2016 PRHC Book Lovers Fall Preview: Recap

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10.05.2016

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis / @zaralibrary

The privilege of being part of the literary community as an aspiring writer, former editor, vocal bibliotaphe, and book blogger is undoubtedly because of:

  • a gregarious amount of books you collect in your personal library
  • free drinks at poetry readings at which you perform
  • a devious amount of rejection letters that continue to debase your already insecure inner critic and writer’s sensitive ego
  • a codependency to your local Starbucks coffee shop
  • a network of competitive and culturally artistic friends
  • an innate ability to type fast, procrastinate profusely, and consider insomnia a natural disposition, rather than a sleep disorder
  • an unpaid position as 24-hour grammar police
  • an aficionado of online social media and the stress that accompanies the result of tech-neck and the pressure to condense wit and humour within a 140-character limit
  • a periodical and ambitious fantasy of becoming the next Margaret Atwood or Joseph Boyden in your community
  • an opportunity to meet, greet, and in some cases, stalk your favourite author at literary events and festivals
  • and last, but certainly not least—an opportunity to attend literary events hosted by publishing houses, which may grant you access to galleys, advanced reader copies (ARC’s), free snacks, author signings, and limited-edition book swag

—which led me to this building in downtown Toronto on a Saturday afternoon.

While the address on the building does not disclose its namesake, within these walls is one of the largest, global trade book publishers and certainly one of my personal favourites—Penguin Random House Canada.

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Penguin Random House Canada office, Toronto. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

Upon invitation, I was able to secure a special ticket to the 2016 PRHC Book Lovers Fall Preview, open to book sellers, librarians, and book bloggers.

Not only was I looking forward to the event itself, but the opportunity to see Random House of Canada’s new home since the merger with Penguin Canada in July 2013, as well as potentially run into blogging colleagues whom I met during a number of years ago at my first publisher’s house Bloggers’ Fest.

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While a few bloggers attended the big-ticket event, I was especially pleased to run into one of the friendliest faces in the blogging world, Jaclyn Qua-Hiansen of the blog, Literary Treats. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

While there was a lineup to catch an elevator (understandably because they are locked by passcode known only to PRHC employees) and yet again another lineup to enter the PRHC premises, including the conference room where the event was held, attendees were signed-in, greeted, and encouraged to grab a plate, and fill it up with a variety of snacks.

In my greater concern to grab a good seat at the event, I bypassed the lineup to the food table first and opted to find an empty seat where I could enjoy the presentation in full view.

I don’t regret that choice. My sleuthing granted me a front-row seat, smack not only right in the middle, but also perfectly a few centimeters away from the presentation stage all thanks to either the shyness of others at taking a seat right in the front row—or an insatiable hunger, which prompted a piling of plates with crackers, cheese, and a whole lot of humus and tomatoes.

I chose the former, rather than the latter. A girl has to have priorities. After all, this event was named PRHC Book Lovers Fall Preview, not Buffet and Books.

Still, my logical self (and later hungry self) decided to carry my sleuthing even further by securing my front row seat first, and then kindly beg others if I could unforgivably cut in line to grab a plate of goodies. This was not at all intended, nor planned, but when I saw the lineup once I returned to the general area of the snack table, I was not only dismayed, but a little claustrophobic.

Luckily for me, the woman who kindly succumbed to my request to bud in didn’t throw a hissy-fit, but was gracious enough to say yes without cursing out loud, or giving me a sucker punch, or an evil-eye. I guess she wasn’t that hungry. But, thankfully, was willing to be gracious and polite.

It would be, after all, a three-and-a-half-hour presentation. One would need a pile of crackers to get through that. Thankfully, I did.

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My plate of goodies. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

With a plate of goodies in hand and a complimentary Penguin mug in my bag (another treat each guest received for attending the event), the introduction began with hosts Jackie Cunningham of National Accounts Marketing and Evan Klein in Sales.

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I received the red “Man and Superman” Bernard Shaw, Penguin Books mug and look forward to adding “A Room of One’s Own” Virginia Woolf mug to my collection. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

Each guest was provided with an extensive Power-Point handout that consisted of a slew of new and upcoming books for the fall.

Book titles were generally introduced with a synopsis of the book’s genre, its target audience, and a light description of what the book is about.

A couple of highlights for me personally was a short video clip of Chris Hadfield addressing book lovers about his new children’s picture book, The Darkest Dark:

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A few titles which made the shortlist of the Scotiabank Giller Prize were featured:

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as well as those which made the Man Booker Prize shortlist:

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And as you can see, Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, has made it into both prestigious book award categories.

Other titles I’m personally looking forward to reading are:

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

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Here I Am is the first novel Jonathan Safra Foer has written in 11 years, now considered a New York Times bestseller. It’s about a fracturing family (Jacob and Julia and their three sons) set in present-day Washington D.C., alongside the geopolitical crisis in the Middle East. It calls into question the meaning of home and how much life can bear.

Nutshell by Ian McEwan
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Nutshell by Ian McEwan is about a tale of murder and deceit between a wife and brother-in-law (Trudy and Claude)—with a crucial witness to their plot—a nine-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb. This story of intrigue and betrayal is told from the perspective of an unborn child, which makes it a book high on my list.

Wenjack by Joseph Boyden

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Wenjack by Joseph Boyden is about an Ojibwe boy named Johnny Wenjack, who runs away from a residential school in North Ontario. Along the way he is followed by Manitous, spirits of the forest who comment on his plight.

It promises to be a powerful read and an important story of Canada’s dark history.

There will also be an upcoming graphic novel and animated film about Wenjeck collaborated by Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie.

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

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The Witches of New York by Ami McKay re-introduces a beloved character, Moth, from The Virgin Cure, and joins a young woman, Eleanor St. Clair, to open a tea shop that caters to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients.

All is well until 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.

 Those familiar with Ami McKay’s work will know that she has yet written a gorgeous novel about the struggle and empowerment of women especially in the 1880’s.

The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I was particularly pleased to see a beautiful book package of The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a movie-edition of the title, and a gorgeous cover of the Tales of the Peculiar.

And while I was busy contemplating when I would actually be able to see the book-to-movie adaptation in theatres, Jackie and Evan hosted a prize pack contest, which included a t-shirt and a new copy of the Tales of the Peculiar in hardcover.

And what was the simple question guests needed to answer?

Who directed the film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children?

Obviously, EVERYONE’S hands shot up in the room, including my own. And what did Mr. Evan Klein do? He picked the girl sitting right next to me to answer the question!

Bollocks!

I cringed. I even cried out a little. But, I forgave him—a little.

I had chatted with the girl sitting next to me before the presentation and did discover that she, too, was a book blogger, so that in itself, was a small comfort in losing (I guess). I had to assume that she loves books almost as much as I do, right? … Right? *Inward sigh.*

This is what happens when I’m a little hungry and I don’t get my hands on a much-coveted book prize—especially a book prize that features the series that I not only reviewed, but also enjoyed. My peculiar side, AKA my mean-spirited side can’t help itself, but to come out when this happens. (Did you see what I just did there with the word, peculiar?)

Anyway, I didn’t win.

…But I did get a good shot of the Power Point slide!

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Many movies find their source of inspiration from great books. This is particularly true of the new movie, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, released in theatres September 30. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Another highlight of the presentation was the feature of one of my favourite authors, Ms. Margaret Atwood.

While I secretly hoped she would walk through those PRHC doors as one of the surprise visiting authors after the event, I was content to reminisce about the time I was able to meet her in person for her book-signing that featured her novel, MaddAddam, of the MaddAddam trilogy.

Instead, I enjoyed the news of her graphic novel, Angel Catbird, and her upcoming adaptation of Shakespeare’s, The Tempest, called Hag-Seed, out October 11, 2016.

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Other prizes were handed out to the lucky few, which featured big books for the fall that included:

  • Canada by Mike Myers (Prizes: t-shirts and a grand prize hockey jersey)
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Prizes: a gorgeous tote bag, Funko Pop character, and three books of book-to-film adaptations)
  • Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton (Prizes: t-shirt, copy of the book)

Other fall books with a lot of buzz and are high on my list of TBR titles are:

By Gaslight by Steven Price

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By Gaslight by Steven Price is a literary historical-suspense novel about the notorious thief Edward Shade and William Pinkerton, the famous son of a detective who descends into the underworld of Victorian London in pursuit of a new lead.

Adam Foole is a gentleman without a past, haunted by a love affair ten years gone. When he receives a letter from his lost beloved, he returns to London in search of her; what he learns of her fate, and its connection to the man known as Shade, will force him to confront a grief he thought long-buried.

What follows is a fog-enshrouded hunt and above all, the story of the most unlikely of bonds: between William Pinkerton, the greatest detective of his age, and Adam Foole, the one man who may hold the key to finding Edward Shade.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

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Also highly recommended is the novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles, about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel. It is about the character, Count Alexander Rostov, when, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin.

Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji

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Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji speaks of a society that’s goal is eternal life, but must deal with the issue of wanting to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories.

Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities–all traces of a person’s past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss.

Doctor Frank Sina specializes in sealing these memory leaks. He is satisfied in his profession, more or less secure in the life he shares with his much younger lover, content with his own fiction—but one day, Presley Smith arrives in Frank’s office.

Persistent thoughts are torturing Presley, recurring images of another time and place. As he tries to save Presley from the onslaught of memory and from both internal and external threats, cracks emerge in his own fiction, and the thoughts that sneak through suggest a connection with the mysterious Presley that goes well beyond a doctor and patient.

Bit Rot by Douglas Coupland

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“Bit rot” is a term used in digital archiving to describe the way digital files can spontaneously and quickly decompose.

The book, Bit Rot, explores the ways humanity tries to make sense of our shifting consciousness. Coupland, mixes short fiction interspersed with essays on aspects of modern life. The result is addictively satisfying, a narrative that is full of wit, surprise, and delight.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

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Swing Time by Zadie Smith is another provocative novel about class, identity, and race, this time taking place in north-west London to West Africa, a story about two, young women who dream of being dancers, namely a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.


***

But, an introduction of an insurmountable amount of books for fall wasn’t the only highlight of the event. At the end of the presentation, guests were introduced to two PRHC authors with new books:

Shari Lapena, author of The Couple Next Door

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Shari Lapena, author of The Couple Next Door, speaks at the PRHC Book Lovers Fall Preview. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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After an acknowledgement of great appreciation for readers’ appreciation of her book, The Couple Next door, we were quickly introduced to Kyo Maclear, author of the meditative memoir, Birds, Art, Life: A Year of Observation.

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Kyo Maclear, author of Bird Art Life, spoke to us about her inspiration to write her novel. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

 

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After the presentation ended, guests each received an advanced reader copy (ARC) of Birds Art Life and were invited to meet the author personally, and have her sign copies of her book.

While I waited in line, I took the opportunity to enjoy the office’s gorgeous collection of books and chat with others in line.

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As a book lover, it was an absolute pleasure to be in the Penguin Random House Canada office in the hallway of their recently published titles. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

Kyo Maclear was a pleasure to meet, too, introducing me to the Fold Festival, a new literary festival held in Brampton that features a diversity of cultural voices after discovering I currently live there. And she was gracious enough to allow me to take a photograph with her after she signed my copy of her book.

After meeting the guest authors, I was also fortunate enough to meet Emily Wong, Digital Marketing Coordinator, my main contact with Penguin Random House Canada regarding my book blogging career. I was happy to finally put a name to a face in meeting Emily personally. Thanks Emily for all the hard work you do in providing me with PRHC books to review!

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Me and Emily Wong, Digital Marketing Coordinator, Penguin Random House Canada. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

Overall, I came away with the knowledge of new and upcoming books from Penguin Random House Canada that come to press in September and October, as well meet my digital marketing coordinator, and the authors,  Shari Lapena and Kyo Maclear.

I can’t wait to attend the next literary event hosted by Penguin Random House and look forward to celebrating the launch of new titles that will soon hit the shelves.

Until next time, happy reading!

***

Zara

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Of the new titles I listed in this blog for fall, which ones are you looking forward to reading the most?

Of the new titles listed, which ones have you already read? What did you think of those titles?

***

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Author: zaraalexis

Writer. Bibliotaphe. Fountain Pen & Stationery Addict. Lipstick Junkie. Justice Advocate. Wife. Mother. Warrior.

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