Friday, May 22, 2015

Canada's Literary Regions with Caro

Map of Canada
"Political map of Canada" by E Pluribus Anthony, transferred to Wikimedia Commons by Kaveh (log), optimized by Andrew pmk. - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Common
Hi everyone, this is Caro from BBI and A Girl that Likes Books.  Well, I don't know about you, but it has certainly been a fun month here at Book Bloggers International. One of the reasons I was so excited by this month's subject, is that even though it has been 6 years since I first moved to Canada, there is a lot of things to learn from people in other regions. And it's precisely the topic of the different regions in Canada that got me to write this post. 

Talking to other bloggers, I realized that a lot of terminology that I've become used to, might not be that obvious, so here I am trying to explain the different regions. Please keep in mind that I am doing this based on my own knowledge (with the help of our friend, Internet) and that some parts might be off. Please feel free to point out things I missed out or that I got wrong. Just be polite doing so ;).

Canada is divided in 13 provinces and territories: British Columbia (BC), Alberta (AB), Saskatchewan (SK), Manitoba (MB), Ontario (ON), Quebec (QC), New Brunswick (NB), Prince Edward Island (PEI), Nova Scotia (NS), Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), Yukon (YT), the Northwest Territories (NT) and Nunavut (NU). Now, I won't talk about the political (senate related) divisions, because honestly I don't know how influential these divisions are into a literary level, but I would rather start with the 6 region model, since it comprises one of the terms that made me write this post.

On the 6 region model, BC becomes Pacific Canada; AB, SK and MB are called the Prairies; ON and QC remain the same; while PEI, NS and NL are put together as Atlantic Canada and finally YT, NT and NU are grouped as Northern Canada. As you can see, this division has a lot to do with geography and more importantly to the main landscape of each region. In the case of The Prairies, it refers to the great amount of grasslands in the area. Inevitably this type of division has a big influence on the literature coming out or being placed on each area. Recently I read As for me and My House by Sinclair Ross and while I didn't love the book completely, I gather it's another great example of the type of landscape you can find on SK, and hence the Prairies. If you are looking for contrast, I would suggest Runaway by Alice Munro, since these short stories are placed on both ON and BC and it might give you another view of these different areas.  

Then we have language division. As you might know, Canada has influences from both France and England. Documents from the government are issued in both English (59.3% of the population consider themselves Anglophone) and French (22.7% Francophone). Allophones, or non official language speakers (such as yours truly) comprise 17.6% of the population. You can imagine how language influences literary productions. Most of the Canadian authors that are known outside (or even inside Canada) are anglophone and I have to admit, that even though I live in Montréal, the only Québecois author I've read is Michel Rabagliati author of the fantastic series of graphic novels with Paul as the main character. I know other authors, such as Michel Tremblay, but I haven't read any of his books. His books are written in "joual" which is Québécois sociolect (jargon or dialect, of which you can find up to 9 different French-Canadian ones) and it's still hard for me to read it. 

But coming back to the differences in literature in English and French here in Canada; QC is a francophone province with 80% of the population being native Francophones and 95% being able to speak it as 1st or 2nd language. NB is a bilingual province and has the Acadian dialect. It is important to know that you can find Francophones all over the country, but only these 2 provinces recognize French as their official language. 

Canada has a very high immigration rate (20,6% of population being consider an immigrant in 2011), and hence a very varied population. From Statistics Canada site:
"Of the immigrants who had a single mother tongue, close to one-quarter (23.8%) reported English as their mother tongue and 3.4% reported French. Among those whose mother tongue was other than Canada's two official languages, Chinese languages were most common, followed by Tagalog, a language of the Philippines, Spanish and Punjabi"
So it is no wonder that the literary production is also influenced by so many cultures converging here. Proof of that are the two last books that I've read with the Hello Hemlock book club (which by the way, if you are looking forward to expanding your CanLit horizons, go ahead and join) Moving forward sideways like a crab by Shani Mootoo and Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz. I haven't finished the latter, but it's building up to be at least a 4/5 for me. 

There you have it, the big Literary Regions or divisions that I can differentiate so far. Once again, I am sure there are things I am missing, so please, share with us!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Featured Blogger: Darren From Bart's Bookshelf.

Today please welcome Darren, who blogs at Bart's Bookshelf.

What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?

I picked up the nickname Bart many years ago, and I liked the alliteration of Bart's Bookshelf.

How long have you been blogging?

I can't quite believe it, but since 2008!

Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?

Well , I'm not sure about unique, but certainly male book-bloggers are in the minority, how different that makes my voice? I don't know...

What genres do you write about most, and why?

Well, it's not a genre, but certainly young adult books make up a large percentage of my reading, but as an actual genre, I'd probably say some form of fantasy or any of its sub-genres.

Every blogger feels pressure at some point. What's something you feel pressured to do or not do on your blog? How do you deal with it?

Honestly, can't say I've ever felt that much pressure, I've always kept the rule that blogging should be fun, and when its not, I step away.

That said, the last couple of years have seen a couple of blogging/reading slumps that have been hard work to get going again.

What's one book you think everyone should read?

Nation by Terry Pratchett

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?


What's your favorite place to read or blog?

Absolute favourite place? Tucked away in a quiet corner of a hotel bar, in some foreign clime for an hour or two before bed. :) As that unfortunately does't happen very often... Most of my reading is done on the bus.

Do you judge a book by its cover, or its lover?

Bit of both, blogging has brought some fantastic books into my life, but I am also easily seduced by a great cover!

One book you like that no one else seems to, or vice versa?

I just couldn't get into The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

If you could go to any literary destination, where would you go?

Diagon Alley!

How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?

I really enjoy trying different craft and real ales, it's definitely quality over quantity these days!

Music is also an important part of my life and I love going to see bands play live, when I can. I also seem to have developed an addiction to vinyl LPs again.

What's your favorite book to movie adaptation?

Least favourite, probably The Golden Compass. Favourite: The Lord of the Rings.

What is your reading personality? (via quiz at

The All-Rounder

Your responses showed you fitting equally into all four reading personalities:

Involved Reader: You don't just love to read books, you love to read about books. For you, half the fun of reading is the thrill of the chase - discovering new books and authors, and discussing your finds with others.
Exacting Reader: You love books but you rarely have as much time to read as you'd like - so you're very particular about the books you choose.
Serial Reader: Once you discover a favorite writer you tend to stick with him/her through thick and thin.
Eclectic Reader: You read for entertainment but also to expand your mind. You're open to new ideas and new writers, and are not wedded to a particular genre or limited range of authors.

Thank you for joining us today, Darren ! Remember to check out 's blog, Bart's Bookshelf, and leave a comment or question.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Prairie of One’s Own with Tania and Kirt

Today please welcome Tania and Kirt, who blog and podcast at Write Reads .

Kirt sends his apologies as our recording software is having some issues and so we could not record a special podcast for this post. He is busy trapped in a small room muttering obscenities at a computer trying to get our latest podcast out.

Kirt and I started Write Reads in 2012 after the loss of the bookstore where we worked. We didn’t start it as a CanLit podcast, but we quickly decided Canada should be its focus. There are many reasons we made that decision, but when it boils right down to it, we love Canadian authors and wanted an excuse to chat more about them. Wish it were more interesting than that. Sorry. Yes, I’m stealing Laura’s “Canadian Sorry” joke from her post. Sorry.

As I read BBI, I am so happy to be among so many of my favourite Canadian book bloggers, and I love seeing that, for many people, there is a pretty amazing sense of pride about the art their country creates. I couldn’t be happier with how many passionate Canadian book bloggers we have become friends with, or with how many Canadian authors we have come to know and love through our podcast, especially some of the lesser known ones. I have to list some of those so more people will know about them. See? There’s that pride I was talking about. Sean Dixon (The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal ), Nicole Lundrigan (The Widow Tree), Laurence Miall (Blind Spot), Amanda Leduc (The Miracles of Ordinary Men)

But, as usual, I digress. We’re here to read about why I love Canadian fiction. I’ve thought about this question a lot over the years, and it was actually in writing this piece for BBI that I realized something quite important to me.

There is some fiction we read because it helps us find a path to know ourselves better. The fiction that helps us along the journey of self-discovery, and provides us with a sense of “home” within ourselves. I was raised by two immigrants, and I know that books about the immigrant experience in Canada helped them to, as Cameron Bailey expressed it in this year’s Canada Reads, be okay with feeling constantly in between, constantly both. The immigrant experience of finding your place can be a very rough one, and I feel a little silly even writing this, but it can be a smidge tough to find your place as the child of immigrants. Your parents are wanting you to maintain their culture, but you would like to explore the culture of the place where you were born. For me, as a first generation Canadian, it was not really the stories of immigration that helped me find my place in the world, it was the stories that expressed a history of the Canadian culture, a culture whose existence and definition even Canadians doubt exists. Now, for some reason, I had never really put my love of CanLit and my being a first generation Canadian in the same sentence, but if you bear with me on my first attempt to express this, I hope it makes sense.

My dad is Italian and my mom is Costa Rican. I was raised with two very strong cultural influences, by two very strong personality types. Finding my sense of self, and how I fit into their cultures and the Canadian one, is a meandering, confusing, and ultimately fabulous path that I would not enjoy nearly as much without my books. I have spent most of my life in Canada in the Prairies. While I love Canuck fiction about all areas of the world, and about all topics, the books and authors that have really changed my life are the ones who write about the Prairies.The ones that showed me that where I live has a culture and a history, and most importantly, a beautiful and significant natural environment: the mountains, the fields of wheat, the friendly people, and that impossibly beautiful, huge prairie sky. W.O. Mitchell, Margaret Laurence, Thomas King, and so many others brought me to the realization that I had a place in the world, a place that could be somehow both outside and within my other cultural backgrounds. A prairie of my very own.

Thank you for joining us today, Tania and Kirt ! Remember to check out their blog and podcast at Write Reads and leave a comment or question.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Featured Blogger: Vivien from Reading in Wonderland

Today please welcome Vivien, who blogs at Reading in Wonderland.

What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?

Before I created my blog, I talked to two of my friends. But, we couldn't agree on anything. So, I combined two of my favorite things: Alice in Wonderland+Reading+ Reading in Wonderland.
Unfortunately, that url was taken.

How long have you been blogging?

6-7ish months

Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?

I make too many references to random things. Pop culture references, music references, books, fangirl, etc. I dish out my feelings with almost no filter. I use too many gifs to aid this process.

What genres do you write about most, and why?

I read mostly Fantasy and Contemporary books. I love Fantasy books because I really enjoy seeing an author's creativity. I love seeing how well they translate their ideas to words. But, after reading too many Fantasy novels. I NEED SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Every blogger feels pressure at some point. What's something you feel pressured to do or not do on your blog? How do you deal with it?

I feel pressure to write AMAZING reviews that get featured into books daily. Unfortunately, I don't read that fast and I have to contribute to goodreads. So, I kinda made a really unorganized system.

What's one book you think everyone should read?

Stolen: A Letter to my Captor. ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOK.

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?

IT'S A SIN! There's a reason why post-its and notepads were created....

What's your favorite place to read or blog?

I love reading on my couch, balancing on a leg of a chair, or on my bed. Unfortunately, my laptop is messed up so I have to use the desktop computer in my parents' room.

Is the evil empire? Discuss.

YES! It distributes weird smelling books... ok.... that happened once. I prefer getting books at my local book store. Amazon ruins book shopping. I love running around the bookstore looking for book and grabbing it once I find it.

Book shelfie time! Take a "shelfie" of your bookshelves and share it with us.

Eh...better not...I'm insecure with my face

What have you learned from other bloggers or your readers?

How to write better reviews.

Do you judge a book by its cover, or its lover?

I judge books by their covers. I mean, everyone does. You look at a cover before you read the synopsis.

One book you like that no one else seems to, or vice versa?

Any mainstream book that booktubers spoke about let me much hype over such poorly/unintriguing books

To DNF or not to DNF?

DNF very bad books with no substance

What's one book that intimidates you?


If you could go to any literary destination, where would you go? no. Probably into the Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?

I cook or yell at people. Food & Raging=Life

What's your favorite book to movie adaptation?

Least favorite: Percy Jackson
Most: ANYTHING Nicholas Sparks

What are 3 favorite posts or reviews you've read by other book bloggers?

Vivian Divine Is Dead by Khanh
Kill Me Softly (Beau Rivage, #1)  by Khanh
Shatter Me by Emily May

What is your reading personality? (via quiz at

The All Arounder

Thank you for joining us today, Vivien ! Remember to check out 's blog, Reading in Wonderland. , and leave a comment or question.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ten Canadian Classics to Grab When You’re Oot and Aboot, Eh with C.J from Ebookclassics

Today, following with out Canadian Book Bloggers event, please welcome C.J, who blogs at ebookclassics.

As any Canadian reader and lover of our homegrown talent knows, you can’t quite put a finger on what exactly is Canadian literature (otherwise known as “CanLit”). The question has been mused and discussed to death, but remains as author M. G. Vassanji described as naively wandering into a wilderness whose landscape is forever changing and returning with the bewildered understanding that the essence you were trying to locate was merely an illusion.

Although I’m far from being an expert, here are ten of what are considered essential CanLit classics if you too would like to start exploring the vast wilderness of Canadian writing. Have fun!

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (1908) - The tale of Anne Shirley, a little red-haired girl who is adopted by a middle-aged brother and sister in Prince Edward Island, has charmed generations of readers since publication. Anne’s genuine delight with the world and an exuberant positivity that wins the heart of her community makes it also difficult for the reader not to feel like everything is going to be okay for them too.

The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence (1964) – Readers have a love-hate relationship with The Stone Angel. In this story, we are caught up in the thoughts of ninety year-old Hagar Currie Shipley which is not pleasant since she’s an angry and bitter woman. Looking back at a life full of painful memories, Hagar realizes that she always let her pride get in the way and maybe now it’s too late for her to make amends.

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies (1970) – The first book in the Deptford Trilogy, the title is a reference to a person in a performance who is not directly involved in the scene, but whose sole purpose is to observe and comment on the action. In this case, Dunstan Ramsay writes a very long letter to the school headmaster where he teaches about how his life is intertwined with several other people and the mysterious forces at play that he may be influencing.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985) - A searing dystopian set in a totalitarian society and about a woman who belongs to a class of concubines who are kept by the elite ruling class for bearing children. Even though the book is considered standard reading in some high schools, at least in Canada, the book has been frequently challenged since publication for being too explicit.

Generation X by Douglas Coupland (1991) – The story is about three friends drifting through life and unable to find an outlet for their dreams, anger and boredom. The author is credited for creating the now widely-used term for anyone born between 1960 and 1980, and other acerbic vernacular like McJob, occupational slumming and clique maintenance. By articulating the mood of a generation, the book took on a life of its own as an influential guide for marketing and the media.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992) – Switching back and forth in time from the present to the flashbacks of the mysterious burned patient, the lives of four emotionally impaired strangers intersect at an Italian villa during World War II. The book won the Booker Prize and Canada’s Governor General Award in 1992. The character “Kip” comes from Michael Ondaatje's nickname at school, a reference to cooking oil stains on his exercise books which reminded other students of kipper fish canned in oil.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2001) – After surviving a shipwreck, a young Indian boy becomes stuck on a boat with a Bengal tiger and has deep discussions with the tiger about life and religion. The book won a number of awards, including the Man Booker Prize in 2002. President Barrack Obama wrote a letter to the author saying he read the book with his daughter and it was, “... an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling.”

Hateship,Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro (2001) – A collection of short stories, including the author’s best known story, “The Bear Came over the Mountain”, which is about a husband’s devastation when his wife develops Alzheimer's disease and forgets they are married. Alice Munro has been highly recognized for her writing winning the Nobel Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 2013, the Man Booker International Prize in 2009 for her lifetime of work, and many other awards.

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden (2006) – The story moves between Northern Ontario and the battlegrounds of Europe during World War I following two Cree friends who leave their home to fight in the war. Niska, an Oji-Cree medicine woman, who is still deeply entrenched in Native culture and traditions, assists the sole survivor with the Three Day Road, sharing stories she hopes will either help him prepare for death or ultimately heal his soul.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (2007) – Also known under the title, Someone Knows My Name, this award-winning book was recently adapted as a TV series. The story depicts the life of Aminata, an African woman who is captured and forced into slavery in the United States. Lawrence Hill explained that even though he had historical reasons for using the word “Negro” in the title, he understood African-American readers could find it offensive and hence why we have two different titles.

Thank you for joining us today, C.J! Remember to check out 's blog, ebookclassics, and leave a comment or question.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Why I read Canadian literature with Shannon from Curled Up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea.

Today please welcome Shannon, who blogs at  Curled Up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea.

When I was in high school, most of the books we had to read in our English classes were Canadian literature.  I remember reading Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, Michael Ondaatje, and others, and I remember not being very impressed.  At the time I wanted to read all the classics that were typically read in high school - The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc. I’m embarrassed to admit it now, but back then, I just didn’t think Canadian books would be good.

As I got older, as I became an adult and had children I began to realize just how much I appreciate being Canadian.  As I learned about what my father and his parents went through to come to this country, as I began to see the importance of Canadian citizenship through the eyes of my immigrant husband, I decided to give Canadian literature another chance.  Knowing how important Canada is in the story of my family, I wanted to read all of the other stories Canada has to offer.

And my goodness, the stories we have to tell.  Canadian Literature (also known as CanLit) takes you on a journey throughout the world.  We have indigenous voices (Joseph Boyden and Thomas King), Caribbean voices (Austin Clarke and Nalo Hopkinson), Asian (Kim Thuy and Vincent Lam), South Asian (Michael Ondaatje and Padma Viswanathan) and more.  We tell the stories of gay youth (Raziel Reid) and the transgendered (Kim Fu.)  Our stories will make you laugh (Terry Fallis) and cry (Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer.)  We travel to the past (Lawrence Hill) and the future (Margaret Atwood.)

For me, being a Canadian reader can be summed up in one week in March.  Canada Reads is a series of televised debates about books.  Five books are chosen, each one is given a celebrity defender and by the end of the week we have the one book that all Canadians should read that year.  Books that have won have been about slavery, immigration, the First Nations, and resistance fighters.  This is definitely one the best times of year to be a Canadian book blogger and I’m fairly certain more people watch the book debates than they do political debates.

Over the years, I have fallen head over heels in love with Canadian literature.  Every time I read it, I fall in love with my country just a little bit more.  It’s not just about a book being set in Canada (a lot of great CanLit takes place outside of Canada), there is something in the writing that makes it uniquely “us.”  It pains me now, at the ripe old age of the mid-thirties, to think about how many great books I missed out on when I was younger because I didn’t think the books would be good enough.  I am doing my best to get all caught up though.

Thank you for joining us today, Shannon ! Remember to check out Shannon's blog, Curled Up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea., and leave a comment or question.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Blogging in Canada with Laura from Reading in Bed

Today please welcome Laura, who blogs at Reading in Bed

The internet is supposed to erase geographic boundaries and blogs are no exception; part of the allure is that our humble little posts can be read by anyone, anywhere. Just this past month, I’ve had people from Vietnam, Ethiopia, Greece, and Bermuda land on my Canadian blog, Reading in Bed. In fact, the largest portion of my visitors are American. Book blogging is truly an international community, but there are a few things that set us Canadian book bloggers apart. Some have to do with the geography, and some have to do with reading so much CanLit.

Literary Scenes: Not Just in Toronto!

Like writing a book, you can blog about books from anywhere. As soon as I put “CanLit” in my tagline, though, and started to cover not just the books, but the “scene,” geography became much more important. Book bloggers in urban centres have a lot more to work with, sure, but don’t think you must live in Toronto to get involved. Canadians are used to being far-flung and isolated, so our regional literary scenes are quite well developed.  I live in a pretty big urban centre myself (#yeg – that’s Edmonton, Alberta to the uninitiated) and and I’m always overrun with readings and festivals. But small communities are killing it, too:
  • I missed “En Vino Novellus” in Canmore, Alberta, by just a few days. Yes, it’s a wine and literary festival. Angie Abdou read from her latest, Between (my review.)
  • I also missed Fog Lit Fest in my spiritual hometown of Saint John, New Brunswick, featuring Ian Weir and his lastest, Will Starling (haven’t reviewed yet but it’s a gooder.)
  • The Cabot Trail Writers Festival in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, is on my favourite Canadian island and featured one of my favourite Canadian authors last year – David Adams Richards.
True, when it comes to the big name authors and the big trade shows, you’re probably best off in Toronto. Hell, I’m going to New York this year for BEA. But even the small-town blogger can probably find some kind of event to cover. And if all else fails, all Canadians tune into Canada Reads, even if we think Canada Reads is kind of dumb.
Local books
#CanLit in Edmonton

What the hell is CanLit Anyway?

Even bloggers who aren’t into their local lit scene tend to promote Canadian lit. I’ve seen Canadian Book Bingo and various CanLit challenges throughout the blogosphere. Must be all those years of CanCan (enforced percentages of Canadian Content on television and radio.) But what exactly is CanLit? Who’s included, and how do we talk about it?
Canadians are known for having an inferiority complex, and it’s apparent when we’re deciding who gets to be included in CanLit. I saw some talk about Eleanor Catton being a Canadian author when she won the Man Booker and it’s like – really? She was born here, but moved to her parent’s home country, New Zealand, at age six. I’d love to claim her too, but, nah. Then there are authors like Patrick deWitt, who was just in town to pick up his Macewan Book of the Year award, who seems to be a permanent resident of the States, and writes about the States. And recently, I tweeted about a Arsenal Pulp Press title I saw on Book Riot, with a #CanLit hashtag (there’s that inferiority complex again – look! Americans are noticing us!) but then realized the author is American, so – is that CanLit? (The book was Lost Boi by Sassafras Lowery and it’s a “queer punk” retelling of Peter Pan!)
Once you decide WHO to include in CanLit (pretty much anyone!) a blogger’s got to consider WHAT it is, and what to say about it. I mean, apart from financially supporting our authors, why do we talk about CanLit as a separate thing from American Lit (or, you know, “lit”?) Is CanLit funny? Is it good, even? Is it all too grant-subsidized, too nature-y, too stuck in the past? CanLit as a culture seems to have a few issues, that’s for sure.
My take? Promoting CanLit makes Canada a better place for writers to be, which makes Canada a better place for readers and bloggers to be (see above re: literary festivals and events, also it’s fun to work with local publishers and shop in local bookstores.) So my interest is very selfish. That’s not very Canadian of me at all, is it?
(Get it, because Canadians are always apologizing?)
Thank you to Caro for the opportunity to write about blogging in Canada! I’m looking forward to reading about the book blog scene in other countries..
Thank you for joining us today, Laura ! Remember to check out Laura's blog, Reading in Bed, and leave a comment or question.