Category: Features

20 Books of Summer 2019

Cathy of 746 Books has been running the 20 Books of Summer challenge since 2014, and after watching the first five rounds from afar, I’m jumping in.

The idea is to read *and review* 20 books over the summer (June 3 – September 3). Cathy is quite reasonable about swapping out books if needed, adjusting targets etc. That said, I shall try to stick to the list below, which was created with a random number generator and a list of my physical TBR (currently sitting at 80 books), and some executive decision making – I stacked the deck in favour of Women in Translation month in August. I may substitute library ebooks or audiobooks for the paper copies, but will try to stick to the list and read in order, too.

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Literary Smut: An appreciation and some recommendations

Inspired by some recent racy reads, I made a video about smutty literary fiction (as opposed to smutty smut). I’ve blogged about sexy times in books a few times here on Reading in Bed, but talking about it with my voice (and my face!) is another prospect, and a little cringey. I’m glad I did it though, because I got some great recommendations for further highbrow smuttery in the comments. I’d like to share them with all of you, and of course, ask you for even more – I’ll update the post.

There’s not much Franzen in this video, this was just the best default thumbnail option and I’m too lazy to make my own

The books I mentioned are:

  • Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce (trigger warning for everything)
  • Smut by Alan Bennett (wonderful!)
  • The Bride Stripped Bare by Anonymous (an oldie but a goodie)
  • After Claude by Iris Owens (more trigger warnings!)
  • Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas (this one wasn’t great, nor is it literary fiction. In case you don’t make it that far in the vid)

The books other recommended to me are:

  • Stranger by the Lake (a movie, but including it, why not!)
  • Love Life by Zeruya Shalev
  • Skin Lane by Neil Bartlett
  • “Housewife” by Jenny Diski (in the collection The Vanishing Princess)
  • Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin
  • House of Holes by Nicholson Baker
  • Suicide Blonde by Darcey Steinke
  • The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
  • The Pisces by Melissa Broder
  • Pretty Things by Virginie Despentes
  • Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger
  • The Change Room by Karen Connelly

Send me some recs, and let me know what you think of explicit sex in lit fic.

(Taking a) Break (from) the Internet

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From Douglas Coupland’s “Slogans for the 21st Century”

This is a self-indulgent post (“as opposed to what?” you may well ask) meant to solidify my plans and give myself a little accountability, but it could be used it as a guide or jumping off point for anyone looking to take a break from the internet.

Yes, let’s go with that.

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Novellas in November 2018 Round Up #2

And wrap up, because it’s over!

Novellas read: 13
Goodreads Challenge: momentarily caught up, already behind again
Five-star reads: 2

Since my last update, I read eight more novellas. In the spirit of #NovNov, here they are, very briefly reviewed:

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

I thought this was a book about race, but it’s really about the relationship between religion and race and America, all in about 100 pages. Continue reading

Ten Rules for the Reader of Novels

Franzen serious

Franzen and I are judging you

With apologies to Jonathan Franzen and, to a lesser extent, Teddy Roosevelt and Lynn Coady.

  1. The author is not a friend, an adversary, nor a performer. I mean, they might be dead, for one thing. But a book can be a friend. So can other readers.
  2. Fiction that doesn’t inspire a reader’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth reading (unless you’re in the mood for something other than a personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown, in which case, go for it.)
  3. Cultivate a literary pet peeve. When you see it, underline it and write “UGH” in the margin. Mine is misuse of “begs the question”.
  4. Read The Catcher in the Rye and other first person coming of age novels while you’re young. Those stories won’t be as interesting when you’re older.
  5. Wikipedia rabbit holes are fun, but remember, novels are fiction. Even historical novels. Even novels that seem to portray real people.
  6. You can find yourself in a novel by matching up the author’s or main character’s socio-demographic profile to your own, but try to read novels that “find” you in places you’ve never been or experienced, too.
  7. You read more sitting still than chasing after. Unless it’s an audio book and you’re involved in a car chase?
  8. Reading and the internet go together in ways that are difficult for some to imagine. But for real, put your phone away after 9:00 pm and read for the rest of the night.
  9. Don’t discount novels written in simple language as simple, or assume a novel written in complex language is complex.
  10. You have to love an author before you can relentlessly make fun of them.

 

Novellas in November 2018 Round Up #1

I’m back in the saddle and my Goodreads challenge is officially ON NOTICE:

goodreadschallenge

I haven’t been within three books in a while!

We are not quite halfway though #NovNov and I’ve read five novellas totaling approximately 700 pages. In other words, over five books, I’ve read nowhere near the equivalent of this year’s summer read-along, The Count of Monte Cristo. I think I got more out of these pages, though. Read on for appropriately brief reviews, also coming soon to Booktube.

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq

Goodreads says this has 208 pages, but it doesn’t. It has 180 some and that’s including several illustrations and half-blank pages of verse. Split Tooth is a novel in the sense that Flights by Olga Tokarczuk is, in that it’s fragmentary, or like Han Kang’s The White Book is, in that it’s really poetry, and definitely reminds me of Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, in that as much as it’s a coming of age story, and universal, it’s nearly impossible to separate the art from the author here, and you wouldn’t want to. I’ve been advised that the audio book is essential, and when the book is read by the author, and the author is a Polaris Music Prize winning Inuit throat singer who’s collaborated with Buffy Sainte-Marie and Bjork, that almost goes without saying.

I’m also pretty sure this will be the best book I read in which a woman has carnal relations with the northern lights. Continue reading

A brief history of Novellas in November

“Novellas in November” was conceived of by Rick of Another Book Blog five years ago, in 2013. His original post is lost to the mists of defunct WordPress blogs, but you can read mine here. Over the years, others came along for the ride, notably our fellow Canadian book bloggers Naomi at Consumed by Ink and CJ at ebookclassics. I have probably been the most consistent participant, but I wasn’t really a host.

People have been asking (okay… one person asked and it was Novellas in November alum Rebecca) about the history of this event, and while I maintain that it has been sustained these past five years by the sheer power of alliteration, there is just a little more to it than that.

novellasinnovember2015

circa 2015

Rick wasn’t *quite* the first to pick up a novella in November. I can trace a “Novella November” challenge as far back as 2009. A blog called “Bibliofreak” seems to be the source, but it doesn’t exist anymore. Some past participants in this iteration include noted blogger, podcaster, Booktuber and Man Booker Prize correspondent Simon Savidge, new-to-me Lizzy’s Literary Life, and blogs I used to read, like Things Mean A Lot and Fleur in Her WorldContinue reading

The Short Story Advent Calendar 2018: Giveaway open till Oct. 25

Disclaimer: Giveaway copy is courtesy of the kind people at Hingston & Olsen Publishing, but I bought my own copy. I know one of the creators, Michael Hingston, and reviewed his novel The Dilettantes here.

2018-product-hover

It’s that time of year again: The 2018 Short Story Advent Calendar is on sale now, and I have a copy to give away.

The SSAC is exactly what it sounds like: individually bound short stories that you open every day from December 1 to 25. The creators also post daily author interviews and extras on their website. The best part of SSAC season is reading along and chatting about the stories with fellow bookish people on the internet – use #ssac2018 on Twitter.

I plan to do daily reveal videos, so subscribe on YouTube if you haven’t already! Last year, two other Alberta BookTube channels took part, and it was a ton of fun. So check out Anne at I’ve Read That and Cheryl at crflamesfan too. Dedicated SSAC fan Des recently set up his own book blog, and I bet we’ll see some SSAC action there, too.

While you wait for December 1, relive the glory of my daily videos from last year with this gem from Day 22, featuring my Christmas tree, my kids, and some lego:

How to enter & other fine print

  • To enter: tell me about the last great short story you read in the comments, and make sure your comment either includes your email address, or links to somewhere I can find it. Or, email me at lauratfrey@gmail.com and put SSAC in the subject line. If you haven’t read a great short story lately, that’s okay! Just tell me how excited you are to start reading them, or something. Last year, I compiled all the recommendations and came up with a great reading list.
  • Rules and regulations:
    • Contest is open till October 25, 2018.
    • On October 25, I will randomly choose a winner. I will notify the winner by email and ask for their mailing address. If I don’t hear back in 48 hours, I’ll choose again.
    • The winner’s calendar will ship in late October.
    • The giveaway is open internationally, but can only ship to addresses in Canada, USA, Mexico, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Women in Translation: It’s a readathon, it’s a month, it’s a thing

I’ve been vaguely aware for a few years that Women in Translation Month, or #WITmonth, happens in August. And I have read many impassioned posts from #WITmonth founder and blogger Meytal Radzinski, aka Bibliobio, about the sorry state of gender representation in translated lit. Fewer works by women are translated into English, and even fewer of the women who do get translated are reviewed in major publications. That second stat could kickstart a vicious cycle: fewer reviews means less attention which means lower sales which means publishers take fewer chances translating women, which leads back to fewer women translated… that’s simplified, but you get the picture.

But it took a booktube readathon, of all things, to spur me into action. Well, “action” – I made a list! But I will eventually choose a book and participate in this readathon. That’s a few steps up from slacktivism, right?

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Blogging by numbers

It’s time to dig deep, and peel back the layers on Reading in Bed. Yep, we’re looking at blog statistics*!

nobody cares.gif

When you check your blog stats and realize no one is reading your carefully crafted, 2,000 word review of an obscure backlist book

I recently hit a significant milestone over on YouTube. 500 subscribers. Halfway to an almost-medium-sized-Booktube-account, still absolutely nothing in the larger YouTube ecosystem.

YouTube is all about the “like and subscribe”, but bloggers don’t really talk about follower counts or number of likes. I can easily find out who the big Booktube accounts are (or try the new Booktuber Catalog on Discord, learn more here), but it’s difficult to get a read on book blogs (there’s this list, but it doesn’t differentiate between corporate entities – like, yeah, Book Riot is riddled with typos, but it’s not *actually* a blog).

So in the interest of opening up a dialogue, and because I’m nosy as hell and hope that some of you out there decide to share a bit, here’s a peek at where I’m at with ye olde bloge: Continue reading