Category: Features

Ten Rules for the Reader of Novels

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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.

 

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Novellas in November 2018 Round Up #1

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

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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.

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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.

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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?

Continue reading

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*!

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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

Start Where You Are: How to get into new authors, feat. the Man Booker International Prize shortlist

I picked up Book Riot’s “Start Here: Read Your Way Into 25 Amazing Authors” as a free Kobo download a while back, and gave it a skim: each entry offers a short introduction to an author, and a suggested reading list to ease your way into their work. I thought this would be light and entertaining, but I found it all a bit depressing. Much like my experience with The Novel Cure, what’s meant to be a bit of fun comes across as too preachy and prescriptive for my liking. As I keep impressing on my kids: once you know how to read on your own, you can read anything you want and no one can stop you.

 

(Plus, how badly do you think Book Riot wishes it could take back the very first entry in Start Here volume one, on Sherman Alexie? These things don’t always age well.)

Anyway, I was reminded of this particular brand of reading guidance while reading the Man Booker International Prize shortlist. In particular, The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai and Flights by Olga Tokarczuk are spoken of a bit dismissively – not their best work, not the best place to start. Continue reading

Canada Reads: Who should win, who could win

It’s that time of year again! No, not spring. This is Canada. It’s beautiful in Edmonton today, but the forecast for later this week includes a low of -18 (that’s about zero degrees for you Americans) and snow. No, friends, it is time for Canada Reads.

The drama! The bickering! The relatively-high production values! The distinctly early-aughts reality show vibe!

If you need a primer about what Canada Reads is all about, please visit my YouTube channel where I break it down (short version: Canada Reads = Survivor + Who Wants to be a Millionaire + books)

Here are my picks for who should and could win, based on my previous experience with this show, and this year’s theme: one book to open your eyes. Continue reading

The Man Booker International Prize 2018: Readers to watch

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The Man Booker International Prize is a slightly more obscure prize than, say, The Women’s Prize, The Giller Prize, or the plain ol’ Man Booker Prize. That’s partly why I am keen to follow it – it’s not as overwhelming. There are plenty of other #mbi2018 readers, though. Here are a few I’m following. If I missed you, let me know!

The Man Booker International Prize Shadow Jury

These are the cool kids of #mbi2018. They are already posting longlist reviews! Actually, I’ve followed several of them for years, and they are super nice. Here is the full list of shadow jurors. In particular, I recommend Dolce Bellezza for thoughtful reviews and reading challenges galore; and Tony’s Reading List for his sense of humour and commitment to translated fiction (and the best book blog tagline in the game: “Too lazy to be a writer – Too egotistical to be quiet”). Continue reading

How to follow a UK Prize from Canada or my foray into the Man Booker International Prize

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I made a snap decision today: I’ve decided to follow the Man Booker International Prize. I came to my decision, oh, about a half hour before the longlist was announced this morning. In my excitement, I filmed two videos before work: one about why I’m following the prize, and one reacting to the longlist. Scroll down to watch, if you wish.

Since my early morning burst of activity, though, I’ve learned some harsh lessons about following a UK prize from overseas: you can’t get the books.

Well, you *can*. And I knew it would be a pain – this isn’t my first rodeo (or my first Booker). But the combination of UK publication dates, translations, and this particular longlist’s preponderance of small press books makes the 2018 MBIP a real challenge. So, I did some research. Continue reading