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?

Graphic Novel Review | Jane, the Fox, & Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault

Jane the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault Book Review

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher House of Anansi/Groundwood Books. This does not affect my opinion of the novel.]

Sometimes you go into a book after hearing it hyped up only to be disappointed. Sometimes you go into a book with no expectations and it completely blows you away. The latter happened to me when I picked up Jane, the Fox, & Me by Fanny Britt and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.

Jane, the Fox, & Me is a children’s graphic novel that follows a young girl named Hélène. Hélène has been the victim of schoolyard bullying for no apparent reason at all, and she copes by immersing herself in literature – Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, to be exact. Then, one day, she is forced to confront her peers as a school-mandated camping trip comes up. When they get there, Hélène feels more alone than ever. Will she ever escape the bullying? How can she convince her peers – and herself – that she is worthy of acceptance, love, and respect?

The first wonderful thing about this book has nothing to do with its content and everything to do with its design. This hardcover book is quite a bit bigger than your average paperback novel and slightly bigger than some standard graphic novels. I thought the larger pages worked really well as it allowed the artwork to really draw the reader in and command the reader’s attention.

Jane The Fox and Me Sample Page

 This is just a sample of the breathtaking artwork that can be found in Jane, the Fox, & Me.

That is not to say that the book relied solely on its artwork and space to do all the work. The second wonderful thing about Jane, the Fox, & Me is its writing. Britt manages to capture the feeling of loneliness so well that I felt my heart tugging as I read about Hélène’s time at school and how isolated she felt from her peers. The sentences are short and abrupt, and the language is easy to understand. Even though there is an underlying melancholic tone, there is still a glimmer of hope between the pages that is extremely comforting and reassuring.

As someone who was bullied in school, I could completely relate to Hélène. My heart ached when I saw how unhappy she was. Understandably, the bullying at school has affected her self-image, and I quickly became protective of her and wanted everything to be better for her. Perhaps that is why I couldn’t pull myself away from the pages; I just had to keep reading to make sure that Hélène would be okay in the end, whether it be because she finds solace in her reading or in a friend. I won’t say too much more as this is really a book that you should experience for yourself, but I will say that this is one of the most affecting graphic novels I’ve ever read, and would confidently recommend it to readers of all age groups. Loneliness is truly a universal feeling, and if we can’t immediately shake the feeling, then at least we can share our loneliness with loveable and relatable fictional characters, right?

Verdict: A book that would have been a helpful friend to me during my years in middle school. Jane, the Fox, & Me is a beautifully done, well-executed novel that delights in its relatability and immersive artwork. I can’t recommend it enough.

Read if: You want to lose yourself to a relatively short book that packs an emotional punch, you, like Helene, enjoy escaping the real world by reading, if you’ve ever felt lonely, sad, or just need a friend.

Have you ever escaped loneliness through reading? Have you read Jane, the Fox, & Me?

Graphic Novel Review | This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

We’re almost halfway through July and if you haven’t read This One Summer by cousins Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, I would highly recommend it. I think it’s going to be the graphic novel of the summer (and not just because it has the word “summer” in the title). Continuing their partnership after the success of Skim, their first graphic novel together, the Tamaki cousins have created a poignant and beautiful story about a young girl’s summer at her family’s cottage.

For as far as she can remember, Rose and her family have been going to their family cottage in Awago Beach. Her days there are filled with summery activities with her cottage friend Windy. This year though, things are slightly different: Rose’s mother seems more distant; she can’t seem to relax and her parents keep having small fights. At the same time, the teenagers that hang around the convenience store seem to be getting in their own kind of trouble. Will the cottage ever be peaceful again?

This book reads like a dreamy haze, like you’re reading and watching a snapshot of someone’s life. It makes you feel detached and involved at the same time. It reminded me of that one episode of HBO’s Girls in season 2 (“One Man’s Trash“) where Hannah spends a few nights at a stranger’s house, living his life for a while only to return to her real life afterwards as if it never happened. I could imagine Rose thinking back to that one summer and feeling the same way we do as we read the novel.

The artwork in this book is stunning. It’s so detailed and realistically drawn while keeping with the dream-like atmosphere. The book is printed with various shades of purple which I found was a good, unique choice. Jillian Tamaki does a great job illustrating This One Summer with innovative panels and she uses the space to her full advantage. Honestly, you can get lost in the art alone. (I sure did – every page was as breathtaking as the last.)

This One Summer sample page Mariko Tamaki Jillian Tamaki

Rose sits at the table while Windy waltzes around the room.

Of course, a graphic novel wouldn’t be a graphic novel without the writing. I love how the story juxtaposes idyllic summer cottage life with intense personal and family issues. Mariko Tamaki’s writing is short and sweet but I think it captures the thoughts of a young/teenage girl really well. Everything is written realistically and you can easily sympathize with the characters (except for certain teenagers…) I’ve read critiques that say “nothing happens” in the book but, because I read it as a glimpse into someone’s life, I found that comment to be unnecessarily harsh; we don’t see some of the conflicts resolved because the conflicts haven’t fully resolved themselves yet. After the summer the characters will still be figuring out their lives and moving on from the events that occurred. Personally, I found the story to be engaging enough for me to want to keep reading, especially when paired with Jillian’s breathtaking art. Plus, I do think that everything was explained quite well by the end of the novel and it made total sense to me. So do yourself a favour: pick up this book this summer. You will not regret it.

Verdict: Might not be everyone’s cup of tea (as indicated by the critique above) but definitely mine. It is poignantly written and structured with astounding artwork. I’ve already started my re-read and I will say, without a doubt, that this novel gets better with every read (the details revealed by the end will alter the way you read the novel the second time). I will definitely be reading this again and again.

Read if: You’re looking for a quick but beautiful read for the summer (or during the year when you want to feel like it’s summer), you like graphic novels, like novels that are realistic and probing.

Have you read This One Summer and/or Skim? Do you read graphic novels? What’s your favourite summer memory?