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How Not to Review Erotica: Book Lovers edited by Shawna Kenney

 

booklovers

My rating: 3/5 stars
Goodreads
Synopsis:

Forget poorly written prose and clichéd love scenes: Book Lovers answers the call for sexy literature with substance. This collection of toe-curling tales written by and for word-worshippers offers well-crafted fiction and creative nonfiction that connects literature to libido. From a Vonnegut-inspired tryst to an imaginary ménage à trois with Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin, the book encompasses a veritable buffet of literary fantasies.

Whether they’re conjuring Junot Díaz between the sheets or dreaming of a modern-day enactment of Wuthering Heights—this time refusing Edgar in favor of lusty, bodice-ripping nights with Heathcliff—the stories in Book Lovers are designed for readers’ brains and bodies.

I’ve been avoiding this review for a while. Turns out, I don’t know how to review erotica unless it’s ridiculously terrible (see: Dragon Bound, Sleeping Beauty.) The terribleness allows me to get snarky. But let’s say the the writing is passable, or even good. Now what? I feel like anything I say is going to come across as either “I’m a huge prude and I’m judging anyone who is into this!” which is not necessarily true, or, “I totally rubbed one out while reading this!” which is also not necessarily true and is definitely not what I want Reading-in-Bed.com to mean to anyone. Read more

Fall 2014 Preview Part One: Most Anticipated Books

Watch for Part Two: Literary Events next week!

If you follow literary publications like Publishers Weekly, Quill and Quire, or 49th Shelf you’ve probably noticed a bunch of “Most Anticipated Fall Books” lists lately. I find these lists really overwhelming! There are tons of books and they don’t seem to be listed in any kind of order. Here’s my attempt to impose some order on the situation. Geographically, anyway. This is also a handy preview of what you’ll see reviewed here on Reading in Bed over the next little while.

Disclosure: I received reviews copies of most of the Canadian books. Also, I’m panicking about writing all these reviews.

Edmonton Authors

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Last year, I wondered if it was normal to have SO MANY Edmonton authors launching SO MANY great books all at once, and indeed, it may have been an anomaly. I had a hard time finding books to list here. I assume everyone’s just working on their next novel. Actually, I know Todd Babiak is working on a sequel to Come Barbarians and Jennifer Quist finally named her next novel, but hasn’t revealed the title just yet. No pressure guys (just kidding, lots of pressure!)

  • The only Edmonton book I am certain to review is Blind Spot by Laurence Miall. I’ve already read it and I’m trying to figure out whether I liked it or not! I’m not one to dismiss a novel because of an unlikable character, but man, this guy is unlikeable. Check out Another Book Blog’s review while I sort out my feelings. The book launch is September 5th at The Black Dog, which features prominently in the book!
  • Every Blade of Grass by Thomas Wharton is eco-lit (which I don’t always love) and epistolary (which I usually do love,) but I kind of want to read his first novel, Icefields, first. The librarian who sold it to me at the library book sale was SO EXCITED about it.
  • Lightfinder by Aaron Paquette is a YA novel, but I’m feeling the need to shake things up a bit. Sometimes YA is just the ticket.
  • Edited to add: Northeast by Wendy McGrath, a rare novel because it is written by someone who lives in Edmonton, and is actually set in Edmonton! It’s about a working class family in the 1960s and I have heard McGrath’s writing described as more like a poem than prose; I am really curious about this book and the first in the series, Santa Rosa.

Canadian Authors

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  • I devoured Between by Angie Abdou while I was slogging my way through Outlander. Actually, I devoured a number of books while forcing myself to read Outlander. That could be it’s own post. Anyway, this book forced me to relate to an unlikeable character and it was uncomfortable and shocking and dark, and these are all compliments! Review to come and book launch September 12 in St. Albert and September 13 in Edmonton (7:00 p.m. at Audreys, see you there).
  • I got a review copy of Man by Kim Thuy in ebook format, but I bought the hardcover anyway, because I’m crazy it’s beautiful.  It’s a novella that’s almost written in verse and it’s unlike anything I’ve read. I’m just getting started so check out Hello Hemlock‘s review while I finish up.
  • Did you know SportLit is a thing? The things you learn on Twitter. In Girl Runner, author, blogger, and The M Word contributor Carrie Snyder writes about a woman at the end of her life remembering the days when she could run.
  • I feel like Sweetland by Michael Crummey has been out for a while. because of all the hype, but it was just released so I’ll call it a fall book. I love island settings, so this story of a dying community in Newfoundland should do just fine.
  • Between Clay and Dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqi was published in India a couple years back to great acclaim and is being published in Canada this year by Freehand books. I’ve heard it’s like a classic, like a fable, like a myth – ok, sign me up!
  • Detachment by Maurice Mierau provides a little non-fiction balance to this list. It’s an adoption memoir written from a father’s perspective – a perspective I’ve been missing from the parenting books I’ve reviewed of late.

World Wide

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  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Marukami (Japan) because I’m not immune to hype. Also, look at this review by The Heavy Blanks. Just look at it. It’s perfect.
  • A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (Ireland). The good reviews make me want to read it. The bad reviews make me want to read it. Just give it to me already!
  • The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink (US). A wildcard pick. It’s blurbed by Jonathan Franzen and this bit of the synopsis tells me why: “Life becomes complicated with affairs, birding, and eco-terrorism.” That’s classic Franzen. It’ll either be great or have great snark potential.

Classics
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Yes, I do plan to read a few! I might have to do a Classics Club spin or something. I was thisclose to jumping on the #readWP (that’s War and Peace) bandwagon but the first page was mostly French and I just wasn’t in the mood. What to do?

What are you most excited to read and review this fall?

Authors: They’re Just Like Us!

I was not 100% sure this was satire at first. Via madmagazine.com

I was not 100% sure this was satire at first. Via madmagazine.com

I’m noticing a lot of talk about what authors should and shouldn’t do. Don’t respond to reviews. Don’t have opinions about things other than books. Don’t self-promote. These rules really rub me the wrong way.  Authors are readers, and often, bloggers and social media users too. Just like us. Why are the rules different?

Confession: I used to be a gossip mag junkie. One of the most inane features in US Magazine is “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” and in that spirit, I present Authors: They’re Just Like Us!

They like to talk about books!

One of the rules I hear about most is that authors shouldn’t respond to their reviews. I hear (but have never witnessed) horror stories about authors demanding that a negative review be deleted, or calling out a reviewer on social media, and basically being unprofessional. Remember that whole Goodreads Bullies thing?

But sometimes, an author’s response to a review is really interesting! A personal response to a negative review makes for better reading than mindless retweets of positive reviews, right? I have a couple examples, one involving a negative review I wrote:

Dinaw Mengestu is pretty quiet on Twitter, but he went on a multi-tweet rant in response to this review of his latest novel, All Our Names. The reviewer called him out on it, basically enforcing that “no reviewing the review” rule. But those tweets gave me a new understanding about the racial issues in the novel, so I say, rant on Dinaw.

Emily Gould, as far as I know, hasn’t responded to anyone directly, but does a little vague tweeting, and highlights an important issue in how female authors are reviewed:

Shane Jones‘ response to this article in 3 AM Magazine about literary citizenship (i.e. authors give positive reviews to other authors, in hopes of getting a positive review in return) made me laugh. The “negative” review also made me want to read his book, The Crystal Eaters.

Earlier this year, I published a very middling review to Corrie Greathouse‘s Another Name for Autumn and my heart stopped when I saw this:

I bravely favourited this sub-tweet and Ms. Greathouse and I ended up exchanging emails over the next few days and talked about reading and reviewing and all sorts of stuff. I can guarantee I will read her next book.

They use social media!

Another hot topic is should/how should authors use social media. Book Riot wrote about Diana Gabaldon’s bad behaviour on Facebook; it was so bad, apparently, the author will no longer read Gabaldon’s books. I can think of several reasons not to read her books (sorry Kristilyn!) but how she interacts with fans on Facebook is not one of them. The article takes issue with this statement in particular: “I don’t owe you anything but a good book,” and I ask, why does she owe you anything but a good book?  She’s an author, not a publicist or a marketer or a publisher, she’s a person who’s bound to get irritated and snappy and perhaps didn’t express herself very well (irony) but in the end, I totally agree. I think it’s great when authors are social and accessible, but they can and should use their own social media accounts how they please.

Oh and by the way, Ms. Gabaldon joined a conversation on one of my fav blogs, Rosemary and Reading Glasses, and was perfectly reasonable and kind while responding to criticism.

Some of my favourite authors on Twitter, who are probably not doing it right:

  • Jennifer Weiner. I don’t even like her books that much, AND she live-tweets The Bachelor, but I find what she’s trying to do for genre fiction and chick-lit fascinating.
  • Margaret Atwood. She spouts off about the environment and flirts with twitter celebs half her age, but hey, she’s Margaret Fucking Atwood so I’m pretty sure she can do what she wants.
  • Joyce Carol Oates. I’m not sure if she is bat-shit crazy or the most epic of trolls or what.
  • Roxane Gay. I didn’t even know she was an author when I started following her. She was RTd into my timeline constantly for her social commentary. Come for the social justice, stay for the Ina Garten live-tweets!
  • Stacey May Fowles. Another one I followed for the social commentary, only later realizing she was an author. Her tweets are an interesting mix of books, feminism, and baseball. Her book Infidelity is great too.

They promote themselves!

Credit: rangizzz via Shutterstock/Salon

Credit: rangizzz via Shutterstock/Salon

 

There’s a whole lot of vitriol towards self-published authors these days. This post about one blogger’s decision not to review self-published books is making the rounds, and while it makes some good points about how to be respectful and properly pitch a book, the premise is flawed. Poor pitching is not the sole domain of the self-publisher. I’ve received some painfully bad pitches from major publishing houses, and reviewed some wonderful self-published books and ended up having great relationships with the authors.

I’m seeing a lot of bloggers high-fiving each other for not accepting self-published books and it’s weird because blogging *is* self-publishing.  I mean, you should have whatever kind of review policy you want, but why be smug about it? You may be missing out on something really good.

So authors, keep being you. Seeing you reading your own reviews, spouting off on Twitter, and promoting your work is much more entertaining than seeing celebrities performing menial tasks. 

 

 

 

 

The M Word edited by Kerry Clare

m-word-cover

My rating: 4.5/5 stars
Goodreads

Synopsis:

A Dropped Threads-style anthology, assembling original and inspiring works by some of Canada’s best younger female writers — such as Heather Birrell, Saleema Nawaz, Susan Olding, Diana Fitzgerald Bryden, Carrie Snyder, and Alison Pick — The M Word asks everyday women and writers, some of whom are on the unconventional side of motherhood, to share their emotions and tales of maternity.

Before I sing the praises of this book, I must point out that the subtitle, “Conversations about Motherhood,” is not accurate. These aren’t conversations. They’re essays. They could be conversation starters, sure. But the subtitle made me think Q&A, or point and counterpoint, or maybe multiple authors responding to one question, and that’s not what this is. I realized, though, that I want to have conversations. These essays inspired me to think and remember and empathise, and I want to talk about it!

Conversations about motherhood ARE taking place, of course, and largely, it’s online. For me, it’s not so much in the social media world, but in online forums. Parenting forums have changed very little in twenty years. I first ventured into an iVillage pregnancy forum in 1997 and was extremely creeped out by the slang and abbreviations, like “baby dust” (good vibes for someone trying to get pregnant) and “baby dancing” (…trying to get pregnant. UGH this one is the worst.) Those terms are still used in forums today.

I think The M Word could benefit from a discussion forum. Lots of publishers are using online marketing in innovations ways (I love this tumblr for Cutting Teeth, for example.) and wouldn’t a forum be the perfect social media marketing campaign for this book? A “M Word” forum, in the spirit of the book, a place to actually converse about motherhood?

Maybe it’s just that traditional parenting forums bore me lately. I don’t care about must-have baby gear or any of the debates that come up every few months (vaccination vs anti-vax, circumcision, breastfeeding in public, breastfeeding vs formula feeding, baby-led weaning vs purees, hospital vs home birth, cloth vs disposable diapers, I COULD GO ON.) The M Word is great because it talks about these topics, but drops the “versus.”

While someone with more technical skills and ambition whips up this dream-parenting-forum, I’ll tell you about my favourite pieces in The M Word.

Truth, Dare, Double Dare by Heather Birrell
I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed Birrell’s short story collection, Mad Hope. It’s so good. My favourite short story collection of the year. I wrote in the margin “this essay is everything” and I hate cutesy sayings like that. But it is, to me: traumatic birth, post-partum depression, co-parenting through PPD, strain on the marriage, adding a second child despite all of this… it says so many things I cannot.

Those first few months we spent together as a family feel so far away: a desert island populated by three castaways, veins coursing with hormones and history, a treasure map we’d go cross-eyed trying to decipher.

A Natural Woman by Amy Lavender Harris
A story of infertility and motherhood. Speaking of parenting forums, the #1 topic that causes drama, heartache, and bannings is infertility. The feelings are so raw and so personal. My years in forum-land opened up this world to me somewhat, and I’m much more careful about how I talk about fertility and reproductive technology. This essay is a succinct way to get that insight. It’s also incredibly well written.

To hell with biological determinism, “natural” motherhood, binary feminisms and gender dualisms…we are all cyborgs, made of mitochondria and bits of metal, elements absorbed from the atmosphere and the cells of every child we have ever carried.

Robin by Alison Pick
If you’ve had a miscarriage, this will be a tough read. It’s worth it.

There is nothing to be done, and so we do nothing. We bear the pain, which is much worse that I could have imagined. The offense of the phrase, “You can have another.” What would I want with another? I want that baby, my baby.

Footnote to the Poem “Now That All My Friends are Having Babies: A Thirties Lament” by Priscila Uppal
This essay rubbed me the wrong way but I loved reading it. I want to give it to my child-free-by-choice sister so we can argue about it.

I find myself contemplating, not for the first time, why it is that same group of people who will have a conniption if you don’t bring your own thermo to the Second Cup, or label you a criminal for eating a hamburger, don’t have any patience for the argument that the planet could have saved by having fewer babies.

I can’t help but compare this book to The Good Mother Myth, reviewed here in February. The concept is so similar, but the execution is different and the things that bothered me about TGMM aren’t present here. Some of those pieces felt more like a rehashed blog post than an original essay, but these essays ring so true. Each author brings not only experience and honesty and original ideas, but excellent writing. And where TGMM tried to tie each essay in to a central concept, The M Word is delightfully random, arranged alphabetically so we jump from birth to adoption to single parenting to grandparenting.

Whether you pick up the book or not, make sure you check out editor Kerry Clare’s book blog, Pickle Me This. It’s a favourite of mine and is such a wonderful mix of personal and bookish posts. She reviews all the best CanLit books. Oh, she also edits The 49th Shelf, which is dangerous for the ol’ TBR but also a lot of fun.

Thank you Kerry, and Goose Lane Editions, for the review copy!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors You Own The Most Books Of

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I am aware that it’s Thursday. I was inspired by sporadic book blogger Brie at A Slice of Brie.

The topic at hand is Top Ten Authors We Own The Most Books Of, which is making me twitchy even though I know ending a sentence with a preposition isn’t necessarily bad, and anyway, it’s a title, not a sentence.

I had a guess going into this, and a quick inventory of my physical bookshelves confirmed it: David Adams Richards is the winner!

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 1. David Adams Richards (8): Crimes Against My Brothers, Mercy Among the Children, River of the Brokenhearted, Friends of Meager Fortune, The Lost Highway, and Nights Below Station Street. Not pictured, but pretty sure they are kicking around: The Bay of Love and Sorrows and Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace.

The guy has a way with titles. I went through a major DAR phase in the early aughts. Mercy is my favourite, but they’re all good. He keeps churning out a book a year, so I don’t know if I’ll ever catch up and read them all.

2. Douglas Coupland (6): Hey Nostradamus!, All Families are Psychotic, Miss Wyoming, Girlfriend in a Coma, Generation X, Eleanor Rigby

I haven’t read Eleanor Rigby yet and a couple of these are misplaced, so there’s still some work to do. If you have my copy of Generation X, please let me know!

3-6. Then there are a bunch with 4 titles each:

  • Margaret Atwood: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, Maddaddam, Cat’s Eye
  • Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, Emma (I do “own” the other two, but they were Kobo freebies.)
  • Emma Donoghue: Room, Slammerkin, Astray, Frog Music
  • John Irving: The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Hotel New Hampshire,  A Widow for One Year (another collection I’d like to add to)

I don’t think 2 or 3 books really counts so I’ll stop.

I’m not much of a completist! I was surprised not to see Irvine Welsh or Edith Wharton (I apparently don’t own The Age of Innocence, which is not okay.) I’m pretty relieved not to see anything embarrassing; sorry Brie (I only own two Sophie Kinsellas, thankyouverymuch.)

So? Who’s the most popular on your book shelf?

Booktube: I have seen the future, and it has great hair.

Three months ago, I didn’t know what “booktube” meant. I was aware on some level that vlogging existed, and some vloggers must talk about books; and that sometimes book *bloggers* made videos, but I didn’t realize it was its own thing. That it’s not just an offshoot of book blogging, but has its own (much discussed, of late) culture.

Since making this momentous discovery, I’ve found a few booktubers that I really enjoy.  It’s hard to keep up, though. Book blogs are easy to follow because it’s quiet, I can do it surreptitiously, and I can quickly scan a post to see if it’s of interest. With booktube, it’s loud, I can’t multi-task, and a five minute video takes five minutes to watch. I can’t browse it or scan it.

Despite these drawbacks, I feel like the medium is gaining momentum. I don’t have any stats to back me up, but I get the feeling that book blogs have reached some critical capacity; there are too many for the system to support. Booktube, on the other hand, is new and shiny and YOUNG. My goodness it’s young. And judging by the drama that’s going around the community, it’s growing.

A few more random observations:

1. Flailing. My number one criteria for following a booktuber is a soft, calm speaking manner. I don’t need you to be Ben Stein, but I watch booktube late at night, after a long day with a toddler and a preschooler, so the last thing I want is to be SHOUTED at, squealed at, or flailed at. There’s… a lot of flailing on some of the popular channels. Be warned.

If I want to see flailing, I will watch Nicolas Cage in Face/Off. Or anything.

If I want to see flailing, I will watch Nicolas Cage in Face/Off. Or anything.

2. Book reviews are tough to find. Booktube is big on “hauls,” but I’m more interested in how booktubers translate reviews, which I’m used to reading, into interesting videos. I really like videos that fall somewhere between a haul and a review: a themed group of mini-reviews.

3. Booktubers have tons of followers and videos get a lot of views. More so than blogs, I would say. I’m not sure if that’s because the blogosphere is saturated and booktube is new, or what.

4. Diversity. It’s no secret that that book blogging is dominated by young white women. I’m noticing more diversity on booktube, maybe because it’s, well, visible. I think booktubers skew even younger than bloggers though, and I don’t think I’ve found ANY parents yet. There are plenty of us book bloggers with young kids, but not so much on booktube. It makes sense; the logistics of having the time, space, and quiet to make a video, let alone look presentable, are pretty daunting.

5. Booktubers tend to have GREAT hair. And skin. And make up. I think there’s some cross-over potential with Beauty YouTubers. I would totally watch a “get ready to film your next book haul” hair and makeup tutorial.

 

How I roll. PJs, couch, 11:00 p.m. on a Friday, flattering laptop screen lighting.

How I roll: PJs, couch, 11:00 p.m. on a Friday, flattering laptop screen lighting. NOT ready for my close-up.

Bonus #6: I hate the word “booktube.”  It sounds gross. “Booktuber” is even worse, it makes me think of a potato.

Booktubers you should follow immediately:

Bazpierce: Hilarious, snarky, obsessed with classics. He went on hiatus just as I subscribed, and I may have audibly squealed when I saw this come back video. Oh, and his commentary on the recent booktube drama-llama is perfect.

The Heavy Blanks: Great hair. Great voice. Tons of CanLit. Very thoughtful. Oh and he’s local! I promise you haven’t seen a haul like this:

Ron Lit: She is hilarious and smart and talks about all the dirty bits in the classics. Here’s a good example:

Words of a Reader: Great taste in classics. Owns the A Tree Grows in Brooklyn t-shirt. Just hit 10K subscribers and is doing some cool stuff to celebrate:

Climb the Stacks: Solid reviews and discussions of contemporary books. This recent video makes me want to read all these books and cry for days (well not The Poisonwood Bible, didn’t like that one at all!)

Librarian FanMail Another CanLit superstar! I loved her review of Edi Edugyan’s Dreaming of Elsewhere. 

Oh yeah, remember that time I made a video? Also, tell me about your booktube experiences!

Malarky by Anakana Schofield: Anatomy of a Review

This book is really weird. This review is really weird. Both the reading and the reviewing consumed me more than any other book this year. After struggling to make it fit a standard review format and failing, I’ve decided to strip away the “rating/synopsis/teaser/what I liked/what I didn’t/funny picture/conclusion” thing I usually do, and reveal what goes into a review here on Reading in Bed. I don’t do all this stuff for every book. Malarky works because I spent more time and energy than I usually do. The amount of work I put into a review is correlated with how strongly I feel about it, whether that’s love, hate, or yeah, sometimes obligation. This one is a labour of love.

Reading reviews
I heard about Malarky and about author Anakana Schofield in a book column that appeared in The Edmonton Journal back in October of 2013.

“I’ve decided it’s like a pan of porridge,” Schofield says, in her thick Irish brogue, of her writing process. “It’s permanently simmering, and then: a little bubble. And a little bubble. And a little bubble. Until there’s about 15,000 of these little bubbles.”

The image of a simmering pot of porridge is great. I added Malarky to my TBR list. I was reading Dragon Bound at the time, so I probably wasn’t thinking clearly, and let it languish there till March of this year.

After reading the book, I went back and read the usual suspects for CanLit reviews: Quill and Quire, Globe and Mail, National Post. The reviews are all positive, and all mention the experimental quality of the writing. The strange thing is, months after finishing, I didn’t remember the experimental stuff, or even the stream of consciousness stuff, though it is there. I remembered marriage and motherhood and sexuality described in ways I couldn’t really compare to anything else.

Reading the actual book
I finally picked the book up in March and read it in a week. I was reading The Monk at the same time so there were a lot of weird sex things being read in March.

I didn’t actually pick it up, I read it on my Kobo. I took a look in my local Coles and didn’t find it. I wasn’t too upset, because the ebook is usually cheaper, and I’m not a fan of the cover art, so didn’t feel I needed it on my shelf. I feel differently now. I would really like these words on my shelf, and would like to loan them to others. Maybe I can track down an American or UK cover, as I like them a lot more.

Canadian, UK and American cover art:

malarkyMalarky ukMalarky US Read more

In my bed: June 2014

Is there such thing as reverse-seasonal affective disorder? I get the urge to hibernate in summer. I crave sleep and comfort food. This summer, I’m not just choosing reading over blogging, but sleeping over reading. And lately, TV over both. I may have to stop smugly saying “actually, I don’t watch TV” if this keeps up. Damn you, OITNB.

There are tons of literary references and shout outs though. Hey Ian MacEwan!

There are tons of literary references and shout outs though. Hey Ian McEwan! via booksofoitnb.com

In addition to reading and blogging ennui, I’m buying books and not reading them, which I understand is normal book blogger behaviour, but it’s not normal for me. And I’m just not loving the books I’m reading lately. I don’t think it’s them. I think it’s me.

Sometimes, when I’m in a rut, I give something up for a while. I’m running low on things to give up, though. I’ve done social media-free months. That’s boring. I gave up caffeine and TV last year and am still off both, OITNB notwithstanding. I quit smoking. I don’t do drugs and I haven’t been drunk in five years.

No, I’m NOT going to quit blogging. But I do need to do something a little drastic… Read more

Follies Past by Melanie Kerr: Review and Author Q&A

 

folliespast

My rating: 3.5/5 stars
Goodreads
Synopsis:

Taking its facts from Austen’s own words, Follies Past opens almost a year before the opening of Pride and Prejudice itself, at Pemberley, at Christmas. Fourteen-year-old Georgiana has just been taken from school and is preparing to transfer to London in the spring. It follows Georgiana to London, to Ramsgate and into the arms of the charming and infamous Mr. Wickham.

Remember last year when I did Austen in August and decided that even though Austen is Awesome, she kind of wasn’t for me (with the exception of Persuasion because let’s face it, Captain Wentworth is for everybody?) It’s a credit to Ms. Kerr’s persuasiveness (sorry) that I decided to read Follies Past. I didn’t want to set myself up for a disappointing read, or deal with the awkwardness of a writing a bad review of a local, self-published book. But over the course of a few weeks’ email correspondence, she wore me down. I picked up the ebook and girded myself.

It wasn’t just Kerr’s salesmanship (thought it was impressive) that convinced me. She created a series of wonderfully overwrought book trailers that are far more entertaining than those of best selling authors. And she blogs. Her blog is neither in your face promotion nor dubious writing tips; rather, it’s an interesting and educational look at what goes into writing a historical novel and publishing it yourself. Kerr’s expertise in the Regency era comes through in her fiction, but her blog really drives it home. My favourite posts are those about about peculiarities of Regency language, but she also rants about misuse of “beg the question,” one of my pet peeves.

What about the book?
Right! The best thing about Follies Past is that the writing style comes oh-so-close to Austen, it feels completely natural and not at all like that “put a Zombie on it” brand of adaptation. Kerr’s wit isn’t quite as razor sharp, but that’s like saying you are slightly worse at playing piano that Mozart. I don’t know about you, but I read Austen for the sick burns more than the romance, and there are plenty here. Speaking of romance, here’s our hero contemplating marriage with Caroline: Read more

Library Book Sale Haul and Life Lessons

How did I call myself “bookish” for so many years, when I’d never shopped a library book sale? Okay, I never call myself bookish, but I have felt a vague sense of incompleteness. I finally went a few weeks ago with my colleague and cube-neighbour Christina. Have I mentioned that I have a bookish office mate? She’s into YA, which is perfect, because we didn’t fight over books.

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The Haul

1. Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland: Because it’s Douglas Coupland. I admit I’m finding his Roots clothing/daily slogan thing a little tiring, but, I will always love him.

2. The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews: Because All My Puny Sorrows is way to hyped for me to read it right now, and my dad’s wife recommended it to me. We’re visiting them next month, so it’ll give us something non-controversial to talk about!

3. In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje: Because I love him.

4. Away by Jane Urquhart: Because Urquart created a playlist for the book, which is kind of my thing. Prosperina by Martha Wainright made me cry.

5. When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman: Because I like the title.

6. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt: Because everyone I know who’s read it orders me to read it. Immediately.

7. The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan: Because of this review by friend-of-Reading-in-Bed Jennifer Quist.

8. We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates: Because she is coming to Edmonton in November and I need something for her to sign. Also she has the best/worst/most absurd Twitter persona.

9. Icefields by Thomas Wharton (not pictured): Classic CanLit. The librarian who sold it was so excited for me.

The Life Lessons
1. Like many a newbie, I imagine, I went in all “I’ll just pick up a few books. One or two.” No. You’ll get ten or more. I put a few back because I had nowhere to put them. Come prepared. The true pros bring those little pull-along grocery carts. They’ve really made advances in the design of those since I delivered flyers in the 90s. I saw some that looked more like luggage.

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This shopper is employing a two-part strategy: backpack + man to carry books.

 

2. If you see a book you might be interested in, grab it. If you change your mind, you can put it back. I hesitated over The Signature of All Things in pristine hardcover, went back maybe three minutes later, gone.

3. You don’t have to go early. The line ups are for the DVDs.

4. Plan a separate day for kids’ stuff. There were so many books and dvds, but I didn’t have time or carrying capacity after I’d been through the adult stuff. Sorry kids!

5. Go more than once. They continually update the stock.I went twice in the same day and saw some of the same people on round two. Those were the pros with the grocery carts. They are hardcore.

The Edmonton Public Library’s next Books 2 Buy event is on August 15-17. I’ll be there!

For good measure, here is my neighbour’s book haul, which resides in her filing cabinet because she couldn’t carry it home. Yeah, I think we’ll get along just fine.

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