Brontës and Bonnets: Worlds of Ink and Shadow Launch at Ben McNally Books

One More Page Book Blog Toronto Ontario

If you’ve been around my blog over the past few weeks, you’ll know that I absolutely adored Lena Coakley’s Worlds of Ink and Shadow. (Read my review here!) So, when I heard that there was going to be a book launch for it here in Toronto, I immediately marked it into my calendar. The launch was so beautiful that I thought I’d share a few pictures of the event with you here!

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A #CanLit TBR

Canada Day Canadian Literature Books TBR

Happy Canada Day, everyone!

You may remember how I used to think Canadian literature was “uncool” and how over the past few years I’ve been trying to catch up and keep up on all of the amazing books Canada has to offer. Well, as you may have guessed, there’s a lot that I haven’t read yet, so I thought I’d share with you a portion of my CanLit TBR. (Of course, after I took the picture for this post, I realized I forgot to include Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, which is definitely something I’ve been meaning to check out.) If, after reading this post, you’re looking for even more Canadian reads to add to your list, here are 10 books that I’d recommend! Now, on to my (incomplete) list:

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

One of my favourite books from last year was Miriam Toews’ All My Puny Sorrows. It was heart-wrenching, beautifully written, and helped shape my worldview. I’ve heard many great things about A Complicated Kindness, so I’m looking forward to being immersed in Toews’ beautiful words and thoughts again. (Fun fact: I didn’t know how to pronounce “Toews” until last year when I finally heard someone say it out loud. I used to pronounce it as “toes.” It’s pronounced “tay-ves.”)

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

Canada has a deep (and dark) history with its Native peoples, and Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian aims to shed some light on the relationship between Natives and non-Native peoples in North America. As someone who would love to be more aware of issues like these, The Inconvenient Indian, which was one of the selections for Canada Reads 2015, has made it to the top of my Can Lit TBR. (Fun fact: Thomas King has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award for both fiction and non-fiction.)

Chez L’Arabe by Mireille Silcoff

This collection of linked short stories centres around a woman in Montreal who is suffering from a chronic illness. I’ve actually read the first story from this collection and it is beautifully written. I can’t wait to read more. (Little known fact: Chez L’Arabe was inspired by Silcoff’s own medical struggles.)

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis

I picked this up at Coach House Books‘ spring launch and have been meaning to get to it since. Set in Toronto, this book imagines what it would be like if dogs had human intelligence. Need I say more? (Fun fact: To get into the heads of the dogs he was writing about, Alexis went around Toronto to try to imagine how different neighbourhoods would smell like to a dog. “In some ways that’s disgusting because you have to have shades of urine or shades of merde,” he writes in this article on the CBC website.)

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt

This is actually an upcoming title from House of Anansi Press, but I’m extremely excited to dive in because I’ve heard great things about deWitt’s writing, especially in his previous book The Sisters Brothers. The back of the book describes Undermajordomo Minor as “a triumphant ink-black comedy,” which has me intrigued to say the least. (Fun fact: 2011 was a huge year for deWitt as The Sisters Brothers was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, Scotiabank Giller Prize, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and Governor General’s Award for English language fiction alongside fellow Canadian writer Esi Edugyan.)

Have you read any of the books on my list? Is there anything that I missed and should read ASAP? If you’re in Canada, how are you spending your Canada Day?

Book Review + Giveaway | Spinster by Kate Bolick

Spinster Kate Bolick Book Review Cover One More Page

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

When you think of the word “spinster,” what comes to mind? In modern language, “spinster” often conjures images of sad women who live alone with perhaps one or more cats. Generally, “spinster” evokes the thought that these women have been unable to find partners. But what about those who willingly choose to be alone? Why is “spinster” associated with “failure?” Why are single men allowed to be called “bachelors.” while single women are labeled “cat ladies?” In Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, Kate Bolick attempts to reclaim the term, spinning it into an empowering expression that celebrates female independence and self-reliance.

The book is divided into 10 chapters, in which Bolick shares her personal experience with having the “spinster wish” to be alone and self-sufficient. She also shares her research on her five “awakeners,” Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edith Wharton, who proved to her that women can dare to make a life of their own.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As someone who is currently in a relationship, I went into the book a little nervous that Bolick would be pro-singledom and anti-coupledom. Luckily, that couldn’t have been farther than the truth. Bolick is not arguing for one relationship status or the other; what she really wants is to move past the idea that women are meant to be wives or nothing, and help society realize that women can fully rely on themselves, whether they’re in a relationship or not. It’s an encouraging yet realistic text, written from a place of personal experience and research. Bolick doesn’t claim that being a spinster is always easy, but she does make it clear how rewarding it can be.

Bolick’s five “awakeners” are all female writers, spanning mulitple generations. As such, this book does contain quite a bit of literary biography, which greatly appealed to me as a self-proclaimed literature nerd. This is a non-fiction book that reads like a story, making it perfect for a new-to-nonfiction reader like myself.

Whether you’re coupled or single, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own is an enlightening read that hopes to take the power back from the patriarchy and urge women to pursue their dreams and passions, whether that means being married or not. There are options for women outside of marriage, and Spinster works to remind us all of that while being respectful of everyone’s choices.

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to meet Kate Bolick in Toronto and, thanks to Random House Canada, I have a signed copy of this thought-provoking book to give away to one Canadian reader!

**CLICK HERE TO ENTER GIVEAWAY**

CONTEST RULES:
1. No purchase necessary.
2. Open to residents of Canada only.
3. If a winner is picked and their Twitter account only has giveaway entries, I will choose again (unless I can tell by their other accounts that they will actually read the book). I want the winner to genuinely enjoy these books!
4. Have fun and good luck!

Have you read Spinster? What does the term “spinster” mean to you? Would you consider yourself a “spinster sister?”

Book Review | Etta and Otto and Russell and James By Emma Hooper

Etta and Otto and Russell and James Emma Hooper Ebook Book Review

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Penguin Canada via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the novel.]

I’ve been reviewing books on this blog for almost a year now and the review-writing process is always an interesting experience for me. Sometimes a book will grip me with its strong message; sometimes, it affects me so much emotionally that the review just flows effortlessly from my heart to the (web)page; and then there are books that are written so beautifully and with such loveable characters that you become enamored with everything embodied in the text. As we all know, love is an untangible thing that is sometimes hard to describe. Well, that’s how I felt when trying to write my review of Etta and Otto and Russell and James.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James is like an onion. It has layers upon layers just waiting to be dissected and enjoyed. On a superficial level, the book is about an old woman, Etta, who decides to pack her bags and leave her husband Otto behind in Saskatchewan to go on a journey to see the water on the East coast of Canada (via foot, no less). But beneath that storyline is 82 years of history and experiences that drive Etta towards this dream. How are we affected when we leave home? How do we react when we are left? The act of leaving is often repeated throughout the novel, and while I found it interesting to see what the traveling characters get up to, I was equally transfixed by how the characters that stay home cope with the separation. (I also loved how these roles are reversed throughout the book.)

Etta and Otto and Russell and James is just as concerned with the characters’ histories as it is with their present journeys. This is something that really made me adore the novel as I am always fascinated by how our past affects our present. Plus, with the narrative hopping freely between past and present, readers are able to really logically and emotionally understand the characters’ motivations, rendering them more life-like and developed.

Hooper’s prose is written in such a tender and understated way that it makes the story feel like a dream. Mixed with some magical realism, this becomes even more apparent. Whether you’re looking for a story about a 3232-kilometer pilgrimage, a study of a group’s past and present, or simply want to fall in love with a book, Etta and Otto and Russell and James has something for everyone.

Verdict: An incredibly hard book to review but one that is easy to fall in love with. The standouts here are the beautiful interpersonal stories and beautiful prose. Honourable mention? The formatting of the last few chapters.

Read if: You want to find out how an 82 year-old woman could possibly walk from Saskatchewan to Halifax; you’re interested in personal histories, especially those that involve World War II, want to fall in love with a book with Canada as a backdrop.

Have you picked up Etta and Otto and Russel and James yet? Do you love reading stories that mix past with present as much as I do? What do you think is harder: leaving home, or being left behind?

10 Reasons Why I’m Thankful For Blogging and the Bookish Community

Karen One More Page Blog

When I started One More Page less than 8 months ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I mean, I knew it would entail a lot of reading and reviewing, but I had absolutely no clue how much it would, not to be too hyperbolic, change my life. I know it sounds crazy, but when I take an introspective moment and think about where I was last year compared to this year, I realize that book blogging has made a huge positive difference. Last year was difficult for a few reasons: I had just moved from Vancouver to Toronto and thus hardly knew anyone in this big city, I had just moved in with my boyfriend and that needed getting used to, and, to be honest, I had no idea how to work towards my passions even though I felt a strong urge to do something. So, as I gear up to celebrate Canadian thanksgiving this year, I thought I’d list 10 reasons why I’m thankful for blogging and the bookish community.

1. The amazing books I hear about on a daily basis.

I’m sure all book lovers will agree with me that our to-be-read piles can get pretty out of control. Well, let me tell you, book blogging and being more active in the online bookish community has definitely exposed me to A LOT of amazing books daily. I have to carefully pick and choose which ones to add to my to-read list or else it would be even crazier than it is now, but I’m thankful for the fact that I am constantly finding new books to love.

2. It has broadened my reading horizons.

The great thing about learning about so many new books every day is that some of them are books I never would have heard of otherwise. Better yet – some of these books are ones that I would never think to pick up had I not heard about them from trusted friends. Being in this community has given me a sense of adventure when it comes to reading again, and for that I’m thankful.

3. The community.

Who would I turn to when I need book recommendations if not for this wonderful, welcoming community? Whether I’m having a bad day and need someone to vent to or have just read an AMAZING book that I NEED to talk to someone about, you guys have always been there to listen. I’m so, so thankful for you!!

4. It has taught me not to be ashamed of what I like to read (aka taking the “guilty” out of “guilty pleasure”!)

When I was still in university and an English major, I would sometimes feel guilty admitting that I was REALLY excited for the new Shopaholic book or the new Meg Cabot novel. However, since joining the blogging/bookish community, I have finally found friends who understand what a hunk Michael Moscovitz is (Hi, Adriana!) and this has really made me come out of the “guilty” shell. So what if I occasionally love reading “chick lit” or young adult novels? That doesn’t make me better or worse than any other reader. Thank you, all, for finally setting me straight.

5. The wonderful friends I have met in real life.

As I mentioned before, I hardly knew anyone in the city besides my family members, boyfriend, and work friends after moving here last year. I’m so thankful for the bustling Toronto literary scene and for the wonderful bookish people that organize and go to those events! Thanks to these events, I’ve been able to meet some amazing people in real life and even though we don’t hang out all the time, it makes me so happy to see a familiar face from time to time. I want to make a special shout-out to Leah from Books Speak Volumes: I’m so thankful that you drove all the way to Toronto just to hang out!! Also thanks to CJ from ebookclassics for co-hosting the book blogger brunch with me! I can’t wait to do it all again. 🙂

One More Page kmn04books Summer Book Picks

 6. The authors.

Where would we all be without the amazing, inventive, and compassionate authors that write books for us to love every day? I’ve been so lucky to meet some wonderfully inspiring writers over the past year! Thank you all for writing books that have truly made me think, feel, and dream! Now if only I could get over that stutter I seem to develop when I’m near authors I love…

7. The opportunities.

There is no denying that book blogging has introduced me to things that I never would have been able to experience otherwise. Thank you to Penguin Canada for sending me my very first review book (the beautiful, heartfelt The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry), to Random House Canada for always being so supportive of me and my blog, to House of Anansi/Groundwood Books for understanding how cathartic it is to read books that make you cry, to the many other publishers and authors that have gotten in touch, and, most recently, the CBC for giving me my five minutes of fame on their website! 🙂

8. It’s really helped me feel at home in a big city like Toronto.

I know I’ve kind of touched on this earlier, but meeting bookish friends and attending literary events around the city has made me feel so much more comfortable here. I love that the bookish world is truly such a community, and such a friendly one at that! Book people are truly the best people. 🙂

9. It has pushed me to really love reading again after not reading for a year.

With the added exposure to so many great books, it would be difficult for me to NOT fall back in love with reading! I really believe that everyone is a reader. If you don’t think you like reading, it’s probably because you haven’t found the right book for you yet! I’m thankful for my reignited passion for reading.

10. It has confirmed my love for the bookish world and just how much I want my career path to be related to books.

Back when I was deciding whether to “take a risk” and become an English major, the main source of stress was the worry that nothing would come out of it career-wise. Well, three years have passed since I decided to dedicate all of my time and energy into literature and books and I really can’t say I regret it at all. My blogging journey has only reaffirmed how much I want to be, to quote Ariel, a part of this world. My goals are now clearer than ever and I am really, truly thankful. From the bottom of my heart.

I’m a little worried that I got too sappy there, but everything I’ve written here is true. I have so much love for what I do with One More Page and I am grateful for everyone that I’ve met and everything that I’ve learned in the past 8 months. Thank you thank you thank you. (I think I should also give a mini thank you to Sean, who doesn’t ever lose it when I keep getting more and more books…)

What are you thankful for this year, book-related or otherwise?

Book Review | Sweetland by Michael Crummey

Sweetland by Michae Crummey Book Review Book Cover

[I received a copy of Sweetland by Michael Crummey from its Canadian publisher Random House Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the book in any way.]

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know that I am a fan of CanLit (Canadian Literature). I spent many years misguidedly rejecting the genre because I thought it was all about landscapes and prairie life and things I couldn’t relate to but, while my experiences don’t always exactly mirror what I read, I have come to realize that that’s exactly the point of reading: to learn about things that are unfamiliar to you, to get to know different types of people, to step out of your comfort zone and experience new things. This is exactly what Michael Crummey’s new novel Sweetland gave me.

Sweetland centres around Moses Sweetland and his hometown of the same name. It’s a small island off the coast of Newfoundland where generations of inhabitants have lived and died. When the novel begins, we learn that the government is in the process of reclaiming the land and all but a few people have accepted their compensation package to move off the island. One of the stubborn residents refusing to take the package is Moses Sweetland, who is extremely tied to the land and its history. He will not back down, even as the government threatens him and his fellow Sweetlanders try to persuade him to leave. Throughout the novel we learn more and more about his (and his family’s) history and relationship with Sweetland and that knowledge helps us to understand why Sweetland is so reluctant to leave. So will he be persuaded and take the package in the end or will he be left alone on the island to fend for himself after everyone has left? You’ll have to read it to find out.

The part of the book that didn’t work quite as well for me is actually the aspect that I learned from the most. I have always been a city girl and have never been to the maritimes, so there was a lot in the book that I simply didn’t understand or needed a while to get used to. And while I do think that my unfamiliarity with these terms and concepts did affect my enjoyment of the book, I also know that I have benefited from reading about these new things. I learned the proper fishing and hunting jargon as I followed Sweetland as he performed his daily tasks and glimpsed into a life that I have never (and probably will never) live. I truly believe that my horizons have been broadened, and I’m thankful for that.

That being said, there were definitely aspects of the story that I really enjoyed. I loved learning about the relationships Sweetland had with his fellow Sweetland residents. They are all unique, well-rounded characters, from Jesse, his great-nephew whose (imaginary) best friend is Sweetland’s dead brother, Queenie Coffin, who has not left her house for many, many years, to the Priddle brothers who are a rambunctious pair who don’t really fit in. There’s also a darker side to the community; there’s a priest who leaves and comes back, and a secret about his brother that Sweetland has been holding in for a long time.

Overall, I did enjoy reading Sweetland as it took me out of my comfort zone and introduced me to new things. The characters are wonderful and it’s truly inspiring how tied to his hometown Sweetland is. As someone who has moved around all her life, that’s something that I admire and wish I had. Even though I wish we were able to go into Sweetland’s head a little bit more (rather than being shown everything), I think this book is one that will be adored by many. To me, this is the quintessential Canadian Literature that I used to reject but have grown to love.

Verdict: A book that took a little bit of effort on my part to truly understand (due to the jargon that was unfamiliar to me) but ultimately taught me a lot about island living and feeling an intense connection to a community and place. Sweetland may be difficult for some at parts (again, the unfamiliarity aspect), but if you’re willing to keep an open mind, it is one that pays off.

Read if: You want to read about a loyal, stubborn man and his connection to the land he grew up in, want to learn more about living on an island where self-sufficiency is key, want to broaden your Canadian Literature horizon.

Ps. Naomi at Consumed by Ink has a really wonderfully-written review of this book on her blog that I would suggest checking out. Her perspective on the book positively affected my reading experience and helped me appreciate it a lot more despite my minor frustrations with it.

Are you a CanLit fan? Have you read any Newfoundland literature? Will you be checking out Sweetland?

**Sweetland by Michael Crummey will be published by Random House Canada on August 19th, 2014**

Announcement | Book Blogger Brunch!

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Hi everyone!

I’m extremely excited to announce that I am hosting a Book Blogger Brunch with C.J. from ebookclassics for anyone who can come! I’ve met so many great friends online and I would looove to meet you all in person! Keep reading for more information:

What: A book blogger brunch! Come join us for delicious food and book talk!

When: Saturday August 16th, 2014 at 10:00am – mark it on your calendars!

Where: The Hothouse Restaurant on 35 Church Street in Toronto

Who: If you’re reading this and are able to come to Toronto on August 16th, then you are invited! Like I mentioned above, I would love to meet you all in person, whether we’ve spoken online or not.

How: Just RSVP by commenting on this blog, tweeting me @karenfma, Facebook me at One More Page Reviews or send me an email at karenfenellama (at) gmail.com.

I hope you all can make it to this event; I think it’s going to be a great time! Don’t forget to RSVP by August 14th if you can make it! 🙂

Book Review | The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O'Neill Book Cover and Book Review

I almost finished this book standing at a subway station even though I had somewhere to be. Trust me, I tried. I stood in the station for 20 minutes reading before I could tear myself away and get on with my tasks. I finished it as soon as I could when I got home and I just sat there for a while after I was done, feeling the impact of the book. It tugged at my heartstrings. With The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, Heather O’Neill has created a strong group of sympathetic characters and touches poignantly on the most basic human need: love. What would we do to receive love and acceptance? How far would we go to avoid heartbreak?

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night is narrated by Nouschka Tremblay, one half of the famous Tremblay twins. Their father, Étienne Tremblay, is a famous Quebecois folksinger, though no one knows his name outside of Quebec. He spends most of his children’s lives away from them, trying to recreate his glory days. Their mother, a teenage parent, left them when they were young. Noushka and her twin brother Nicolas were raised mostly by their grandfather Loulou and they spend much of the book lost, reveling in their youth, feeling infallible, and making questionable decisions.

All of the characters in the book are striving to fit in and find their place in their own way. Nicolas and Nouschka have been wasting away their youth and potential for years. Everything they do is guided by their desire to feel loved by their parents and they spend the whole novel trying to find that parental guidance and comfort. Étienne, now a has-been, is desperately trying to stay relevant and regain Quebec’s love yet he constantly misses the mark. Even Quebec is trying to find its identity; its relationship with the rest of Canada and the separatist movement plays in the background throughout the whole novel.

Even though The Girl Who Was Saturday Night touches on intimate and difficult subjects, it also has humorous and hopeful undertones. I found this refreshing as even though I liked reading O’Neill’s previous novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, I found it to be a bit sad and frustrating to read at times. In contrast, it feels like there is hope throughout this novel that the Tremblay family can get everything together and live happily and harmoniously. As a reader, I need this hope to stay interested in the narrative and by the end of the novel I was so invested that the Tremblays’ problems became my problems; their failures my failures; their successes my successes.

I don’t want to gush about the novel too much more (although it deserves all the praise that I’m giving it) so I’ll just leave you with one of my favourite quotes from this beautifully crafted novel.

“As we sat… we began to move very slowly, so that we could guess the meaning of each other’s gestures more precisely. We both pretended that we had picked up a toothbrush and we began brushing our teeth. Then we both spat into a non-existent sink together. We put our toothbrushes into their immaterial stands. We both picked up our imaginary combs and we pulled them through our hair. When we were done with our hair, we dipped the tips of our fingers into invisible tins of wax. He twirled the end of his imaginary mustache. I twirled the end of mine.

And the most amazing thing about our performance was that we had identical tears streaming down from our eyes at the very same time.” Heather O’Neill, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

Verdict: A poignant, heart-wrenching read. It’s gripping and shows a unique side of Canada. Another five star read for me.
Read if: You loved Lullabies for Little Criminals, are new to O’Neill’s work, appreciate great writing, love characters that you can fall in love with. They will love you back.

Have you read The Girl Who Was Saturday Night and/or Lullabies for Little Criminals? What did you think?