Skip to content

A correction

You know that feeling when you decide to reread a book after many years? You know how you look forward to a comforting, familiar read, perhaps with new insights this time round, but mostly, you want to revel in a familiar story? You know how you start the reread and think, I barely remember the beginning, it’s like reading it for the first time! You know the creeping realization that you have not actually read this book? That you owned it, gave it a rating on Goodreads, referenced it in one of your first blog posts, and mentioned it on social media as recently as this week, but you did not actually read the thing?

Bookish confession coming up:
Read more

Your input is required.

When I sit down to blog, (say, because my friends cancelled on me for girl’s night, but I’d be damned if I was giving up a get-out-of-doing-bedtime-free card, so I went to Starbucks alone,) how do I choose what to devote my limited time to? I don’t do many challenges or memes, and I don’t accept review books with deadlines (see: time, limited) so it’s all up to me.

Or you.

survey

I’m going to share my in-progress posts (coming up with a title totally counts as progress)  and my to-review list, and you tell me what I should work on next.

I ask people to participate in surveys for a living, and this subject line and plea is the best I can come up with. All I’m saying is: Let me know what you’d like to see next on Reading in Bed. And remember, your opinion is important to us.

 

 

 

The best way to end any survey is to solicit open-ended comments; that is, if you enjoy poor grammar, off-topic rants, and people writing “nothing” instead of just literally writing nothing. Just kidding, I know you guys won’t do that. But do tell me what you’d like to see more or less of here. Thanks for your time.

Behind the scenes of a Booktube debut, and a review of Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz

I reviewed Saleema Nawaz’s Bone & Bread for Hello Hemlock this month. While it’s not the very first book video I’ve ever made, it is the first one that includes music, and titles, and editing of any kind. So, I’m calling it my BookTube debut. Check it out, then read on for my behind-the-scenes revelations.


Read more

Empathy for the devil: The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

The People in the Trees coverIn my last post, I considered empathy as a supposed outcome of reading fiction. I didn’t consider whether being empathetic was a worthy goal. The People in the Trees forced me to consider just that.

Is empathy a good thing? Is it useful? Is everyone worthy of empathy, or only certain people? Does empathy even have a “target,” or is the empathetic person just empathizing with everyone, all the time? Even with people engaged in taboo behaviour? Even with people who use a position of power to prey on the weak? What are the limits of empathy?

If you don’t want to be spoiled, stop here, but tell me if you’ve ever empathized with an evil fictional character. Also, go read Naomi’s spoiler-free review at Consumed by Ink. We read this book together and exchanged many emails as we tried to make sense of it. We both recommend it highly.

Read more

Book-loving hedonists and alienated intellectuals: why readers need to settle down about reading

READING FACT: Reading a book will transform you into Keira Knightly, traipsing the pristine English countryside.

READING FACT: Reading a book will transform you into Keira Knightly, traipsing the pristine English countryside.

I love book culture.  I love book blogs (obviously?) and book festivals, and readings, and #FridayReads and #amreading. I do not love the way we book people talk about ourselves, though. The memes, infographics, think pieces, quotes and such that grind my gears fall into two categories:

  1. Readers are different
  2. Readers are better people

I’ve been thinking about these ideas lately, with help from a couple authors I’ve been lucky enough to see in person. Read more

Books I grabbed at #BEA15

I plan to write about a couple BEA-related things, but if I know you guys, you just want to see the BOOKS.

Day 1: BuzzedDay 1

Day one was all about Blogger Con, so I wasn’t on the show floor at all. I did make it to the Editor’s Buzz Panel, though, and elbowed my way to the table full of galleys:

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (Knopf) aka The Two Million Dollar Book. Nuff said?

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (Scout) aka the next Gone Girl? I read this one on the way home but I haven’t read GG, so I can’t tell you if the comparison is apt.

Home is Burning by Dan Marshall (Flat Iron Books) aka A Heartbreaking Work of Holy Shit It Already Has a Movie Deal. Dave Eggers meets The Royal Tannenbaums, maybe.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press) aka The Dark Horse – dark cover, dark subject matter, and for me, the one I was least interested in – but I grabbed it, because it’s BEA.

Day 2: Line up, line up, as if you have a choice

Day two was spent on the show floor and therefore in line-ups big and small.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (Harper Perennial): One hour line up full of excited young’uns and bewildered olds.

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (Viking): Half hour line up full of middle aged moms. My people!

Purity by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): Tickets, multiple line-ups, general confusion. And he wasn’t even signing!

The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (Graywolf Press): No line up here, but probably the strangest of the books I took home. Like Home is Burning and City on Fire, the film rights are already sold – to Mark Rylance aka Cromwell in Wolf Hall! Check him out reading from the book here, and you’ll see what I mean.

Lost Boi by Sassafras Lowrey (Aresenal Pulp) and The Scamp by Jennifer Pashley (Tin House): Snagged there from an indie publisher’s party that CJ and I were intensely uncomfortable at. Lost Boi was on my TBR, and The Scamp appears to be Ablutions with a young female protagonist, so, score!

Also, some kids books and stuff

Also, some kids books and stuff

Day 3Day 3: Flailing

Do I have enough books? Should I run around the show floor aimlessly and grab a few more? Yes, let’s do that.

Pillow by Andrew Battershill (Coach House Books) because I’m a sucker for damaged male protaganists, and for chocolate.

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford (St. Martin’s Press) because it’s a “Bonfire of the Vanities for the 21st Century” and BofV blew my mind as a teenager.

And that’s it! No extra suitcase needed. Stay tuned for more on the Franztravaganza, the blogger’s con, and where to get pizza in Hell’s Kitchen and not get judged for coming back three hours later.

 

Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother by Hollie Adams: A review with Twitter pairings

Things You've Inherited From Your Mother by Hollie Adams. Thanks to NeWest Press for the review copy. 2015. 170 pages.

Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother by Hollie Adams. Thanks to NeWest Press for the review copy. 2015. 170 pages.

I think this novel would have worked better as a Twitter account.

Settle down, that’s not an insult! I love Twitter. I love comedy on Twitter. I love “weird twitter.” I love how well exaggeration works when you’re limited in other ways, say, to 140 characters. This novel is weird and full of exaggerations. It’s funny. But at 150 pages (in the ARC, anyway) it felt a little thin.

There are a couple of reasons I had Twitter in mind while reading this book:

  • The author was profiled by University of Windsor and mentions that she’s writing a novel “which will “ravenously consume a variety of forms inherent in web-based composition in an attempt to capture the experience of living and reading in the digital world.” This piqued my interest, because a pet peeve of mine is when contemporary stories either ignore digital communications or create improbably situations to avoid dealing with them.
  • Twitter is mentioned a few times in a book, but more generally, Adams plays with different narrative forms, like memoir, stand-up comedy, self-help, and choose-your-own-adventure. Taken together, it’s kind of satirizing what Twitter is today. Think about those “Twitter personality” people, you know, the ones with thousands of followers and dozens of tweets per day. They probably embody those types of writing too.
  • You can easily dip in and out of this book, but you’ll want to keep going. It’s kind of like finding a Twitter account that’s all gold, so you go to their page and read all their tweets from the past six months in one sitting.

The story is reminiscent of Ali Bryan’s Roost: a bereaved single mother deals with the ridiculousness of parenthood and eventually gets their shit together. But where Bryan balanced the laughs with many poignant and uncomfortable moments, Adams stays closer to the slapstick side of things. I was left wanting more about the relationships – more about Carrie’s mom, her boyfriend, and her daughter. Not that I minded being in Carrie’s head, I quite enjoyed her cynicism and off-kilter humour, but I wasn’t that invested in her.

If you’re a regular reader here, you know that my genre kryptonite (TM Book Riot) is teen pregnancy.  I appreciate stories that reminds us that there are more than three possible outcomes (1. Abortion 2. Adoption 3. Give up your dreams and become a mom.) Carrie’s mother plays a very active role in raising her granddaughter, allowing Carrie to be both a mom and a typical University student all at once. Carrie’s breakdown probably has something to do with Carrie trying to integrate her outward and “teenage mom” selves and failing without the bridge her mom provided.

I had a hard time rating this book. I liked it, but I don’t know if I’d recommend it because I don’t think a traditional novel was the best vehicle for what Adams wanted to say. I got nothing against novellas (I dedicate a whole month to them!) but this book is marketed and priced as a novel, and it wasn’t quite what I expected. I easily read it in a day. The book was featured on TLC blog tours, and the reviews are very interesting – some readers “get it” right away and love it, and some hate it. I’m somewhere in between.

When I say this book could have worked as (or with) a Twitter account, here are some examples of what I mean. Please follow all these women immediately, and give this book a try, too. Let me know what you think.

@MortimusGerbil for the absurdity of parenting:

@officialbuup for the absuridity of working in an office:

@smickable for the absurdity of dating among other things:

Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother by Hollie Adams is published by NeWest Press, who kindly gave me a copy to review. It’s available now. Check it out on Goodreads.

Reading, Out of Bed

Online and in real life, I can often be found Reading in Bed. This month, you can find me elsewhere, too.

I’m honoured-with-a-u to be the first guest blogger for Book Blogger International‘s Canadian blogger month. Check me out, trying to make sense of what it’s like to blog in Canada, and how to define CanLit, in 1,000 words or less!  And you may as well bookmark the whole site, because all the cool Canadian kids are there: Tania from Write Reads, Shannon from Curled Up With a Good Book etc., and CJ from ebookclassics, and more to come.

Speaking of WriteReads, I’m the guest host on my fav CanLit podcast. I chose Fifteen Dogs for new release month and man, is it a doozy! What does it mean to be human? How important is language? Where is the line between loyalty and love? At one point, Kirt got way philosophical and I had to quote Haddaway to break the tension (as ones does.) This book packs poetry, magical realism, Greek mythology, and those fifteen dogs into 160 pages. Pick it up, read it in a day, and listen to the podcast.

Oh, and look for me on The Heavy Blanks sometime soon. I had coffee with Jason this week, and he was filming. I show off my copy of Vivek Shraya’s The Magnificent Malls of Edmonton which might as well have been written just for me, what with the 90s nostalgia and WEM memories.

ETA: Here it is! Go to 13:30 to hear Jason say nice things about me and then gaze upon my visage…

And now, shove over. I’m going back to bed.

Empty bed, full TBR pile

Empty bed, full TBR pile

Angela’s Acid: The Other Controversy in When Everything Feels Like the Movies

WhenEverythingFeelsWhen Everything Feels Like the Movies has pretty much entered the YA canon, in Canada at least. People read it and either wish it had been around when they were a teen, or want to get it into the hands of today’s teens. Yes, there are those other people who wish it to be banned and stripped of its Governor General’s Award, but I’m not here to talk about them or explain why this book shouldn’t be banned. Others have done so very eloquently, notably Lainey Lui* on this year’s Canada Reads.

Before I even read the book, I noticed something odd about the controversy. No one was saying “ban this book because the main character is gay” or even “ban this book because of explicit gay sex,” exactly. There were lots of “graphic” this and “sexualized” that, but it was all very vague.

Then I read the book and I met Angela. Jude’s sidekick/thwarted crush/betrayer, it was Angela who pulled me into the story because it so closely resembled my own. I don’t mean that literally, though I did buy acid from a guy in a photo booth once. But between me and my friends, we did all this stuff: we stole our parents’ prescriptions, smoked pot, did mushrooms, dropped acid, drank, smoked; had sex with people we didn’t love (and some that we did;) made lists of our conquests; used abortions as birth control. Some girls were open about abortions, some tried to hide them. You could usually tell by looking for a bruise on the top of the hand; that’s where the IV goes in.

(Aside: What are you using an abortion for, if not birth control? This phrase as a pejorative really pisses me off.)

Do I sound blasé? Does Angela? I have the distance of years but Angela’s in the thick of it. Why isn’t she more sad, more ashamed, like a victim should be? Noted well-digger and Canada Reads contestant Craig Kielburger can barely contain his sputtering outage when he asks Lainey to read this passage:

“How’d it go this time?” I asked her.

“I asked the doctor if he could suck out some fat when he took the fetus, and he looked at me like I was masturbating with a crucifix.”

It’s telling that much of the defense of WEFLTM is that it shines a light on important issues like homophobia and bullying, but Craig directs our attention to a passage about a heterosexual girl’s abortion. No homosexuality or bullying here. So what’s controversial? That she doesn’t feel shame? That she makes a joke? How shallow a reader must you be to take Angela a face value. Did Craig consider that perhaps a 14 year old doesn’t have the language to express her feelings about having an abortion and makes a joke instead?

If you’re outraged by this excerpt, it’s because you don’t think Angela is suffering enough, and that’s kind of fucked up.

In addition to not being sad/contrite/ashamed enough, Angela also has no excuse. We can accept Jude’s substance abuse and fantasy life because his real life is terrible – a violent, unstable home; bullying at school; and a toxic best friend. In Angela, we are confronted with a outwardly normal, privileged teenage girl making poor choices and we demand to know why. Is it abuse? Mental illness? The parents’ fault?

How about: drinking, drugs, and sex are fun? (You know, until they’re not.) I grew up in a stable home with great parents and many advantages, and I’m not just saying that because my mom reads the blog now (HI MOM) but because it’s very rare to see a character like Angela, who is fucked up and *not* made sympathetic with a hard knock back story, or put on “a journey” to overcome some big struggle. Sometimes there is no reason why. That’s real life. That was my life.

Me, 16ish, pissed off about something.

Me, 16ish, pissed off about something.

WEFLTM could be a lifesaver for LGBTQ teens. It could also be important to all the Angelas out there. Is the need as dire? Nope. Contrary to what Jude thinks, many Angelas grow up to be boring suburban moms who cut loose by having a second glass of wine on a Saturday night. But that ubiquitous bookish quote, “we read to know that we are not alone,”applies to us, too. When Angela slapped Jude across the face after he called he a “come dumpter” (oh, the profanity!) I cheered. I wish I’d had Angela when I was 15, and I hope many teenagers and adults of all genders and sexuality read this book.

*I still really, really need to know what lipstick Lainey was wearing on Canada Reads. The perfect red. It haunts me.

In my bed: April 2015

Insert “excuses for not writing wrap-up posts, that no one noticed I didn’t write, and the excuses are also humblebrags, and/or pleas for pity and/or compliments” here.

Let’s just call this 2015 so far.

Recommended reading
4 and 5 star reads that’d I’d recommend to almost anybody:

the bearLuminariesNWWhenEverythingFeelsbringupablutions

  • The Bear by Clare Cameron (review, sort of)
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • NW by Zadie Smith (audio)
  • When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid
  • Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel (audio)
  • Ablutions by Patrick deWitt

Book Haul
Some notable acquisitions. Follow me on Instagram if you care to see my book mail and also my children.

Goose Lane Editions goodies

Goose Lane Editions goodies

  • The Secret Library by Haruki Murakami courtesy of Monika at A Lovely Bookshelf
  • Mrs. Dalloway courtesy of Robert at 101 Books. I won a contest and could pick any of the 101 books, so of course I picked his most hated book.
  • Humans 3.0, Knife Party at the Hotel Europa, and Where the Nights are Twice as Long courtesy of Goose Lane Editions: My mom saw these books at my house and told me several times how attractive they were. She was petting them. She likes shiny things.
  • Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz courtesy of Hello Hemlock. Read along in May and get ready to discuss in June.
  • Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother by Hollie Adams courtesy of NeWest Press

Up to the Challenge
I am doing some reading challenges this year:

Also an excellent excuse to rewatch the mini-series. Boissiney sez: don't hate the player.

Also an excellent excuse to rewatch The Forsyte Saga mini-series. Boissiney sez: don’t hate the player.

  •  The Forsyte Saga Chronicles with Ali of HeavenAli and others, because why challenge yourself to read just one Victorian novel when you can read nine that total like 2700 pages? I’m on book two and loving it.
  • Book Riot Read Harder Challenge or at least one aspect of it. I find reading bingo challenges to be a bit… much. I will never keep track or remember to check things off. So I zero’d in on one square in Book Riot’s bingo card: read a book someone recommends to you. I’m taking that to mean someone in real life. So far, I’ve read The Japanese Lover by Rani Manicka (recommended by my mom,) Champlain’s Dream by David Hackett Fischer (my husband,) and next up, Let the Elephants Run by David Usher (my brother.) I wouldn’t have picked any of these books on my own.
  • Back from the DNF is my own little challenge and I hope to knock off another book or two.

Reading local
A little local non-fiction:

howtoexpecthowtoexpect2

  • Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything by Timothy Caufield which I wrote about here.
  • How to Expect What You’re Not Expecting: Stores of Pregnancy, Parenthood and Loss edited by Jessica Hiemstra and Lisa Martin-Demoor. I’ve already passed this on to a friend. I didn’t notice the dedication till I was about to mail it. A really beautiful book.

Where I’ll be
You might find me at these places IRL and on the internet over the next few months:

Lynn Coady and body guard

Lynn Coady and body guard

  • The 2015 Kreisel Lecture with Lynn Coady. Actually happened a few nights ago. Serious literature + Grover = awesome. More to come.
  • WriteReads talking about Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis. Yes, the other book won the vote. I changed my mind.
  • Book Bloggers International talking about book blogging in Canada. I am really feeling Reading in Winter’s absence right now, as she has written about this topic so eloquently in the past!
  • The Yeggies winning the Best in Arts and Culture Award (hopefully)
  • Book Expo America in NYC with ebooksclassics and JFranz.
  • The Group-Along: Yes, I’ve decided on my annual read-along and it shall by The Group by Mary McCarthy, inspired by this post on Uncovered Classics, by the fact that McCarthy is from Minnesota and now so is my sister, who always gamely joins my read-alongs, and by my years of devotion to Sex and the City (pre-movies,) which took inspiration from this book. Watch for a sign up post later in the summer.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,138 other followers