Where Have I Been?

Karen Ma One More Page Blog Photo

Hi friends! Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here on One More Page… and I have to say, I miss you all! I know summer is always a slower blogging time for me as there is just so much to do in the city, but I know a lot of my absence has to do with feeling like I have nothing interesting to say recently. I suppose I’ve been in blogging slumps before, but never quite this bad. Anyway, all this to say a quick hi and I hope I’ll be back soon (especially as I’ve just been tagged by Michele at Just A Lil’ Lost to do the Pokemon Go Book Tag)!

I hope you’re all having a great summer so far and are doing well. In the meantime, you can find me blogging on The Savvy Reader, tweeting at @karenfma, and bookstagramming at @onemorepageblog. Talk to you soon!

Have you ever had a super long blogging break or blogging slump?

5 Canadian Books to Check Out this Canada Day

CanLit Canadian Reads for Canada Day

Happy Canada Day, my fellow Canadians! As I was laying in bed this morning, I realized that I’ve posted on this blog every single Canada Day so far. First it was 10 Great Canadian Reads for Canada Day, then it was A #CanLit TBR. I really hate breaking tradition (and love sharing the CanLit love!) so I thought I’d share some new-ish Canadian titles that have really impressed me in the past year or so. (Fun fact: I’ve currently lent out 2 of 5 of these books to friends, so you know I’m serious about recommending them. So, please excuse their absence in the main photo!)

1.Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill
This is the perfect book for the cottage! It’s a short story collection from a CanLit great: Heather O’Neill. O’Neill’s stories are whimsical, quirky, yet poignant. It’s such a great read. Read my full review of the book here.

2. This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
Speaking of cottage reads, This One Summer is a beautifully written and drawn account of a young girl’s summer at the cottage. Coloured in shades of purple, the graphic novel is nostalgic, poignant, and a classic that I return to time and time again. Click here to read my full review.

3. Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis
You may remember this title from my #CanLit TBR! Well, more realistically, you probably know it for its 2015 Giller Prize win. I struggle between wanting to recommend Fifteen Dogs to dog lovers and telling them to avoid it. Why? In it, two gods are debating whether humans are better off for having self-awareness, and decide to test their theories by granting fifteen dogs self-awareness of their own. If the dogs die happy, then self-awareness is worth it. See how it’s a hard book to recommend to dog lovers?

4. This is Not My Life by Diane Schoemperlen
Remember when I said that there were two non-fiction titles that I couldn’t stop talking about? Well, This is Not My Life was one of them. You might recognize Diane Schoemperlen for her Governer General’s Award-winning Forms of Devotion, but in This is Not My Life, Schoemperlen gets a little more personal. The book is a memoir of sorts about her six year relationship with a prison inmate. Not only is her story incredibly fascinating, it also sheds some light on how complicated it is to date a prison inmate, how pesky ion scanners can be, and how Stephen Harper’s Tough on Crime initiatives affected the inmates (and their partners). I finished this book feeling that I knew another side of Canada a little bit better and I will not stop talking about this book!

5. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
I couldn’t write a post on CanLit without mentioning Margaret Atwood, could I? Last year, Atwood published her newest book: The Heart Goes Last. A dystopian novel that takes a bit of a tonal shift in the second half, The Heart Goes Last is scary, unsettling, and entertaining. What would a society be like if they alternated between freedom and imprisonment month to month? My full review can be found here.

Alright, friends! I’m off to the cottage to read now. Have you read any of the books I’ve recommended above? Do you have a new favourite Canadian book?

Monday Musings | Book Buying Habits

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I guess it comes as no surprise that my book buying habits have changed over the years, but as I was celebrating a great find at the library (yes, I’m a nerd), I wondered if everyone has a list of criteria that determines whether they buy a book or not. Or, more realistically, what those criteria are.

When I  grew up, the books I “bought” were the ones I successfully convinced my parents and relatives to buy for me. When I started having a (small) allowance, I was very picky when it came to actually biting the bullet and buying a book with my limited funds. At this point in life, I mostly bought books that I had already read but loved. But once I moved into my own place and started my first “grown up” job, there was no stopping me. I started buying books that I really wanted to read immediately, regardless of price and format. Well, let’s just say that that kind of buying isn’t sustainable and now I’m back in the “pull back” mode of buying where I have to really think carefully about the books I’m buying as I’m running out of space.

So, I normally follow a set of guidelines when I decide whether I want to buy a book: a) how badly do I want to read this book? b) do I want to read it right now? c) can I buy this as an e-book instead? d) might I find it in the library?

I find these guidelines have served me well so far, and when I see an anticipated read at the library, it’s extra exciting.

Do you give yourself any guidelines when deciding whether or not to buy a book? How have your book buying habits changed throughout the years?

Book Review | A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

A Mother's Reckoning Sue Klebold Memoir Book Review

“It may be too late for the ones we have lost, but it may not be too late to save others.” – page 254

Hi friends! It’s been a while since I’ve properly reviewed something on this blog, eh? I needed to take a bit of a break from reviewing as reading was feeling a bit like homework for a while there — I was reading on a (self-imposed) deadline and constantly analyzing every word and articulating my feelings as I was reading. I mean, that’s not really a bad thing to do generally, but when I start feeling obligated to do it is when I personally need to take a break.

That said, I’ve been reading some really, really good books lately. I keep catching myself mentioning two titles in particular and Sue Klebold’s A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy is one of them. (The other title is also a non-fiction title, which is shocking for me!)

I picked this book up out of curiosity. I knew that this would be a difficult read, but I really didn’t know what to expect. What I found within the pages was not only a heartbreaking recount of Sue Klebold’s experience before and after her son participated in the Columbine shooting, but also something very valuable: a lesson to be learned. To Sue Klebold, and, indeed, many people in her community, Dylan Klebold was just a regular teenager. He could be shy in social situations and moody when reminded to do a chore, but that was seen as common teenage behaviour. Nobody saw the tragedy coming. Sue Klebold reiterates this throughout the book — “He seemed so normal” — when, she admits, the heartbreaking fact of the matter is that the family had misinterpreted many of the warning signs of Dylan’s depression and brain disorder. While he seemed like a regular teenager on the outside, Klebold later learns via his journal that he was suicidal – probably a big reason why he participated in the Columbine shooting in 1999.

Here’s where I’ll admit that I’m fascinated (and slightly terrified) that no one was able to pick up on Dylan’s depression. I’ve often wondered how many of my peers are suffering silently, and whether I would be perceptive enough to notice when someone needs help. In the forward to the book, Andrew Soloman writes that the spotlight was shone on the shooters’ parents in the aftermath of the tragedy because the community — and, really, the world — needed a way to rationalize what had happened. We want to believe that this could have been prevented if only the parents had done something differently. But, as Klebold writes, she was an attentive parent; she did love her child; up until the shooting she thought she was doing a pretty good job of parenting. The one thing she mentions often is that the signs that seemed so insignificant at the time, signs that she thought were just normal teenage behaviour, actually added up to one big arrow pointing to depression. If perhaps she had known to look out for these signs, maybe she would have been able to understand Dylan more before his death. (This revelation is one of the big reasons why Klebold wrote the book, as noted in the quote above.) And so I sometimes think: am I missing anything in my daily life? Can I be more attentive towards the people around me? Even if I might never experience anything as extreme as what Sue Klebold went through, it makes me wonder if I could help someone get through a rough patch by asking more questions or if it’s truly impossible to get someone to open up when they are deliberately hiding their pain from you.

Either way, it surprised me how much I appreciated reading Klebold honest writing. She bravely shares her experience as accurately and openly as possible. She tells the reader what she’s learned about spotting signs of brain illness, reflects on her mistakes, and works to spread awareness about suicide prevention. She also takes the opportunity to apologize to her son’s victims. Overall, this book was a difficult read, but I think it’s one that can help spread empathy and understanding to those who do read it. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Have you read A Mother’s Reckoning? What were your thoughts on the book?

Monday Musings | Reader-Author Relationships in the Time of Social Media

Karen Ma One More Page Photo Starbucks Reading

Hi friends! It’s been a while, eh? I hope you didn’t miss me too much😉

After two years of musing about bookish things (almost) every week, I sometimes wonder if I’ve run out of things to muse about. But alas! As someone who is kind of addicted to social media, I started to think about the author-reader relationship and how it has changed since social media came along. Before social media, author-reader interactions mostly came from face-to-face contact, published reviews, or fan mail. While I’m sure authors from that time weren’t immune to hate mail, their exposure to unfavourable reviews and thoughts were at a minimum. Now, with the ubiquity of social media users and platforms (like Goodreads), authors can easily seek out what their readers are saying about their books. I’ve never published anything, but I’d imagine it takes a lot of discipline to resist the instant gratification of consumer feedback.

As someone who does post my reviews on my blog and on Goodreads, I’m (rightly or wrongly) conscious of the fact that there is a chance that my thoughts can be read by an author. Of course, sometimes this is great – there’s nothing as life-affirming as swooning over a book you loved with its author – but sometimes it can create an awkward situation. (I’m not even going get into those instances where authors seek out those who’ve penned negative reviews.) In my case, I started wondering (for no particular reason, I promise!) whether it would be strange to publish a negative review of a book when its author follows me on social media. It’s standard practice not to tag an author in a negative review, but what if s/he just happens to be scrolling through their timeline and sees it? I suppose this is the new risk that comes with the social media territory. All this said, I do owe it to myself and all of my friends to be completely honest with my thoughts and feelings. So where do we go from here? I think the bottom line is to make sure that all criticism is backed up by concrete reasons; to comment on the text and not the author themselves; and only write constructively and truthfully.

Have you ever had an awkward author-reader situation due to social media? How did you work around it?

Inside The Mind of a “Bookstagrammer”

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Happy Monday, friends! It seems as though my Monday Musings have been eluding me these past few weeks (could I have mused about everything there is to muse about already? I’m sure the answer is no) so I’ve decided to take a break from musing and write about something else instead: bookstagram! I’ve been spending more and more time on bookstagram — aka bookish Instagram — lately and this has come with a few side effects. I wonder if any of you relate to this?

As I’ve gotten more invested in bookstagram, I’ve noticed that I’m always on the lookout for pretty environments to use in my photos, almost to a comical degree. Oh, I’m visiting my boyfriend’s mom’s house? Time to see where I can bookstagram! (No lie: the photo above was taken at such a visit.) Going away? Yaaaaas! New bookstagram opportunities! I find myself constantly searching for something beautiful to photograph with a book in tow; and while I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, it’s still a somewhat weird compulsion.

Another side effect of bookstagram is probably how silly I look whilst trying to get the perfect shot. It’s not enough to make me stop, but I often wonder what it’s like to be with me while I’m shooting away. I don’t often bookstagram while with other people in public, but still.

The thing is, I’ve always been into photography. Before I was a book blogger I had a photography blog where I challenged myself to post a photo a day. I used to dream of being a professional photographer, rollicking in fields with people and making beautiful art, snapping memories for families to cherish forever and ever. And while my dreams have evolved into something else, I still can’t kick the fact that I love taking pictures. Bookstagram has become the perfect marriage between my two passions, so despite the manic location scouting and potentially embarrassing photo taking, it’s not something I see myself giving up.

Are you on bookstagram? Do you get a little bit obsessive like I do? What’s the strangest thing you’ve done for a photo? (If you want to be friends on Instagram, you can find me at @onemorepageblog!)

#gritLIT2016 Blog Tour | Beyond the Pale by Emily Urquhart

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Last year, the wonderful Jessica from Not My Typewriter invited me to Hamilton, Ontario to check out the local gritLIT Festival. I had such a great time dropping in on multiple readings and soaking up the atmosphere — I was surrounded by readers and book lovers all day — it was fabulous. This year, gritLIT will be held from April 7th – 10th. I can’t wait to visit for my second year in a row! To find out more about the festival and the amazing programming, visit their website and visit them on Twitter.

To get the lit love going, gritLIT is also hosting its first blog tour! I’m so proud to be a part of it and I’m so lucky to have gotten a chance to read a great book by Canadian writer, journalist, and folklorist Emily Urquhart.

It’s kind of serendipitous that my pick for this tour ended up being Beyond the Pale by Emily Urquhart. When I was an intern at HarperCollins Canada, I saw this book daily; I was always intrigued by it, but I never got around to picking it up. In Beyond the Pale, Urquhart is on a journey to learn more about albinism: what it is, what challenges it brings, how cultures around the world perceive people with albinism, and how it relates to her family. As someone who makes a goal to read more non-fiction year after year, Beyond the Pale appealed to me as Urquhart has a personal connection to her research — her daughter, Sadie, has albinism — and that gave what may have felt like an academic text an anchor for me and created an extra level of intimacy and understanding. While reading the book I often put myself in Urquhart’s shoes: how would I have reacted in her situation?

I really appreciate how open and honest Urquhart is with her experience. Upon learning her daughter’s diagnosis, she was, understandably, nervous and worried. Instead of glossing over this fact, Urquhart faces her emotions head on and guides readers through her process of understanding this genetic condition. This process takes Urquhart from Victoria, BC to St. Louis, Missouri to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. She uses real stories to help readers understand what it’s like to live with albinism — the lower vision, the extreme sensitivity to sun, the difficulties that may arise socially — and succeeds in touching an emotional chord. That being said, as a folklorist, Urquhart also uses myths and folktales (paired with beautiful, honest writing) to round out her research.

I loved this unique twist in a non-fiction book. Utilizing stories and folklore may seem counter-intuitive, but Urquhart makes some really great points for it:

“I am not certain that we are better off for knowing the molecular story rather than the folktale, or whether there is room for both. Science can tell you how genetic anomalies and birth defects happen, but not why they happened to you rather than your neighbour… Here is the value of folklore: it gives shape to the unknowable.” — pg. 24

As an avid reader, I do believe that stories can help us navigate new, “unknowable” situations. They have the power to comfort you while confronting your biggest fears, and because of that, the are incredibly valuable.

Overall, Beyond the Pale was an eye-opening read. Urquhart’s was driven by one of the most powerful feelings — a mother’s love — and used that compassion with her journalistic eye to write an approachable yet researched book about a not often talked about condition. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about albinism, I would highly recommend it. If not for the actual scientific explanations (of which there are not many), then for the fierce portrayal of a mother’s unconditional love for her daughter.

Have you read Beyond the Pale? Did you ever learn about albinism in school? Do you think there is merit to studying folklore and science hand-in-hand?

#CanadaReads | Day 1 Recap

Canada Reads Day 1

Screen capture from CBC Books/Canada Reads

Happy Monday, friends! I know that I normally post Mondays Musings at the start of the week, but since Canada Reads has started, I thought I’d take a break and write a Canada Reads recap instead. I hope you’ll stick around and share your thoughts with me as well!

If you want to watch the broadcast before reading this post, click here. That being said, I promise to not give away who gets eliminated!

Continue reading

It’s the Eve of #CanadaReads!

2016 CBC Canada Reads Shortlist

When I first started this blog, one of the big things that I wanted to accomplish was to foster a love for Canadian Literature, or CanLit. For a long time, I had discounted CanLit because I had a really outdated idea that it was boring. I don’t even know where I got that thought from! Well, I’m so glad that I have discovered otherwise because there are some truly fantastic Canadian books out there. Not only that — there are also so many ways to celebrate CanLit, including Canada Reads which starts tomorrow!

If you’re unfamiliar with Canada Reads, it’s basically a battle of the books type competition featuring 5 panel members who each defend a book that they believe best fits the year’s theme. This year’s theme is “starting over.” The four-day debate can be watched live online, on TV, or on the radio. Click here for more information!

Like most years, I challenged myself to read all 5 contending books and I was so so close to completing it this year. I ended up reading 4 of the 5 books in full, and unfortunately put down the last book after reading a few chapters because I wasn’t quite feeling it. That being said, here’s my breakdown of the five books:

Birdie by Tracey Lindberg (Defended by Bruce Poon Tip)
First line: “Maggie sits in the old tavern, amongst friends.”
My thoughts: Birdie is a complicated one for me, because I understand its significance but I spent half of the book not quite getting what was happening. It wasn’t until I got to see things from the perspective of other characters that I really truly “got” what was happening. While I think that’s more a shortcoming on my part, it did affect how I felt about it. That being said, I’m so excited to hear Bruce Poon Tip defend Birdie, as I think it will help me understand and appreciate the novel more.

Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz (Defended by Farah Mohamed)
First line: “If you listen, you can almost hear the sound of my son’s heart breaking.”
My thoughts: I loved Bone and Bread. I’m a sucker for family stories — especially if it has to do with sisters — and Bone and Bread was gut-wrenching and beautifully written. This is a book with characters that you’ll want to root for and care for, and I can’t wait to watch Farah Mohamed defend it in the debates.

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill (Defended by Clara Hughes)
First line: “Go home.”
My thoughts: Surprisingly, this was my first time reading Lawrence Hill. I was blown away by the complexity of the book, given how readable it is. Keita Ali has not had an easy life and he is fascinating to read about (and cheer on), but what ultimately impressed me the most about this book was how much I got sucked into each character’s story arc. Now that’s great characterization.

Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter (Defended by Adam Copeland)
First line: “She told him there wasn’t another person.”
My thoughts: This is the book that I didn’t end up finishing, so I’m going to really pay attention to what Adam Copeland says about it during the debates. (I always find that I appreciate a book more when I hear someone fiercely defending it.) I didn’t keep reading the book because I unfortunately didn’t feel like I cared about Henry enough.I’m sure the “point” of the book was to watch Henry grow as a person, but I just wasn’t compelled.

The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami (Defended by Vinay Virmani)
First line: “It was only five o’clock on a July morning in Toturpuram, and already every trace of night had disappeared.”
My thoughts: This was another book that I loved. And, surprise! It’s a book about a family. I especially loved this book because it features a child who is displaced to a completely foreign country (from Canada to India). As someone who also moved to a foreign place when they were young (I moved from Canada to Hong Kong in grade four), I could relate to seven-year-old Nandana but also appreciate how hard the adjustment must be for the adults as well. Everyone in The Hero’s Walk has their own story, problems, and regrets, and it was a fantastic character-driven novel.

So, who do I think will win? I have no idea! All five books have characters who are trying to find themselves and start over in a way. I’m just excited to see fellow book lovers defending their picks!

Did you read the Canada Reads shortlist? Are you rooting for a particular book? Let me know!

Monday Musings | Putting Away Social Media

Karen Ma One More Page Photo Starbucks Reading

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a wee bit addicted to social media. It’s the first thing I check after turning off my phone alarm in the morning, and it’s the first thing I open up when I’m leaving work for the day. Sometimes, I even check my Twitter/Instagram when I’m with other people. (This is seriously my biggest and most shameful secret.)

I don’t know how it happened, but more and more, I find that social media — as much as I love it — is a big distraction in my life. Don’t get me wrong: I love staying up-to-date with the latest news and I love being able to keep up with my friends online, but I sometimes feel like it’s taking away from my enjoyment of the little every day things. One of these little every day things is reading. What starts out as a “oh, let me update my reading progress on Goodreads!” ends up as a 30-minute Twitter spiral; “I’ll just Instagram this photo and go back to reading” becomes a mini “like”-fest… picking my book back up after my social media “break” oftentimes means having to shut everything down again and re-immerse myself into the book. It’s almost comical how silly the whole situation is, yet it happens to me all of the time.

So, I’ve decided to challenge myself a little bit. At 11pm every night this week, I’m going to turn off all technology and dedicate the rest of my night to uninterrupted reading. I’m going to make time to really, truly, fully enjoy the experience. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Do you ever find social media/technology to be distracting? Do you have any strategies to keep yourself away from it while reading?