Mabel Murple – Sheree Fitch

“What if there was a purple planet with purple people on it…?

mabelHow many times did I read those lines, the opening words of Sheree Fitch‘s children’s book Mabel Murple to my kids? About a billion. Fitch ranked right up there with Dr. Seuss when my kids were little. They loved her clever rhymes and I loved reading them aloud. (For me, Mabel might have just been edged out by There Were Monkeys in My Kitchen. That book uses the word Gorgonzola, so come on. ) We could happily read Toes in My Nose every night before bed. I’d like to think that Fitch is a staple in Canadian households, but if you haven’t heard of her I can highly recommend her books. They are classics!

On Sunday July 7, my son Connor and I were heading home from visiting my daughter Mallory in Halifax. It’s a straight shot on a twinned highway between Halifax and Saint John and on a good day you can do it in under four hours. But it’s a journey I have made several times since my daughter moved to Halifax to attend NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) a year ago. It’s quick and it’s boring. Connor and I both love to drive and we both love to get off the beaten path. We had music (my choices excellent; his not so much) and it was a perfect day. My brother had mentioned the Sunshine Coastal drive to me before we’d headed to Halifax and so we decided to check it out on our way home. When we hit Truro we headed towards New Glasgow instead of Amherst. We picked up Hwy #6 in Pictou and it was so worth the detour.

So, we’re cruising along, windows down, ocean to our right, green as far as the eye could see and right before River John I see the sign (had I blinked I would have missed it) for Mabel Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery

Truthfully, I was as excited about this discovery as I was about entering Shakespeare and Co. in Paris last summer. I knew about this little oasis and it has been on my book bucket list, but I didn’t know that our spontaneous detour was going to take as right past it. Yet, there it was. I think my shriek of delight scared Connor half to death.

fitch2 - Copy

If there is a more idyllic spot, I don’t know where it is.  It is literally down a dirt road, a burst of colour on a gorgeous plot of land. I can only imagine how little fans of Mabel Murple must feel upon arrival because I was practically giddy.

After peering into Mabel‘s adorable house, and wandering the grounds visiting horses, a donkey, a couple goats and some chickens, we made our way into the book shoppe. It’s a delightful place. I am – no surprise – of the opinion that all book shops are delightful places, but this one is extra special. Mabel Murple‘s is geared towards children and carries a lot of Atlantic Canadian literature and I wanted to buy all the books. Of course I did.

fitch10As if that weren’t  enough, Ms. Fitch was there! She happily read (well, recited more like) Mabel Murple to a delighted child  (and all the adults who happened to be standing there, too) who seemed to know the words almost as well as she did. 

After making my purchase (a copy of Mabel Murple, of course and A Velocity of  Being, which has been on my tbr list for a while), I asked Ms. Fitch if I could get a picture. She graciously agreed. We stood outside her shop and chatted for a few minutes before Connor snapped the photo.

fitch1 - Copy

A perfect day! Thanks, Sheree!

P.S. Sheree will be reading in Saint John as part of the Lorenzo Society‘s reading series in November. Watch this space.

Easter ‘Book’ Hunt

So, before I begin preparing Easter dinner for the family, I thought I’d participate in The Savvy Reader’s Bookish Easter Egg Hunt. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend this rainy Sunday morning, and so with tea in hand I present my own book eggs.

1. Roses are red, violets are blue… Nope, I can’t rhyme. Instead, find your favourite book about love!

This is too hard because I love me a great love story, especially if it comes with a heaping helping of angst.

timetraveler

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

Henry and Clare and time travel and so many tears I couldn’t see the pages. Skip the crap movie and read this amazing book.

2. Dystopian novels are so 1984… Find a great dystopian novel!

knife-of-never-letting-go

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

Although I didn’t groove to this book the first time I picked it up, I did give it a second chance and I am so glad I did. I am not really a fan of dystopian novels, but this series has it all: sympathetic protagonists, cool premise (everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts), a relentless bad guy…and don’t even get me started on Manchee, the main character’s dog. The next two books in the series are The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men.

3. Book it to the library for a book that has aged like fine wine. Find a book you’ve read more than once and gets better every time you read it.

velocity

Velocity – Kristin McCloy

Velocity and I go wayyyyyy back. I bought the book at The Strand in the late-eighties and have re-read it many times. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I continue to love this book.

4. This book blue us away. What blue book can you find?

blue eyed

Your Blue-Eyed Boy – Helen Dunmore

I am a bug fan of Helen Dunmore, a British writer who, sadly, passed away in 2017. If you haven’t read her yet, I can highly recommend her work. Her novels have elements of psychological suspense, complicated family relationships, and beautiful writing always.

5. Past, Present and Future walk into a bar. It was tense. Find a book that plays with time in an interesting way.

 

life-after-life-

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson’s brilliant novel plays with the narrative form, skip-hopping readers through the main character’s life (lives), though it is not as confusing as it sounds. And very much worth the effort.

6. Check your shelf before you wreck your shelf. Find a great self-improvement book.

selp helf

Selp-Helf – Miranda Sings

I didn’t review this book back when I bought it, but I chose it for this category because I don’t really read self help books…plus, I love Miranda.

7. I like big books and I cannot lie! Look for a book that’s more than 500 pages.

fingersmith

Fingersmith – Sarah Waters

This book clocks in at 548 pages and won me best book at my book club the year I chose it (2010). It’s a fantastic novel set in Victorian England and, trust me, you won’t be able to put it down once you start reading.

8. I was in a relationship with an apostrophe, but we broke up… It was too possessive! Find a book with a complicated romantic relationship.

 

one-day

One Day – David Nicholls

This was actually a hard category for me because I LOVE me some complicated relationships…especially if the lovers are really damaged people, but in the end, I chose One Day because it’s awesome.

9. Take my advice… I don’t use it anyway. Find a book that you would recommend to everyone.

 

I am constantly recommending books – here, in my classroom, on the radio.  I could have chosen a million books, but I stopped at five:

Sadie  – Courtney Summers is one of my favourite YA writers and this book, her latest, is soooo good. Everyone should read it, not just teens.

A Short History of the Girl Next Door – Jared Reck is a teacher and this is his debut novel. I cried at the end of this book. LOVED it and recced it hard in my classroom.

My Sunshine Away – M.O. Walsh’s coming-of-age novel is beautifully written, suspenseful and heart-breaking and everyone should read it.

Everything I Never Told You – Celest Ng’s novel is just perfect and has stayed with me for a long time.

Descent – Tim Johnston has written a page-turner and  family drama in language that is beautiful without bogging the story down. And, trust me, this is one helluva story.

10. 4 out of 5 dentists recommend hockey. Find a good sports book.

now is thetime

Now is the Time for Running – Michael Williams

Although there is soccer in this book, it’s mostly about what happens when two brothers are forced to leave their African village.

I don’t read that many sports-related books. 😦

11. Bonus Question! Find a book cover with your name on it.

christie

The Christie part.

Happy Easter!

Off the shelf – Love stories

Listen here

Not all love stories are created equal. Sure, sometimes we want a squishy, feel-good tale of two people who can’t live without each other. But then, other times, we want something less happily-ever-after and more dangerous. So, I thought I’d offer up some Valentine’s Day reading suggestions both sweet and bitter – kind of like chocolate, really.

What makes a good love story? The answers are varied, of course, but there are some classics qualities that turn up over and over. A really skilled writer can steer couples away from the clichés and into the sunset.

PASSION – no one likes a wishy-washy love story. We want to read about characters that are ALL IN. Jane and Rochester from Jane Eyre.

MEANT TO BE – That sense of the inevitable, there’s just no way they can’t be together. It’s written in the stars. Fated. Romeo and Juliet, for instance.

MEANT TO BE, BUT CAN’T BE/ FORBIDDEN LOVE – This is one of my favourites. I love angst. Couples that are meant to be with each other, who are passionate, but – for a variety of reasons, just CAN’T be together. That’s my total jam. Buffy and Angel.

MEET CUTE – some unusual way to throw our lovers together.

Really great – okay, maybe I shouldn’t say ‘great’  – love stories find a way to hook our characters up, tug at their emotions (and hopefully ours) and make us feel all swoony or  – heartbroken, I like that too – at the end.

So here are a handful of LOVE stories, some traditional, some not so much, for your reading pleasure.

YOU – Carolyn Kepnes

EC4364B5-CF87-4ACD-9942-7867FDAC012ARead this book if you like a side of psycho with your roses and chocolates. This first person narrative tells the story of NYC book store manager, Joe, who falls in love with a beautiful wannabe writer, Beck. This is an interesting thriller because Joe isn’t your garden variety psycho. He’s crazy, for sure, but he’s also crazy smart. He’s instantly smitten with Beck and he finds a way to insinuate himself into her life. He wants her and he won’t let anything prevent him from having her. This is a page turner that’s actually really well-written. You can watch the series on Netflix, too. It’s a pretty true-to-the-book adaptation.

 

sadie

Sadie – Courtney Summers

Okay, this is not a romance novel by ANY STRETCH, but I have to include it on this list because I think everyone should read Courtney Summers and this book is getting a ton of buzz.

It’s the story of Sadie, a teen whose younger sister is murdered and the culprit is never caught. Sadie is pretty sure she knows who did it, and so she sets off to find him. Running parallel to her story is a true crime podcast about the crime. This is not a traditional love story, like it’s not boy meets girl, but it is about love…because Sadie puts her own life in jeopardy out of love for her sister.

Starry Eyes – Jenn Bennett

94B71DCC-2A46-44E4-90BF-CABC55A86A33Of all the books on this list, Starry Eyes is likely the most traditional. It concerns 17-year-olds Zorie and Lennon. They’ve been in each other’s lives forever and things were just starting to heat up when it all fell apart. When the story starts, the two are barely speaking to each other. Then they end up on a hiking trip together and things between to thaw between them. As teenage love stories go, this one is well-written, with believable, imperfect characters that it’s almost impossible not the fall in love with…as they fall in love with each other.

 

Simon versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli simon

This novel won lots of awards and praise and it is delightful in every possible way. Simon is 17. He’s amazing in every category: bright, self-aware and gay. He isn’t really out yet, but he has confided in Blue, a guy he’s met online. When another student stumbles upon Simon’s emails to Blue – too complicated to explain how that happens – and starts to blackmail Simon, life gets complicated. Watching Blue and Simon fall in love without meeting is pretty much the best thing ever. All the feels.

 Book Love by Debbie Tung

bookloveThis is an adorable book of comics all about the ways in which bibliophiles love their books. Tung is a writer/illustrator from Birmingham, England, and she has totally captured what it means to be in love with all things bookish. Never mind the candy, give your book-loving sweetheart this as a gift instead. Marie Kondo would definitely not endorse this book about buying/owning more books. That makes Ms. Kondo wrong, imho.

 

Off the shelf – looking ahead to 2018

Listen here.

I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions because it just makes you feel more miserable when you fail, but I do resolve to be a better reader in 2018. I am outing myself here, but 2017 was not a good reading year for me. If I look back at the titles I read in 2017 – there are really only a handful of memorable books, and I think I sort of got into a reading rut. My expectations were really high, but after a few bad reads I just sort of lost the plot, so to speak. So – as I look ahead to 2018 I am going to make a few changes in my reading life, not only in an effort to read more, but just in an effort to waste less of my precious free time. (Candy Crush – I’m looking at you!)

According to an article by Charles Chu at Better Humans, it is actually possible to read 200 books per year. 200! He did the math and that’s helpful for those of us who are mathematically challenged. Apparently, it would take the average reader about 417 hours to read roughly 10 million words at 400 wpm. And where are these hours coming from? Um – the average American, so let’s just say North American – wastes 608 hours a year on social media and 1642 hours per year on TV. Talk about a time suck. So, if you want to read more – put down your electronic devices and pick up a book

There are all sorts of reading challenges out there – something for book lovers of every stripe –  some that encourage you to Read Harder (as Book Riot’s challenge encourages you to do); or  PopSugar’s 2018 Reading Challenge. These sorts of challenges just give you a list of categories  and your job is to read a book that fits. Categories include things like “A book set at sea” or  “A  book with an ugly cover”. The one challenge I do every year is on GoodReads – which requires  nothing more from me than to decide how many books I am going to read over the course of  the year. I guess that’s 200 this year, right?

I think reading challenges can be good motivators – even just as a way to remind yourself to read (and no, Facebook doesn’t count!) – or as a way to help you decide what to read next if you get stuck. Also – if you tend to  read the same sort of book over and over, a reading challenge might encourage you to read outside of your comfort zone and that’s never a bad thing.

 

Book clubs are another great way to guarantee you’ll read this year. My book club has been at it over 20 years and although we have certainly read our fair share of duds – we’ve read a lot of great books, too. Book clubs are easy to start and can be as simple as meeting at a local coffee shop/ bar to discuss the book to hosting elaborate meals at members’ houses to discuss the book. All you need are a handful of people willing to read and meet on a regular basis and a few ground rules. I think the best way to find a book club is to ask around, but there is also a local chapter of Girly Book Club  – which is an international reading group started in the UK in 2014 and now boasts clubs in 6 countries. Kinda cool.

 

As for my own reading list for 2018? Oh dear. The list she is long.

At the top is John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down.

turtlesI love John Green and I bought this book pretty much as soon as it came out…and it’s been on my bedside table ever since. I know it’s easy to hate on John Green – but I kind of love him and he totally loves teenagers and writes them so well. Turtles all the Way Down is the story of Aza, her best friend Daisy, and Davis, the son of a missing millionaire who has disappeared. Aza is determined to find him to claim the reward.

I am also most anxious to read Celeste Ng’s second novel Little Fires Everywhere.

 You might recall that I was in love with her debut novel Everything I Never Told You alittlefires couple years back. Little Fires is set in the late 1990s in Shaker Heights, Ohio and is a story of  both a literal fire (one of the main characters watches as her house burns down in the novel’s opening pages) and figurative fires: race, rebellion, family tensions. By all accounts it is a literary page-turner. So I am looking forward to that,

I am also really looking forward to reading Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling

myabsolutedarlingThis is Tallent’s debut novel and despite the tricky subject matter – sexual abuse – the reviews have been uniformly fantastic. Stephen King called it a ‘masterpiece’ if you care about that sort of thing. It’s probably helpful to know going in that this is the story of Martin, a survivalist, and his fourteen-year-old daughter, Turtle and that – from the sounds of things – there is plenty to make readers super uncomfortable, but it’s also been called “a devastating and powerful debut.” So I have to read it.

Then of course, I will be adding scads of new titles to my reading queue courtesy of Litsy and the dozens of Best Of and Most Anticipated lists out there. I’m pretty certain my 2018 reading year is all booked.

Reflections on a year in reading, 2015 edition

I gave a little sneak peek of this list on Information Morning on December 7. Listen here.

It’s that time of year, top ten lists are popping up in all the usual places. I set a reading goal for myself every year…for no other reason than it helps me choose reading over Netflix. Sometimes reading loses, sadly. I keep a bookshelf over at 50Book Pledge. ca, which is a fabulous, easy-to-use virtual bookshelf site for anyone who likes that sort of thing.

Anyway, there are always bookish questionnaires floating around the Internet at this time of year that allow you to pause and take stock of your reading year. I am using The Perpetual Page-Turner’s awesome questions. I’ve done her questionnaire for the last few years and I really love looking back on the year.

Number of Books You Read: at this point 54, my goal was 60 but I didn’t make it.

Number of Re-Reads: 2

Genre You Read The Most From: YA (27 – I read a lot of YA because I teach high school English, but I do try to balance it out with other stuff.)

Non Fiction: 2

Fiction: 23

best-YA-books-2014

1.Best Book You Read In 2015?

Best YA: That’s a tie between Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz and Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Best Other: Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

hausfrauHausfrau – Jill Alexander Essbaum

I was pretty excited when this book was chosen for my book club. It was on a lot of top ten lists, but I hated it.
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

I am always surprised by books that have a lot of buzz that turn out to be just mediocre on so many levels. I’m thinking of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.

4.Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)? IF-YOU-FIND-ME

I am always recommending books – although I generally try to find ‘best fit’ books in the classroom because what is right for one student might not be right for another. That said, of the books I’ve read this year I’ve recently been recommending Emily Murdoch’s If You Find Me.

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

I loved Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne, and I loved its sequel Sky on Fire…then I got series fatigue, so I haven’t finished the series.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

YA – Stephanie Kuehn. I’ve read two books by her this year and I’ve loved them both.

Other – Big fan of Penny Hancock’s Kept in the Dark. I would definitely read more by her

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Can’t really answer this one because I typically don’t read outside of my comfort zone. For example, I am not a fan of straight-up sci fi, so I don’t have any on my tbr shelf and I probably wouldn’t be purchasing any.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

In the total page-turner department I read If You Find Me in pretty much one sitting. I was totally invested in those characters. I also loved This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Not likely going to be re-reading anything. You might remember I talked about re-reading this summer and I had high hopes to tackle Jane Eyre, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Velocity and of the three I only managed to get to Velocity.

10.  Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?

ruinsCome on, you know you can’t judge a book by its cover…but my favourite cover was probably Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter because Italy is my happy place and much of the book takes place there and the cover is so pretty, although I suspect it’s been photo shopped. I also loved the cover of Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod, a Canadian who gave up a good job to live and paint in Paris.

11. Most memorable character of 2015?

Oh, I met a lot of memorable characters this year – people I’ve thought about long after the final page was turned. I’m not sure I could pick just one.

12.Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

I think I will have to say Beautiful Ruins, although The History of Love by Nicole Krauss is pretty amazing, too. Both of those books manage to offer the reader style and substance.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?

Okay, well it has to be Donna Tartt’s massive The Goldfinch. I mean, Tartt just gives the reader so much to gnaw on…some of it frustrating, some of it extraneous and some of it absolutely, stunningly, remarkable. That was a book that made me laugh, made me cry and made me want to tear my hair out – sometimes on the same page.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read? 

I am going to interpret this question a little differently. Andrew Davidson’s novel The Gargoyle has been sitting on my TBR shelf for at least five years, but I only got around to reading it this year when it was chosen for book club. Sadly, it didn’t live up to all its hype.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?

“Whatever teaches us to talk to ourselves is important: whatever teaches us to sing ourselves out of despair. But the painting has also taught me that we can speak to each other across time. And I feel I have something very serious and urgent to say to you, my non-existent reader, and I feel I should say it as urgently  as if I were standing in the room with you. That life – whatever else it is – is short. “ – The Goldfinch

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt was the longest at 784 pages

This Is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis was the shortest at 176 pages

17. Book That Shocked You The Most

(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

Hmmm…maybe Kept in the Dark. 

OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

Aristotle and Dante….so much love for these boys – they were so richly drawn.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Elizabeth and Lauren from Roomies. I loved both those girls and the friendship they forged via e-mail.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers I read her novel Some Girls Are last year and loved it, and this one – a zombie novel – I didn’t actually expect to like as much as I did, but it was excellent. Summers is Canadian and she is a kick ass writer.

21. Best Book You Read In 2015 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure: Kindness

Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman was recommended to me by a girl in my grade eleven class. She loved it so much that she asked her parents for a copy for Christmas. So, when a student is that passionate, I feel obliged to move that book to the head of the queue. Sadie was right; this is a great book.

22. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

I think Josh Malerman did a pretty good job of creating a vivid setting in his horror novel Bird Box. It was pretty dang creepy.

23. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Oh dear – I’m not sure I could pick a book that I would consider the most “fun” to read. I read books that I enjoyed, but not because they were “fun.” Geesh, perhaps I need to read less gloomy books.

24. Book That Made You Cry or Nearly Cry in 2015?

The Goldfinch made me cry. Yep, not gonna lie. And this time – for the first time ever – I cried when I re-read Velocity. I’ve read that book 20 times, but I cried for the first time ever this summer.

25.  Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Amazing Grace by Lesley Crewe. I was mad that I wasted time reading it…and I wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been chosen for book club. I know people who have really enjoyed it and I even understand why they loved it – but for me…a world of no.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Kept in the Dark. I don’t know how many people know about this book, but it was really, seriously good – although perhaps the subject matter will squick some people out.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Ahhh, who doesn’t like a little soul-crushing? If You Find Me was heart-wrenching. The Goldfinch packed a wallop, for sure.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?

Hmmm. Not sure. Paris Letters, maybe. The House had the potential to be unique, but it was mostly silly.

 

book-blogging

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?

Sadly, I don’t follow any blogs regularly. I need to carve out more time for this because there’s so much great conent out there. 2015 was really a busy year for me. I am hoping things settle down some in 2016.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?

I thought I did a decent job of capturing my conflicted feelings about The Goldfinch. I also liked my review of Velocity, which is one of my all-time favourite books.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

My blog doesn’t actually get a lot of traffic – so not too much “discussion” happening. Something I should try to rectify, although I have always said that The Ludic Reader is mostly a place for me to gather my own thoughts about the books I read.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Again – this is something I need to get to make more time for. The only bookish thing I get involved with is The Write Stuff, a one day workshop/reading I help organize for students in Southern New Brunswick. We do have an amazing literary festival here called FogLit. It would be so easy to get on board…gah!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?

The absolute very best bookish thing that happened to me this year was having an email correspondence with Kristin McCloy, author of Velocity and Some Girls. It started with a brief exchange on Good Reads and morphed into a full-blown friendly chat via email which made my fangirl heart almost explode with bookish happiness. I LOVE Velocity. Imagine having the opportunity to actually tell the author what a book has meant to you and …insert head explosion here.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

It’s always being distracted by other things, I guess. I also think that setting a reading target worked against me a little. I felt, towards the end, I was whipping through books in an effort to meet the goal I’d set and so because I know I can do 50 I’m going to leave it at that and take the pressure off myself. I just want to read…

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

With 123 views, a thing I wrote about classics for The Nerdy Book Club got the most love.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

I think everyone should read the interview I did with my amazing son, Connor. He’s the only 16-year-old I know who read Madame Bovary of his own volition.

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Word Porn on FB.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Nope. Six books shy of my goal.

looking-ahead-books-2015

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016?

Ha. As if. Actually, Brooklyn by ColmToibin is my first priority. It needs to be read by the 7th for our first book club of 2016. I started it last night.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)?IMG_8859

All the books on my TRB shelf need some love. I am anticipating all of them.

3. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I honestly don’t follow what’s coming out in a rigorous way. I have so many backlisted books on my shelves; I am not a “I have to have that book as soon as it comes out” reader.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016?

I got nothing. Series drive me crazy.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2016?

I would like to find a way to be a more regular blogger. I am actually a fairly organized person, but in some ways I bite off a little more than I can chew in real life, and this blog often takes a back seat. I would like to change that.

6. A 2016 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

Nada.

Thanks again to The Perpetual Page-Turner for providing these questions and an opportunity to reflect on my reading year.

I hope 2016 brings you many happy hours curled up with a good book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet The Ludic Reader Jr.

If you are regular reader of this blog, then you may remember when my son, Connor, did a guest review of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. This week we spent not one, but two days at Indigo because Con was intent on spending $150 worth of gift cards and he couldn’t wait. That got me thinking about Connor’s love of books, and I thought he might make for an interesting interview subject. I sent him the questions and here are his answers, in his own words – with only minor editing for clarity. (He’s a writer, too, my son.)

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Tell me about where your love of reading began.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read (or being read to). I think I owe it to my parents for making me into the reader that I am today. When I was young – too young to pick up a book of my own free will – I was read to almost constantly; I’m willing to bet there wasn’t a night that went by where I didn’t read with some family member. And if my mom was not reading to me, my grandmother was, and this bled into my early childhood and then into my teen years, which makes it very difficult to pinpoint a precise time (think of trying to find a particular grain of sand on a beach). I really do think that a love of reading has a lot to do with genetics and so for the sake of clarity and of this belief, I’ll just say that my love of reading started in the womb. My conception is synonymous with my corruption, really.

Tell me about the first book you remember reading.

CoralineThe first book that I remember choosing and reading on my own is absolutely Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Every singular detail surrounding this book – details that, with any other book, would be vague – I remember in an almost frighteningly visceral way: the store from which I bought the book (Loyalist City Coin, a local second hand shop), the weather on the day in question (bright and hot; the pavement was steaming and the sky was aching blue), and all manner of other smells and sounds and little facets. Even the exact location of the book in relation to the store remains in my memory, with clarity: it was in a dusty plastic bin with other paperbacks right at the front door, practically on the front step, in a golden slant of sunlight. It was a bleak little thing, with a black cover and yellowed pages, a cracked spine, dog-eared pages and the title on the front in looping, blood-red script. I was taken by the cover artwork (by Dave Mckean) and the description on the back terrified me half to death, which I somehow knew meant that the book was good. When one looked at the front cover from a certain angle, blind spot glossed hands, rats, needles and threads jumped to life. I couldn’t refrain from purchasing it.

In my opinion, it’s one of the front runners of children’s fiction. The prose is, even by a middle grade novel’s standards, really quite beautiful. And it is for children –   the back of my copy, which reads Ages 8 up, strikes me as funny because if I were to have read this book as an eight year old, it would have had a much more profound and, perhaps negative effect on my psyche. The book is short (around 40 000 words) and weirdly sophisticated for its audience, with a strong and grim undercurrent of very disturbing themes that sometimes contradict each other (what I got out of reading it was mainly this: sometimes parents aren’t as present as you want them to be, but the real thing is always better than a replica). The plot follows a young girl called Coraline Jones (the running joke being that practically every character mistakenly calls her Caroline) as she enters the microcosm of flat-life. She lives in the flat below a crazy old man who claims to be preparing a mouse circus and above the flat of two (absolutely hysterical) old ladies – ex-actresses – and their bevy of Highland Terriers. To make a long story short, there is a door in Coraline’s flat that, one day, opens on to a brick wall, and then another day, does not. Coraline decides to venture through the door, and what follows is the most insane (albeit unfortunate) acid trip of a novel ever.

I love this book.

Tell me about the book that changed your reading life. let-the-right-one-in

Until about grade six, I was stuck in the endlessly rotating gyres of middle grade literature. I made my leap of faith to adult literature when I was about twelve, with John Ajvide Lindqvist’s vampire epic Let the Right One In. (The name alone still gives me chills, even though it is a reference to a Morrissey song.) It was an odd book for me to choose – I remember having little faith in it. (I’ve always thought vampire stories were a little bit campy. I’m not sure why I chose it if I didn’t think I would like it). I did end up liking it, however. A lot.

The story takes place in the early 1980s, in bleak and boring Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm. It centers on Oskar. Lonely, morbid, Oskar. He is tormented at school; his father is an alcoholic living a hermit’s life in the countryside; his mother is distant, and he spends a distressingly great deal of his time researching murder. One day, a girl named Eli moves in next door to him. She’s odd. She doesn’t smell very pleasant, she walks around in the snow in her bare feet, and she’s over 200 years old.

Vampirism, really, is only the underpinning to to this novel. Lindqvist uses it as a vehicle to explore any number of hopelessly depressing topics (familial dysfunction, alcoholism, bullying, pedophilia, murder, gender identity, drug use, loneliness). These themes, however,  are used very strategically to underscore some really important lessons throughout the book, the value of friendship (kitschy, I know) and the importance of parenting (do you notice a theme in my literature choices? I’m fascinated by parent/ child relationships and how they are portrayed in novels, what can I say?). The book plays host to a selection of other pleasantries as well: disfigurement by acid, a toothless 12-year-old boy prostitute – I’m sure you get the picture.

This book completely changed my reading trajectory. I’d never before been exposed to something that addressed sexuality and violence in such a stark way. Don’t let my descriptions put you off – Let the Right One In is a really beautiful read, with incredibly complex characters and a heartbreaking plot – I’m just not quite sure if I would ever reread it. It was sooo depressing.

How do you choose your books?

More often than not, I choose my books by their cover. And I know (or at least I think I know) it’s one of the unspoken rules of book-buying, but what purpose does a cover serve if not to influence you to buy it? Judging a book by its cover has served me well, and some of the best books I’ve ever read I’ve ventured with to the checkout without even reading the description.

You recently went on a book buying binge. Tell me about those books.

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I’ll just list my purchases and say a little about why I bought them!

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Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

I love the cover of this one (see!). It’s designed by my all time favourite graphic designer Peter Mendelsund, whose covers are pure genius. I also fail to understand what stream-of-consciousness writing is, no matter how many times my mom explains it to me, so I feel like the best way to learn will be to read something by the man himself!

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

I love the cover of this one. Also, almost every book that I bought was a classic because I never read classics which has suddenly become horrifying and unacceptable to me for some reason; I’m not sure what changed. I also love me a good, depressing novel as you probably now know, and this seems like it will be a good fit!

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A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride

This  is the only non-classic on this list. Also, did you know that I love the cover of this one? The writing in this one is weird as hell (really beautiful though) – it’s this confused, fragmented back-of-the-mind-speak. The plot seems hard to describe as well – it seems to just be about a woman, blindly navigating her life. I’m excited about this one.

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Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Nice cover (it’s the 50th anniversary edition). It’s also one of Donna Tart’s favourite novels which means I’m actually required by law to read it. I’ve actually started reading this book around three times, and I always get about 100 pages in, around which time I forget that I’m reading it. (Not a bad sign for Nabokov, I’m just senile).

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The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

My copy is a Modern Library Classic (they really hit covers out of the park). I’m not sure why I was so intent on getting this book, it just seems like a very calm and quick read, with just the right amount of miserable undertones. I wanted to buy my own copy of House of Mirth,  but this was the only Wharton the book store had.

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David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

I’m pretty sure Charles Dickens is about to become my main man. I’m more than half way through Oliver Twist and it seriously so good. That man can write a beautiful passage about death. David Copperfield seemed like a logical next choice.

You’re on a desert island and are only allowed three books. Which three and why?

Just three? Am I not allowed to bring three bookstores instead? Can I bring The Strand?

If you’re really forcing me to do this (I’ll have you know I’m calling CPS on you for making me do this horrible thing) I think I’d choose Shoplifting From American Apparel by Tao Lin (a really odd little semi-autobiographical novella about this really listless and passive guy doing a bunch of drugs), The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (the more I think about it, the closer this one comes to being my favourite. If I had it my way, I’d choose all three of her books but I didn’t think that would be fair), and, to throw a childhood favourite in there, The Ersatz Elevator by the king of opening lines, Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler.

Ok, it must be genetics. Like me, you buy more books than you’ll ever be able to read. What’s up with that?

Hey – I have like10 books to read. You have like 1000.

I know you are a book cover aficionado. Tell me about some of your favourite book covers.

I already mentioned that Peter Mendelsund is my favourite cover designer, next to Chip Kidd. I like Peter more, because he’s so minimal. I love his covers for James Joyce. I love his redesigns for Simone de Beauvoir, Koji Suzuki, Julio Cortázar, Plato. (Except I hate his designs for Dostoyevsky, sorry!) My mom bought me his beautiful coffee table book, Cover.

Recommend one book everyone should read.

secret_historyEveryone should read The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Other than that, everyone should read whatever they want. This is not to say that recommendations cannot/will not be enjoyed by whomever they are recommended to, I just think that venturing into the world of literature without a map is more exciting – and more important – than any recommendation I could give you. Ignore age and gender demographics. Read picture books, read middle grade, read literary fiction, read Harlequins shamelessly, read the most tedious collection of philosophy essays. It doesn’t matter.

As long as you’re reading.

Did I luck out when they were handing out kids, or what?

My ideal bookshelf – the 2015 edition

So last year, I invited my grade ten students to contemplate their reading lives in essays and bookshelves inspired by My Ideal Bookshelf. The project was such a huge success that I decided to do it again this year, and once more the results were terrific.

My colleague, Jenn, and I made a display in the main hall at school.

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I’d like to share some of the art and excerpts from some of the essays my students wrote. Thanks again to Thessaly and Jane for inspiring this project.

Paige A

Paige: My top three novels (Anne of Green Gables, A Monster Calls, Charlotte’s Web) may never have been considered anybody’s favourite, even though two are classics. To me, these books have meaning and memories attached to them. Some memories are happy and some sad. No matter what, though, I would never want to forget these books and certainly don’t regret reading them.

Destiny

Destiny: As my reading expanded, so did my desire for more of a challenge. I would ask around for new books, but the ones my mother suggested didn’t spark any interest and my sister Dominique, three years older than me, scared me away with her grumpiness and nobody else I knew liked reading. I suppose Dominique must have been in a pretty good mood one day to give me her favourite book, Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris and I have always been grateful. This one book that she loved so much was like a glimpse inside the head of a stranger I called my sister. It was then, as I was reading, that I realized maybe we weren’t so different after all.

Adara

Adara: I can remember when I was little, perhaps seven, I used to rush to get ready for bed just because if I did it quickly enough my mom would read to me and my brother. I would get some pjs on, grab my blue, fuzzy penguin blanket and pillow and settle in to hear her read a few chapters of Pawn of Prophecy. I used to get so disappointed when I didn’t get ready in time, but when I did it was some of the best times of my life. My mom has the perfect reading voice and I would get lost in the book and the sound of her voice. Every once and a while I ask my mom to read, just so I can hear that voice again.

Tatum

Tatum: Grade seven was my first taste of reading for enjoyment. Teachers practically shoved sappy novels down my throat: unrequited love, boy meets girl, the whole lot. But I hated the thought of romance; I liked gore and cussing. I thought I could only get that thrill from games played in the dark, but a fellow student taught me better. My first whiff was The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Sure, I’ve read many other books, but only because I was forced. But this time it was legit. I could not put this book down. This was my first taste of what was soon to be have an addiction because, as you know, one book is not enough.

Ben

Ben: The Green Mile was one of the saddest books I have ever read. I never knew Stephen King could write something other than a scary story. I really grew attached to some of the characters and finding out they died not long after the book ends was really heartbreaking. I often get really attached to characters in stories and if they die, it hurts a little.

Pierrette

Pierrette: My bookshelf is a collection of stories that represent who I am. From childhood stories to books I read on repeat like The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, each book means something different to me and represents a unique part of my reading adventure. As someone who dreams of being an author I hope that, even if my writing never reaches these great heights, my work will make someone pick up another book, fall in love with reading, and truly think about things in their lives.

Parker

Parker: A very important book to me is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because it is the first book I bought with my own money. Everyone told me that it was an amazing series and I knew I had to buy it. That was the first time I wanted a book so badly that I bought it myself and it was worth every penny. After finishing it, I loved it so much that I bought the other two books in the series.

Valerie

Valerie: My mother was my gateway to the world of books. I remember the nights she would arrive home exhausted after working all day and finishing classes in the evenings. Somehow she always managed to read to me and my brother before bedtime. I never questioned this time because I adored it far too much; however I did wonder why those moments were so important to my mother. I no longer ask myself that question as I am fully aware of the gift reading is in and of itself.

Chloie

Chloie: Every year I reread The Art of Racing in the Rain just to remind myself of how impactful reading can be, and to refresh my memory on this more beautiful way of seeing the world. I don’t think I will ever be able to pinpoint exactly why this book is so lovely, but it is the only book on my shelf I love enough to destroy. All my other novels are perfectly kept, no bends or scratches; that’s how I like it. But The Art of Racing in the Rain has pages folded down from my favourite parts, notes written in it and all my favourite quotes highlighted.

Ceilidh

Ceilidh: Teddy Bear Picnic was the first book that came to mind when I thought of an ideal bookshelf. I selected this book because when I was younger it was the one book I picked every time. My mother would use one of my stuffed bears to read it with and I loved listening to her use a fake voice.

Selda

Selda: I actually didn’t like reading books, but my brother loves reading. He gave me a few books when I was nine years old. He said if I read them, he would give me chocolate for each book I finished. That was a good idea. After a while, I loved reading books and he didn’t give me chocolate anymore. All kinds of books should be on my bookshelf: horror, drama, history, liberal education, love, comedy, tragedy. Books are amazing for me because I can live in my own world when I read. They are valuable like gold or silver.

Makenzie

Makenzie: Being a teenager isn’t easy and books have become a great way for me to relieve stress and broaden my perspective and understanding on a lot of things. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time  changed a lot of my views on mental illness and other disabilities. I’ve learned more from this book about happiness and self-worth than I ever would from a therapist. I suppose that is what books are – my therapists. I know no matter what I’m feeling or questioning, there is a book to help me find the answer. Whether it be through some magic time portal, someone’s true-life story or a cheesy young adult novel, I know there is something out there for me.