Tagged: CanLit

Three ways to get into poetry

I’m a fairly well read person. No, this post isn’t about what it means to be well read. Just take my word for it. I’ve read across many formats and genres, and many traditions and eras. I do have a weak spot though: poetry.

I remember learning exactly two poems in school. One was A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning by John Donne and the other was To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell, and both are about dead white dudes who were feeling horny. Jeez, is it any wonder I wasn’t taken with it?

I’ve read three poetry collections so far this year, and I loved each of them. I’m not good at saying why, exactly, but I can tell you how I found my way in. Continue reading

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CanLit for Cynics: Q&A with Peter Unwin

petroniusWhen I wrote about CanLit cynicism for carte blanche, I started with Alex Good’s book of essays, Revolutions (full Q&A here). Then, a very strange novel fell into my hands (actually, it was placed there by Kelsey at Freehand Books) and I knew these books were meant to be together. Searching for Petronius Totem is a strange, hilarious book, and author Peter Unwin is a bit strange and hilarious himself. Read on for the full Q&A.

Many thanks to Mr. Unwin, and Ms. Attard at Freehand books!

 

 

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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.

tenwriters

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

Paper Teeth by Lauralyn Chow: Director’s Cut Review

paper-teeth-cover_highres-rgb

Publication date: September 1, 2016
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Read this if you like: Historical CanLit, Edmonton and Calgary settings, funny family stories, non-traditional structure
Check out Paper Teeth on Goodreads
Thanks to: NeWest Press for the review copy and Lauralyn Chow for answering my questions

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Paper Teeth by Lauralyn Chow for Vue Weekly.

I’ve written reviews here on Reading in Bed for many years. Writing for print publications is new to me, and there are many differences:

  • Getting paid
  • Actual deadline
  • No links or gifs
  • No writing about yourself and your feelings

You also have to limit the word count. That’s not something I do here on the blog. I love a long review. I had to keep my review of Paper Teeth under 800 words, and I had about 1,500 in my first draft.

So, if you didn’t get enough of my ramblings in Vue, here’s a longer version, along with the full text of my Q&A with Lauralyn Chow. I loved this book, and if you’re into historical CanLit, especially Edmonton and Calgary settings, you’ll want to check this out.

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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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Conspicuous Consumption #2: Podcasts

A feature in which I tell you about my book-related media consumption in a conspicuous manner.

I’ve been driving for about seven years now, and I’ve wasted so much time listening to the radio.

It took me more than five years to realize I could borrow audio books from the library. That was great and all, but I’m trying to cut back on reading this year, so rather than go back to terrible radio commercials, I finally figured out podcasts.

If you are thinking “what is there to figure out?” please remember I am old and that those audio books I listened to were on CD. Anyway, here’s what I needed:

  • Android app: Pocket Casts
  • Speaker  (Not affiliate, just a tip so you don’t have to go through two duds like I did)
  • Some good podcasts. See below.

The must listens

overdueOverdue: I love this concept: each week, one of the hosts reads a book that “you should have read by now” and explains it to the other. These guys are funny and take the books just seriously enough, which is to say, not terribly. I enjoy the episodes about books I’ve read more than those about books I haven’t, but, you can definitely still enjoy an episode without reading the book. That’s kind of the point.

Try this episode: Peter Pan

 

writereadsWritereads: Yes, I am a frequent guest host, but hear me out! CanLit is woefully under served in the literary podcast world, and Writeread’s monthly themes ensure there’s something for everybody. Writereads is a book club, so you really should read the book before listening to the podcast, but when I haven’t, I just listen to the first portion in which Kirt and Tania talk about their current reads and CanLit happenings.

Try this episode: The ones with me, but also a classic Tania-and-Kirt one like this one, about an L.M. Montgomery book that features filthy language (…the episode, not the book.)

 

cantlitCan’t Lit: Besides having the best name, Can’t Lit fills in a very specific niche by interviewing Canadian writers with a heavy focus on poets. No stuffy pretentiousness here, the interviews are offbeat and funny. No need to do the reading, though you’ll probably want to read all the author’s stuff afterward.

Try this episode: Michael Christie

 

 

backlistedBacklisted: British writers John Mitchinson and Andy Miller (also an excellent Twitter-er at @i_am_mill_i_am) resurrect a forgotten backlist title every two weeks and it doesn’t matter if you’ve never read it, or heard of the author, or even intend to read it, the discussion is fascinating. I do hope to read one of the backlisted titles one day, and might start with this one:

Try this episode: Good Morning Midnight

 

hiddenhistoriesHidden Histories: This six-episode series is over, but it’s worth going back and listening. The topic at hand is “the great forgetting” of British female authors prior to Austen. I’d heard of Frances Burney and Mary Wollstonecraft, but I learned about Aphra Behn and Hester Thrale and many more. And the episodes are blessedly short.

Try this episode: Bluestocking culture: how did women become writers?

 

Honourable Mentions

  • Reading Envy: A recent episode features “book speed dating,” in which the host reads the first 50 pages of a bunch of books and decides which ones to continue and which to get rid of. Brilliant!
  • Lit Up: Interviews with totally important authors, like Nell Zink.
  • No Resemblance: This podcast hasn’t even put out an episode yet, but check out the intro: writers submit short stories, which will be read by the host. This one’s local and I’m excited to see what kind of stuff comes in.

So, do you like stuff? Specifically podcasts? Tell me which ones!

 

 

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.

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!

Ratings

  • 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