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?

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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?

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 ūüėČ

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!)

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?

Book Review | She’s Not There by Joy Fielding

She's Not There Joy Fielding Crime Fiction One More Page Book Review

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Penguin Random House Canada. This does not affect my review of the novel.]

Imagine: your husband surprises you and your two young children with a luxurious¬†vacation in Mexico to celebrate your 10th anniversary. Imagine: on the night of your anniversary dinner, your youngest child, 2,¬†goes missing. Imagine: fifteen years later, after being constantly hounded by the press, a young woman calls you claiming to be your daughter. Imagine getting to watch every detail unfold in Joy Fielding’s latest mystery She’s Not There

Before I started reading this book I had heard other bloggers mentioning that they had read the book in one day. Well, I was in the mood for a quick and engrossing read this weekend, and I gladly fell into the group of readers who couldn’t put this book down until it was finished. I’ve completely embraced crime fiction, my friends!

Joy Fielding does a great job of transporting her readers into the various situations her characters go through in She’s Not There: I held my breath as I read the exchange between Caroline and maybe-Samantha; I felt tense when Caroline and her other daughter, Michelle, couldn’t stop arguing; I traveled alongside the Shipleys as they followed an intriguing lead¬†on a crazy whim… But,¬†it was not just my emotional response to this book that made me love it so much; I was also fascinated by the way Fielding crafted¬†her characters and the way they each handled the same incident differently. I read on a friend’s blog (I forget where at the moment – sorry!! If I am quoting you, can you please leave your link in the comments so I can give you credit?) that crime fiction/thrillers are essentially studies of human choices and how those choices play out as consequences.¬†Reading She’s Not There made me wonder: what would I have done if I were Caroline? How would I have reacted if¬†my child went missing? What would my life look like? In the end, not only did She’s Not There provide a bit of escapism for a day, it also made me look inward and wonder.

Verdict: A really well-paced and well-plotted novel that will lure you in and hold your attention until the very last page. This was my first Fielding book, but I’m excited to read more from her.

Read if: You’ve ever wondered how you would react if a child went missing on your watch, you enjoy fast-paced thrillers, want to see why Joy Fielding is so (rightfully) beloved.

Are you a Joy Fielding fan? What are your favourite mysteries/thrillers?

February 2016

Happy leap day everyone! I spent the day at work, which made it more or less a normal day, but I really can’t complain because I love my job and everyone I work with (even when they point out that I came in dead last in our Oscars pool…) That being said, I’m thankful for an extra day of reading! Speaking of reading…

This month, I read:

*The Illegal by Lawrence Hill (My first Canada Reads book this year!)
*The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
*Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
*Birdie by Tracey Lindberg (Canada Reads book #2!)
*A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
*She’s Not There by Joy Fielding
*13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

I feel like I read a good mixture of books this month: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and She’s Not There were really really great mysteries; The Illegal was a fantastic book that I had meant to finish a long time ago; Birdie was an interesting and tough read; A Little Life left me in pieces; and I hate to say that I was a little underwhelmed by Beautiful Ruins and disappointed by 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl¬†(or, more accurately, by its cover copy).

All things considered, if my reading matches these past few months, I’ll be very very happy.

Have you had a good reading month? Did you read anything that blew you away? Did you read anything that left you underwhelmed?

Book Review | The Widow by Fiona Barton

The Widow Fiona Barton Evidence Bag

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Penguin Random House Canada. This does not affect my review.]

Remember when I avoided thrillers/mysteries/anything remotely scary? Yeah, me neither. Ever since Slade House by David Mitchell brought me over to the dark side, I can’t get enough! When The Widow showed up at my door a few months ago, I couldn’t wait to start. Luckily for me, I started this book when I had a bit of time off, so I could read as long as my heart desired (translation: I read it until I finished it — I couldn’t put it down!). In fact, I loved it so much that I couldn’t wait to share; see my Wishlist Wednesday post about it here!

The Widow appealed to me not only because it’s mysterious and thrilling, but also because it’s about a woman who’s figuring things out for herself now that her husband is no longer in the picture. (Or, more accurately, we’re able to learn more about The Widow, aka Jean Taylor, now that her husband isn’t around.) You see, before her husband died, he was the prime suspect of a terrible crime. Is Jean ready to tell the truth now that she’s no longer bound to him? Or is there more to Jean than we know? I find the darker side of relationships so interesting to read about, and this angle gave The Widow an extra bit of intrigue that I really enjoyed. How much of Jean’s actions were because of her husband? Was she protecting his secret all along? Will she still keep his secrets now that he’s dead?

This compelling book follows multiple perspectives: the widow, the reporter, and the detective of the case. Each story is told with a unique voice and the cast of characters are all well developed and interesting. The Widow is a quick and entertaining read, perfect for those weekends where you just want to curl up with a good book! (Preemptive warning: you may never look at Skittle packets the same way again.)

Verdict: A fast-paced read full of secret motivations and mystery that keeps readers grasping for the truth at every turn. Make sure to reserve a full weekend for this book as you’ll have trouble putting it down. I can’t wait to read what Fiona Barton writes next!

Read if: You’re a fan of mysteries and thrillers, love looking into the darker side marriage, want to know why Skittles are forever ruined for me.

Are you a fan of crime fiction? Have you read The Widow?

Monday Musings | Unpopular Opinions

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child J.K. Rowling New Book

(Photo via The Telegraph)

One of the things that I like most about being on the internet and social media in particular is the excitement you feel when others are excited about certain things: Benedict Cumberbatch lands a new role! A new Marvel movie is out! A new HARRY POTTER book! The downside to this is how strange you feel when you don’t share the excitement.

Last week, news broke that J.K. Rowling’s new project — Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — will be published in play form. It pains me to say this as a Harry Potter fan, but I just couldn’t muster up the same excitement as everyone else has. I don’t know why! I’ve felt the same ambivalence towards all other Harry Potter spin-offs:¬†Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,¬†Quidditch Through the Ages, etc. I think maybe it’s because I’m so attached to the original seven books that I think everything else is just trying to match the greatness that was? (I know this is incredibly unfair of me, but I guess that’s what makes it an opinion…) I suppose, what I’m trying to say is, I’m skeptical. Can the original magic be recreated? We’ll soon find out.

Do you have any unpopular opinions? Are you excited about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?