Tag Archives: Canada Reads

My Canada Reads Pick

6 Feb

So, today is the day that I announce which book I would champion for Canada Reads. And as I sit here typing, I’m still not sure what my choice will be.  See, there are two books that I absolutely adored and a third that I loved.

I was going to do a tongue in cheek post where I cloned myself and each of me decided to champion one of the books I liked. But then I figured that was a bit of a wishy-washy cop-out. So here I sit, typing and rambling, while I try to get my brain – and my heart – to pick just one book.

*20 minutes later*

Okay, I’ve made my choice. I think. No, my mind is made-up. If I were to champion a book for Canada Reads, it would be – drum roll please –  Essex County by Jeff Lemire.

There, I said it. No taking it back. Buuuuuut, Angie Abdou’s The Bone Cage was a close, CLOSE second choice. I loved both books and was blown away by both books, but there was just something about Essex County that moved me more that any book has moved me in quite some time. I never thought I could be so touched my a graphic novel, which is part of the reason I was so affected by it.

So there you have it. My Canada Reads choice.

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Review: The Birth House by Ami McKay – Canada Reads

5 Feb

Publisher: Vintage Canada – Random House
Released: March 6, 2007
Genre: Canadian literature, general
Sent by the wonderful folks at CBC Books

The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare, the first daughter to be born in five generations of Rares. As a child in an isolated village in Nova Scotia, she is drawn to Miss Babineau, an outspoken Acadian midwife with a gift for healing. Dora becomes Miss B.’s apprentice, and together they help the women of Scots Bay through infertility, difficult labours, breech births, unwanted pregnancies and even unfulfilling sex lives. Filled with details as compelling as they are surprising, The Birth House is an unforgettable tale of the struggles women have faced to have control of their own bodies and to keep the best parts of tradition alive in the world of modern medicine.

From Random House Canada website.

I love when you reread a book and it packs as much of a punch as it did the first time. I read The Birth House a few years ago and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to reread it or not. I loved it the first time around, so I figured there was no need. But in all fairness I decided to reread it and I’m glad I did. It was every bit as wonderful and captivating as the first time.

I’m having a hard time putting into words the reasons why I liked The Birth House so much. I think part of it has to do with the fact that it kinda takes place in my neck of the woods. But mostly I think it has to do with the research that McKay put into the book and the strong characters that are sprinkled throughout.

I’m not a fan of history. I HATED the subject in school, don’t really enjoy historical movies and would never be caught reading an historical non-fiction. But man, I love me a great historical novel. The Birth House is filled with details of the ways of midwifes in the early 1900s and I have to say I found it fascinating. I was also fascinated by the so-called “modern medicine” and it’s take on females and their “problems”.

I found myself getting angry on behalf of the female characters in The Birth House by the treatment they received by most of the males in the book. I wanted to reach in and slap a few of the men in Scots Bay, but I had a feeling some of the women in the area had already done that. See, that’s what was so great about The Birth House: even though a lot of the time the women were treating like crap, they always managed to rise about it, for the most part. They stayed strong and helped each other through stuff. That camaraderie and solidarity was the heart of the book for me. It’s also the reason I think that it deserve to be a part of Canada Reads.

So this is my last Canada Reads review. Pop by tomorrow and see what book I would champion.

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Unless by Carol Shields – Canada Reads

4 Feb

Publisher: Vintage Canada – Random House
Released: April 22, 2003
Genre: Canadian literature, general
Review copy from the lovelies at CBC Books.

“Unless you’re lucky, unless you’re healthy, fertile, unless you’re loved and fed, unless you’re offered what others are offered, you go down in the darkness, down to despair.”

Reta Winters has many reasons to be happy: Her three almost grown daughters. Her twenty-year relationship with their father. Her work translating the larger-than-life French intellectual and feminist Danielle Westerman. Her modest success with a novel of her own, and the clamour of her American publisher for a sequel. Then in the spring of her forty-fourth year, all the quiet satisfactions of her well-lived life disappear in a moment: her eldest daughter Norah suddenly runs from the family and ends up mute and begging on a Toronto street corner, with a hand-lettered sign reading GOODNESS around her neck.

GOODNESS. With the inconceivable loss of her daughter like a lump in her throat, Reta tackles the mystery of this message. What in this world has broken Norah, and what could bring her back to the provisional safety of home? Reta’s wit is the weapon she most often brandishes as she kicks against the pricks that have brought her daughter down: Carol Shields brings us Reta’s voice in all its poignancy, outrage and droll humour.

Piercing and sad, astute and evocative, full of tenderness and laughter, Unless will stand with The Stone Diaries in the canon of Carol Shields’s fiction.

From Random House Canada website.

So, yeah, this really isn’t going to be a review. Why, you ask? Because I abandoned Unless about 50 pages in. I tried a couple of times to read it, but in the end I knew it wasn’t my cup of tea. The story wasn’t appealing to me and neither were the main character or writing style.

The writing is rather flowery and lyrical, a style that I just don’t enjoy. I guess I’m more of a Plain Jane when it comes to the writing I prefer. This isn’t a critique of the book; rather it’s just a case of it being an ill fit for me.

I’ve heard from other bloggers that they started to enjoy the book further in, but I’m not the kind of reader to wade through 100 pages until I hit the parts that I will like. On the other hand, I know bloggers that LOVED this book.

With that being said, I can’t really say if I think it’s worthy of being on Canada Reads panel, but I’m going to bring forth my trusting Canadian nature and assume because Unless was chosen to be on the panel, it deserves to be on the panel.

Review: The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire – Canada Reads

3 Feb

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Released: Sept 1st, 2009
Genre: Canadian literature, graphic novel
From the fine peeps at CBC Books.

Where does a young boy turn when his whole world suddenly disappears? What could change two brothers from an unstoppable team into a pair of bitterly estranged loners? How does the work of one middle-aged nurse reveal the scars of an entire community, and can anything heal the wounds caused by a century of deception?

Set in an imaginary version of Jeff Lemire’s hometown, ESSEX COUNTY is an intimate study of an eccentric farming community, and a tender meditation on family, memory, grief, secrets, and reconciliation. With the lush, expressive inking of a cartoonist at the height of his powers, Lemire draws us in and sets us free.

From Top Shelf Productions website.

Apparently some folks have their panties in a bunch because a graphic novel has found its way onto this years Canada Reads panel. I mean, it’s a COMIC for God’s Sake! How can a lowly COMIC be considered literature. Well,  I have two words for those folks: Read. It. Not the words you thought I was going to say, eh? Well, this is a PG13 blog.

From the first panel I was sucked into the lives and stories of Essex County. I’ve read a few graphic novels before, but this is the first one that literally took my breath away. I am now convinced that Jeff Lemire is a cartooning, story-telling Canadian God. Seriously. I was dumb-founded by how beautiful this book was. And I don’t give a rat’s ass what snooty literary folk say: Essex County is not only Canadian literature, it’s Canadian literature at its best.

I loved how all three of the stories tied into each other, but also stood on their own. Novels where lives intertwine in unexpected and unknown ways  have a special place in my heart. I love how what at first appears to be random turns out to not only have more structure, but more meaning. The idea that you could go into a store and buy a chocolate bar from someone who is an integral but unknown part of your life is amazing.

Of course, I can’t talk about Essex County without talking about the artistry behind it. I was blown away by the amount of emotion that Lemire could show in a single frame of a crow, or a silo or a man sitting at the kitchen table. No dialogue. No words. Yet it’s clear what’s going on in the story and the character’s mind. Those simple frames were stunning and moving. I never thought that a graphic novel could bring me to tears.

I loved Essex County. I loved the intertwining stories, the characters, the writing, the drawing. Hell, I even loved the thickness of the paper.

And as for you nay-sayers, well, isn’t Canada all about diversity and acceptance of things that are different from the norm? I think it’s high time the graphic novel made it’s way into Canada Reads. And Essex County, with it’s stories of loss, family and life in rural Canada is the perfect contender.

Review: The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis – Canada Reads

2 Feb

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart Ltd
Released: Sept 5, 2008
Genre: Canadian literature, politics, satire
Review copy from the wonderful folks at CBC Books.

Here’s the set up: A burnt-out politcal aide quits just before an election — but is forced to run a hopeless campaign on the way out. He makes a deal with a crusty old Scot, Angus McLintock — an engineering professor who will do anything, anything, to avoid teaching English to engineers — to let his name stand in the election. No need to campaign, certain to lose, and so on.

Then a great scandal blows away his opponent, and to their horror, Angus is elected. He decides to see what good an honest M.P. who doesn’t care about being re-elected can do in Parliament. The results are hilarious — and with chess, a hovercraft, and the love of a good woman thrown in, this very funny book has something for everyone.

From McClelland & Stewart website.

Okay, so, yeah, I just didn’t dig this book. Sorry. It’s not that it wasn’t well-written (because it was) or that the story sucked (because it didn’t). I think it’s just a matter of it not being my kinda book. Which blows. But there you have it.

I find books that I didn’t like simply because they weren’t really my genre the hardest to review. I mean, what can I say? This is a political satire written in a style that I just don’t like. Does it mean it’s a shitty book? Hell no. Does it mean I’m a dumb-ass who just didn’t “get it”. Nopes. It just means that this wasn’t a good fit for me.

I started out with high hopes that I would fall in love with The Best Laid Plans. I like funny books. I like poking fun at politicians. But, alas, the love affair was never to happen. Sure, I found parts of the book humorous, but not laugh out loud funny. And, in all honesty, there were complete parts of the book I skipped. Go ahead and gasp, leave comments telling me I obviously didn’t like it because I didn’t read it all. But let me explain.

So, one of the characters, Angus, writes in a journal to his dead wife. Yeah, I basically skipped all these journal entries. Why? Because they summarized everything that had just happened. Everything I had just read about. I know that the point of the journal entries was so that the reader could get a true feel of Angus’ perception of what was happening, but the entries that I did try to read just seemed to be a rehashing. Maybe I missed key things. Maybe not. But I know if I had forced myself to read these entries I wouldn’t have finished the book.

I wasn’t a fan of the main character, Daniel, either, through no fault of his or the author’s. The way Daniel spoke was a bit pretentious and reminded me of a fella that I know and can’t stand. He’s a pretentious twit. I avoid him at all cost. So, unfortunately, I kinda ended up hating Daniel through osmosis. Like when you meet a jerk named Blake and from that moment forward, you forever HATE the name Blake. Not fair, I know, but thems the breaks.

And here’s where I make your head explode: despite the fact that I didn’t like The Best Laid Plans, I think it deserves to be a Canada Reads finalist. Yep, I do. This is a tale of an underdog who wants to stay an underdog and what happens when said underdog has to rise to the occasion and lead. It’s about changing the status quo and being true to who you are. And if that ain’t Canadian, then I don’t know what it.

 

Review: The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou – Canada Reads

1 Feb

Publisher: NeWest Press
Released: Fall, 2007
Genre: Canadian fiction, general
Sent for review from the awesome CBC Books peeps.

Digger, an 85 kilo wrestler, and Sadie, a 26-year-old speed swimmer, stand on the verge of realizing every athlete’s dream—winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Both athletes are nearing the end of their careers, and are forced to confront the question: what happens to athletes when their bodies are too worn to compete? The blossoming relationship between Digger and Sadie is tested in the intense months leading up to the Olympics, as demanding training schedules, divided loyalties, and unpredicted obstacles take their draining toll. The Olympics, as both of them are painfully aware, will be the realization or the end of a life’s dream.

From NeWest Press website.

So, this review kicks off Canada Reads week here on the blog. The cool folks at CBC books gave me the opportunity to read all five Canada Reads contenders this year. (Merci!) I’ll be reviewing each finalist and then, the day before the big Canada Reads debates start, I’ll be announcing which book I’m backing.  Now, on to the review.

I promise to try not to gush too much. Or, rather, when I do gush I’ll try my darnedest to back it up with the reason that I’m gushing. Cuz there is no freaking way I can talk about this book without a bit of gushage happening.

I simpled loved The Bone Cage. LOVED IT. In fact, I was surprised by just how much I ended up loving this book. I knew it was probably going to be good, but I wasn’t expecting to end up loving it as much as I did, or forming such a strong attachment to both Digger and Sadie.

I know NOTHING about amateur or professional sports. Or at least I didn’t before I stated reading this book. I was instantly sucked into both the world of wrestling and swimming and was blown over by how much dedication it takes to be an athlete. I found it sad that, depending on the sport, an athlete could spend 90% of their time training and have to retire by the time they hit their late 20s. I mean, just imagine it: you have a passion, a drive and by the time most people are hitting their stride, you have to give it all up and try to figure out what to do with your life. This is the main thread through the book, but Abdou didn’t write it in a “waa-waa poor me” kinda way. Since both Digger and Sadie knew their whole career that the time would come when they would have to retire so young, they were very, not nonchalant, but not overly emotional about it, either. Me, on the other hand? Yeah, my emotions were all over the place.

I loved the relationship between Digger and Sadie. The two don’t actually meet until, oh, about halfway through the book, so by the time they do, the reader already knew the two of them as individuals, which was pretty cool. At first I was like “These two are going to become friends? I don’t see it.” But as they got to know each other I realized that they fit perfectly together.

I’m not a huge fan of flowery, self-indulgent prose. For me, I much prefer when a tree is just a tree. I think that’s another reason why I loved The Bone Cage so much. The writing was tight and crisp. It was descriptive, but without going overboard, if you know what I mean. Digger and Sadie’s story is told directly and honestly: these are not perfect characters, and Abdou lets us see that.

The Bone Cage is about sports, yes, but it is about so much more than that. It’s about family, friends, struggle, heartache, triumph and despair. But most importantly it’s about getting through anything and coming out the other side as undamaged as possible. And really, besides a Timmy’s double double, is there anything more Canadian than that?

Getting back on track

10 Jan

So, sometimes life kinda kicks you in the ass when you least expect it. I got back into the blogging groove last week and then went and crashed my car. Neither the hubs nor I were seriously injured, but I did hurt my wrists and hands. Flipping a car twice while having a death grip on the steering wheel will do that. So I ended up taking most of last week off to let myself heal. Well, I’m back. Kinda.

I’m going to do a few posts this week, depending on how my wrists and hands feel. But I wanted to let you all know that I’m still here and I have some AMAZING giveaways coming up, including a much sought after ARC of an upcoming YA novel and some signed swag.  I’ll also be weighing in on the Canada Reads debate and choosing which book I think should win.

So stay tuned. There’ll be lots of fun stuff coming up. Oh, and I’ll review some books, too. 🙂

Canada Reads Top 40

28 Oct

Hey, did you guys hear that? Don’t worry it was just me squeeing my little reading head off because the Canada Reads Top 40 was announced and – THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL MADE THE LIST!!!!!! Not that I’m really overly surprised, but man I am so freaking happy! The only thing that could make me happier is if it made the top 10.

So I need your help again folks. Please go to the Canada Reads website and vote for The Day the Falls Stood Still. If you’ve read it then you know what a wonderful, amazing, special book it is. If you haven’t read it yet you’ll just have to trust me. In the sea of literature, this book stands out.

I’d promise the hubs famous chocolate chip cookies to everyone who voted, but that’d kinda get expensive. So instead you’ll get air hugs and kisses sent your way.

Canada Reads Bloggers’ Choice

16 Oct

I mentioned last week that I was asked to be a part of a bloggers’ choice for Canada Reads list and that my chosen book was Cathy Buchanan’s The Day the Falls Stood Still. What I didn’t tell you guys was why I chose it.

Scoot on over to CBC Canada Reads website and find out why I think this book should be a Canada Reads choice. Check out the other blogger’s picks, too. There are some great books up for nomination, folks.

Oh, and you can vote for which bloggers’ choice book you think should be be on the essential 40 Canadian Reads list. Please, please vote. While I of course want you to vote for The Day the Falls Stood Still, the important thing is that you vote. 🙂

My Canada Reads nomination goes to …

6 Oct

Really, this should come as no big surprise. After all, it’s one of my favorite books not only of last year, but of forever.

And, hey, anyone can vote, right? So if you loved The Day the Falls Stood Still as much as I did, scoot on over to CBC and throw in your vote.