Monday, May 30, 2011

Reader's Diary #718- José Eduardo Agualusa: If Nothing Else Helps, Read Clarice

Looking for online African short stories, I came upon the Woyingi Blog, which has a fantastic list of African authors, organized by country. You have to skim for short story authors, but there are many links to short stories available online. Hoping to consult this list on a pretty regular basis, I figured I'd start with the very first link: Angolian author José Eduardo Agualusa's "If Nothing Else Helps, Read Clarice." (As it turns out, Agualusa and I share the same birthday-- though he's 16 years older than I.)

If Nothing Else Happens, Read Clarice begins with a man disillusioned by television and deciding instead to dream up a fish. It's a skill he once learned from an old fisherman and the rest of the story recounts that lesson.

Dancing lightly with magical realism, I was apprehensive. It's not a form that I actively seek out and admittedly I feel stupid when I can't figure out what the heck it's all supposed to mean, which is quite often. Is it symbolic? Is it fantasy? I want to appreciate it for the creativity involved, but my logical side wants to ram a flaming Q-Tip into my brain. My logical side.

But in the absence of matches and cotton swabs, I instead filled in the logical gaps of Agualusa's story with assumptions. Dreaming up a fish is just using one's imagination. But more than that, it's using imagination as meditation. Drawing in bits of ones surroundings to help create an internal image of a perfect fish, detailed and real. Or else the old fisherman is crazy. Or crazy, but on to something.

It might help if I'd read Clarice. Clarice Lispector is a Brazilian author who I'd not heard of before, but fortunately I was also able to find one of her short stories online. (She's also a Sagittarius.) So, next Monday, I'll see if it all makes a little more sense. And if it doesn't, this week's story was pleasant enough as it was.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below!)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Word Play: Northwords Festival Logic

The 6th Annual Northwords Festival takes over Yellowknife in less than a week. In honour of Kathy Reichs, one of this year's headliners, here's a little mystery to get you in the mood. Use the clues below to solve the logic problem: Match the author with the title and workshop* they'll be hosting. (For more of this year's events and authors make sure to check out the Northwords website-- but not until after you solve the logic problem or else you'll see all the answers!)

1. The author that wrote Nice Recovery, a memoir about recovering from alcoholism, is hosting the Writing For Teens workshop.
2. Neither Charlotte Gray nor Ted Staunton are hosting the Poetics of Poetry workshop.
3. Kathy Reichs is the author of Deja Dead and is hosting a Crime Fiction talk (*I've been informed by a couple of Northwords members that hers is not a workshop, as I'd indicated earlier. It's actually a luncheon/discussion. For the sake of this puzzle, however, count it as a workshop.)
4. Gregory Scofield is the author of either Kipocihkan or Puddleman, but is not the host of the Life to History Workshop or Picture This.
5. Susan Juby is not the author of Puddleman, nor the host of Life to History.
6. The Picture This Workshop is either hosted by Ted Staunton or the author of Kipocihkan.
7. The Puddleman author is not the host of the Poetics of Poetry.
8. The host of the Life to History Workshop is also the author of Gold Diggers.

It'll help to print off the grid above and put a check mark in all the ones you know are correct, and an X in all those you know are not. Good luck! Write your answer in the comments below!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Reader's Diary #717- William Shakespeare: Cymbeline

It took Charlotte's post over at Inklings about independent bookstores and her thoughts on eReader sales to remind me that I haven't reviewed Shakespeare's Cymbeline yet, though I finished it over a month ago.

First, the eBook connection. For the most part I prefer reading real books. But when I'm traveling I'd rather go with a bunch loaded up on my Reader. (Though the first time I heard the flight attendant say "Can you please turn of your book? We're getting ready to descend?" I found it a little jarring.) Also, when my hard copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare weighs and takes up as much space as a couple of bricks, it's much easier to read it on the eReader. Though a word of advice to publishers, if it's in the public domain why not offer it as a free download? You might lose a small profit by having to pay someone to format it, but you don't have to pay an author. Give that away for free and you'll entice people like me to your site, I'll get that one and probably buy another book or two while I'm there, meaning you'll make money in the long run. My entire eVersion of the Complete Works of Sheakespeare by project Gutenberg is free. At the Sony eReader store they have a copy of the complete works for $7.99. Not bad, but why pay at all when I can get it for free? It's not it comes in a fine leather bound edition that'll look all fancy on my book shelf. It gets even worse when you buy the separate plays-- averaging about $4 each, or $148 dollars for the complete set. Again, it's not like a real book where you don't want the entire volume cramping your hand when you just want to read the Tempest. With the eVersion of the Complete Works doesn't make your eReader any heavier than a single play, and again, it's free. What idiots would pay for electronic Shakespeare books? What idiots would expect you to?

Rant over.

Anyway, Cymbeline isn't one of Shakespeare's better known plays but I can't see any reason for that. For fans of Shakespeare, it's a very Shakespearean play. Love, betrayal, jealousy, disguises, royalty, a thirst for power. You know, the typical stuff. Based on legends of Celtic British royalty, it's a tough plot to summarize. For now, the Wikipedia synopsis will suffice. (It also helped me keep everyone straight.) One small annoyance: when Cymbeline's daughter runs away, disguises herself in drag and comes across her step-brothers, also in exile, and neither knows the other. We, the audience, are quite aware of the set-up and the scene could be rife with humour, awkwardness, anything. Unfortunately the situation is milked for all it's worth and comes across as silly and phony more than anything else. They bond right away and refer to one another as brothers, men, and so on. It should work, but it's run into the ground.

But it's Shakespeare and at his worst, he's still entertaining. And Cymbeline is not is his worst. The fidelity bet alone is worth the price of admission. It's a soap opera moment, yes, but when it's surrounded by Shakespearean wit, that kind of stuff is not only tolerated, it's welcomed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Great Wednesday Compare- FINALE

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Anne Shirley VERSUS Marilla Cuthbert), with a final score of 8-1 was Marilla Cuthbert.

This is bizarre! I have to say, I did not predict that at all. The winner of the Great Wednesday Compare #7, Marilla Cuthbert, beat the winner of the Great Wednesday Compare #8, Anne Shirley, and by a landslide. That both these women ended up on top in the first place is strange enough, but Mr. Miyagi beating the Karate Kid? I didn't see that coming.

But I'm glad the final outcome still held a surprise for me. It's a good note to go out on. Yes, I'm retiring the Great Wednesday Compares. At least for now. I've done books, I've done bookish things, and I've done characters and I think I'm done. It's been a lot of fun and I love that so many people played along. Thank you so much. In the meantime, stay tuned for my next weekly feature: drawing Victorian authors in inappropriate poses! No? How about recipes based on the Earth's Children series? Maybe not. Timothy Findley impersonations? I've got nothing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reader's Diary #716- Nils Andrew Thompson: Looking for Momo in Tomo Domo

For the 10th update of the 4th Canadian Book Challenge I announced that if we read and reviewed 10 or more Canadian books with a Japanese connection, I'd donate $200 to the Red Cross for their earthquake relief efforts. If we came up less than 10 books, I'd donate $10 per book. Nils Andrew Thompson's Looking for Momo in Tomo Domo is my contribution.

Thompson, like many Canadians, went to Japan to teach English. Looking for Momo in Tomo Domo records his yearlong experience. It's at once a travelogue, a teacher's journal, and even a romance.

Thompson's style is amusing for the most part, but the corny jokes lose their charm after a while. In one scene, for instance, he asks his Japanese girlfriend for a kiss, chu in Japanese. It was the 2nd time the word had caused them a problem-- the 1st time around it was Thompson's turn to learn the word. This time it was his attempt at using it that caused the communication breakdown. His girlfriend had just brought him presents:
"I brought you presents."
Yummy! She carried a bag that appeared to be full of gifts.
"Chew," I offered.
"Maybe, you must open them to see."
"No... a thank-you chew," I stressed.
"Chu, chu," I clarified, puckering my lips.
"Ah chu," she replied laughing.
We chewed.
Chuga, chuga, choo, choo!

An amusing enough anecdote without the last cornball line thrown in. The more of these he wrote, the more irritating they became. Probably because I'm guilty of such lame jokes myself. Typical dad jokes, though Thompson wasn't a dad at the time and they don't really serve any purpose in a book. But, I told myself, that wasn't the point of the book-- an apology I've been making for a lot of non-fiction lately. Which leads me to an important question: should non-fiction writing be held to a lower standard than fiction writing because the information supersedes the expression?

Supposing the answer is yes,I'm still not sure Thompson's book is off the hook. Certainly it would give a Canadian some sense of the culture and our differences and similarities, but some of it is quite dated, even though it was published only 10 years ago. This is most apparent when he discusses cellphones. "The portable telephones were rampant," he writes. Apparently shocked over the addiction people had to their phones, I wonder what he thinks of the iPhone epidemic in Canada 10 years later. Seeing someone talk on the cellphone while riding their bike isn't even shocking in Yellowknife anymore.

But, for all that, I got what I wanted from the book. I fell in love with Japan when we'd visited last year; so much so that we have considered teaching there. But then when the earthquake struck, it looked like teaching in Japan would be off the table forever. For a few brief weeks, Looking for Momo in Tomo Domo, was a pleasant way to experience that dream vicariously. Hopefully it'll suffice until we figure out away to prevent earthquakes and tsunamis.

Have you read a book for the Canadian-Japanese mini-challenge? Make sure to let my know before the month is up!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reader's Diary #715- Nicole Krauss: The Last Words on Earth

(photo by Patric Shaw)

Marking the first post-apocalyptic Short Story Monday post... oh wait, the world didn't end? Ah nuts. At least Nicole Strauss's "The Last Words on Earth" has a fitting title, even if it has nothing to do with the end of the world.

"The Last Words on Earth" begins with a lot of character development for a short story. I kept watching the page counter on the bottom creep along (it's 10 pages) thinking that if she didn't soon get to the plot, she'd be out of time. And the sentence fragments? Egad.

And yet. When the plot came it more than made up for it. In fact, a sense of Leo Gursky, who he is, is integral to the story. As for the sentence fragments? They're him, not Krauss. It's a beautiful story in its sad little life way. It's a funny story in its sad little life way. I'm utterly charmed by it.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Under The Midnight Sun Readathon- Are You In?

On July 2nd join me in a 24 hour Canadian readathon! It'll start at noon (your time!) and run until the 3rd at noon. So sleep in after your Canada Day festivities, then wake up and start reading at brunch. Bacon, maple syrup, and a Douglas Coupland novel perhaps? Take a break from reading every hour or two and blog your progress (if you're not a blogger, you can add comments on this site). Give support to others throughout the day. Take pee breaks. But between breaks, it's all about reading Canadian books. Read in your muskoka chair out on the day. Have fun, relax.

And if you're a Canadian Book Challenge 5 participant, what a perfect way to start! Take a few breaks to blog reviews from time to time and those 13 titles will be done in no time. If you're not a Canadian Book Challenge 5 participant, I hope you'll still consider taking part in the readathon. It's a Saturday, it's the summer, what else do you have to do? The lawn can wait.

Sign up in the comments below and help spread the word!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Canadian Book Challenge 5- Logo Driver's Waltz

With the biggest and best Canadian Book Challenge just around the corner, beginning on July 1st, it's high time we picked a logo. Which of these strikes your fancy the most? Please vote in the comments below! Vote even if you don't plan on joining the challenge, but while we're on the subject, why the heck not join? If you're interested just shoot me an email jmutford [at] hotmail [dot] com with the subject heading Sign Me Up! 13 Canadian books in one year? You can do that!

Reader's Diary #714- David Lester: The Listener

A couple of years back my wife Debbie reviewed David Lester's non-graphic novel The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism. It wasn't kind.

Imagine my surprise then when I was contacted by Mr. Lester about a month or so ago, asking if I'd be interested in reviewing The Listener, his new graphic novel from Arbeiter Ring Press. I don't know if he'd forgotten her review, hadn't heard of her review, or just didn't care. I'd like to think it was that last one. It's gutsy and gives me some credit that Debbie and I don't think with the same brain. Yes, we have a lot in common, but we have disagreed on a book or two.

The Listener isn't like any graphic novel I've read before. The artwork in particular isn't consistently styled. It runs from cartoony to sketchy to painty (you can tell my years at art school paid off, eh?). Some drawings are realistic, some are more abstract. But, given that the story revolves around an artist revisiting her reasons for becoming an artist in the first place (I think), the changes are appropriate and added to my interest in the story.

The story itself is not exactly pin-downable. It begins with a protester falling to his death after climbing a sculpture. Wrestling with confusion, guilt, and sadness the sculptor takes off to Europe. There, she coincidentally, or fatalistically, meets a couple that educates her about the events leading to the 1933 election of Hitler. However the plot gets a little hazy along the line and propaganda, spin-doctoring, brutality, dictatorships, and too many other themes start stumbling over one another. At least that's after one reading. The other possibility, and one I'm willing to accept, is that there is a genuine thesis in there somewhere. It's an artistic book, without a doubt, and I don't believe that Lester chose his points randomly. Whether or not it is intentionally abstract or poorly tied together will require more time. Much more time.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Reader's Diary #713- William Lychack: Stolpestad

One of my favourite reasons for hosting Short Story Mondays is the referrals to short stories I'd otherwise most likely miss. Last week Teddy Rose reviewed William Lychack's short story, "Stoplestad" and interestingly, her one quibble with the story which she enjoyed nonetheless, was the 2nd person narration-- which in turn is the thing that piqued my interest the most. I've been finding an increasing number of books and stories written this way over the past year or so and so far, I've enjoyed all of them.

I can't really say that the 2nd person narration in Lychack's story is necessary. Whereas normally I feel such a style forces the reader to become part of the story, I didn't really feel that with Lychack's story. Instead my brain simply translated it into third person, and I moved on. Fortunately it's a great story whatever the narrative perspective.

Stolpsetad is about a cop (the role the reader is supposed to take), on the final hour of his shift on a summer Saturday afternoon. His last call is to handle a situation involving a boy and an injured dog. It's the shifting balance of mundanity and tension that makes the story works so well.

On a personal side, I found myself thinking of my hometown, or more correctly, the place where I grew up-- I haven't really called it home since I moved away almost 17 years ago. And yet, like many of those who grew up in Twillingate, Newfoundland, and like Stolpestad, the police officer in Lychack's story, some people never leave. I'm not judging, I just find it interesting how some people feel the need to go, yet others feel the need to stay. Even people in my family can be divided along these lines-- incidentally, I'm in the minority group. The feeling that I get when I go back to visit must be completely foreign to those who stayed. How about you, did you you move away or stay? Or would you ever go back for good?

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Reader's Diary #712- J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire marks the first Harry Potter book I read to my daughter without having read it myself first. When it was published back in 2000, it was the first time I'd even heard of Harry Potter, and because of the crazy hype I decided to go back and read the first 3 in the series before jumping in at the halfway mark. But, feeling pretty blasé about them, couldn't face that gigantic chunkster that brought Harry into my radar in the first place. Of course, since then I've started a family and with my kids discovering Harry, I've grown a larger appreciation and finally took on the 4th book.

Initially, I enjoyed the Goblet of Fire. It was quite action packed and made the length go by quite quickly. I thought the ending, with the villains narrating and explaining everything was clumsy and rather silly, but at least provided some answers. All the dating and Cedric Diggory's death, of course, brought the book up a notch in the maturity, but not so much that my daughter couldn't handle.

After reading the book, we of course watched the movie, and likewise it was okay. It felt a little rushed, trying to cram all that into one movie, and as most of the awe of Hogwarts and the whole concept of an alternate wizarding society has worn off, wasn't quite as magical (pardon the pun). But then Ralph Fiennes somehow managed to pull off that stupid dialogue at the end, and so the magic was regained. And I never pieced it together before now that the same guy that played Cedric Diggory was also that guy from Twilight. Holy cow, he must be rich.

Then the fun came screeching to a halt. The M. Night Shyamalan experience: I thought about it. The Goblet was a portkey, designed to transport Harry away from Hogwarts into the arms of Voldemort. All he had to do was spend the entire book trying to win it, so he would unknowingly touch it and be whisked away. But why not make Harry's toothbrush a portkey? For supervillains they're pretty stupid. Or could it be Rowling? I better watch what I say lest I bring that wrath of the Pott-heads down on me. Going online to see if it was a gigantic plot-hole-- a premise destroying plot-hole-- I was exposed to the scary world of obsessed fans. The first rule of thumb is that Rowling is never wrong. Nothing else could have been made a portkey because... let the theories begin! Except for everyone's rationalization, none of them were explained in the book itself. Surely Rowling couldn't be off the hook for that could she? Are fans willing to have to fill in the blanks? Even worse than the theorists, were those that suggested that anything other than the Goblet would have been too short and what would be the fun in that? Seriously? How about she fix the damn plot hole or else come up with a different plot? Then I got over my frustration with the stupidity that was the Goblet of Fire and instead worried for the sake of humanity at the number of people hating on the (I can't believe I have to add this adjective) fictional Ginny Weasley:
"Stupid b*tch."
"Ginny Weasley is a stupid wh*re."
And that's nothing compared to the fan-fiction. Egad.

Okay, so I didn't like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the end, but it's just a book. Right?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Great Wednesday Compare #8- Anne Shirley VERSUS Marilla Cuthbert

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Anne Shirley VERSUS Vito Corleone), with a final score of 10-0 was Anne Shirley.

Anne takes down the mafia kingpin! Who knew she had that in her? Also interesting that all my voters were female last week. It's not surprising in one sense; since I joined the bookblogging world it quickly became apparent that us male bookbloggers are in the minority by a long shot. But I so badly want to know what the results would have been had the ten votes been male last week. (For what it's worth, I probably would have gone with Anne as well. I've not even read Puzo's The Godfather, I didn't like the movie, and quite frankly I hate mafia stuff. Can't stand it.)

Anyway, this is the official end of the GWC8. With 5 wins under her belt, Anne has is the champion and we retire her...almost. As per tradition, Anne needs to now take on last edition's winner, and holy cow, it's Marilla. Is this even fair? I'm not sure, but let's find out!

Vote in the comment section below before May 17th: Who is the better character?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Reader's Diary #711- Owen Wister: Mother

Looking for a Mother's Day story I Googled "Short Story" and "Mother" and found "Mother" by Owen Wister, the so-called "father of Western fiction." "Mother," however, is not a tale set in the wild west.

Richard Field and his wife Ethel are guests at a house party. As it is a party of mostly writer-types, each guest is expected to take a turn telling a story. Richard has been instructed to make his true and to make it about himself and an innocent girl as the respective hero and heroine.

There's an air of mystery and tense foreboding at first as Ethel wonders what the story will be. Richard will not tell her, however they come to an agreement that should Richard's tale embarrass her, Ethel may tell one of her own.

I enjoyed all this lead up but unfortunately the mood Wister so carefully established went by the wayside when the tale became one of business; buying and selling stocks, in particular. Perhaps some readers would be intrigued by this, but whenever talk turns to money and investing, my brain shuts down entirely. It's not a good thing and will probably result in my working into my late 80s, but I just couldn't invest my interest in Wister's story. Get it? Invest? Interest? Okay, so I'm bored. Oh and it had as almost as much to do with mothers as this post.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Reader's Diary #710- Sylvia Olsen: Yellow Line

I have a comic strip in my head that I can't place. I believe it's set in the desert or some such place and there's a guy with a can marked repellent. One guy comes up to him and asks "what's that?" To which the first guy responds, "shark repellent." "Does it work?" "Well, you don't see any sharks around here do you?" Ba-dump-bump. At least that's the gist. In any case, it's in my head as I consider racism in Newfoundland.

As I've said a few times here on my blog, I grew up in one of the whitest places in Canada: outport Newfoundland. With a near 0% immigrant population, racism was an almost non-issue in my childhood. It put into perspective most of the punchlines on the Jeffersons and when I got older, the context of The Diary of Anne Frank, but it's hard to truly understand racism when you're surrounded by just one race.

I've since lived in many places where this has not been the case. I prefer living amongst other cultures, for the record, but I've also seen the ugliness of racism. Yet, nowhere have I seen it as bad, or at least as blatant, as in Sylvia Olsen's Yellow Line. That's not to say I don't believe the events in Yellow Line couldn't happen in many towns in Canada.

From her website:
The lines that divide are not always solid.
Vince lives in a small town—a town that is divided right down the middle. Indians on one side, Whites on the other. The unspoken rule has been there as long as Vince remembers and no one challenges it. But when Vince’s friend Sherry starts seeing an Indian boy, Vince is outraged and determined to fight back—until he notices Raedawn, a girl from the reserve. Trying to balance his community’s prejudices with his shifting alliances, Vince is forced to take a stand, and see where his heart will lead him.
Yellow Line is a simple read, perhaps too simple at times; sorely lacking in description and the parents lack in psychological depth to make them feel more than one-dimensional. However, it's a story/theme driven story and certainly better than most high interest/low reading level books I've come across. The teenagers felt authentic and the end is hopeful without being unrealistically wrapped up in a happy ending.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Great Wednesday Compare #8- Anne Shirley VERSUS Don Vito Corleone

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Anne Shirley VERSUS Frodo Baggins), with a final score of 7-2 was Anne Shirley.

To be honest, I wasn't sure if Frodo was the right guy from Lord of the Rings to pick to challenge Anne Shirley. I'm not a huge Tolkien fan and I blasphemously like the movies better, but wasn't the whole point of that Fellowship that no one character was really more important than the other? Of course, Frodo's the dude with the ring, but come on Gandalf is a standout too, isn't he? And what about Gollum? I'm not sure. For those of you that voted for Anne last week, was there a Tolkien character that would have changed your mind?

Moving on to the next contender, Anne's messing with the wrong man. Or is she?

Vote in the comment section below before May 10th: Who is the better character?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Reader's Diary #709- Stephen King: Herman Wouk is Still Alive

Thanks to Loni who alerted me to this story last week.

Stephen King's "Herman Wouk is Still Alive," a story about a brutal car accident, the lives of those in the car and of those who witness it, is one of King's more realistic ventures than the supernatural stuff he is most often known for.

It's heavy and emotional and thought-provoking. Thankfully, the comments that follow the story echo many of the thoughts I had while reading, which is a refreshing change from the comments that follow YouTube Videos (last night's most recent comments on Rebecca Black's "Friday" video read "Osama watched this video and killed himself"). At the Atlantic where King's story was published there are, of course, the typical personal insults ("You are a moron."), off-topic chatter, and over-the-top rants, but for the most part people were actually have intelligent discussion about the story, some questioning the same thing I did as I read it. The women driving the car were poor, overweight, one was sexually abused by her father, single parents of a lot of kids, they ate crap, and were quite frankly, stereotypical of lowerclass white folks, or in harsher terms, white trash. Commentators questioned whether or not King could authentically write from such a perspective. He was, apparently, quite poor himself once upon a time, but that doesn't mean he knows what it's like anymore by any means, especially for a single mother. But while those commentators duked it out over whether or not King was perpetuating stereotypes or if he was unfortunately on-the-money, I decided I didn't care. In the context of the story, they were believable characters. I didn't get that King had a checklist of traits he had to ensure made it into the story or that he was making some sort of point on class, I got that he had a story to tell. I find King hit or miss, but I've never found him even remotely pretentious. And this story, dark and cynical as it is, is a hit.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Canadian Book Challenge 4- 10th Roundup!

It's the homestretch, three more roundups (including this one) to go. I'm resisting the urge to start tallying up the final stats already, but I know I'm very impressed-- and not just with the numbers, but also with the well-written, thought provoking reviews, the different books that have been brought to the table, and the general camaraderie amongst the participants.

Over the past couple of months, I've been thinking about Japan a lot and what they must be going through. The physical and emotional toll of what they've had to endure must just be overwhelming. So I had an idea. Next month, instead of offering a book prize, I offer a different kind of mini-challenge. If we can read and review 10 or more Canadian books with a Japan connection, I'll donate $200 to the Red Cross. If we read and review less than ten, I'll donate $10 per book. What's a Japanese connection? If it's written by a 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd generation Japanese Canadian. If it's written by a Canadian but has a Japanese character, or is set in Japan. Perhaps you can find a book by a Japanese author that has a Canadian character, or is set in Canada. How about a book of Canadian manga or Canadian haiku? The connection may be obvious or maybe you'll want to explain it, but in any case it's mostly up to your discretion. I'll be reading the nonfiction book Looking For Momo in Tomo Domo by Nils Andrew Thompson, the true story of a Canadian's experience teaching English in Japan:

But here are a few more suggestions:
2. Joy Kogawa- Many novels, children's books and poetry books to her credit, but her most popular are definitely Obasan and its sequel Itsuka (now renamed Emily Kato):

3. Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

4. Suki's Kimono by Chieri Uegaki and Stephane Jorisch

5. You and the Pirates by Jocelyne Allen

6. Lake and Other Stories by Gerry Shikatani

7. Mannequin Rising by Roy Miki

8. Sidekicks: The Transfer Student by J. Torres and Takeshi Miyazawa

9. The Electric Field by Kerri Sakamoto

10. The Enemy That Never Was: a History of Japanese Canadians by Ken Adachi

These are, of course, but suggestions. Even if you don't plan on participating in this month's mini-challenge, but you know of another book or author we can add to this list, by all means do so in the comments below.

For more ideas on Japanese literature, Canadian connected or otherwise, for ways to help, and for more Japanese reading challenges please check out Tanabata's blog, In Spring It Is The Dawn. She's an ex-pat Canadian who's lived in Japan for 10 years and her blog, started in 2006, is very fun and informative.

And for last month's challenge, a big congratulations goes out to Heather Pearson for winning the Gooselane Poetry Pack!

Soraya Peerbaye Poems for the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names

Brian Bartlett- The Watchmaker's Table

Katia Grubisic- What if red ran out

I would like to once again remind you that the 5th edition of the Canadian Book Challenge is around the corner. I want to make this one, as it's a milestone of sorts, the biggest and best yet. So please let me know if you're interested in signing up again (email me with the subject "Canadian Book Challenge 5- Sign Me Up!) and if you have any ideas on how to improve, special tweaks or challenges, let me know. Once again, I'm looking for prizes to giveaway so if you're an author, publisher, or bookstore owner, please consider making a donation or two. (Though non-book prizes are also welcome!) Email me at jmutford (at) hotmail [dot] com.

Also, any of you creative types who care to submit a logo idea, I'd be ever so grateful.

One of the new ideas for the 5th Edition? A 24 Hour Canadian Read-a-Thon!!! From noon July 2nd to noon July 3rd, I plan on hosting an online Canadian Read-a-Thon. Are you in? (More details will follow, but feel free to ask questions...)

And finally, while we're all gathered here today: the roundup. What Canadian books did you read and review in April? Let everyone know in the comments below.

- Make sure you tell me how many you've completed so far so that I can record it in the sidebar progress report
- It doesn't count as complete until the review is done!
- When people leave links, try to visit one another's blogs and read what they had to say. Comment. Encourage. The discussion of Canadian books is what this challenge is all about.