Category: Reading in Edmonton

Talking 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.

Stonehouse Publishing launches five novels, also talks Buzzfeed, Burney, and Bookstagram

The opening of a new publishing house in Edmonton would be a momentous affair no matter what. Add in a literary and historical fiction focus, an intriguing debut run of five novels by Alberta authors, and the most opulent book party I’ve been to apart from the one I attended with Gwyneth Paltrow, and Stonehouse Publishing‘s launch looks like the literary event of the year thus far.

The Books

Stonehouse Publishing wants to publish “the best in Canadian fiction, but not necessarily ‘Canadiana’.” So, not this stuff (though someone really should write a novel about a troupe of French Canadian clowns.) They also plan to reissue forgotten classics, kicking off with Evelina by Fanny Burney next year.  As of May 1st, you can get your hands on five books: Three historical novels, set in WWI-era Canada, Regency England, and revolutionary France; a thriller set in contemporary Ukraine (Course Correction,) and a murder mystery set in rural Alberta (Edge of Wild.) I took the three historicals home:

  • Mary Green by Melanie Kerr: I reviewed Kerr’s first book, Follies Past, a few years back and was pleasantly surprised by the Pride and Prejudice prequel, which stands on it’s own easily while still capturing the style of Jane Austen. I’m very excited to meet Mary Green, who is not an Austen character, but does exist in Regency England and is a neglected orphan who (presumably) must rely on her wits to cope in London society.
  • League of the Star by N.R. Cruse: Hearing the first few pages, in which a sheltered teenage girl sees a man for the first time on a ship, while escaping the French revolution, got me hooked.
  • Kalyna by Pam Clark: I’ve read plenty of WWI-era CanLit but never from the perspective of Ukrainian immigrants. Time to fill in a few gaps.

The Party

The majority of book parties in Edmonton take place in the basement of Audreys Books and feature coffee and cookies. To be clear, I’m not knocking that! This was just on a different level. Hosted in the beautiful Boyle Street Community League, there was a DJ, a photo booth with historical costumes, a snack bar loaded with tea and scones, and a cash bar. Authors met readers in elaborately decorated booths, and readings took place in a comfy armchair in the middle of it all.

I saw and was seen, particularly by Matthew Stepanic of Glass Buffalo and Claire Kelly of NeWest Press. I also met author Melanie Kerr in person for the first time, after corresponding by email on and off for years. She is a delight, and her blog, though not updated so often these days, has some gold in the archives, including this post, if you’re a “begs the question” stickler like me.

It all went off beautifully. The only oddity was that author N.R. Cruse, who was apparently in the crowd, never sat at her booth, signed any books, or read a passage from her novel (her editor read for her.) Cruse is known to be reclusive and claims to be a direct descendant of Daniel Dafoe. I think of her as Alberta’s answer to Elena Ferrente.

Q&A with publisher Netta Johnson

Editor Julie Yerex and Publisher Netta Johnson were much too busy to chat the night of, so I asked some questions by email.

Reading in Bed: I recently read an article about how historical fiction is seen as less prestigious than contemporary literary fiction. This has always confused me. When I see a book classified as “historical fiction” and it’s clearly got tons of literary merit (e.g. Wolf Hall) I wonder why the setting makes it a whole different genre. Do you think historical fiction is seen as less prestigious than contemporary, and did this influence how you chose your focus for Stonehouse, your first run of books, how you market them, and so on?

Netta Johnson:  I thought this question was very interesting, and it serves to highlight how much things change, and yet stay the same. Lately, I have been reading the whole set of novels by Dumas. I had tried to read the Three Musketeers many years ago, but somehow couldn’t get properly interested. Without knowing it, I started to read the 3rd in the series, The Vicomte to Bragelonne and was pretty captivated by the portrayal of the Musketeers at age 50; the characters were so much more interesting in their middle-age. Reading the introductions to these books, I was struck to discover that these challenging and intricate novels (my words) were considered rather fluffy and insubstantial at the time of their publication, and often dismissed as ‘romances’. Perhaps popularity is the heart of the problem, and then and now, it is hard for reviewers to take books seriously when they are popular? Or maybe it is hard to separate the literary historical fiction from the genre historical fiction sold in grocery stories?

RIB: I’m super excited about your plans to publish forgotten classics. Can you tell me how you came to choose Evelina by Fanny Burney for your first book? (By the way, I’m going to host a Fanny Burney readalong this year. I’m thinking Cecilia. I’ve never read her but I’m noticing she’s trending a bit. I first heard about her on RonLit’s YouTube channel.)

NJ: I found Fanny Burney about 18 years ago, via Jane Austen. I began reading Evelina with the expectation that it would be dry and educational, and soon found myself laughing through much of the book. Cecilia is twice the size, and much more serious. It has a very personal appeal to me, so I am never sure if that will translate to others. Julie and I sometimes joke that she is Kanye and I am Jay-Z (thank you, Buzzfeed quizzes!), and in terms of 18th century heroines/books, she is Evelina and I am Cecilia. Evelina is so much more approachable, lighthearted, and when it was first released (anonymously), it spread like wildfire. Cecilia is a longer, darker novel, and it had some pretty famous intellectual admirers (Dr. Johnson, Edmund Burke, Hester Thrale, Napoleon). In Cecilia, FB takes a pretty sharp look at a number of social issues/problems of that time. Cecilia introduces you to misers, superficial friends, gamblers, social climbers, struggling tradesmen (and the poor in general), while showing the social problems with dueling (unavoidable, but the main two consequences were either death or jail, whether you won or lost), and the aimlessness of the aristocratic class. As an underage woman and an heiress, Cecilia is at the mercy of various different people, and as she waits the last few months till she comes of age and inherits her money, she is prey to every kind of snare. There is even a public suicide! Another amazing thing about this book is that we don’t even meet the hero for 120 odd pages. For any time, it is rather unconventional.

RIB: As publishers, are you in tune with all the bookish new media out there: blogs, Booktube, Bookstagram, and so on? Any favourites? How about Snapchat?

NJ: We have to look some of these up! Right now, we think we have a handle on Facebook, Twitter and just staring with Instagram. I didn’t even know the other ones existed!

Note: they’re humble, but their hashtag game was on point: if you missed the big launch, check out #Stoholaunch on Twitter and Instagram.


Spring break at Edmonton Public Library: a guide for working parents

I love that our library will use any school break as an excuse to put on a bunch of free programs for kids – or, more than they usually do, because they always have free programs for kids. Spring break is next week, and those in the Edmonton area should go to the website or check out the program guide, and read on for my picks.

I have a contentious relationship with kiddie events and programs. Working parents of younger-than-school-age children probably know where I’m going with this: the vast majority of programs for preschool age kids, with the notable exception of swimming lessons, are offered on weekday mornings or afternoons. That means you don’t get to do mommy-and-me yoga, and your child doesn’t get as many opportunities to learn with you outside the house.

Kim Bates, a Digital Literacy Librarian at Edmonton Public Library, has heard the same complaint from parents. “We have had customers request more evening and weekend programming and as a result we have been scheduling more of our programs at those times with the working parents in mind.”

May I just say thank you? Here are a few spring break highlights that’ll work for you if you work nine to five (or 8:15-4:45, in my case.)

One Book, One Break, Many Adventures! Lumberjanes Vol. 1Lumberjanes

I loved last year’s One Book One Edmonton project so much that I wrote about it twice. One Book One Break is a child-friendly take on the concept: make a book available to everyone in Edmonton, and give them chances to talk about it and win prizes.

There’s been so much buzz about comic book Lumberjanes on book blogs and Booktube that I wasn’t sure if it was for kids. Kim says Lumberjanes appeals to a “wide demographic” but cautions that “some preschoolers have found the creatures in the book a bit scary.” My four year old cannot abide Goosebumps reruns, so I’m going to take Kim’s advice and check it out myself before I share it with him. It sounds like it’ll be perfect for my six year old.

Everyone in Edmonton can download a copy of Lumberjanes on Hoopla, and the library is ordering extra physical copies. Each day during Spring Break, libraries will have a new activity sheet that doubles as an entry to prizes which include an iPad Mini 4 and an autographed edition of Lumberjanes to the Max Edition Volume 1. Details at

Working parent friendly dates: this one’s on your own time, and many branches are open till 9pm weeknights, so there’s plenty of time to get your entries in.

Minecraft Madness

minecraftMinecraft at the library is nothing new, but given the popularity (bordering on obsession in my house), three branches will set aside a Minecraft-dedicated computer for the whole week of Spring Break. I asked Kim if kids get as crazy as mine do when they’re playing Minecraft at the library, and she said that while there generally aren’t fights over the computers, “kids do often like to talk to each other as they play so I do expect plenty of strategizing and cheering!” My kids could use this good example. Oh, the horror of being a one-iPad household!

Working parent friendly dates: Drop in during opening hours at Stanley A. Milner, Woodcroft or Sprucewood branches.

Lego at the Library


Awesome. (via

Lego without risk of stepping on a rogue brick at 6:00 am? Sign me up. For kids 6-12.

Working parent friendly dates:

  • Saturday March 26, 2:00 pm at Capilano
  • Saturday April 2, 3:00 pm at Meadows
  • Saturday April 2, 3:00 pm at Woodcroft

Minion Movie Marathon

The downtown library is showing all three Minion movies (does anyone even call them Despicable Me?) over Spring Break. Yeah, you might own them at home, but sometimes a change of venue works wonders. All ages.

Working parent friendly dates: Saturday April 2, 2:00 pm (The Minion Movie) at Stanley A. Milner

Puppet Adventures

Great for younger kids, as long as they can sit still for more than a minute at a time. Look, we’ve all been that parent dragging their kids out of a library program, there’s no shame. All ages.

Working parent friendly dates:

  • Saturday April 2, 2:00 pm at Calder
  • Saturday April 2, 2:00 pm and Sunday April 3, 2:00 pm at Castle Downs
  • Sunday April 3, 2:00 pm at Clareview
  • Saturday March 26, 1:30 pm and 3:00 pm at Lois Hole
  • Saturday March 26, 2:00 pm at Stanley A. Milner
  • Saturday April 2, 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm at Whitemud Crossing

Bonus (and shameless self-promotion; I work for the city and helped develop this): If you’re looking for more kids’ programming in Edmonton, check out and create a custom guide to City of Edmonton registered programs – swimming lessons, daycamps, arts, yoga, kickboxing, and much more. You only see the ages, interests, and locations that work for you. And, there are more and more options for us working parents on evening and weekends. We’re working on it!

This post was inspired by, but not paid for by, Edmonton Public Library. I mean… they’re a library. What did you expect? They do lend me free books though.


2015 Year in Review #1: The Stats

While my family enjoys the traditional new year’s eve feast of microwave popcorn and mini-watermelon slices (it was in our produce box this week!) I shall avail you of my blog stats. Stay tuned for my favourite books of 2015 and 2016 plans.

69dudesBooks Read

  • Books read in 2015: 69, up from 64 in 2014 and 52 in 2013.
  • Shortest book: We Should All Be Feminists (49 pages)
  • Longest book: City on Fire (944 pages)
  • Format: 64% paper, 20% ebook, 16% audio (which would be up from 0% audio in any previous year, and represents the biggest change in the way I read.)

About the Author

  • 58% female (Same as 2014)
  • 20% person of colour (same as 2014)
  • 38% Canadian (down from 55% in 2014) 35% American  16% British and 1 each: Argentinian, Nigerian, New Zealand, Malaysian, Italian, Brazilian, Angolan, German. 
  • Six Edmonton-area authors this year, up from two last year.

I didn’t pay much attention to gender and race this year, but ended up with the same “diversity” stats as last year. I put “diversity” in quotes because these stats and challenges generally leave a bad taste in my mouth. (That’s a whole other post, but this or this can give you an idea why.) I was curious about how my reading fell out, though, so I did the calculation. I notice that I expanded the number of author nationalities (at the expense of #CanLit, oops) while still reading a large majority of Canadian, American, and UK authors.

The book that started it all.

The book that started it all.

Genres and Lists

  • 10% classics (down from 19% in 2014), 51% contemporary lit fic (about the same as previous years), 14% non fiction (up a bit from last year), and a handful of YA, erotica, romance, memoir, graphic novels, and a thriller.
  • 1001 Books for a total of 126 read – and reread two more.

I’m further and further away from the reason I started this blog. Not saying that’s good or bad… stay tuned for 2016 plans!


  • 7% were rated five stars (down 13% in 2014), 41% were four stars, 36% were three stars, 16% were two stars. I DNF’d one book that was headed for a one-star rating.

This year is a bit of a slump. Only a few books blew me away. As usual, I tend to rate books lower than the masses on Goodreads:

  • I rated 26 books higher. The most underrated book was The Bear, which I rated a 5, compared to average 3.31 rating. Yeah, I have a lot of feelings about this book.
  • I rated 40 books lower. The most overrated book was We Should All Be Feminists, which I rated a 2, compared to average 4.44 rating. Not because I don’t agree, but because there was nothing new or challenging.

Infinite Jest 20th Anniversary editionBlog Stats

Bookstravaganza Buzz!

My kids were fascinated with bees this summer. I bought them a board game called “Buzz!” without looking past the recommended ages; kid’s board games are usually just rebranded takes on classics like Snakes and Ladders or Trouble. When I realized I had bought a “cooperative board game” I cringed; was this going to be one of those “everyone’s a winner, even the losers” type things? Was it going to be fun? Are three and five year olds even capable of cooperating?

I needn’t have worried. It’s not that everyone’s a winner, it’s just that you either all win, or you all lose. More precisely, you all win, or a cardboard bear wins. There is strategy involved, you just get to strategize together. You can still cheat, too – very important when playing with little kids. Kids love cheating. And nothing brings a group of people together like a common enemy, even when it is a cardboard bear.

The Bookstravaganza crew is jumping on the cooperative bandwagon this year. Previously, Bookstravaganza was a competition/fundraiser: who could read the most books in December, and raise the most money for a local literary cause? This year, they’ve banded together and are working towards a common reading goal: to collectively read and review one hundred books in December. You can cheer them on by following on Twitter, reading reviews on the blog, and by donating to Literacy Vans at the Edmonton Public Library.

No, I’m not participating this year. I had fun reading and reviewing ten books last December, but my oldest just turned six, and received three more board games for his birthday. I’m going to be pretty busy.

Reading in Bed’s 2015 totally legit, not-just-things-I-want-for-myself Gift Guide

Buying books for others is a fun way to indulge your literary leanings and feel good about supporting the industry, but the awkwardness of asking “did you read it yet?” and being met by a blank stare is enough to scare me off. So, while this is ostensibly a guide to buying books and bookish things for others, let’s be real. If I buy this stuff for anyone, in the immortal words of N*Sync:


40 Below Volume 2: Alberta’s Winter Anthology

Editing this post to add the one bookish gift I’m actually giving someone else. If you haven’t got the first volume, this would make a handsome box set, don’t you think? (Sleeve borrow from a Folio Society book, fancy!)

Nell Zink Box Set from Fourth Estate

I’m editing this post to add this Nell Zink box set, which includes both her novels. I paid full price for The Wallcreeper ebook (which, ouch, because it’s a novella) and I still want this in my life.


The Short Story Advent Calendar

Just what it sounds like, the Short Story Advent Calendar is a collection of 24 short stories, to be opened and read from December 1 to 24. The creators are local (Edmonton author Michael Hingston and designer Natalie Olsen,) but the project has a broad geographic scope. You’ll find new stories and b-sides from authors across the country, like Heather O’Neill and Richard Van Camp, and American Jess Walter of Beautiful Ruins fame. Not all the contributors have been revealed yet, so who knows who else is in there?

The website will offer additional goodies about each story come December, and the creators hope to spark lots of conversation among adventers. This is the most interesting part, to me. Despite the size and commitment of the online literary community, not all of these things catch on. Hingston says,

The community element was part of it from the beginning. It was based off of this beer advent calendar I bought, and going to their Facebook page every day to see a video of beer people reviewing each beer.

Reviewing a short story’s gotta be more interesting than reviewing a beer? Right? Follow me on Twitter to find out, as I have indeed bought this thing for myself.

Oh yeah, and you only have until November 13 to order. That’s in two days. And they may run out before then. It’s not cheap at $55, but it’s a thing of beauty!


A handpicked book from Vellum and Bloom

This Vancouver company bills itself as “purveyors of lovingly tailored literary gift packages.” I think of it as “when you want to buy a book for someone, but don’t want the blame if they don’t like it.” I’m dying of curiosity and want to try it for myself, to see if they get it right.

For $30, you get a book. For $45 (and up) you get a book plus additional treats of the literary persuasion. Readers fill out a survey about their favourite genres and recent reads, and Vellum and Bloom picks the book, with a special focus on current titles from Canadian independent publishers, which they think means it’s unlikely the receiver will have read the book, which means they don’t know me very well.

Yes, they do subscription boxes, and yes, you can return the book if you’ve already read it. Order by December 2 for Christmas delivery.

vellumandbloom vellumandbloomlogo

An antique book from Abe Books or Invaluable

I’m not much for books as collectibles myself (libraries and ebooks 4 life,) but a first edition of a classic book is pretty special. CanLit Booktuber From the Dusty Bookshelf got herself a signed edition of Hugh MacLennan’s Return of the Sphinx from Abe Books and she’s pretty happy with it:

While Abe Books is the go-to spot for used books online, Invaluable is a newcomer. They are  an online auction site that’s doing a promotional push with book bloggers of late. After comparing the sites, I find Abe Books much easier to use, because it’s set up for books specifically. It also has a wide range; from super-rare, signed first editions to regular used books. Invaluable focuses on the rare ones. If you’re after a really specific book or author, Invaluble is a good resource, but for browsing, and those who don’t have $1,000 to drop on a first edition of A Confederacy of Dunces (I WISH) you will find more to work with on Abe Books.

Neither site had first editions of Tess of the D’Ubervilles, so I guess Christian Grey does his shopping elsewhere…

So, book people, what do you want for Christmas?

Note: I know some of the people mentioned in this post, and some of them sent me press releases, but none of them sent me any of the gifts listed here or money or anything like that.

LitFest 2015 Mini-Reviews: Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis and Separation Anxiety by Miji Campbell

LitFest-2clr-cmyk-smallLitFest is Canada’s only non-fiction festival. One of these years, I’ll get a pass and go to everything, but this year The Femme Memoir Hour is my one and only. It’s tomorrow, Saturday October 24, at 1:00 p.m. at the downtown library, and tickets are still available.

The theme of this event is tenuous. Yeah, they’re all memoirs written by women, but so what? Is that enough to tie these books together? I’ve read two of the books (kindly provided by LitFest, many thanks) and while they share some themes of recovery, they really couldn’t be more different.

girlinthewoodsGirl in the Woods by Aspen Matis
3 out of 5 stars

Let me just get this out of my system: Girl in the Woods is Wild for millennials!!

That’s too simple and kind of condescending. It’s not Matis’ fault that Cheryl Strayed released Wild in 2012, presumably while she was writing Girl in the Woods. It’s not her fault that Strayed also had a traumatic past, that she also had a near-death experience on the trail, or that she also changed her name after her journey.

It also feels condescending to say I wish Matis, like Strayed, had waited longer and matured as a writer before writing a memoir, and yet. The book includes childhood pictures of Matis (…for some reason) labelled with dates in the late nineties, just in case you forget that she’s super young. The reminder is helpful though. Matis is maddeningly self-centered and dramatic, which is less annoying when you remember that she’s 18 years old when she begins her hike. And privileged. I mean, when the word “self-care” appeared I thought I was done. But I stuck around and remembered that duh, I was a privileged, dramatic, self-centered 18 year old myself, and Matis captures something true about that experience that’s hard to describe. And, she’s done something with all that privilege. Not the hike, the book. No one made her write a story about being raped. Imagine being known for the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. Then again, imagine reaching so many people who need to hear your story.

If you can push away the comparisons, and quit wishing that a teenager was more mature, which is silly, you will probably enjoy Girl in the Woods. It *is* well-written, well, a little over-written, but there are flashes of greatness. I appreciate what Matis did with her story and I’m really interested to see what she does next.

separationanxietySeparation Anxiety by Miji Campbell
2 out of 5 stars

Again, let me just get this out of my system: Separation Anxiety is Eat Pray Love without the eating, praying, or loving!!

It’s not fair to compare a book to EPL just because it’s a memoir by a woman who goes through a divorce. Well, comparing and contrasting. Like Elizabeth Gilbert, Campbell’s life is privileged and suburban and normal. Traditional wifely and motherly roles aren’t enough for her. Neither teaching nor freelance writing lead to fulfillment.  This is where you expect Campbell to travel the world à la Gilbert or hike through the woods à la Matis. But she doesn’t. She doesn’t really do anything.

Well, she suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That’s not nothing. A weird, dysfunctional relationship with her mother is referenced as a factor but never really explained. She has debilitating insomnia as a young adult. She marries and has children. She divorces her husband for some reason which isn’t clear. She meets a new guy but we’re told nothing about the when or the how. Eventually, she is unable to work or leave the house, but the stakes don’t seem very high. It feels wrong to say that, because of course the stakes were high; this is her life. But it didn’t come through in my reading.

Traipsing around the globe and hiking across the continent can be inspirational (or aspirational,) but they’re not reasonable for most. Realism is good! But, it turns out, you do need something to hang your story on. The combination of Campbell’s short, clipped sentences, jumpy timeline, and lack of narrative almost made this a DNF. The last chapters, in which she gets her shit together, were good. There was some drive to the narrative and we got to hear from other people.

I will say the design of this book is wonderful. I’ve had several people admire the cover and ask me about it. You know what they say about books and covers, though.

The Femme Memoir Hour is part of LitFest. Meet the authors this Saturday, October 24, 1:00 p.m. at Stanley Milner Library.

Come for the authors, or come to meet moderator Liz Withey and her friend Laverne. Thanks to LitFest for the review copies. I haven’t read the third book, The Prison Book Club by Ann Walmsley, but it sounds fascinating.



Ebook appreciation month #2: One (e)Book, One City

Ebook appreciation month continues!

One Book, One City events predate the ebook, but technology sure makes it easier to get one book into many hands. In my first ebook appreciation post, I told you how publishers put a damper on ebook borrowing, with limits on how many epub files can be borrowed and for how long. But a big event like this means a city (or its library) can negotiate a deal with a publisher to allow unlimited borrowing, and Edmonton is the first Canadian city to do so.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper is the One Book One Edmonton selection for 2015. If you have a Edmonton Public Library card, you can borrow it. But, you can’t download it to an ereader, so you’re stuck with your phone or tablet. And it’s being released in six parts. The first one is up till the end of the program on November 16, and subsequent parts are available for a week at a time. Part 2 is only available till October 19, so get on it!

At first, I was put off by having to read on my phone. It’s smaller than an ereader, the battery life sucks, and the back-lighting is harsh. However, the BiblioCommons technology on the back end allows you to do this:

Not only can you easily share quotes to social media, but it’s all pretty. In other words: it’s branded, social media-ready content. What if a publisher could do this kind of branding in an ereader? Or an author? Or… a book blogger? Those who clutch their pearls at the thought of ereading must be strangling themselves over this kind of application, but I think it’s got a lot of potential.

Have you participated in a One Book, One City event? Would you post branded quotes to your social media?



October is ebook appreciation month #1: How to borrow ebooks from the library

October isn’t really ebook appreciation month, but I’m sick of posts about horror books.

A lot of people talk shit about ebooks, but I think they’re great. I’ve been reading them since I got my first ereader in 2010, but I borrowed my first library ebook just a few months ago. Now, I almost always have a library ebook on the go. It’s a great way to try out a new author or genre, or sample an award’s longlist. Hot books from a season or two ago are easily accessed, and even new titles come up pretty quickly. I’ve even borrowed books I own in print, so I could easily count the number of times certain words appeared. It’s handy!

Some of my  recent library ebooks include Giller and Alberta Reader's Choice shortlisters

Some of my recent library ebooks include Giller and Alberta Reader’s Choice longlisters

Commercial ebooks are expensive (up to $15.99 – $21.99 for new titles) and trading epubs with friends is sketchy. Here are my tips on ereading for free.

How to borrow an ebook

Borrowing ebooks from the library is hard, especially if you are An Old like me. I tried following the instructions on my library’s website, but got hung up with an error in Adobe Digital Editions. I waited months before swallowing my pride and asking a librarian for help. She helped me find an older version of ADE that worked, and I was off to the races within minutes.

Even when it works, the process is pretty clunky. Your library or device may vary, but you’ll probably need to follow a process like this to borrow an ebook and read it on an ereader:

  • On a laptop or computer, go to your library’s website, sign in, and find yourself an ebook
  • Download an epub file
  • Open the epub file in Adobe Digital Editions (if it doesn’t work, try downloading an older version)
  • Connect ereader to computer
  • Move the epub from the computer to the ereader.

If you can’t figure it out: ask a librarian! I can’t stress this enough, people.

Advanced topics in ebooks

I figured out the basic borrowing process, but I still had questions. I followed my own advice and talked to a librarian. Thank you to Edmonton Public Library’s Pam Ryan for filling me in.

Why do libraries limit how many people can borrow an ebook at the same time?

Blame publishers! Pam said that “publishers set the limits and public libraries do their best to provide the best service we can within those restrictions.” EPL tries to maintain the some number of digital copies as paper copies, but it’s often much faster to get an ebook of a hot new release, I find. If you’re interested in how libraries are trying to make ebooks more accessible, check out Fair Pricing For Libraries.

Why is is so hard to borrow an ebook?

The Digital Rights Management layer (like Adobe Digital Editions) is what makes ebook borrowing such a pain in the ass, and prevents it from being seamless. But right now, it’s the only way libraries can lock down the access and control borrowing periods, as required by publishers. It is getting better though – even I figured it out! Eventually!

Do authors get royalties from library ebooks, like they do with print books? (in Canada, anyway – through the Public Lending Right)

Not yet, but they will as of 2016. So you’ll be supporting authors when you borrow from the library. It’s all good.

Ereading in Edmontonobyeg

This post was inspired by One Book One Edmonton, one of those whole-town-readalongs. If you’re in Edmonton, you can read an ebook of Etta and Otto and Russell and James by hometown girl Emma Hooper for free, but the process is a little different than described here. Stay tuned for more about that, or start reading, the first section is up!

Has borrowing ebooks changed your life? How do you eread?

Fall 2015 Preview Part II: Local Reads and CanLit

Last year, I didn’t do so well with my Fall Preview. The post was fine, but I didn’t end up reading a lot of the books. I aimed a little too high, I think, trying to compete with the 49th Shelves and Quill and Quires of the world. Rather than trying harder to stick to a TBR, I’m going to aim low and round up the books I have already started or will almost certainly read. You know, as Homer J says, if something is hard to do, don’t try.

Local Reads: Edmonton and Alberta


Honourable mentions: Rumi and the Red Handbag by Shawna Lemay (October) for the title, and Act Normal by Greg Hollingshead (August) for sounding very un-normal.



  • Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt (September): Already read and reviewed! *sigh of relief*
  • Martin John by Anakana Schofield (September): I was fifth in line at the library when I got my birthday book money, so now I’m waiting on a preorder. Malarky was one of my favourite reads of 2014, so expectations are sky-high.
  • Pillow by Andrew Battershill (October): A BEA score that came with a chocolate coin which apparently ties into the story somehow, but who cares, it’s chocolate! I’m getting a Spat the Dummy vibe from this one.

Honourable mentions: These Good Hands by Carol Bruneau and  The Hunter and the Wild Girl by Pauline Holdstock – I will look into these if the mood for historical fiction strikes.