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
- Sistering by Jennifer Quist (August): I’m so excited about this book that I’m already planning a read-along with my sister, and have asked the author out on a date so I can get my copies signed. This is serious. Quist’s first novel, Love Letters of the Angels of Death, is my go-to recommendation for anyone looking for a love story, or a story about marriage, or dark humour.
- Meadowlark by Wendi Stewart (September): Okay, so Stewart lives in Nova Scotia, but I wanted to highlight local publisher NeWest Press. Their Nunatak First Fiction series rarely disappoints. Meadowlark features a great, strong female main character. I mean strongly written and well-imagined, not like this.
- 40 Below Project Volume 2 (November, cover art to come): I really enjoyed the first volume and look forward to more frigid tales, this time from all over Alberta. In the meantime, check out editor Jason Lee Norman on the Best American Poetry scandal and how he considers pieces for his anthologies.
- 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.
Watch for Part Two: Literary Events next week!
If you follow literary publications like Publishers Weekly, Quill and Quire, or 49th Shelf you’ve probably noticed a bunch of “Most Anticipated Fall Books” lists lately. I find these lists really overwhelming! There are tons of books and they don’t seem to be listed in any kind of order. Here’s my attempt to impose some order on the situation. Geographically, anyway. This is also a handy preview of what you’ll see reviewed here on Reading in Bed over the next little while.
Disclosure: I received reviews copies of most of the Canadian books. Also, I’m panicking about writing all these reviews.
Last year, I wondered if it was normal to have SO MANY Edmonton authors launching SO MANY great books all at once, and indeed, it may have been an anomaly. I had a hard time finding books to list here. I assume everyone’s just working on their next novel. Actually, I know Todd Babiak is working on a sequel to Come Barbarians and Jennifer Quist finally named her next novel, but hasn’t revealed the title just yet. No pressure guys (just kidding, lots of pressure!)
- The only Edmonton book I am certain to review is Blind Spot by Laurence Miall. I’ve already read it and I’m trying to figure out whether I liked it or not! I’m not one to dismiss a novel because of an unlikable character, but man, this guy is unlikeable. Check out Another Book Blog’s review while I sort out my feelings. The book launch is September 5th at The Black Dog, which features prominently in the book!
- Every Blade of Grass by Thomas Wharton is eco-lit (which I don’t always love) and epistolary (which I usually do love,) but I kind of want to read his first novel, Icefields, first. The librarian who sold it to me at the library book sale was SO EXCITED about it.
- Lightfinder by Aaron Paquette is a YA novel, but I’m feeling the need to shake things up a bit. Sometimes YA is just the ticket.
- Edited to add: Northeast by Wendy McGrath, a rare novel because it is written by someone who lives in Edmonton, and is actually set in Edmonton! It’s about a working class family in the 1960s and I have heard McGrath’s writing described as more like a poem than prose; I am really curious about this book and the first in the series, Santa Rosa.
- I devoured Between by Angie Abdou while I was slogging my way through Outlander. Actually, I devoured a number of books while forcing myself to read Outlander. That could be it’s own post. Anyway, this book forced me to relate to an unlikeable character and it was uncomfortable and shocking and dark, and these are all compliments! Review to come and book launch September 12 in St. Albert and September 13 in Edmonton (7:00 p.m. at Audreys, see you there).
- I got a review copy of Man by Kim Thuy in ebook format, but I bought the hardcover anyway, because
I’m crazyit’s beautiful. It’s a novella that’s almost written in verse and it’s unlike anything I’ve read. I’m just getting started so check out Hello Hemlock‘s review while I finish up.
- Did you know SportLit is a thing? The things you learn on Twitter. In Girl Runner, author, blogger, and The M Word contributor Carrie Snyder writes about a woman at the end of her life remembering the days when she could run.
- I feel like Sweetland by Michael Crummey has been out for a while. because of all the hype, but it was just released so I’ll call it a fall book. I love island settings, so this story of a dying community in Newfoundland should do just fine.
- Between Clay and Dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqi was published in India a couple years back to great acclaim and is being published in Canada this year by Freehand books. I’ve heard it’s like a classic, like a fable, like a myth – ok, sign me up!
- Detachment by Maurice Mierau provides a little non-fiction balance to this list. It’s an adoption memoir written from a father’s perspective – a perspective I’ve been missing from the parenting books I’ve reviewed of late.
- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Marukami (Japan) because I’m not immune to hype. Also, look at this review by The Heavy Blanks. Just look at it. It’s perfect.
- A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (Ireland). The good reviews make me want to read it. The bad reviews make me want to read it. Just give it to me already!
- The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink (US). A wildcard pick. It’s blurbed by Jonathan Franzen and this bit of the synopsis tells me why: “Life becomes complicated with affairs, birding, and eco-terrorism.” That’s classic Franzen. It’ll either be great or have great snark potential.
Yes, I do plan to read a few! I might have to do a Classics Club spin or something. I was thisclose to jumping on the #readWP (that’s War and Peace) bandwagon but the first page was mostly French and I just wasn’t in the mood. What to do?
- Suck it up and read War and Peace?
- Shirley and/or The Professor by Charlotte Bronte? I could finish off my outstanding Bronte novels this year…
- Remains of the Day is pretty hot right now…
What are you most excited to read and review this fall?
My rating: 3.5/5 stars
Taking its facts from Austen’s own words, Follies Past opens almost a year before the opening of Pride and Prejudice itself, at Pemberley, at Christmas. Fourteen-year-old Georgiana has just been taken from school and is preparing to transfer to London in the spring. It follows Georgiana to London, to Ramsgate and into the arms of the charming and infamous Mr. Wickham.
Remember last year when I did Austen in August and decided that even though Austen is Awesome, she kind of wasn’t for me (with the exception of Persuasion because let’s face it, Captain Wentworth is for everybody?) It’s a credit to Ms. Kerr’s persuasiveness (sorry) that I decided to read Follies Past. I didn’t want to set myself up for a disappointing read, or deal with the awkwardness of a writing a bad review of a local, self-published book. But over the course of a few weeks’ email correspondence, she wore me down. I picked up the ebook and girded myself.
It wasn’t just Kerr’s salesmanship (thought it was impressive) that convinced me. She created a series of wonderfully overwrought book trailers that are far more entertaining than those of best selling authors. And she blogs. Her blog is neither in your face promotion nor dubious writing tips; rather, it’s an interesting and educational look at what goes into writing a historical novel and publishing it yourself. Kerr’s expertise in the Regency era comes through in her fiction, but her blog really drives it home. My favourite posts are those about about peculiarities of Regency language, but she also rants about misuse of “beg the question,” one of my pet peeves.
What about the book?
Right! The best thing about Follies Past is that the writing style comes oh-so-close to Austen, it feels completely natural and not at all like that “put a Zombie on it” brand of adaptation. Kerr’s wit isn’t quite as razor sharp, but that’s like saying you are slightly worse at playing piano that Mozart. I don’t know about you, but I read Austen for the sick burns more than the romance, and there are plenty here. Speaking of romance, here’s our hero contemplating marriage with Caroline: Continue reading
I’m still catching up on 2013 reviews, but 2014 reading is well underway. Here’s what you can expect this year on Reading in Bed.
I am pretty dismayed that off all the books I read last year, only 12% were by authors of colour. Here are some of my current and planned reads that will help tip me over 25% this year:
- The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. It’s my current read and HOLY CRAP IS IT GOOD.
- The Bridge of the Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart. nybooks.com says: “This is an intoxicating tale of love and wonder, mothers and daughters, spiritual values and the grim legacy of slavery on the French Antillean island of Guadeloupe.” Yeah. Plus, that cover.
- Inside Out: Reflections on a Life So Far by Evelyn Lau. An excuse to write about how Lau’s first memoir, Runaway, changed my life.
- Six Metres of Pavement by Farzana Doctor. My favourite calendar girl in Bare it for Books.
Follow book blogger Leonicka for lots of resources on diversity in Canadian literature. She’s going all out and reading 85% authors of colour this year!
My next local read will likely be Come Barbarians by Todd Babiak. As for new #yegwrites stuff, so far I’m looking forward to Marina Endicott‘s fourth novel, Falling for Hugh and Laurence Miall‘s debut novel Blind Spot.
- Frog Music by Emma Donoghue. She’s got a way with titles. I loved Room and Slammerkin, so my expectations are high.
- The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill. I’ve been waiting eight years for O’Neill to write another book. Bring it on!
- Crime Against My Brother by David Adams Richards. Apparently brings the main character of Mercy Among the Children back – one of my favourite books of all time.
I will also solider on with the Storytellers Book Club challenge. It helps that I won a set of all five books in their contest last year!
I haven’t forgotten about The Classics Club! In fact, I’m right on pace. I chose 50 books to read over five years, and approaching the one year mark, I’ve read eleven.
Back from the DNF
I might set this one up as a challenge hosted here on the blog. I’ve abandoned a few books over the years, and this is the year I give them another shot. I’m including books that I straight up DNF’d (did not finish) and books that I finished, but didn’t really appreciate, often because I read them too young. Here is a sampling, with my excuses for not finishing in the first place. Watch for an introductory post soon (and if anyone wants to help me design a button, that would be cool…)
- Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne: Pregnancy brain
- Tinker Tailor Solider Spy by John LeCarre: Baby brain
- The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje: Too young. Attempted at 22 or so and got really lost.
- The House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubuois III: Too young. Read at age 20.
- Fifth Business by Robertson Davies: Too young. Forced to read in high school, I hated it. Read a description of it recently and it sounds AMAZING.
This sounds like a lot of books, but I’m leaving room for random books, recommendations, read-alongs, and review books; you know, the four Rs.
Obligatory end-of-post question: what are YOU planning to read this year?
My rating: 4/5 stars
The Peak: a university student newspaper with a hard-hitting mix of inflammatory editorials, hastily thrown-together comics and reviews, and a news section run the only way self-taught journalists know how—sloppily.
Alex and Tracy are two of The Peak‘s editors, staring down graduation and struggling to keep the paper relevant to an increasingly indifferent student body. But trouble looms large when a big-money free daily comes to the west-coast campus, threatening to swallow what remains of their readership whole.
It’ll take the scoop of a lifetime to save their beloved campus rag. An exposé about the mysterious filmed-on-campus viral video? Some good old-fashioned libel? Or what about that fallen Hollywood star, the one who’s just announced he’s returning to Simon Fraser University to finish his degree?
I had all sorts of preconceived notions going into The Dilettantes. I thought I wouldn’t relate to it for various reasons, all of which were dumb and easily dismissed once I started reading. I think I was creating an elaborate defence mechanism, so if I didn’t like the book, I could be like “WELL it’s just because of X Y and Z” instead of having to say “I just didn’t like it,” which would be awkward because I will likely see the author at numerous literary events in Edmonton over the next few months. Luckily, I did like the book. A lot.
I thought it might be fun (…for me) to talk about all those excuses I came up with before reading the book, and how they were (mostly) overcome.
1. It’s about Millennials! Millennial are whiny and self-absorbed! I will strain something from rolling my eyes too much!
Depending who you ask, I’m a Gen-Xer by a margin of three months, or a Millennial by a margin of nine. Guess which one I choose to identify with? Yeah, I was only ten when Nevermind was released, but I spent my formative years without a cellphone or high speed internet. But here’s the thing: all “new adults” are whiny and self-absorbed. I mean, Catcher in the Rye, anyone? I wrote horrible poetry in a notebook when I was pretending to study, while these kids were probably posting to their Tumblrs or whatever. Big diff. The generational thing wasn’t an issue at all.
2. It’s about kids who actually went to class. And joined things, like newspapers. I hated those people. And also sort of regret I wasn’t one of those people. It’s complicated.
I don’t read a lot of campus novels. Maybe part of the reason is my ambivalence about my own university career. I was a great student. I just didn’t care about university, academically or socially. I didn’t make any friends. I certainly didn’t join any clubs. I went to the minimum number of classes I could get away with and didn’t contribute anything more than I had to. My energies, such as they were, were put towards clubbing and boys. This book made me feel at once nostalgic for something I never had, and relieved that I delayed the burden of giving a shit about stuff for a few more years. It also made me stop and evaluate a time in my life that was really difficult for me. When a book can make you do that, well, what more can you ask for? Continue reading