Tagged: Alberta Readers’ Choice Award

My pick for the 2015 Alberta Readers’ Choice Award

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The Alberta Readers’ Choice Award is exactly what it sounds like: we vote, an Alberta author wins $10,000. With two weeks left, things are heating up; each night this week, Edmonton Public Library is hosting a Twitter chat dedicated to one of the short-listed titles. Check out #AlbertaReadersChoice at 7:00 pm Monday through Friday this week and vote here. Here are my mini-reviews, in order of Twitter chat appearance.

comebackCome Back by Rudy Wiebe: Twitter chat Mon. Aug. 17 | Goodreads | Edmonton Public Library

I wasn’t interested in this book when it came out. I thought the title meant *Come* Back, as in, “don’t call it a.” When I realized it meant Come *Back* as in, a grieving father calling to a long lost son, and when I saw Wiebe speak about losing his own son to suicide 30 years ago, everything changed. I had to read this book.

This story moves between Hal’s stream of consciousness and his son’s journals. Hal’s mental state is a little disjointed to begin with (aren’t ours all) and as he follows his son’s thoughts through the months before his suicide, he has moments of clarity, but there’s no tidy ending here. Hal is reading the journals, finally, because, impossibly, he saw long-dead Gabe walking down the street, and slipping away into the crowd, just out of reach. It’s an irresistible premise and the story didn’t go where I thought it would, at all.

This book is challenging and tragic and confusing. There are plenty of Edmonton references and landmarks for the local reader. I’m just glad I finally discovered this prolific Edmonton author.

thiefofgloryThief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer: Twitter chat Tues. Aug. 18 | Goodreads | Edmonton Public Library

I had a lot of problems with this book and couldn’t finish. I was interested in the premise, which, like Wiebe’s, is semi-autobiographical: a boy comes of age in the Dutch East Indies during the WWII Japanese occupation. He becomes his mother’s and siblings’ protector in a Japanese concentration camp. Brouwer’s father endured something similar.

However.  I knew I was in trouble when I realized it was an “Inspirational” novel and that “Inspirational” was even a genre. I gave it a chance… I mean, I read novels with religious overtones all the time. David Adams Richards is one of my favourite authors, after all. But the writing is just not good. It’s repetitive, and the foreshadowing is constant and clunky. The story was hard to take, too. Insta-love is bad enough, but when it’s a ten year old, it strains credulity. I noticed some grammatical oddities as I read, and when I came across a paragraph that was clearly copied and pasted incorrectly (a thought ends mid-sentence and is repeated two lines later,) I was done.

Who by Fire by Fred Stenson: Twitter chat Wed. Aug. 19 | Goodreads | Edmonton Public Library

This is the last hold I’m waiting for at the library. I’ve heard good things, though this is not a book I would pick up on my own. If I can squeeze it in before Aug. 31, I will!

winterkillWinterkill by Kate A. Boorman: Twitter chat Thur. Aug. 20 | Goodreads | Edmonton Public Library

You could describe this as Pilgrimage by Diana Davidson for the YA set. Even the snow-white covers are similar. But rather than Davidson’s realism, Boorman has a very interesting premise for her story of settlers and Metis getting through the Alberta winter: An alternative history in which colonization in the West is a failure. The few surviving Metis, English settlers, and French settlers retreat to a fortified village and are completely cut off from the rest of the world for nearly 100 years.

I’ve noticed that a lot of YA is told from a single, first-person perspective. I find it limits the story. I could have done with the perspective of a village elder or a someone of a different caste within the village. As it stands, we have Emmeline, beautiful and kind, but marked by a physical disability and by a family secret. She will find out the truth about the outside world. She will expose the corruption of the village Elders. She will also kiss the cute boy.

I liked the writing and the premise a lot. I didn’t like the old-timey language that was charming at first, but inconsistent and a bit much later on. The story was at times very compelling and original, and at times bogged down in YA cliches. A bit uneven, but I’m glad I read it, and would recommend to fans of YA/historical/dystopian fiction.

INKThe Social Life of Ink by Ted Bishop: Twitter chat Fri. Aug. 21 | Goodreads | Edmonton Public Library

I’ve seen Bishop speak about this book so many times, I feel like I’ve read it. I’m only 10% through, and so far, I do recognize a few of the anecdotes, but his style is very conversational and smart, so it is far from boring. I’m not much for object biographies (yet) and I’m not much for the exaltation of paper and ink over ereaders (I’m reading this on my ereader!) so it’s hard to say where this one will land. Bishop’s slick though – he was the only one handing out swag at the author event, and they were Ink-branded temporary tattoos. That’s brilliant!

I won’t vote till I finish at least one more of the books, but here’s my early pick:

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Yes, I chose the literary fiction. Shocking!

Alberta Readers’ Choice Award: You have the power

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Sponsored by the Edmonton Public Library, the Edmonton Public Library Alberta Readers’ Choice Award is awarded annually for the best fiction or narrative non-fiction written by an Alberta author. The $10,000 award – presented annually by the Edmonton Public Library and  one of Alberta’s richest literary prizes – recognized the exceptional writing talent in Alberta and encourages readers to support Alberta authors.

I considered applying to sit on the jury for the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award this year, but was intimidated by the amount of reading I’d have to do. I shouldn’t have been; I’d already read five of the longlisted ten (chosen by library staff across Alberta) and of the shortlist (decided by the jury,) I’ve read three of five, and own another. Ah well. I’ll have to be satisfied with the power of my vote. Regular joes like us decide who wins, and the winner gets a novelty-sized cheque for $10,000.

The Alberta Readers’ Choice Award Final Five are:

  • Almost a Great Escape by Tyler Trafford
  • Come Barbarians by Todd Babiak (my review)
  • Pilgrimage by Diana Davidson (my review)
  • The Dilettantes by Michael Hingston (my review)
  • The Unfinished Child by Theresa Shea

Vote here. Voting is open for the whole month of May. Only one vote for person, so no annoying “vote everyday!” social media blitzes.

Today, I’m off to my local library branch, Jasper Place, to hear the four Edmonton-based authors read from their shortlisted books. We’ll also hear from readers, which is a cool twist! Check it out at 1:30 p.m. today, May 24th.

Last year’s winner was Frank Kimmel, for The Shore Girl, which is still on my to-review list (it’s great.) Check out Another Book Blog’s review and interview. I met Fran at a reading last year, and someone asked her what she spent that novelty-sized cheque on, which was a little rude if you ask me! Fran said she would spend it on upgrading her technology. The $10,000 prize would certainly be enough to get some sweet gear.

For me, the best Alberta book of 2013 wasn’t even on the longlist – Love Letters of the Angels of Death by Jennifer Quist. Roost by Ali Bryan was an oversight too. I don’t know if it’s proper etiquette to say who I voted for, but I’m nosy and I want to know who you are voting for, so here goes. I voted for the book that surprised me the most and brought me the most joy as a reader: The Dilettantes.

Which book has your vote?