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.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Announcement: SIGN-UPS for Juneterviews!

For the month of May, Carolina is cooking up a great lineup of Canadian Book Bloggers to grace our site with features and guest posts.  I can't wait to see everything she comes up with. However, I am here today to talk with you about June.  Why?  Because we are going to be hosting book blogger interviews all June long.

But we're not the ones asking the questions. YOU are.

How fun does that sound, right?

Here are the deets:

1. Sign-up on the Google Form below to be a participant.

2. We will match you up with a blogger interview partner.  We want to match you up with someone you hopefully aren't close friends with - someone you can really get to know and help the community get to know, too!

3. You and your interview partner will get to ask each other questions and get to know each other in a conversational manner.  Instead of us providing you with form questions, we are letting you ask the questions. You can be as vague or as specific with your chat as you want to get.  How fun will it be when you can ask follow-up questions when they say something like, "I collect books I can buy for a quarter" or "Jane Austen made me hate historical fiction" or "I'm pretty sure I'm a Slytherin even though everyone thinks I'd be a Hufflepuff".  Or maybe you decide to ask complicated questions but only give one-word answers. You see my point.  FUN.  The conversation doesn't have to be long, but if you feel like rambling, we're not putting the brakes on you!  Enjoy yourselves!

4. So, how are you going to have these conversational interviews when you live across the country or across the Atlantic from one another?  You can chat via e-mail, Google hangouts, Twitter, Facebook messaging. Feel free to get creative if you want to video record your convo or make a podcast of it, you rock that out.

4. E-mail me (Becca) at with the "transcript" of your conversation interview.  Whether it is a video, audio, or text, we need the details!

5. I will post up your interviews and schedule them.  As we always do, I will link back to your blogs and include photos (or blog avatar) so the audience can put a picture with what they are reading (or hearing).

We will only be having sign-ups through Saturday, May 9th.

I will e-mail you with your interview partner info by Tuesday, May 12th.

You will need to get in touch with each other, make your plans on what kind of interview you want to do, get to know each other to your heart's content, and then e-mail us at by Friday, May 29th.

NOTE: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN UP IF YOU THINK YOU MIGHT BE TOO BUSY TO FOLLOW THROUGH.  IT WILL NOT BE FAIR TO YOUR JUNTERVIEW PARTNER.  If something unexpected comes up, we get it, it happens!  Just plan ahead and make sure to schedule enough time to hang out with your bloggy partner.  He/she will be doing the same for you.

I hope you guys are as excited to participate in this as I am to host you!  I think it will be tons of fun!  I can't wait to hear from you!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Doctor Strange and the Search for Vintage Comics

To close out Book Blogger International's comics and graphic novel month, the always-awesome Ryan from Wordsmithonia is here to tell us about his favorite vintage comic book character, Doctor Strange.

doctor strange vintage comics

December 4th, 2014 will always be a bittersweet day for me. It was the day that Marvel finally confirmed a hard release date for a Doctor Strange movie, a movie that I've been dreaming of since I was a kid.

Not to be too big of a nerd, but I love Doctor Strange. I'm one of those who can't wait to get to the flea market, where I can dig through all the dollar comics, all so I can go home with a stack of Doctor Strange books. I buy his solo comics, the issues of The Defenders when he was a member of that group, and I've even found a couple of What If? books that feature the Sorcerer Supreme. He has been my avatar on Twitter, my Blog, and on Facebook for years. He was even a featured character, the first year I did my Favorite Fictional Character posts. I even have an action figure of Doctor Strange, and I'm not afraid to admit it.
doctor strange action figure

For those of you who don't know him, think of him as a supernatural Captain America, charged with protecting our dimension from magical and demonic threats. Over the years he has faced numerous threats, fought for his life, and defeated countless demons and monsters, including Dracula. Since he's a super-hero, he has to have a back story, and it's his back story that gives that movie announcement the bitter edge.

Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, really did start off as Dr. Stephen Strange, a gifted surgeon to be precise. He was cocky, arrogant, egotistical, and just about every other adjective you can think of that means the same thing. That all ended in a car accident, turning that arrogance into bitterness and alcohol fueled anger. I'm not going to to into his journey, or how he found himself in Tibet, apprenticed to The Ancient One, but for the record, if you don't know it, you should read up on it before the movie comes out. Or you could watch the animated movie that Marvel released in 2007.

doctor strange
For years, because of the comic books, I've had an image in my head of who Doctor Strange is. What he looks like, his mannerisms, his attitude, and how he interacts with those around him, are concrete images in my head. Needless to say, when they announced that Benedict Cumberbatch was going to be cast as Doctor Strange, I was a little taken aback. I mean no disrespect here, but he looks nothing like what this character has always looked on page, and in my head. I think the man is a fine actor, and my even be able to pull the arrogance off, but I'm not sure the subtle nuances of the character are going to be highlighted the way they should. And to be perfectly honest here, I'm not sure I would have been any happier with anyone else. I think Patrick Dempsey had the look I was thinking of, but maybe not the depth I would hope for. I've even heard Viggo Mortensen bandied about, but I'm really not sure that would have been all that much better.

No matter what, I'm over the moon that this project is in the works, and that the movie is slated to be released in November of 2016. Until then, I'll still be hunting through the bins at the flea market, and praying up a storm that with the upcoming release of the movie, that the comic books aren't going to go up in price.

We hope you've enjoyed this month-long celebration of comics. Thank you to all the amazing bloggers who participated! Be sure to check out their blogs and keep the conversation going.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Having an Age of License with Lucy Knisley

Give a big howdy to Chris from Chrisbookarama, here to talk about An Age of License by the writer who turned her into a graphic novel reader, Lucy Knisley. Find out what Chris thinks about Knisley's latest!

age of license lucy knisley cover
I was introduced to the work of Lucy Knisley, and graphic novels, several years ago when I read French Milk. I absolutely fell in love with the genre and Lucy’s style in particular. Lucy ate her way through Paris while soaking up the sights with her Mom. It was delightful and touching. French Milk made me a Graphic Novel Convert. Last year, I bought Relish and thoroughly enjoyed Lucy’s stories of her food loving family and her travels around the world sampling each country’s delicious dishes.

What I love most about the graphic novels of Lucy Knisley is how I can live vicariously through her books. Travel, food, youthful enthusiasm, her books have all of these. In An Age of License, Lucy chronicles her book tour trip through Europe. First, a comic convention in Norway, romance with a new guy in Sweden, a visit with friends in Germany, and finally meeting up with her Mom in France. To be young and free! To have those kinds of opportunities! Lucy’s travel itinerary is one I’d like to follow myself.

The title of the book, An Age of License, comes from a conversation with one of the people she meets on her travels. He claims that is it “the time when you’re young and experimenting with your lives and careers.” While Lucy is experimenting, she’s also struggling to decide what path her life should take, much like the themes in French Milk. She still has career growing pains and romantic woes. She is having an Age of Licence but she is worried about the future and the next phase of her life.
page from an age of license

Lucy does realize that her life is privileged. She has had the opportunity to travel, partly through her work. She also has a variety of friends with amazing jobs whose homes she can stay. She addresses these privileges here unlike in her other books. It always surprised me at how much she could travel.

Obviously, I enjoy her books because her life is so different from my own. I wasn’t able to afford to travel at Lucy’s age. She tries out new things, She’s is very talented, and makes a living with her art. As she says, “It’s not wrong to travel and love and to be silly and lucky, or to even make work about it.” Maybe my own Age of License is behind me, if I ever had such a thing, but I think I can learn something from Lucy’s books. I can take chances, be optimistic, and curious about the world. Her books make me want to take my own adventures, cultivate my own international experiences.

If you have a lust for travel and a love of good food, you won’t be disappointed by Lucy Knisley’s graphic novels.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Sprawling, Epic, Mind-Twisty World of Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN

Please welcome the lovely Memory of In the Forest of Stories, on what makes Sandman a landmark graphic novel series and why it's one of her touchstone comics.

sandman neil gaiman
The Sandman, Neil Gaiman’s ten-volume horror epic, has ranked among my favourite comics for well over a decade. The series revolves around the idea that there are seven beings who embody the key elements of existence--and one of them, Dream, has been imprisoned for most of the twentieth century. The first volume, Preludes & Nocturnes, features Dream’s initial capture and escape; the rest of the series deals with the fallout from his imprisonment.

It’s intense stuff, tailor made for readers who want to wallow in a rich, complex world for upwards of a thousand pages. Sandman ain’t perfect, but it’s a remarkable literary achievement and I can’t help but love it, even as I recognize its shortcomings. No matter how often I return to it, the series never fails to pull me back in and entrance me.

Here are the top five reasons it’s always gonna be one of the comics in my book:

5. It sprawls.

Sandman doesn’t limit itself to a single focal point, time period, cast of characters, or storyline (at least on the surface). Neil Gaiman and a rotating bullpen of artists transport us to such varied places as early twentieth century England, contemporary Florida, ancient Greece, revolutionary France, imperial China, Faerie, Hell, and any number of other realms both fictional and non. Each volume approaches the core premise from a different angle, and Gaiman often pauses to tell smaller, self-contained stories in and around each multi-issue story arc. Three of the ten volumes are basically short fiction collections packed with tales that somehow impact the wider story without demanding the reader devour seventy-four other single issues in order to understand them, so it’s also easy for the new reader to enter the fray without directly engaging with an epic tale. (Though why you’d want to ignore the epic stuff is beyond me. It’s awesome.)

4. It’s different

Okay, maybe Sandman isn’t as different and shiny now as it was back in the day. After all, this was one of the formative comics series of the 1990s; a book that paved the way for DC’s non-superhero-focused Vertigo line and helped expand the mainstream reader’s conception of what comics could be.

When I first read it in the very early 2000s, though, it was unlike anything I’d ever encountered before. My previous comics reading had taken me deep into the American teenager’s quest for a date, the Silver Age superhero’s battle against deranged and/or extraterrestrial science, and the mutant’s struggle to protect a world that hates and fears her. Neither the handful of vintage horror comics I’d read nor the Sandman criticism I gulped down while I was searching for an affordable copy of Preludes & Nocturnes prepared me for this series. It changed my reading landscape with its twisting plot, its rich mythology, and its adult worldview.

Even now, SANDMAN isn’t quite like any other comic I’ve ever latched onto, even though I see its influence in a multitude of other books.

3. The mythology is rich and strange

Gaiman weaves together a vast number of threads from world mythology, making Sandman an excellent experience for anyone with a thirst for folklore. Faerie and Hell both play large roles, and the wider DC Universe encroaches from time to time. It's fascinating stuff, and the bits Gaiman invents wholesale is even more compelling than what he reinterprets.

There are seven beings who embody the essential elements of existence: Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium (who used to be Delight). They aren’t gods. They can’t die, though they can change. We probably need them very much, except maybe we could get along without them. Opinions differ. And even though they’re all-powerful and (probably) essential, they’re not always right.

Gaiman gives us a bucketful to internalize, sort through, and evaluate in and around the wider story. It’s tremendous fun.

When it’s not seventeen kinds of painful, I mean.

2. The characters are fascinating

As I said above, Sandman doesn’t limit itself to a set cast. While Dream sits at the series’ heart, he’s rarely the protagonist and often disappears from the book for several issues at a stretch. In his place, we get prehistorical African queens, young American women in search of their lost brothers, emperors and kings from a variety of nations, men who’ve decided never to die and stuck to that resolution down through the centuries, women with worlds inside their heads, talking dogs, angels, demons, faeries both royal and non, and time-displaced strangers trapped in interdimensional inns, to name just a few.

We also spend a fair amount of time with Dream’s siblings, my favourites of whom are Death, Destruction, and Delirium (not always in that order). Death is a practical, cheerful goth girl because it’s much more fun to be nice than to be creepy. Destruction is an enormous redhead who spends his days creating things, even though he’s utter shite at it. Delirium is scattered and sweet and vicious, terrifying one moment and heartbreaking the next.

Dream himself is not a particularly warm or welcoming person. He takes his duties seriously but rarely seems to revel in them, even when he’s obliged to do something that strikes me as particularly delightful. He’s mysterious and cold; the sort of person you find interesting rather than likable, but who is ultimately worth following wherever he leads.

1. It’s a puzzle

While most of the volumes can stand alone, Sandman still has a unifying thread running through it. Even when Dream receives minimal page time, his influence makes itself known over the mortals (and immortals) who can’t help but brush up against his world. After all, everyone dreams.

Well, almost everyone.

As things unfold, it becomes clear the varied storylines aren’t as discrete as they first seem. This character knows that one, who knows people from that other volume, who’re important because they know this thing that’s actually crucial to the wider plot.

Gaiman constructs his story with consummate skill, melding each disparate element to the next in often unexpected ways. Even the scenes that don’t directly impact the wider story still have consequences within this world. Everything is connected. Everything is important.

It makes Sandman an utter joy to read (again: when it’s not ripping one’s heart out and stomping on it). It’s a puzzle, yet Gaiman and the artists provide us with very little concrete confirmation as to how it all fits together. The reader must assemble it for herself, sans handy-dandy visual aid, and the picture she finally ends up with may not be the same as what other readers discover within the exact same text.

I’ve read the later volumes in the series seven times and the earlier volumes nine times, and I still notice new things with each reread. Sandman features such a wealth of mythology, worldbuilding, characterization, and careful plotting that it’s impossible to absorb it all the first time through--or the first ten times through, come to that. SANDMAN is complex and deep, and it rewards the rereader time and again.

It’ll always be one of my touchstone comics.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Score Free Comics During Free Comic Book Day!

Give a big welcome to Kai from Fiction State of Mind! She's here to talk about one of her favorite comic events. Is it a comic con? No, it's Free Comic Book Day! Read on to discover how you can participate.

free comic book day
Hello Everyone! I’m so glad Book Bloggers International is hosting this event. I’ll confess when I first started blogging I didn’t talk about comics, despite being a fan of them for many years. I guess I was worried I wouldn’t be taken as a “serious blogger” if I covered comics.

However I’ve gotten over that! I’ve been pleased to notice that a lot of bloggers have started reading comics and now we have this month long event!

As avid readers we can get very much stuck in genre ruts. With many of us watching our book buying budgets closely, we tend to stick to the same genres and authors. Comic books have really increased in price over the last few years so many of us wait for trade collections to turn up at our library or get them as digital trades on Amazon.

So today I wanted to talk about a wonderful yearly event that will allow you to explore more comic book genres and creators for free.

The first Saturday in May is Free Comic Book Day. Comic shops across the United States will have various titles available for free (really! Not a scam!). For us FCBD veterans the day is kind of like a geeky Christmas! Besides free books the store has really great sales, free sketches and giveaways, also balloons & face painters for children. If you’re really lucky some Stormtroopers from Darth Vader’s legion the 501’st might show up!

Here is how it works. Visit the FCBD website at In the left corner put your zip code in the Find A Participating Store link. Pick a store and plan your trip! Also on the site you will find a list of the comics being given away on the 2nd along with some previews.

Tips For The Day

  • Road Trip It! Every store will have different comics on the shelves so if there are several near you its fun to make a day of it and visit various stores. Each store also limits the amount of comics per person sometimes 3-5 per person is the maximum. So if you are going with your kids or friends you should be able to get some great books.
  • Beware Duplicates! Several of the books given out are flip books which means it will have two different covers. So let’s say you see a Scooby Doo book and next to it a superman animated series book. They may actually be the same book so do a quick flip to make sure the second book is different.
  • Consider a Purchase/Donation Though the books are free the individual stores do have to pay for them along with extra staff for the store, and talent fees. So if you see a cool T-shirt or any other goodie that calls to you buy it. Some stores will also let you get additional comics if you make a donation to their charity.
  • Expand Your Genres If you visit a few stores you should be able to get lots of comics, so take a risk and get some genres you might not have tried before. Here are my suggestions:

fight club comic
Fight Club

Dark Horse comics is known for its more adult themed comics like Hellboy and now Fight Club based on the bestselling novel by Chuck P.

Cleopatra In Space

I’m very partial to Science Fiction so I will definitely be getting this book. I also love seeing a book with a female lead which isn’t that common in comics.

gronk free comic book day

Gronk is adorbs! An all ages read about a monster and the human she adopts.

Attack On Titan

I’m Obsessed with Attack On Titan, a horror themed manga. AOT is one of the fastest growing fandoms. Pick up this book to see what all the fuss is about!

The Phantom

Step back into comics history by reading a classic hero: the Phantom! He was one of the first costumed heroes who starred in stories full of two fisted action and adventure.

rabbids free comic book day

An Example of the kid friendly comics available at shops. So much cuteness!

So I hope I’ve encouraged you guys to visit a comic shop next month! If you would like to send be pictures of your haul send me a tweet @yogikai. I will also be hosting an event encouraging bloggers to share their FCBD journeys using the hash tag #FCBDblogathon

Happy Reading!