Category: Reading in Edmonton

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.
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Learning about Residential Schools for every level (ft. Benjamin on Booktube)

Many Canadians are disappointed in our slow progress towards the 94 calls to action set out in the Truth and Reconciliation Report. See Ian Mosby’s Twitter feed for updates (and a nonsensical reply from Joseph Boyden, if you dig for it):

However, I am pleased to find that my kids, in grades one and two, are learning about residential schools. Most of the learning happened on Orange Shirt Day, but hopefully this will become a regular part of the curriculum.

It can’t just end at school, though. I could tell from the questions they asked me that they didn’t quite understand what happened, and why. So I got them some books. I also happened to read a short story collection touching on residential schools at the same time. Here are three ways to learn more about residential schools in Canada, for whatever level you are at.

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The Short Story Advent Calendar 2017: Giveaway open till Oct. 17

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.

ssac2017

It’s that time of year again: The Short Story Advent Calendar is on sale now, and I have a copy to give away. I plan to do daily reveal videos, so subscribe on YouTube if you haven’t already!

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 is reading along and chatting about the stories with fellow bookish people on the internet – use #ssac2017 on Twitter.

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.
  • Rules and regulations:
    • Contest is open till October 17, 2017.
    • On October 18, 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.

Good luck!

Psst… Hingston & Olsen are offering a second story box this year. The Ghost Box is full of scary stories, and is still available but probably won’t be for long.

Before & After Canada Reads

aftercanadareads2

Each year around this time, I take a social media break, and in 2017 it’s more extreme than usual: for the month of March, I’m not only staying away from Twitter and Facebook, but also YouTube, Instagram, Goodreads… anything with a “feed.” And this blog. I’m going to pretend the internet stopped evolving after 2006, basically.

I’d be remiss if I took off with out reminding you all about Canada Reads, which is going down March 27-30 on CBC (I am allowing myself to watch broadcast TV on YouTube. I gotta keep up on Workin’ Moms too!) AND letting you know that Write Reads podcast is staging its own version of the national reading debate.

“After Canada Reads” will be released in a special edition Write Reads podcast in late April. It’s sort of a homage to Canada Reads, but also sort of an anti-Canada Reads. If you enjoy the general concept of debating books, but find the topics and criteria for those debates to be somehow both insipid and alarmist (“the book Canada MUST READ RIGHT NOW”) – or if you just have a lingering ick factor due to the ex-host – this maybe be the reading event for you.

Oh, and I’m taking part! Of course.

The theme: The best/most memorable/most inspirational female character in Canadian Literature.

The books:

  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  • Malarky by Anakana Schofield (this one is mine!)
  • The Break by Katherena Vermette (also on the legit Canada Reads)
  • A Chorus of Mushrooms by Hiromi Goto
  • Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Check out all of the defenders and their book choices here.

So, while you struggle through the official Canada Reads without my insightful commentary about who lays the best smack downs, who has the best lipstick, and who needs to shut the hell up, remember to read along and get ready for After Canada Reads. See you all in April!

When a comfort read is discomforting: Mary Green by Melanie Kerr

My latest review for Vue Weekly is up, and I need to write a different kind of disclaimer:

This review is not sponsored and I paid full retail for the book. The author did, however, make me sourdough waffles with homemade preserves. I swear it didn’t affect this review, even though they were the best damn waffles I’ve ever had.

With that in mind, here follows my director’s cut review. Or, click here for the shorter version that appears in Vue.

It’s worth noting the unintentionally hilarious typo in the print headline. Not sure whose fans are rejoicing; Stone Cold Steve Austin’s?

austinfansjpeg

Photo by Melanie Kerr

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2016 Year in Review #1: The Stats

You may notice something different about this year’s stats, compared to other years. Let’s see how long it takes to spot it…

smell

I smelled 0% of the paper books because that’s weird.

Books Read

  • Books read in 2016: 35, down from 69 in 2015. That was on purpose, though. And I’m not counting rereads, kids books, or books I read for work.
  • Shortest book: Bluets by Maggie Nelson (112 pages)
  • Longest book: Cecilia by Frances Burney (1,056 pages)
  • Format: 97% paper, 3% ebook, 0% audio (compared to a third of my reading on ebook and audio last year)

About the Author

  • 100% female (58% in 2015)
  • 34% person of colour (up from 20% 2015)
  • 37% Canadian (same as 2015) 38% American, 11% British, and 1 each: Korean, Japanese, French, Filipino. 
  • Three Edmonton-area authors this year, being generous with one who moved recently!

… did you catch it? Yes, I did the #readwomen thing this year, and my experience will be covered in a separate blog post. Brace yourselves: unlike many who do this sort of thing, I did not come to any shattering realizations, and I *cannot wait* to read some dudes in 2017.

The book that started it all.

The book that started it all.

Genres and Lists

  • 11% classics (same as 2015), 63% contemporary lit fic (about the same as previous years), 11% nonfiction (all memoirs), and a handful of erotica, poetry, and graphic novels.
  • 1001 Books for a total of 127 read.

Probably gonna mix it up a bit next year, say, read some nonfiction that isn’t memoir?

Ratings

  • 17% were rated five stars (up from 11% last year), 49% were four stars, 23% were three stars, 14% were two stars and poor Nora Roberts gets just one.
  • The most underrated book was After Claude, which I rated a 5, compared to average 3.55 rating on Goodreads. Which I assume is due to people getting offended, which is the whole point.
  • The most overrated book was The Liar, which I rated a 1, compared to average 3.94 rating. It was just bad.
Lemme in, Something Awful! I won't stay long, I promise!

Lemme in, Something Awful! I won’t stay long, I promise!

Blog Stats

  • Headed for about 17,000 page views in 2015, down from 23,000 in 2015. And 11,000 visitors, down from 15,000.
  • I’m not panicking, because my review of The Fault in Our Stars, which amassed 7,000 views in 2013-2015, was viewed just 400 times this year. Looks like kids writing papers have moved on to another book. Similarly, my review of Sleeping Beauty is not pulling the numbers it used to (nor am I seeing as much filth in my search terms). I think a lot of my traffic in 2014/2015 was artificial due to people landing on those posts – and quickly clicking away. They were never my readers anyway. The moral is: never review YA or erotica.
  • An Oryx and Crake readalong recap from 2013 continues to perform, due to a post on a Something Awful forum which I’m sorely tempted to pay for so I can see what it is… anyone a member? Hit me up!
  • On course for 45 posts this year, up from 39 posts in 2015.
  • Most viewed post of 2016 is that mysterious Oryx and Crake one.
  • Most viewed post that was actually written in 2016: Intro post of the Cecilia readalong, likely due to a little help from CBC.
  • Least successful post in 2016: Short Story Advent Calendar Video Reviews. Same as in 2015, it’s a Booktube post. Okay, I get it, you guys don’t like the Booktube…

Stay tuned for best books, disappointing books, and 2017 plans, of which I have several!

It’s a CanLit Celebration

Facebook memories are good for one thing: reminding me that at this time last year, I’d already published a comprehensive post about Edmonton’s fall line up of literary festivals and events. This year, I’m attending just one event. (Insert excuses such as work, kids, and rockstar husband* here.) But it’s going to be a gooder.

Edmonton’s LitFest is celebrating its tenth anniversary, and so is the Canadian Literature Centre. As if that wasn’t enough to justify a party, the CLC also just released a book of essays, Ten Canadian Writers in Context, edited by friend-of-Reading in Bed Jason Purcell. This party just got upgraded to a soirée: the LitFest Ten-Ten Soirée and CLC Celebration to be exact.

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The book. Jason’s famous!

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The Short Story Advent Calendar 2016: Giveaway open till Oct. 9

ssac-giveaway

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

Forgive me for talking about Christmas in early October, but the second edition of The Short Story Advent Calendar is on sale now, and I’m so excited to offer one copy to a lucky reader. Continue reading

2016 Alberta Readers Choice Award: Real Talk

ARCA 2016

The above image (used with permission) is pretty optimistic. Does anyone read all five books before voting? Don’t people just vote for the author they know, or the book that looks to be up their alley?

I love the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award in spite of my belief that it’s basically a popularity contest. Some great books have won (The Shore Girl by Fran Kimmel in particular).

I wrote about the Edmonton-heavy shortlist for Vue Weekly. For that article, I had to keep things pretty neutral. Here are my real opinions, for those who care. Voting is open till 11:59pm on Wednesday August 31.

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Talking Birdie

birdie

May is new release month at Writereads, your favourite-with-a-u Canadian book club podcast. I am guest hosting once again, which means I get to choose the book, and I’m taking liberties. Birdie by Tracey Lindberg will be nearly one year old by the time the podcast comes out, so it doesn’t really qualify as new. But we need to talk about it. Not just because it’s by a local author, or about a contemporary Indigenous woman, or because it’s brilliant, but because I don’t think it got a fair shake on Canada Reads.

Birdie was the third book to get booted off Canada Reads this year (Americans: this is our public broadcaster’s annual books game show, like a televised Tournament of Books, and we are super smug about it,) and it was frustrating to see so much left unsaid. To be fair, there’s not enough time to really get into any of the books, even with four hours of air time (though they could cut down on the trailers and title sequences and dramatic pauses.) Here are a few thing I want to talk about:

  • Contestants were frustrated that Birdie’s timeline is not linear. At one point, Birdie’s defender, Bruce Poon Tip, said that to want Birdie to conform to the type of narrative we’re used to, we’re “colonizing” the book. What does that mean? We didn’t get to find out.
  • There was little mention of humour. Birdie’s teenage obsession with The Beachcombers and The Frugal Gourmet are so absurd and so specifically Canadian. Skinny Freda’s penchant for white guys, all of whom she refers to as “Phil,” reminded me of Cher Horowitz’s “Barneys.”
  • A lot of time was spent on how “other” this book is. Non-linear. Stream of consciousness. Compound words and Cree poetry mixed in. Yeah, it’s different (and made the other books sounds BOR-ing) but it also reminded me of so many other books! It has the unrelenting focus on interior life of Villette, the absurdity of Malarky, the horror and hope of Push. Birdie is unique but it’s also part of a tradition of women writing about women.

So, read Birdie, subscribe to Writereads, and listen in as Kirt, Tania, and I try to cram all this in to a one-hour podcast. It should be up in mid-May.

The trailer from Canada Reads.