Green Gables Readalong: Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

email-header

Once you’ve finished a book, you close the spine, take out your bookmark and find it a comfy, never to be touched again, spot on your bookshelf. Well at least that’s how the scenario plays out in my case. Sure, I glance at the book as I reorganize my shelf and I do that dreaded game of “should I keep it” game when I’m doing some spring cleaning, but on average, the likelihood of me picking up that book again is very slim. That’s why I’m loving doing this Green Gables Readalong. I’ve had eight mass market L.M. Montgomery books on my shelves since I was twelve years old and now for the first time in years, I’ve revisited them. I’m dusting off their pages and rediscovering old dog eared pages and highlighted passages. It’s part of the charm of doing a readalong with a collection you already know and love.9781770498624

When I picked up my copy of the third book in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley Collection, I discovered how much I appeared to have loved Anne of the Island. There were notes in the margin and a lot of circles throughout the book. As I reread this beautiful novel, I rediscovered my love of Anne’s adventures to Nova Scotia and how her path to self discovery takes place in the place I often refer to as home. In the opening pages of Anne of the Island, we read about Anne boarding a ferry to Nova Scotia en route to Redmond College, based on the still standing, Dalhousie University and the “quaint old town” of Kingsport, which is otherwise known as Halifax. Of course, a new town brings new adventures and new characters. Including my favourite, Philippa Gordon, a love struck young woman with a flighty personality and a carefree attitude. Her lack of direction and structure amuses Anne until she and Priscilla Grant decide to purchase a home to live in for their duration at Redmond College. I adored the pages when Anne and Priscilla have to sit down with the ever amusing Phil and explain that they won’t put up with her nonsense in their home.

In true L.M. Montgomery form, we don’t just read about a few months in Anne’s life, we span her whole four years at Redmond in which she travels home to Avonlea to check on dear Marilla and of course Davy and Dora. She also travels home to bury her cherished friend Ruby Gillis who dies of tuberculosis. When you bury a friend so young and so unexpectedly, it’s sure to shake you up and Anne’s world is a little bit bleaker. She finds solace in her schooling and her dear friends, including Gilbert Blythe. But Gilbert’s had enough of being just friends and finally declares his love for Anne, admitting he fell in love with her the day he pulled her red pigtail. Anne, unfortunately reveals that she just doesn’t feel the same way and strikes up a relationship with a fellow student named Roy Gardner.

But just when Anne thinks she has everything figured out, things take a turn once again and point her down a path she never thought she’d travel. Anne of the Island can easily be called my favourite book of the series this far; filled with charm, growth and love, we meet a striking young woman with a good head on her shoulders mixed with a familiar sense of the quirky Anne we’ve all grown to love. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Anne of Windy Poplars in which Anne Shirley has left Redmond College and Green Gables behind to begin a new chapter of her life in the “dreaming town” of Summerside.

Did YOU enjoy Anne of the Island as much as I did? Which is your favourite book in the series? 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.

5 Easy Tricks & Tips on how YOU Can Start a Book Club

986

 

The definition of a book club, or as some like to call it a “book group” is,
a group of people who meet regularly to discuss books that all the members have read.
I’m fortunate, because I have a built in group of friends that read similar books to what I read, but that isn’t the case for everyone. Joining or creating a book club can feel like an overwhelming task, daunting even, but I’m here to help. I’ve created five easy tips and tricks that can help you navigate and create a book club that are all listed below.

 

 1. How to Add New Members to Your Book Club – In order to ensure you create a conversation that is rich with detail and thoughtful discussion, you’re going to need members that come in all different forms. Expand your book club by using this handy thing called the internet. Put a call out on Twitter for new members by using both the hashtag #bookclub and your city in a hashtag (example, #Toronto). You could also use Facebook to post a message about your desire to add members to your book club, just be sure to make a note that people are welcome to share the post so you get a wider reach than just your family and friends.
 
If the internet isn’t your thing, make use of your local library, local newspapers or your workplace. Make flyers. Put your email on it and wait for all the emails to roll in. There are always people looking to expand their friend circle and book clubs are a great way to meet new people and get the opportunity to discuss a great piece of literature. Win-win.

 

2. Meet Once a Month (and Make Sure You Meet on a Weekday) – People lead busy lives, but it’s important to make time for yourself… it’s also important to make time for great books. You can get a lot of reading done in a month, even if it’s just promising yourself that you’ll read 40 pages before you head to bed. That’s why your book club should make a plan to meet monthly. If you allow for too  much time to read a book, it almost guarantees people will forget about it and then half the members will show up not having read the book, or in some cases, not reading it at all. So make a plan with your members to meet on a monthly basis and ensure that your meet up date is on a weekday, because weekends are just way too busy. Who wants to reschedule three or four times because a member is away that weekend… not me. Pick a Tuesday or Wednesday date that works for all of you and stick to it!

 

3. Choose What Books You’re Going to Read – The reason you’ve joined a book club is so you can talk about books. Sometimes this discussion can take the form of a heated debate and sometimes it can be two hours of a love fest about the book. Whatever way the conversation goes, you want to make sure you choose a variety of books. Who wants to just read the same genre over and over again. NOT ME. So it’s important to give each member a chance to choose a book. Not only will this help to expand your mind, but it will also help expand your bookshelf. Choose the order of who’s choosing a book and stick to it. Each member will then be responsible for “hosting” and kicking off the conversation when you meet. If the host wants to get really creative with it, they can have a themed idea in relation to the books plot. You’d be surprised how fun it is to dress up like the characters of a book!

 

4. How to Create a Great Discussion – It’s important that when you get to your monthly book club you have some sort of direction, otherwise, you’ll just end up drinking a lot of wine and catching up with your friends. One great way to guarantee that they’ll be a lot of discussion is having each member of the book club come prepared with a few questions that popped up for them in their reading. This way everyone will have an opportunity to speak and a direction is set in place.
Another helpful tip is search for discussion questions for the book prior to the meeting. You’d be surprised how accessible reading group guides are for book clubs. Many times they live on the publishers website, but sometimes with a quick google search, you’ll automatically have 10-12 thought provoking questions that will help to create a lively and fun conversation.

 

5. Have Fun! – The reason you started or joined a book club is so that you can meet new people, have a thought-provoking conversation about books and get to have a nice night out each month. There are a lot of perks to having a group of you come together to catch up, you get to consume some delicious treats, drink some much deserved beverages and have a fabulous night out. But it’s important to remember that when you enter a room, not everyone is going to have the same opinion as you and that’s okay. Sometimes someone might say something about the books theme or a character that makes you shake your head in disbelief. This does not mean you should attack them or make them justify their statement in an aggressive manner. You have a right to disagree, but approach it in a meaningful and respectful tone that creates an educated debate, rather than a brawl. Always remember, that you’re there to have fun and to learn something new. So walk in ready to have a lively discussion and maybe one too many glasses of wine.

 

Recommend Book Club Picks
If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie – He’s been called the author to watch and with good reason. Michael’s Christie has written a heartfelt and beautiful depiction of a young boy named Will who’s spent the majority of his life living inside. His Mother, Diane, is a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door. Then one day, Will, protecting himself with only a helmet, ventures out the front door. What happens after his first steps beyond his front door forever change his world.
Us Conductors by Sean Michaels – The Winner of the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Sean Michaels creates an elaborate semi-fictional story of the man that invented the theremin, Lev Termen. The thread throughout the novel is the love and admiration he has for Clara Reisenberg, a young violin turned theremin player he meets in New York City in the 1930s. Often referring to her directly in the writing, we hop around in the text from his childhood in Leningrad to New York and then back to the scientific camps in the Soviet Union. Not only was this novel smart and well researched, it was like unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It had EVERYTHING. History, music, romance, suspense, war and more.
The Birth House by Ami McKay – This story is a story of growth and independence, but also about women coming together to make decisions about their bodies and their families in a time when their opinions didn’t hold a lot of statue. The bond that is formed between Dora and the “out of towners” is heartfelt and sincere, especially after they form “The Occasional Knitters Society”. It’s an unforgetable tale of a town that struggles with the pull between old and new medicine and what ultimately ends up happening will leave you left with bated breath.
Unless by Carol Shields – This is a story about Reta Winter and her daughter Norah, who drops out of school and makes a permanent home out of the corner of Bathurst and Bloor wearing a sign around her neck that reads the word, “GOODNESS”. Left to decipher why her daughter would do such a thing, Reta is forced to examine her life, her writing (she is an author) and the world as a whole. Carol Shields is a talent like none other and should be read by everyone.
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill – Since it’s publication in 2007, this book has become an international bestseller and now a CBC six-part mini series. The book is about an eleven-year-old girl named Aminata who was abducted from her village in Africa and enslaved in South Carolina. This is a story that is not easy to read, but was very much a reality not too long ago. A fantastic, heartbreaking novel that is sure to create lots of discussion.

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

email-header

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

IMG_7977

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!

ReadingBingo2015-962x1024

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”.