Green Gables Readalong: Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

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Okay, okay, I know it’s March 3rd and this post is three days overdue, but I’m hoping you’ll all be super kind and forgive me. I’m going to be really honest with all of you and share that I hit a major reading slump. Nothing could pull me out of it and I had no desire to pick up a book, including Anne of Avonlea. That’s probably not the best thing to have happen when you’re the one hosting the readalong! I started to have “that” chat with myself last week, the one that I’m hoping we’ve all had at one point in your lifetime, that goes a little something like this,

February 24: “You have to read the book Reeder”

February 25: “Man, you’re really cutting it down to the wire, but don’t worry, you’ve got three days. It won’t take you three days to read a book.”

February 26: “Read the book!!!”9781770498617

February 27: “R-E-A-D T-H-E B-O-O-K”

February 28: “You’ve failed – now you have to explain yourself”

March 1: Finally read the book and then…  “Explain yourself, but make it charming”

So here I am folks, waving my white flag and being charming… is it working? Here’s hoping. In Anne of Avonlea, Anne is all grown up at the whooping age of sixteen years old. She’s a schoolteacher, a watcher of the two new characters in the Green Gables home, known as Davy and Dora and still dabbling with her old world of having a wondrous mind and the responsibilities of an adult.

As I’ve mentioned, there are a lot of new characters added to this book; Davy & Dora, Mr. Harrison and Miss Lavendar. Unlike the first novel, Anne is spending less time worrying about her physical appearance and more time working for the town of Avonlea. She wants to see their town succeed and she’s determined to make sure the residents of their town are kind, warm hearted and giving people. When they’re not, she’s determined to tell them so. But taking care of everyone else starts to become too much for young Anne and mishaps start to occur, as they do in the world of Anne Shirley.

Time speeds quickly in the town of Avonlea and each chapter seems to jump a few months. As a reader, you’re expected to keep up, but I can’t ever remember reading a book where so much happens, in such a quick and lively pace. Am I the only one that experienced this or am I off my rocker? At the end, the Gilbert Blythe storyline picked up a bit, but I’m ready for these two to take it to another level. At this point in time, his doting affection and “only have eyes for her” is a bit tiresome. Do something about it already, gheesh.

I would categorize Anne of Avonlea as my favourite book in the series, but it’s an important one, because it’s the book that readers start to regard her as a woman and not a pigtailed red headed child.

What did you think of Anne of Avonlea? Were there any new discoveries? Were there any fond memories? Share with me below in the comments and remember to join the online conversations by using the hashtag #GreenGablesReadalong on all your social media channels.

I Saw Fifty Shades of Grey. It was…um, well…

Back in 2011, I remember receiving an email that announced that we had three books dropping-into our spring season. Those three books were,

Fifty Shades of Grey
Fifty Shades Darker
Fifty Shades of Freed

Fifty-Gray-posterWhat happened next was unprecedented territory for us book people. These three books become a viral sensation and everyone and anyone wanted to be a part of the phenomenon that was Fifty Shades of Grey. Then Universal bought the movie rights and every one thought, how the hell are they going to translate that saucy plot into a movie for the big screen!? Well low and behold, they’ve done it and here’s the kicker, it was kind of awesome.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This book series was not my favourite book and it wasn’t one that I raved about to family and friends. I appreciated the fact that it got people reading and rediscovering books, but the books just weren’t my cup of tea.

Here’s what I expected to see when I walked into the movie theatre tonight:

  • Corny and cheesy lines that weren’t going to be well delivered, but would manage to make everyone chuckle.
  • Sex scenes that were built up by the media with no real delivery.
  • A movie that I’d likely never watch again, but would allow me to say, “oh yeah, I’ve seen the movie”

Here’s what I did see when I walked into the movie theatre tonight:

Well, um, how do I, it’s um… Let’s just say that I was pleasantly surprised by how well they portrayed the theme of the book on the big screen. The sex scenes were executed in a really sexy way that had people wishing they weren’t sitting next to strangers. The chemistry between Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson was H-O-T and although, I would have given my right arm to have seen Charlie Hunnam up on that big screen, Jamie Dornan masterfully pulled off the mysterious and perplexing role of Christian Grey. Of course, there were corny lines that had the crowd outwardly laughing at the foolishness of the sentence, but really, that was to be expected when you bought your ticket.  Kelly Marcel, the screenplay writer, managed to find a way to weave some of the bizarre sentences and ideas into the screenplay that not only kept to the vision of the book, but also appealed to the naysayers. You can tell that she had fun with it and so did Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. If you’re walking into the movie expecting it to win an Academy Award, you’re in the wrong film. If you’re walking into this movie to mock it and laugh at it, you’ll be put in your place. My advice would be to just go in with an open mind,  check your cynicism at the door and appreciate this film for what it is. A sexy, sultry love story that everyone is going to be talking about for the next few months.

In the next thirty or so minutes, this movie is going to be open in all theatres and I really do think you’re all going to love it. Go watch it, then maybe come back here and tell me what you think. OR don’t. Maybe we’re all just sharing too much information with one another. Do what you need to do. But just see it, it really is worth the $12.50 admission price.

What Canadian Literature Means To Me

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After about five minutes on this blog, you’ll figure out I’m Canadian. And then maybe about five minutes after that, you’ll get the sense that I’m in love with Canadian literature. There’s something so special about literature that’s written by people that live in the nation you call home and plots and story lines that take place in cities you’ve visited or live in. Many times you’ll hear people say Canadian literature and your mind will automatically take you back to your high school English class where they made you read books set in the prairies and they made you read books by the notable Canadian figures that we’ve all come to associate with the term CanLit. It use to happen to me too. Okay Mrs. Gannon, I’ll read Mordecai Richler, but only because you’re making me.

Then I left school and I had the opportunity to read anything I wanted to read and something really funny happened… I continued to gravitate towards Canadian Literature. And it wasn’t because I enjoy Margaret Atwood’s writing (I do) and it wasn’t because I wanted to look patriotic by reading Alice Munro (I do), the books I was picking up were historical fiction that took place in Nova Scotia and stories of the uncertainty of immigrating, set in Toronto. There was such a variety of looking at Canada in the form of different genres that I just couldn’t stop experiencing our country in the form of literature.

When researching and starting to write this post, I looked up the definition of Canadian Literature and Wikipedia stated the obvious definition, which was, ” Canadian literature is literature originating from Canada”. But as you scrolled down through the page, there were lots of layers to its definition, my favourite being the list of traits that are commonly found in Canadian Literature.

  • Failure as a theme: Failure and futility feature heavily as themes in many notable works; for instance, Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley or Kamouraska by Anne Hebert.
  • Humour: Serious subject matter is often laced with humour. See also: Canadian humour.
  • Mild anti-Americanism: There is marked sentiment of anti-American often in the form of gentle satire. While it is sometimes perceived as malicious, it often presents a friendly rivalry between the two nations
  • Multiculturalism: Since World War Two, multiculturalism has been an important theme. Writers using this theme include Mordecai Richler(author of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz), Margaret Laurence (author of The Stone Angel), Rohinton Mistry, Michael Ondaatje(author of The English Patient) and Chinese Canadian writer Wayson Choy.
  • Nature (and a “human vs. nature” tension): Reference to nature is common in Canada’s literature. Nature is sometimes portrayed like an enemy, and sometimes like a divine force.
  • Satire and irony: Satire is probably one of the main elements of Canadian literature.
  • Self-deprecation: Another common theme in Canadian literature.
  • Self-evaluation by the reader
  • Canadian writer Robertson Davies, author of The Deptford Trilogy which included the famous book, Fifth Business.
  • Search for Self-Identity: Some Canadian novels revolve around the theme of the search for one’s identity and the need to justify one’s existence. A good example is Robertson Davies‘s Fifth Business, in which the main character Dunstan Ramsay searches for a new identity by leaving his old town of Deptford.
  • Southern Ontario Gothic: A subgenre which critiques the stereotypical Protestant mentality of Southern Ontario; many of Canada’s most internationally famous authors write in this style.
  • The underdog hero: The most common hero of Canadian literature, an ordinary person who must overcome challenges from a large corporation, a bank, a rich tycoon, a government, a natural disaster, and so on.
  • Urban vs. rural: A variant of the underdog theme which involves a conflict between urban culture and rural culture, usually portraying the rural characters as morally superior. Often, as in Stephen Leacock‘s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town or Alistair MacLeod‘s No Great Mischief, the simplicity of rural living is lost in the city.

These traits are all accurate and I couldn’t try to define them better if I tried. What Wikipedia won’t be able to convey is that Canadian Literature is celebrated and appreciated in a way that not only makes me proud to be a Canadian, but makes me feel honoured to work for a publisher that publishes such great Canadian talent. Forget searching for definitions of CanLit on google, head over to Facebook and Twitter to see what Canadians are saying about #CanLit.

CanLit fans are loud, proud and always helping to spread the word beyond the confinements of the literature we’re taught in school. They’ll help you stretch your imagination beyond what you might think CanLit is or was. If you haven’t already, I urge you to give it a chance, whether your Canadian or not, the themes, traits and ideas will continuously surprise you. I’d also suggest really challenging yourself to take the Random House of Canada’s Reading Bingo Challenge!

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I’d also love it if you took the time to let me know what Canadian Literature means to you in the comments below. Share with me the moment you knew CanLit was so much more the term “books about Canada”. 

Get to Your Bookstore, There’s a NEW Nick Hornby Book On Sale Today.

IMG_8824The title of this post must have intrigued you. It should intrigue you. It’s Nick Hornby. I think many of you would be hard pressed not to have encountered some form of work written by Nick Hornby in your day. I’ll just name a few to make my point;

  • Fever Pitch
  • About a Boy
  • A Long Way Down
  • High Fidelity
  • The screenplay for Wild

See what I mean. This man is responsible for some of our favourite books and films, so I hope you take my advice and get to your local bookstore stat, especially after having read the rave review I’m about to share with you below.

Funny Girl is the story of Barbara/ er, um Sophie. Wait, let me explain. Barbara Parker is a beautiful young woman who’s destined for more than the crown she receives in the Miss Blackpool beauty competition. It’s 1964 and Barbara is an admirer of Lucille Balle, she loves that Lucy has the ability to make people laugh until they cry. She’s convinced that if given the right opportunity, she could make people laugh too. So, with nothing to lose, she packs it all up and moves to London.

She’s convinced herself that with a name like Barbara, she’ll have a hard time finding any work, so she changes her name to Sophie Straw. She then has a chance encounter with an agent and goes for an audition for a new BBC comedy series. It’s a miracle that when she walks in the room she gets to meet Bill and Tony, the two writers of the show they’re trying to develop. Her wit, charm and hilarious personality wins them all over and voila, she’s the star of their new show. Knowing that show will rely heavily on Sophie Straw’s hilarious personality, they need the TV character to have a simple name, something plain and unambitious. Imagine Sophie’s surprise when the name Barbara is chosen and the main character will be from Blackpool – hilarious. It just goes to show you that can run, but you can’t always hide.

Instead of just focusing on Sophie’s story, it also focuses on other key characters in this story. Tony and June, a couple that have only had sex a number of times based on the fact that Tony is gay. Bill who is gay, but hiding in the closet, because it’s the 1960’s. Clive, the ever loveable man that plays the role of Jim, Barbara’s husband, who just can’t figure it out no matter how hard he tries. In true Hornby style, this loveable bunch appear to have it figured out… but not really. The book makes reference to the ride of fame being like a ferris wheel. When you’re on it, it’s the best and you’re sitting at the top looking down at everyone. But you (and everyone else on the ride) knows that eventually you will come down. It’s what you do when you start your decline that really matters.

The 1960’s setting, behind the scenes of the entertainment industry and fun pictures of Mick Jagger and Lucille Ball throughout, this book has a little something for everyone. Oh and did I mention, it’s comedy genius. You’ll find yourself laughing at the ironic situations each character finds themselves in on every page of Funny Girl. To help make my point, I encourage you to check out this excerpt.

Now, go. Run if you have to. Just get yourself to the bookstore and pick up this charming and hilarious book.

You can connect with Nick Hornby on Twitter by following @nickhornby or liking him on Facebook by clicking, https://www.facebook.com/nickhornby.uk

Kicking off the Green Gables Readalong with the Book that Started it All!

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You may or may not know, that one of my reading goals for 2015 was to host a Green Gables Readalong, which is challenging everyone to read (or reread in many cases) the entire collection written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. One book from the collection each month, for the next eight months. Full details can be found here. Up first was the book that started it all and what many people call one of the best Canadian novels of our time, Anne of Green Gables.

I read Anne of Green Gables as a child, then again as an adult (in 2010) and now I’ve revisited it again in 2015. Surprisingly, this is the only book I think I’ve read three times in my life and I can honestly say, that I’ve yet to tire of Anne Shirley’s audacity and dramatic flare. It seems odd to share the premise of the book, especially when it’s a book that’s sold 50 million copies and anyone that has any interest in this blog will likely know the plot of Anne of Green Gables. So rather than writing a review of my thoughts on the book (don’t worry, reviews will come for future books in the collection), I’m going to share with you things that surprised me in my third revisit to this book.

1. I thought that Marilla Cuthbert was mean – As I noted above, the last time I read this book was only five years ago, so I’m surprised I was so off base with this, but when I opened up the book, I had ill will towards Marilla. Automatically, I thought “here’s grumpy and strict Marilla”, but in rereading the book, I had a completely different approach to her character. I found her to be sympathetic, loving and encouraging of Anne. Sure, she thinks Anne’s elaborate imagination needs to be reigned in, but this time in reading, I felt like her tongue and imagination were actually IMG_8933qualities Marilla admired about Anne. She knows that these qualities help make Anne unique and make her stand out. She had strength, patience and continuously encourages Anne to be more, to do more. I’d never thought I’d see the day in which I’d rank Marilla Cuthbert as my second favourite character in this book, but that’s what she became.

2. Matthew Cuthbert – I cried as a child. I cried when I was 25. I knew it was coming. I mentally prepared myself. I still cried.

3. Anne’s progression – Weirdly enough, I didn’t remember that Anne goes from age eleven to sixteen in this novel. I felt like every time a new chapter started, three weeks had passed, seasons had changed and milestones had happened. This happens in many novels, time passes, chunks of things are missing, but for some reason, I felt like since there were so many books in the series, we were going to get to spend more time with childhood Anne. I’m not necessarily complaining, I just enjoyed the hijinks of Anne as a child. Her temper, her obsession with puffed sleeves, her need to have any other colour hair. She had such antics as a child and as she grows older, she becomes more focused on her stories, less focused on sharing her thoughts in fear of laughter and odd looks. It was sad to see her grow up in a way, because her innocence begins to fade. That being said, I did admire her desire to step up when her family needed her and to own her mistakes (Gilbert Blythe).

4.  The responsibility of raising Anne – I don’t remember ever feeling that there was such a divide in the “raising” of Anne, but there were two occasions in the book where Marilla and Matthew acknowledge that it is Marilla that is raising Anne. And I get it. It was written in 1908. It seems obvious that Marilla would be the one raising Anne, but is that really the case? Anne relied just as much on Matthew as she did Marilla and even though, he doesn’t technically take part in the punishing of Anne or maintaining her ongoings, his support and involvement are very present. I found these passages really interesting to read, because I feel as if both brother and sister raised Anne in helping to make her the strong, smart and independent woman she becomes. Thoughts? Did anyone else feel the same way?

5. Gilbert Blythe is a gem – Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Gilbert was a few years older than Anne, so maybe he knew better than to tease Anne at his age, but man does he ever pay the price of a harmless prank. FIVE YEARS. Five years is the amount of time that poor boy puts up with the silent treatment. I get it. She felt harmed by his nasty comment, but to keep a grudge for five years seems a bit much. And the crazy thing is, is that Gilbert always seems ready to mend it. To apologize. To smile. To extend a helping hand. Sure, he’s clearly in love with her, but I admired his constant willingness to try to make amends.

These were some of the things that popped out for me in reading Anne of Green Gables. What about you? Were there any new discoveries? Were there any fond memories? Share with me below in the comments and remember to join the online conversations by using the hashtag #GreenGablesReadalong on all your social media channels.