme was Wonderland. As soon as the theme had been announced, I knew what the book was going to be. And I’m thrilled!

Wonderland Owlcrate

Every item is obviously Alice in Wonderland themed:

  • Wonderland Elixir tea, created by Riddle’s Tea Shoppe and Adagio. It’s an Owlcrate exclusive and smells lovely. The tin is really cute too!
  • A metal bookmark by Authored Adornments. It’s handmade, and includes a bit of a book passage in it. I love bookmarks, so I know I’m going to get a lot of mileage out of it.
  • An Alice in Wonderland magnet by Evie Bookish. It’s beautiful and already stuck to my fridge!
  • Official Owlcrate pin. It features the same artwork as the item card that came with the box. I need to figure out how to display these pins, because they are all really pretty.
  • This month’s box has two books! Owlcrate has once again teamed up with Rock Paper Books (I love them), and come up with an exclusive cover for this paperback of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It also came with a bookmark with matching artwork. Love love love it.
  • And the main book: Heartless by Marissa Meyer. I am so excited to read this. I loved The Lunar Chronicles and have been eagerly anticipating the release of this book. And as an added bonus, the cover is an Owlcrate exclusive. So happy!

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen. At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship. Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. – Goodreads

This is definitely the next book on my TBR list. Next month’s theme is Epic, and it’s supposed to include an item from Harry Potter. Should be a good one. As always, if you are interested in signing up, feel free to use my referral link.

 

Exploring the 2016 Eden Mills Writers’ Festival

This past weekend was the 28th annual Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, and my first visit!

Eden Mills is a little village of about 350 people, and is actually the first community in North America to attempt to be carbon neutral. It was really cool to see how they kept to that goal during the festival – the food area used real dishes, and there was a free water station (BYO water bottle).

But what about the festival itself? I loved it – it was the perfect balance of people, booths and authors. The crowd wasn’t overwhelming, every seat was a good seat at the author readings, and there was ample opportunity to talk to the publishers and authors in the booths.

Eden Mills Writers' Festival

The main street was closed and filled with booths (officially called Publishers’ Way by the festival). Many of the booths were run by indie publishers, and it was a great opportunity to learn about new (to me) authors and books.

Book readings

Author readings were all outdoors, and people relaxed in lawn chairs or on blankets. It was all very casual and friendly.

Amanda West Lewis

I attended the Young Adult portion of the readings. First up was Amanda West Lewis, who writes historical fiction (published by Red Deer Press). She read from her new book, The Pact, inspired by a true story of a young boy living in Germany during World War 2. It was fascinating, beautiful and tragic all at once – I can’t wait to read it myself.

Douglas Davey

Douglas Davey was up next – he read from his latest book Switch, as well as his previous novel M in the Abstract (Red Deer Press). His work is a bit more quirky and modern, which I really enjoyed. I couldn’t resist picking up M in the Abstract. After the readings I had a lovely conversation with both authors while they signed my books.

Amnesty Int Booth

Back on Publishers’ Way, one booth really stood out for me: the Amnesty International booth. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this organization, they fight worldwide for human rights. At first glance, it’s not really clear why they would have a booth at a festival all about books. But it turns out they actually run a book club as well! The Amnesty International Book Club is free to join. Sign up on their website and receive monthly emails featuring a recommended book, editorials and questions about the book, as well as articles highlighting AI’s latest human rights campaigns.

Amnesty Int Book Club

The Amnesty International booth was also selling a book – and it’s an important one. Kwe: Standing With Our Sisters is an anthology created to raise awareness about violence against First Nations women. 50 Canadian artists contributed to the slim volume, and it was published by Penguin. Only 800 copies were printed, but you can also buy the ebook here. 100% of the proceeds will go towards Amnesty International’s No More Stolen Sisters campaign, so please grab a copy.

Eden Mills Book Haul

So there you have it – my first year at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. I think it’s fair to say I will be back again next year!

Book Review – King John of Canada

One of the greatest sources for hidden gems is my local library – specifically, their ebook offerings. I’ll often browse their ‘in-stock’ lists and download whatever looks interesting. That’s how I found King John of Canada, by Scott Gardiner.

King John of Canada

Originally published in 2007, this book falls under one of my favourite genres: Canadian political satire. Here’s a bit of the Goodreads blurb about it:

This is a funny, biting political satire set in the not-too-distant future. A series of minority governments, and endless Quebec referendums (designed to lose narrowly, to keep the money coming) have left Canada almost ungovernable. When the Governor General resigns in disgrace and the House of Windsor implodes in London, a media baron launches the idea of a Canadian king or queen elected by lottery.

The premise sounds great. The execution? Not so much. It’s written as a long, meandering letter by King John’s closest friend, Blue. Blue is hiding out in a barely serviceable cabin in the middle of winter for unknown reasons. He often goes on tangents about his frigid experience, taking away from the narrative purpose of the letter. The resulting text is vague on specifics, resulting in King John sounding unreal and very two-dimensional. Any remaining cohesiveness breaks down further as the narrative jumps back and forth through the timeline.

Basically, it’s not the most entertaining read. At times it was downright frustrating. But, it did spark my interest in certain aspects of Canadian government; after finishing the book I found myself reading up online about the role of the Governor General, and sticky issues such as equalization payments for provinces. So, yay for learning more about how my country functions! For that reason, I’ll give the book at least a 2.5 out of 5.

On a related note: If you’re interested in some really well written Canadian political satire, check out Terry Fallis – you wont regret it!

2.5/5

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