Favourite Reads of 2012 (Part One)

Sunday, 30 December 2012
This post is the first of three, each reviewing, in order, the best three books I read in 2012 (though none were released this year). My third favourite read of 2012 was Before I Die by Jenny Downham.

Before I Die by Jenny Downham is one of those books that has been on my radar for years, popping up on "must-read" lists from time to time. It's also one of those books that I've always quickly dismissed. Girl has leukemia. Girl writes list of things she wants to do before she dies of leukemia. Girl's list includes things like sex and drugs and falling in love. I felt like Before I Die was one of those stories I had read a million times before.

However, earlier this year, a collection of the Best 100 Closing Lines from Books made the rounds on twitter and other social media, Before I Die making the list: "Light falls through the window, falls onto me, into me. Moments. All gathering towards this one." There was a lightness and airiness to this line that made me think maybe the book wasn't as earnest and predictable as I thought it might be, so I gave it a try.

“There's a terrible stillness. I notice a small tear in the wallpaper above her shoulder. I notice finger marks grimed on the light switch. Somewhere down in the house, a door opens and shuts. As Zoey turns to face me, I realize that life is made up of a series of moments, each one a journey to the end.” 

Sixteen year old Tessa's "journey to the end" is shorter than most. She has cancer, and she knows she's going to die. She is confused, moody, spontaneous, and at times hysterical, but this isn't entirely because of her terminal diagnosis, but also because she is a teenager, grappling with love, and sex, and drugs, and friendships, and her fragmented family like so many other teens. Unlike in other books where the protagonist battles a terminal illness, Tessa doesn't appear to be remarkably brave, rather she's outraged, selfish, and at times incredibly unlikeable, as I'm sure most of us would be if we were seventeen and staring death smack in the eyes.

My favourite young adult novels are those that remind me what it was like to be sixteen and to feel everything so deeply, even those things that didn't need to be felt deeply at all. Before I Die reminds readers of a time when a few unkind words from a best friend can seem like the greatest betrayal, and a look from someone you want to look your way seems to mean the world. The more I read of Before I Die, the more I felt it was less a book about a girl with cancer, and more a book about Tessa's hunger to love and be loved and to feel life deeply, pressured by the impending time limit caused by her looming death.

Capturing the voice of a teenager, especially one weighted by the issues Tessa faces, is no easy task, but Jenny Downham does it perfectly, creating a character that is so flawed and so difficult, that ultimately, she seems wonderfully human and impossible not to mourn.

My Holiday Haul

Friday, 28 December 2012

I'm one of those people who are painfully easy to buy for. Any good book and I'm a happy girl! I was incredibly spoiled this year, and I'm so excited to start at the top of this stack and work my way down.

Happy Holidays!

Gifting Local

Friday, 21 December 2012
A Hamilton Christmas (1967): Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives

The book nerd in me loves giving books almost as much as I love receiving them. They’re relatively inexpensive, they lack the awkward corners that make some gifts impossible to wrap, and choosing the perfect book gives a gift a personalized touch.

If you’re anything like me, you still have a few names to cross off your holiday shopping list, so here’s a list of local reads to make your last-minute shopping a little bit easier.

For the Crime Lover on Your List …
Beach Strip by John Lawrence Reynolds
(Read an excerpt here)

For the Poetry Lover on Your List …
Naked Trees by John Terpstra
(See review here)

For the Graphic Novel Lover on Your List …
Hamilton Illustrated by David Collier
(More information here)

For the History Lover on Your List …
The Good Doctor by Vince Agro

For the Little One on Your List …
Giraffe and Bird by Rebecca Bender
(See Rebecca reading from her book here)

For the Child-At-Heart on Your List …
A Child’s Christmas in Hamilton by Ryan Moran
(More information here)

For the Young Adult on Your List …
Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy

For the Non-Fiction Lover on Your List …
Empty Cradle by Diana Walsh

For the Short Story Lover on Your List …
Sleeping Funny by Miranda Hill

For the Fright Lover on Your List …
Haunted Hamilton by Mark Leslie
(See photos from the Hamilton launch here)

7 Gifts for Hamilton Book Lovers

Friday, 14 December 2012

Erin at the Dear Edna Blog was kind enough to let me write this guest post for her blog (which in my opinion, is one of the best in the city!) Check out the complete post here. You can grab at least a few of these items at tonight's art crawl.

A place belongs forever ...

Thursday, 6 December 2012
“A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.” 
— Joan Didion

Holiday Wishlist 2012

Monday, 3 December 2012
Chances are if you read, or have stumbled upon this blog, you have a reader, a writer, or an editor on your holiday list this year. Truth is, finding the perfect gift for a reader, writer, or editor really isn't that difficult. We tend to love the simple things in life: a good book, good food, and probably good wine. But just in case you're still searching for the perfect gift, here are a few ideas to get you started.

The Perfect Notebook
Every writer needs a notebook tucked away in his or her pocket or bag, or at the ready on a nightstand for those moments when the laptop seems too far away. Any CanLit lover would appreciate Sparrow Nest Script’s notebook featuring Margaret Atwood’s wise words, or any of the others Moleskine notebooks in her shop.

A Bookish Tee
I’ve been coveting Out of Print Clothing's t-shirts since I saw them on display at The Strand in New York City earlier this year (Cough! Cough! to anyone who has me on their “Nice” list!).

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” There are a lot of quotations by Anais Nin that make me sigh, and this one is near the top of the list, which is why I love this aluminum bracelet from Fireweed Impressions of Kelowna, B.C.

Another favourite Canadian jewellery shop is Gwen Delicious, also from British Columbia.

A Book Stamp
Unless you’re very organized, and I am not, it’s difficult to remember who you’ve leant your favourite books to. So why not give your friends a subtle (yet slightly passive aggressive) reminder that a book is on loan by stamping it with a customized book stamp? This one is a perfect stocking stuffer.

Wall Prints
Hemingway wasn’t the only writer who indulged in wine while writing, but I know (from experience!) that editing while a little tipsy isn’t the easiest task. That’s why I love this original hand-carved block print by Poetic Madness.

I hate to out myself here, but editors can be nerdy folk. And I mean really nerdy. We like plays on words and we really, really like punctuation marks. Many of us may even have a favourite punctuation mark. If the editor on your list loves the ampersand, you can't get more unique than the Lampersand!

Read and Buy Local
This one may seem obvious, but supporting your local CanLit community this time of year is crucial.  And don't just head to the bestseller's shelf to find the perfect book. Quill and Quire's list of 47 holiday gift ideas is the best I've seen so far this year. The list is full of unique, often underrated and overlooked, books.

Happy Holidays!
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