Book Review | Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley

Young adult fiction, Bronte family

Warning: This post contains a lot of fangirling.

Once in a while a book will come along and check off all of your readerly boxes and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to read an advanced copy of it. Lena Coakley’s Worlds of Ink and Shadow was such a book for me. Like, (please excuse the casual tone – I love this book too much to be formal about it) I feel like this book was tailor-made for me: it’s a little magical, it’s about sibling relationships, and it’s about the Brontës.

If you’re a fan of Victorian literature, you might know that the Brontë siblings had a pretty tough life. They were not rich and thus were sent to an inexpensive school where the two eldest siblings (Maria and Elizabeth) fell ill with tuberculosis, passing away weeks after returning home. The death of their siblings was, unsurprisingly, difficult for Charlotte, Patrick Branwell, Emily, and Anne. I can’t confirm whether this is true or not, but it’s said that the remaining Brontë siblings would write to escape their dark reality, creating their own worlds such as Verdopolis, Glasstown, Angria, and Gondal. Some of the stories written in those worlds have been published (See: Tales of Angria).

The Brontës’ lives have always fascinated me but I never got around to reading any in-depth biographies. That’s why I appreciated Worlds of Ink and Shadows so much. It’s still considered fiction (especially when you get to the more magical parts), but Coakley draws inspiration from real events experienced by the family, making it almost like an intro course to the Brontës. Of course, readers should take the biographical details in the novel with a grain of salt, but I found that the book did teach me things about the family that I didn’t know before.

Aside from the biographical details of the Brontës, Worlds of Ink and Shadow is really just a well-written, well-plotted book, so even if you’re not specifically interested in the Brontë family, I think you’ll still enjoy the story. In the book, readers learn that Charlotte and Branwell have tried to resist the lure of writing but have failed, and it is only until later that you start to suspect that there may be a reason for it. Coakley expertly blends the in-universe reality with the stories the characters write, making the readers question what is real and what is not. This is a story about the price of art, but it’s also a story of family, and how far we would go to save one another.

If what I’ve said so far appeals to you, then you should definitely read Worlds of Ink and Shadow. (I really, seriously, cannot love this book enough.)

Verdict: A book that I can’t stop raving about. It gripped me from start to finish, and even had me excitedly explaining the biographical details of the Brontës to my friends. It was a fun read and reignited my interest in learning more about the Brontë family. LOVE.

Read if: You’re a fan of literary biographies with a fictional twist, you are a Brontë fan like me, you want to lose yourself in an imaginative story with well-developed characters that you’ll grow to love.

Are you a fan of the Brontës? Do you have a favourite Brontë novel?

Monday Musings | Paying Attention to Publishers?

Literature Classics Penguin Classics Oxford Classics One More Page

When I was in university studying English, classics were a staple on my reading lists. Now, I don’t know how you categorize your shelves, but when classics made up most of mine in university, my favourite way to organize my books was by publisher (see above!). Just thinking about my row of black Penguin classics and white Oxford classics makes my heart sing!

However, outside of the classics, I never really paid attention to who was publishing my favourite books until I started blogging. This is kind of interesting, as it makes me wonder whether other readers consider publishers when they pick up a new book. Does a book published by a recognizable publisher give readers more confidence in picking it up if they see it on a table in Chapters? Or do we largely ignore publishers and focus on the book’s content itself?

I have definitely noticed trends in my reading (I read a lot of books by Penguin Random House Canada, which is unsurprising as their one of the biggest global publishers. I also read a lot from HarperCollins Canada, especially now that I’m an intern there!). That being said, I don’t confine myself to my favourite publishers and do rely on book synopses to help me determine whether I want to read a book or not.

Now, I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Do you pay attention to publishers when purchasing books/reading? Do you have a favourite publisher? If so, why do you consider them your favourite?

Book Review | Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs by Davide Cali and Raphaelle Barbanègre

Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs Davide Cali Raphaelle Barbanegre

Source: Raphaelle Barbanègre

[I received a digital copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Tundra Books via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book.]

I’m hoping to keep my review short and sweet, which is exactly what this book was. (I read it in under five minutes and then re-read it, so I could marvel in its humour and illustrations.) Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs asks readers: what would happen if Snow White didn’t meet 7 dwarfs in the forest but 77?

I’ll give you a hint: She has to do A LOT of work.

The downside to reading this book on my Kindle was that I couldn’t fully appreciate the vibrant illustrations by Montreal illustrator Raphaelle Barbanègre. There were so many little details that I would have loved to zoom in on. Here’s one of the illustrations, from Raphaelle Barbanègre’s website:

Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs Page

(Snow White’s expressions throughout the book are golden.)

This is definitely a book that you will want to read a physical copy of. Plus, Davide Cali’s writing is fantastic. It’s so humorous, and written in a way that is perfect for reading out loud. If my mom still read to me, I could definitely see myself requesting this book over and over again.

Even though this book is targeted towards younger children, I think adults will enjoy it equally. As Snow White caters to the dwarfs needs, I couldn’t help but recall my babysitting days, and the likeness was so funny to me. The dwarfs are a handful, and for someone who couldn’t quite always relate to the original Snow White, I sure as heck related to this one.

Verdict: With a hilarious new twist on a classic tale, Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs is an entertaining and fun read for the whole family. I’d highly recommend checking it out!

Read if: You’re a fan of Snow White, enjoy reading re-imagined tales, want to tickle your funny bone.

Do you think you could handle 77 dwarfs?

Monday Musings | When Was the First Time You Read To Kill a Mockingbird?

Scout Atticus and Boo To Kill a Mockingbird Mary McDonagh Murphy

Over the weekend, I read Scout, Atticus & Boo by Mary McDonagh Murphy. It appealed to me in a similar way that I’m sure So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan appeals to me: it attempts to figure out why a book like To Kill a Mockingbird is still so influential over 50 years after its publication. In a series of interviews, Scout, Atticus & Boo is a celebration of a classic American novel.

But while the premise appealed to me, I felt like Part 1 (the author’s introduction) gave away a little too much of the content that was to come in Part 2 (the interviewee’s monologues). That being said, I loved reading everyone’s experience with the book. It made me want to ask you: when was the first time you read To Kill a Mockingbird?

I read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school (like many others) and remember falling in love with it. It’s definitely one of those high school reads that is so compelling that it doesn’t feel like required reading. It was so cool discussing it with my classmates; it was such a bonding experience. Re-reading it last year was even better; I felt like I could appreciate Atticus so much more and got just as swept up with the story as I did the first time. This is definitely a book that’s meant to be read over and over again. (Aside: I thought it was so weird to read this book in light of the Go Set a Watchman announcement; suddenly, To Kill a Mockingbird is no longer Harper Lee’s “first and only book.” I wonder how all the interviewees who were hoping for a second book feel about the upcoming book? Also, as I was reading, I realized that at some point, the fact that Harper Lee has two books will be just common knowledge instead of a revolutionary thing. Crazy!)

Anyway, I digress. Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird? When did you read it for the first time? Did you enjoy it?

Monday Musings | Classic Literature

Literature Classics Penguin Classics Oxford Classics One More Page

As someone who studied literature a lot in school I’ve come across my fair share of classics, from Shakespeare to the Brontes to Kafka. And while I have had varying degrees of enjoyment (one day I will try to read Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend again…), the “Classics” categorization has always intrigued me. Over the years, these are the works that have been selected to represent “good” literature; they’ve stood the test of time and now are widely studied and, in most cases, admired. But how was this decided? Who decides what’s considered a classic?

I feel like I always pose impossible-to-answer questions in my Monday Musings posts but I’m always so fascinated by the responses that I just had to ask this one and see what you guys think! I think there are many reasons why a work can be considered classic – perhaps it’s an artifact of a past time, where ladies amused dinner guests around the pianoforte and parents discussed dowries and matchmaking; maybe it’s because its themes are still relatable and relevant in the present day; or, it could be that the stories are so ingrained in our culture that it’s been passed along from generation to generation, making it a “classic.” What do you think?

In the same train of thought, I always wonder which modern day books will be regarded as classics in 50 years or even 100 years. Will the prize winners become the classics that are studied in high schools and universities? Or are we not giving enough attention to a forward-thinking book that will later be revered?

What do you think? Why are some books considered classics and others not? Which books do you think will be considered classic in 100 years?

 

One More Page Nominated for A Liebster Award!

Karen One More Page Blog

Today I woke up to the wonderful news that Shannon from River City Reading has nominated me for a Liebster Award! Shannon has been nothing but supportive and helpful to me since we met online, so it’s extra special that this nomination comes from her. Thank you Shannon!

With the nomination came 11 questions so get ready to learn 11 new things about me! Here goes…

1. Do you have a specific way that you organize your bookshelves? If so, what made you choose that system?
I actually don’t have a real bookshelf right now! I have a row of books on my window ledge and then a few stacks on a table and around the house. There are a few that are in a cupboard, but they’re not really displayed. When I did have a bookshelf, I organized them by publisher and then alphabetically. I like the look of having the same publisher’s books together (especially if they’re classics) and it would feel wrong to not have them lined up alphabetically (by author)!

2. How has your reading changed since you started blogging, if it has at all?
Great question! My reading has actually changed in a few ways. I keep more notes if I’m reading a book that I know I’m going to review now, and I pay more attention to how I’m feeling and how characters/plots are developing. Another big difference is that when I don’t like a book, blogging has forced me to think more critically about why. Before I started blogging I could easily write it off but I like that I have to justify my answers in a coherent way now.

The other thing that has changed is my reading taste! I used to stick to a few specific genres, but since blogging and reading reviews on other blogs, I’ve started reading other genres. I’m really happy about this because I could have been missing out on some amazing books otherwise! An example that comes to mind is Sara Benincasa’s Great. I’m not sure if I would have heard about it/picked it up if I hadn’t heard about it through blogging/Twitter.

3. Do you ever wish you had chosen a different career/education path? If so, what?
I went to school for English Literature and I’m so happy that I did. Reading and thinking critically about books is my passion (thus, the blog) and I hope to pursue a career in publishing, so I have no regrets at all! I’m hoping to go back to school at some point for publishing, but I love my major and am glad I did it!

4. If you had to guess, what percentage of your  reading do you think is done in print, e-book and audiobook?
Right now I read 100% print books. I am hoping to get an e-reader at some point, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I used to listen to audiobooks a bit more but I find a lot of narrators to be hit or miss, so I prefer reading it on my own.

5. How did you choose the name for your blog?
I actually had a bit of a tough time coming up with a blog name. It was originally called kmn04books but I felt like I needed something more accessible. I was discussing this with my boyfriend when he suggested One More Page and I loved it! I feel like we’ve all felt the urge to read just one more page before bed/going to work/etc so I think it’s really fitting.

6. What was the best book you read last year?
Last year I graduated from university and took a hiatus from reading. It was unintentional but it resulted in me not reading very much. So I’ll go with Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, a book I read early this year and loved. It was published last year, so I hope that counts!

7. What was the last movie you watched? Did you like it? Were you at home or in a theater?
The last movie I watched was Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I liked it! I don’t know very much about the Marvel universe but it was a very entertaining movie. I watched it in the theatre.

8. Do you read hardcover books with or without the dust jacket? Why?
I always read hardcover books without the dust jacket. I don’t know if it’s just me but I always find a way to crumple it up if I keep it on! I also feel like having the dust jacket on makes the book feel more delicate so I take it off to read more comfortably. I actually touched on this a few days ago when I asked whether readers had a preference between hardcover and paperbacks. You can still cast your vote here. 😉

9. What is a book you haven’t read but everyone keeps saying you should?
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. I’ve actually added them both to my mental TBR list but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet! The Goldfinch just won the Pulizter Prize for Fiction the other day and The Orenda won Canada Reads earlier this year, so a lot of people have been reminding me that I still need to read them!

10. What upcoming 2014 book are you most excited about reading?
I think I’m most excited for Terry Fallis’ No Relation! It’s about a guy who works in publishing and whose name is Ernest Hemmingway. I haven’t read anything by Fallis yet but from what I’ve heard he’s a really witty writer! So I’m really excited about this. I listened to chapter one on his website and I can’t wait to have the print copy in my hands.

11. What book do you wish everyone would read?
There are so many! I think the Harry Potter series goes without saying, but I also think that everyone should read Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being because it’s such a beautiful and meaningful book. I also have a soft spot for Oscar Wilde, so I always recommend The Picture of Dorian Gray too!

Thank you again for nominating me, Shannon! That was a lot of fun. I hope you don’t mind me using some of your questions! For my nominations I choose Honey, I’m Reading! and Jaaron at Worn Pages and Ink to win the Liebster Award!

My questions:
1. How long have you been blogging? What made you want to start book blogging?
2. Have you always been a reader or was reading a hobby that developed as you grew up?
3. Do you have any books that you attribute your love of reading to? Are there any titles that were really influential to you?
4. What is your favourite part about having a book blog?
5. Do you have a specific way that you organize your bookshelves? If so, what made you choose that system?
6. What is one thing about you that most of your readers don’t know?
7. Do you annotate your books or do you like to keep them clean and pristine?
8. Does a book’s cover influence whether you pick up the book or not? Have you read any books despite not liking its cover and been surprised by how much you liked the contents?
9. Where is your favourite place to read?
10. What upcoming 2014 book are you most excited to read?
11. What book do you wish everyone would read?

I can’t wait to read your answers!

Monday Musings | Solid Colour Book Covers

vintage-21-modern_classics[1]

Source: Google

Last week I mused about decorative/deckled edges in my Monday Musings post and today I want to talk about another aspect of book design: the cover!

A few weeks ago I noticed at The World’s Biggest Bookstore there was a section dedicated to classics that had a solid colour book cover and pages (only on the edges though, I believe). It was very bold and striking and immediately grabbed my attention. As someone who consciously tries to not judge a book by a cover (but fails most of the time), I couldn’t help but wonder how popular this kind of design was. I can see how it would look really nice stacked side by side on a bookshelf, but at the same time I like having books with a bit of a personality and I find that this type of design detracts from it. Being more of a traditional book buyer (I mentioned my dislike of movie tie-in covers here), I probably wouln’t pick up a classic with this cover, but I wonder what your thoughts are.

Do you have any books with this cover design? Do you think it adds to/takes away from the book’s appeal or are you neutral on the matter? Let me know in the comments; I would love to hear your thoughts!