Toronto International Book Fair

So this year I bought my ticket to the INSPIRE Toronto International Book Fair (TIBF) and honestly had no idea what to expect. I knew there were going to be authors doing a panel. I knew which authors were going to be there. And I knew there was going to be an entire room in a convention centre full of books. That was enough to sell me.

I went the first two days with my best friends, and ended up meeting some cool bloggers throughout the weekend. The first day, my friends and I spent most of the afternoon browsing through all of the booths and enjoying the books. Eventually we made our way over to the “I Don’t Give a Damsel” panel, hosted by Elaine Lui who interviewed YA authors Gayle Forman, E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski and Meg Wolitzer about how to write strong female characters. That was a pretty great panel; I loved listening to them talk about feminism and how to make readable characters. Afterwards we made our way to the signing, where we all got an E. Lockhart book and got to meet her, which was exciting!

Day two was a little more hectic. Less looking at booths and more waiting in lines to meet people I really look up to. It was stressful, actually, standing in line and trying to figure out what to say to these authors who have heavily influenced me as a writer, or even me as a person. The first person I got to meet was astronaut and all-around badass, Chris Hadfield, who is such an inspiration to me just in his intelligence and the way he looks at life with such wonder.

(That’s not me, by the way. I just snapped a shot of Hadfield and another fan after I got my autograph!)

Afterwards, my friends headed out, and I went to the Margaret Atwood panel, which was a huge deal for me. I’ve been a fan ever since I read Handmaid’s Tale in my first year of university and realized just how far the genre of dystopia can go. I just knew I wanted to write like her, and talk about the things she talked about. Her panel was really interesting, and listening to her discuss some of her newer works made me wish I had picked up her new collection of tales as well. She is so witty, and hearing her mention that she was a fan of Edgar Allan Poe had me sold. When I finally got to meet her, I didn’t know what to say, but it was definitely a great moment.

Besides the fact that I got to meet some excellent authors and book bloggers (or vloggers), I mostly enjoyed my overall experience at the TIBF. There are just some things I specifically wanted to point out about the event, both on good and bad notes, for anyone who wants to go to the event next year, or if anyone who planned the event happens to be reading this blog.

People who were doing it right:

  • Entangled Publishers. Their booth gave away like, 6 free books a day. I grabbed a handful both days and will be reviewing them throughout this blog as they get read. I paid money to get into this fair and it was really nice to see a booth that was willing to give away free (personally signed!) books. Thank you for that, Entangled!
  • Random House of Canada: I’m pretty sure by now you guys know I review for Random House, so I’m pretty biased in saying this but their booth set up was not only gorgeous, but well organized and had four checkouts for quick purchase. They also organized the lineups for signings (I’m specifically talking about Chris Hadfield’s) really well. Way to keep things from getting too crazy!

Things that could have been better:

  • Food. There were two or three food options, all fairly quirky and all very expensive. Not everyone wants to eat sushi or spend $10 on a salad. Or $20 on a crepe. It was pretty crazy. I starved myself most of the day to avoid the prices. And there were a LOT of children at this event who, I’m sure, did not want sushi. The event would have benefited from a pizza place or hot dogs. Something more generic and inexpensive.
  • Photos at the Chris Hadfield signing. I have a bone to pick with whoever was standing at the front of the line, offering to take photos of you and Hadfield while he was signing your book. I can live with no posed photography; I understand it’s busy. But if you take my camera and say you’ll take a photo while he’s signing my book… take the photo. I got my camera back with no new photos on it. I could have taken a photo myself, or had a friend snap a quick one from the other side of the lineup. I was VERY angry when my turn was over and the guy who handed me back my camera did NOTHING with it. Everything was on auto and set to take pictures. I don’t know what the problem was. So that was really annoying.

Overall, I really liked being at the TIBF, and I will definitely go again next year. It offered wonderful deals and great experiences that I’ll never forget, and I’d be excited to see how they take the criticism from this year’s event and improve upon it for next year!

Were you at the TIBF? Which authors or panels did you see? What drew you there? How much free swag did you come home with?

NaNoWriMo – Writing Motivation

Things are progressing well so far on my quest to writing 50,000 words in one month!

As of right now, I’m at approximately 30,000 words, with a good chunk of the novel left to write. I’m definitely a “planner”, not a “pantster”, so I’ve had my detailed chapter outlines and character descriptions written for weeks. So I know there are still about ten chapters left to go.

The huge thing motivating me right now is one of the sponsor offers, which promises every NaNoWriMo winner 2 free paperback copies of their novel. I don’t even need to be published, but seeing a hard copy of one of my novels would definitely make me feel accomplished and maybe motivate me to try to get something published in the future!

Are any of you fellow WriMos? How is your writing going? What keeps you motivated?

Alphabetique by Molly Peacock: Book Review

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Sometimes being a book blogger is one of my favourite things because it delivers such wonderful surprises. When you go into a bookstore, you’re likely to revisit the sections you’re most familiar with: be it YA fiction, or non-fiction science books, or hardcore fantasy novels. You know what you like and you want to see what new reads there are for your favourite genre. But being a book blogger, sometimes I get to choose what comes my way, and other times, I take a stab in the dark and get sent a book that I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to get out of it. Alphabetique was one of those beautiful books.

Alphabetique is a book of 26 short stories, each starring a letter of the alphabet – and when I say ‘starring’, I really do mean it. The first chapter is about a character called A, and anywhere Peacock can fit an adjective or any sort of word that starts with ‘a’ in this chapter, she will. The book is filled with beautiful and poetic alliteration from start to finish that really encapsulates the idea of each letter, whether it be what said letter is known for, how it looks, or the way the letter feels as it comes off your tongue.

Each chapter also has a page of illustration that adds to the beauty of the letter. You’re experiencing each letter of the alphabet through all of your senses: the visual images, the feel of the letter in your mouth as you say it, the sound it makes in any given word… Maybe you’re not smelling the letters, but I’ll bet the imagery Peacock uses throughout the book would be enough to get some olfactory senses going at one point or another.

Prior to receiving this book, I’d never heard of Molly Peacock, but now that I’ve finished the book, I’m actually interested in picking up some more of her works. Because she is a poet.

I’d recommend you read Alphabetique if you’re sick and tired of reading the same old stories and want some refreshing language to sift through. It’s a short read, but I’d suggest a few read-throughs in order to really capture the plot of each story through the alliteration, as well as catching each reference and sound that each letter makes in its starring chapter.

Overall, I gave Alphabetique a solid 3/5 on Goodreads.

Peacock’s Alphabetique is available for purchase November 4, 2014.

What I’m Writing for NaNoWriMo

Yesterday was the first day of National Novel Writing Month, and I’ve been planning for a few weeks what I wanted to write about. I’ve had a few novel ideas kicking around my head that I’ve been actually feeling proud of, and I wasn’t sure which one I wanted to cram into one month. Some of them, I actually wanted to put time into and make sure I had the narrator’s voice right, while others weren’t as big a priority and I didn’t want to write them right away.

Eventually, I decided on something completely new. I had an idea where I had some details that I knew had to be part of the story, but otherwise, I had no idea what I wanted the details of the plot to be. I’d come up with a sort-of plot that could get me through NaNo, and I figured I could work out the rest later. Which is kind of what NaNo does in the first place – forces you to get your ideas onto paper, and you can go back and edit another time. So that’s what I’d do with this baby.

If you go onto my NaNoWriMo profile, you’ll see that my story is called Identity Crisis, and the novel tells a sort of dystopian tale of two unlikely heroes. When I started writing, that’s all I had. Luckily I came up with a plot about philosophers taking over the government to make people more peaceful, and implement what they believed were the best philosophical beliefs upon the people of the city in order to maintain peace. But of course, something becomes corrupt and the idea gets misunderstood and the philosophers start to have more power over the people than they initially wanted.

So that’s what I’ll be writing this month. I hope it sounds interesting to you, because I’m really loving the way its written so far. My protagonist, who is also the narrator, is really funny and breaks the fourth wall a lot. But that’s just my opinion. I can’t wait to see what you think of it!

NaNoWriMo 2014 – Starts Tomorrow!

As I said in a previous post, this year I’m participating in NaNoWriMo for the very first time! National Novel Writing Month. I finally have the time, so I’m going to do it. Focus on nothing but writing my 50,000-word novel from November 1st to November 30th, and hopefully have something awesome come out of it.

But when I say focus only on writing, I actually mean it. I’ll post maybe a couple reviews on this blog in the next month, and maybe one video review on my YouTube channel, but other than that you won’t be hearing too much from me about other books.

That being said, I will likely post on a fairly regular basis about what I’m writing and my progress in NaNoWriMo (which you can find under the ‘writing’ category on the side of this page), so be prepared for that. I’m also taking a weekend out of my busy month to go to Inspire TIBF (Toronto International Book Fair), and I’ll be posting here and on my channel about that, as well.

So you’ll be hearing from me, I just won’t be doing much reviewing until December.

Wish me luck!

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham: Book Review

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When Random House of Canada offered me a reviewers copy of Dunham’s book, I could hardly contain myself. I am a huge fan of the show Girls, and her character is my favourite. Knowing she writes the show as well, I knew what to expect from a novel of her writing. Well, I thought I knew what to expect. That’s where I got let down. I think I just expected a little too much.

Not That Kind of Girl is Lena Dunham’s autobiography about everything that she’s learned thus far in her life. I’m not one to put down an autobiography simply because the author is still young; you’re never too young to have an experience that must be shared with the world. Only I didn’t find any of her essays particularly urgent. They lacked the feeling of “that story that absolutely needed to be told”. If you’re getting a book published, you should have something to say, and I felt as though Dunham said a whole lot of nothing.

The first chapter was quite interesting to me. She wrote about her sexual escapades that had me thinking about the issues of feminism and slut-shaming, thinking it brave that Dunham would spill her guts out about such personal matters and not be ashamed of them. That’s the way it should be. But as the book went on, the crazy exploits (not just sexual) kept on coming, and there was yet a lesson to be learned.

I don’t care if she chooses to skip out on work to do drugs, or she gets so drunk or high that she gets herself into some sexual trouble that could ultimately be very dangerous. But if she’s writing a book about it, there better be a point as to why I’m reading this book about it. If these are just stories and she hasn’t actually a lesson to teach, why should I read them?

On the plus side, I’m a fairly liberal person and some of the things Dunham has done makes me seem a bit prudish. So it did make me think about my liberal declaration and whether or not I should be uptight about some of the things that are fairly societally accepted as things to be uptight about. That was kind of interesting. I like being challenged in that way.

I also acknowledge that maybe I liked the sex chapter because I could relate, and I didn’t like the education one or the body image one because I really couldn’t relate. I was a good student who loved school all the way through. I never really had many concerns with my health or body image. So maybe that’s why I didn’t care very much – I just couldn’t relate, couldn’t sympathize, couldn’t emote the way she expected me to.

I got to the final section of the book – “The Big Picture” – before putting it down for good. I gave Not That Kind of Girl two stars on Goodreads. I still love Lena Dunham, but I’m going to keep to watching Girls and leave it at that.

NaNoWriMo 2014!

Yes, after many pestering friends have told me about NaNoWriMo and I’ve told them I’m too busy to participate… I’m finally NOT too busy to participate.

Don’t know what the friggity frack I’m talking about? Here, let me fill you in!

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place throughout the month of November. Ever felt like you’ve wanted to write a novel? Well, here’s your chance! All you have to do is strive to write a 50,000-word novel in one month and you’re a winner!

Now as much as I’ve always wanted to write a novel, and I constantly have about seven novel ideas on the go at any given moment, I’ve also been holding down a full-time job, or in university, or working hard to try and get accepted into university. I’ve honestly never had the time to dedicate to 50,000 words.

But now after having gotten through uni and working full-time, I’m back in college where the work-load is considerably lessened and I actually have some extra time to spend doing things I want to do. Like catching up on Doctor Who, or finally sitting down and writing that damn novel.

So I’ve decided I’m going to try my hardest this month to write out one of my ideas. Get the wheels turning, so to speak. It’s about time I’ve taken everything I’ve learned while reading my way to an English degree and use it to accomplish my own literary goals.

If you’re interested, sign up here! NaNoWriMo goes from November 1st-30th!

Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews – Book Review

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As most of you know by now, the topic of gender and sexuality is one I find very interesting to discuss; there are so many fluid identities one can take in order to find one that suits them. So I knew I had to request an ARC of this new Simon & Schuster title and find out what Some Assembly Required was all about.

Although this book reads like a fiction at times, it is a true story about how Arin Andrews went on his journey to being transgender: first, realizing he is in the wrong body, then trying to decipher what this means, and trying to get his very religious family on board with this transition. But this story was told by the only person who could have told it – the one to whom the story happened. So I’m able to brush aside the writing stuff that makes me cringe a little to see the more important thing at hand: Arin Andrews and his inspiring story.

I think there needs to be more transgender books like this one, because to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever met a transgender person and therefore have no clue what it’s like to go through that transition and have to deal with society’s view of you in the process. This memoir taught me a lot about tolerance, about how to comfortably address someone who is transgender without being rude or ignorant.

I could also relate quite a bit to the novel – not necessarily the transgender bits, but the parts where Arin falls in love too quickly (some may say), or where he gets attached to others and makes his way around trying to find the perfect partner. I also had a bit of an identity crisis regarding my sexuality, but that’s all sorted out now. It just felt very real to read about this teenager who could comfortably confess his feelings to any number of people (regardless of gender or body type) and really, truly mean it every single time. I also related to being in a religious school system, feeling judged for not following the expected conservative norms.

This was a very quick read, and I think everyone should give it a try – you’ll definitely learn something new, and you’ll likely gain an insight regarding transgendered people.

Kitten Clone by Douglas Coupland: Book Review

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When Random House of Canada offered me the chance to review this new Coupland title, I knew I couldn’t refuse. Douglas Coupland has been one of my most recent finds – you know what I mean: those authors you just discover one day and have to buy all of their books, because they’re quite possibly the best author you’ve encountered in a while. And Kitten Clone had to be added to this growing collection of mine. It just had to.

The first thing I noticed about this book was the cover. That coloured bit in the photo above is a small jacket that covers everything but the title and the barcode. You don’t even see the book summary until you lift the flap up off the front cover – something I found very metaphorical about the way companies give us their title and an image, but not the dirty details about what lies beneath.

The book itself is really quite interesting. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of it – fiction or nonfiction? Bits of the narrative are told in the past and the future, but the present was all narrated by Coupland as he dove further into the depths of Alcatel-Lucent and what this company provides us with. This information about one of the leading companies on the planet could not be presented in any better way than through Coupland’s narrative. He explores what this constant connectivity is doing to us, the human species, and how it is affecting the way we think, let alone communicate.

Kitten Clone is a very short read, with a number of photographs to show the reader just how real this company is, and it is worth every minute of reading. It’s time we start to educate ourselves, and Coupland’s book is a great place to start.

Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid: Book Review

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This book caught me straight from the cover, how could it not? It looks like a scrapbook from the mind of a teenager with immense wanderlust. And that’s what captured me. The reviews on the back of the book compare Alsaid’s Let’s Get Lost to John Green’s Paper Towns, and I can definitely see the comparison, not only in themes but in the style of writing itself. That being said, I quite preferred Alsaid’s novel to that of Green’s simply because of the fact that this entire novel pushed forward at every moment, driving both the plot and my interest in Leila’s all-over-bright red-car.

Let’s Get Lost follows Leila on her solo, road trip mission to see the Northern Lights. But instead of giving us 300 pages of Leila, Alsaid gives us her journey from the perspectives of Hudson, Bree, Elliot, and Sonia. As the reader moves through the book, he sees how these four characters interact with Leila and their individual missions she helps them to overcome. Hudson is the first one we meet, as he is one of the mechanics Leila runs into – showing her the little treasures of his town. She later picks up Bree, a hitchhiker, hoping to get as far away from home as possible. After which, she nearly hits a drunken Elliot who has wandered his way into the road over a devastating prom heartbreak. And Leila is able to help Sonia sneak back into Canada to provide her second family with the misplaced wedding rings before we finally get the insight to Leila herself.

I loved the way this book was written – it kept the mystery that was Leila and the true purpose behind her journey to Alaska to see the Northern Lights, and the mini-adventures along the way were totally something out of a John Green novel. Alsaid was able to maintain his story’s charm throughout the book and keep me hanging on every word. I felt like I was there through every hardship. I also loved how the theme of getting lost meant something different to each person she runs into – sometimes getting lost means having to find your way home again, other times it means losing yourself in the moment to achieve something greater for your life.

Overall, I’d definitely say that Let’s Get Lost is one of the best YA novels I’ve read in a very long time, and I highly recommend it.