Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The 9th Canadian Book Challenge

What is it? How do I join? And Other FAQs

1. What is the Canadian Book Challenge?

The Canadian Book Challenge is an annual online reading challenge in which participants from Canada and around the world aim to read and review 13 or more Canadian books in a one year span: Canada Day to Canada Day. Reviews must be posted online and participants are asked to share links to their reviews with other participants. More on reviews below.(It's also a lot of fun and collectively we've read and reviewed thousands of Canadian titles! Actually, the whole books, not just the titles.)

2. How do I join?

Send me an email (jmutford (at) hotmail [dot] com) with the subject line "Sign Me Up!" and I'll add you to the list. Consider yourself a participant even if you don't get a response from me right away. Come July 1st you can get started right away. As soon as I get your first link (see below), I'll add your name to the participant list on the sidebar of this blog.

3. Oh no, it's past July 1st, can I still join?

Of course! In the past I've had people join in the very last month. My response to latecomers is always the same: If you think you can realistically read and review 13 books in the time remaining, then why not? To join, just follow the exact same instructions as above.

4. What constitutes a Canadian book?

Canadian books can include any genre or form (picture books, poetry, novels, non-fiction, plays, anthologies, graphic novels, cookbooks, etc), can be written by Canadian authors (by birth or immigration) or about Canadians. Ultimately, participants must decide for themselves whether or not something fits the description of Canadian.

4. Do I need to know ahead of time which books I'll be reading?

No. But by all means, if you want to plan ahead, do so. Some people find it's more of a challenge to do it this way, and others prefer to find their next book as it comes. If you do make a list and decide to alter it along the way, that's fine.

5. Do I need to have a theme?

No. I personally like to read at least one book from each province and territory (it's the whole reason 13 has become the goal number). In the past, some of the themes included deceased authors, mysteries, aboriginal books, poetry, and rereads. In other years we've had people choose books solely by a particular author or province. The options are yours to decide.

Certainly a theme could make the challenge more difficult, but then again, it could also make it more fun. In any case, the majority of participants opt to have no theme at all, just pushing for 13 random Canadian books. They feel they can still read what they want, when they want and aren't too confined by restrictions. The choice is up to you.

6. What if I don't reach 13 books or if I do?

If you don't, but you've had fun, it's still good. Your reviews will still be read by other participants. And you'll have a chance again when the next edition comes around. Some people ask if it's okay to fill up the remainder with children's books since they're shorter. I personally think children's books (picture books) are just as valid and need to be read and discussed as much as novels. Others think that it's a challenge, and as such, shouldn't be easy. Again, this is a participant's decision to make.

If you do reach 13, you may stop, or keep going. Remember, it's 13 or more. I love to see how many I can squeeze in. There are no prizes for reading the most. I want to stress that this is not a competition against other people. However, for all those that do meet the requirement of 13 or more, your names will be put in for a random draw for a prize.

7. Can my books count towards other challenges?

Of course! That's half the fun! I read some this past year that counted in the Graphic Novels Challenge and the Canadian Book Challenge.

8. I don't live in Canada and am finding it difficult to get my hands on Canadian books. Any recommendations or solutions?

It'll probably be easier to find some of our "big names" at your library (Margaret Atwood and Carol Shields, for example). Of course, you can always order online and check out the digital book market. And if you ask nicely enough, Canadian participants have been known to ship books far and wide to help out.

9. What if I read a book and don't have time to review it?

Sorry, that's one point I'm sticky on. I don't count it until it's reviewed. By all means, feel free to read 13 Canadian books, but the reviewing part is an equal component of the challenge. I want the books talked about even if you didn't enjoy it. While I say "review" I don't mean anything necessarily lengthy and I don't mean necessarily a review as much as I mean your thoughts on the book, questions about why an author said something, memories it stirred up. Anything, just something.

10. What if I don't finish a book, can I still review and count it?
Personally, I wouldn't but it's entirely your choice. If you feel that it's the book's fault that you didn't finish it, I suppose that's worthy of noting. If you left the book at the beach and haven't found another copy, probably not.

11. I don't have a blog, how do I post a review online?

Most Canadian Book Challenge participants are bloggers, but not all. Book reviews can also be posted on other sites such as GoodReads, Bookcrossing, Chapters, Amazon, and more. However, I do have a few requirements:

i. Participants wishing to read your reviews should not need a membership or sign up to do so. For instance, anyone can read a review at Chapters, so it's fine. However, a review posted on Facebook would be out since not everyone has a Facebook account and would not be able to access it.

ii. When you share a link make sure it's directly to your review and participants do not have to go searching endlessly to find it. For instance, if you blog, link to your posts, not your entire blog. (For example: Review NOT Blog) If you link from Chapters, after you write and publish your review, you will be be able to click on your review title which will provide your link in the URL bar. (For example: Review NOT Book page)

Yet another option is simply writing your review in an email to me (jmutford (at) hotmail [dot] com) and I'll happily post it on The Book Mine Set.

12. How do I share links to my reviews?

Each month there will be a roundup post here at the Book Mine Set. This year I'll once again be using a link sharing tool from similar to the one they use at the Graphic Novels Challenge. Whenever you finish writing a review, just head to my blog and click on the "Share your link" icon. Add your name and in parentheses the title of the book you just reviewed, then provide the link. I'll also ask that in the comment section of that post that you bring us up to speed on your progress so far (ex. 6/13 read). I'll send an email reminder once a month.

13. Will there be prizes?

Possibly. In the past I've offered monthly prizes, but I've had to spend a lot of time soliciting publishers for donations.  Canadian publishing companies and authors have been very generous in their support. In an effort to keep my workload down, I'm leaving the ball in their court. Should publishers or authors want to donate books as prizes, they can contact me at jmutford (at) hotmail [dot] com to arrange the details. And if there are no prizes this time around, let's let finishing the challenge be its own reward.

14. What's up with the logo?
The theme of this year's edition is music. Don't worry, you don't have to read Justin Bieber's biography or anything like that, it's just a fun way to organize the challenge (see question 15 below) and so, that explains the guitar taking the place of the maple leaf on the Canadian flag. As for all those "stickers" on the guitar? I asked last year's participants to give me one word, or author, or setting, or phrase, or character that they felt just had to be represented in a Canadian lit collage and those can all be found there. Granted, I realize that condensing the logo down to button size made many of the images too small too see, but rest assured they're there. They include, but are not limited to:
- a passage about landscape written by Robertson Davies
- Anne of Green Gables' hair
- Pierre Berton's tie
- Farley Mowat's The Dog That Wouldn't Be
- Polly Horvath's M is for Mountie

(To see more click on the guitar below for a bigger image. See how many you can identify!)

The idea was inspired by the Six String Nation

15. Besides the logo, anything new with the 9th edition?
I like to also theme participant progress in the sidebar of my blog. In the past for instance, if you've read 1 book or 7 books so far, you may have been charted as having reached certain Canadian mountain peaks or popular Canadian food. This year I've used results from a CBC Radio initiative they had in 2013 in which they ranked the best Canadian Albums of All Time. Read 13 books? You've reached Neil Young's Harvest!

Like Canadian Book Challenges of years gone by, this one, too, shall be a work in progress. Stay tuned throughout the year to see new features...

14. How can I help?

By joining, reading and reviewing, obviously. And sharing links to your reviews. I also need help with promotion. Please, even if you're opting not to participate this time around, help promote the challenge on your blog. Feel free to write a post that tells your readers that you're joining and why, and if you've participated before, how much fun it is. Also, use the logo above, feel free to place it permanently in your sidebar.

15. Nine years? Aren't you tired?

Nah, it's a labour of love. On that note, however, I do wish to announce that there is an end in sight. I have decided to continue to 10 editions. After which point, I hope to pass it off to someone else to run. But that's still a little way off. For now, let's make the 9th year, the best one... so far. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The 8th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - June Roundup (Sticky Post— Scroll down for most recent post)

How to add your link:
1. Click on the icon above
2. Add a link to your review. (Please link to your specific review, not an entire webpage.)
3. Add your name and in parentheses the title of the book, such as John Mutford (Anne of Avonlea)
4. In the comment section below, tell me your grand total so far. (ex. "This brings me up to 1/13")

Monday, June 29, 2015

Reader's Diary #1171- Michael Vocino: Robby. A Gay Short Story


Partway through Michael Vocino's "Robby: A Gay Short Story" I realized that it wasn't as depressing as I'd been assuming. Set in the late 70s/ early 80s, Vocino describes how gay people often had to hide their true selves. While I know the recent SCOTUS decision to legalize gay marriage doesn't change bigotry toward gay people anymore than Obama's election ended racism, it is at least a large step forward from the time Vocino describes here.

That said, his story is surprisingly uplifting. It's more about how a strong and supportive community grew out of that prejudice and what it meant to this one narrator. It's a sweet, nostalgic coming of age story.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Reader's Diary #1170- Kerissa Dickie: Wild Flowers


Kerissa Dickie's "Wild Flowers" is about two lives connected by a brief but defining encounter between two children imprisoned at a residential school. The story flips back and forth from the perspective of Rose or Louis, but it's not a difficult story to follow, with rich, evocative imagery that transported me to their side and able to feel their distinct and likeable personalities. It was a frustrating experience in that regard, as I felt like a helpless ghost.

But despite the humiliation and tragedies of the residential school, there's a beautiful message toward the end about remembering, drawing strength, and moving forward. It's all about focusing on the right events, interpreting them the right way, and knowing how to use them positively. Putting it this way makes it sounds so easy, though in real life there are so many complicated variables that put the whole approach at risk. Fortunately, Louis seems to have managed.

Warmth from Campfire by andyarthur, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License
   by  andyarthur 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Reader's Diary #1169- John Byrne (Story), Mike Mignola (Art): Hellboy, Seed of Destruction

Hellboy, like Spawn, is one of those characters I always assumed, incorrectly, was a Marvel or DC creation. Hellboy is, in fact, owned Dark Horse Comics.

Despite my lack of publisher knowledge, I did pay attention to the critical praise of the series and that's what led me to it, finally, years after everyone else-- as is my style of course.

I'm not sure I'd say it was worth the wait, though I'd probably declare the first Hellboy volume to be a success. It was definitely interesting, in a weird way, and the art was cool, but I never felt connected to the plot. I was caught up in the weird, awesomely coloured Gothic Lovecraft inspired images (and as Lovecraft is thanked in the opening dedication, they were clearly intentional) and the sharp contrast between Hellboy and his context. He's summoned from hell by an Anton-Levay-looking Rasputin who's working alongside the Nazis, but raised up by a paranormal scientist and becoming a world-renown expert in his own right, working for the good side. Yet despite the hellish genes and paranormal expertise, Hellboy comes across as a strangely meat and potatoes grunt. He's no-nonsense and prefers to fight with his fists and a gun rather than any dark magic.

The story itself though? A bunch of occultish mumbo-jumbo disguising a classic evil wants to control the world story. If you're into that sort of thing, it would probably be cool. As for me, who's finds the concept of demons and all that jazz rather silly, I was still intrigued enough by the characterization and the cool art to consider reading another Hellboy comic at some point down the road.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Reader's Diary #1168- Masaharu Takemura: The Manga Guide to Molecular Biology

I picked up Masaharu Takemura's The Manga Guide to Molecular Biology not out of a burning desire to learn more about molecular biology but more from a curiosity about how manga would treat such an advanced topic.

Starting slow, I thought I'd be able to keep up. But things got complicated fast. This is not to suggest the book failed (in that regard anyway), for there's only so much dumbing down Takemura could have done. And, had I real interest in retaining the information, I would probably have dissected it more. I also believe that anyone truly interested in studying molecular biology would likely find the book helpful...

if they can get past the lame frame story and unexpected sexism. Those two girls on the cover are Ami and Rin. They're failing Professor Moro's (a male) molecular biology class because they keep skipping class. He invites them to his island lab to attend make up classes at his lab-- though he has to lie and pretend it's a tropical paradise before they commit. When they get there they're annoyed to discover the truth until they find out that the hunky lab assistant Marcus will be their guide. As he shows them the inside of a cell-- by using virtual reality, I might add (if Moro had such an exciting device, why didn't he use it in the first place instead of boring lectures???)-- the girls ask stupid questions and make silly comments, get grossed out, and one of them falls asleep when it gets too complicated.

Sadly, it looks like the the others in the Manga Guide series are also tainted by sexism.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Reader's Diary #1167- Mélanie Watt: Have I Got a Book for You!

I've only been out of full time teaching for about a year. Kept busy with other things, I haven't really had the time consider if I'd missed it or not. But man, did