Tag Archives: books set in quebec

What I’m Reading – My Canadian Edition Part I

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I’ve been on a kick to read a bunch of books that take place in Québec before our trip there this summer! Can you believe that of all the places in the world, I have never been to Canada?

We chose Québec for our annual international trip this year. Why Québec when we could just drive up to Winnepeg? I wanted the feeling of something more international. And I miss France. I really miss France. Québec is just a little more affordable right now.

Anyway…

Books.

Even if you don’t love a book, or don’t even like it… You can always learn something from it. If anything, you might learn that you don’t like books written in a certain style.

Even from Duddy Kravitz, which I pushed my way through because I felt I had to, I learned that hot dogs and smoked meat were a major part of the culture in Montreal in the 50s. And then I discovered they are both popular now, too!

From Ru, I got a glimpse of what it feels like to be a refugee, as well as a bit more knowledge of the Vietnamese culture – like soup for breakfast!

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Still Life

Still Life by Louis Penny (Fiction)

From Still Life I learned that murder mysteries aren’t always my thing; but I did like the fact that this was set in a fictional town in Québec! I learned that pastries are as much a part of Québécois culture as they are French – why else would the author talk about them so much?! And that I really should get my hands on some cool Québécois pottery while I’m there. Now that I’m thinking about it, it was a cooler book than I thought it would be. But there were loose ends with one of the characters that made me wonder about her importance in the book. Unless she returns in future Chief Inspector Gamache novels? {BTW – I found out about this book on TripFiction!}

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Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis (Fiction)

Unlike Still Life and Ru, most of the Canadian books I’ve been recommended haven’t been available at my library. Instead, I got many at my trusty ThriftBooks. But I found Fifteen Dogs and had it sent cheaply from the UK of all places!

I’m not even sure how I found this book. It’s actually set in Toronto, not Québec; but I was excited to read more about dogs! Little did I know how much death this book would contain. Not the kind of sad death of a beloved pet, but of brutal death that just angered me. The concept is an interesting one: What would life be like for dogs if they had the intelligence that humans do?

All of the Goodreads reviews intrigued me that I just had to read this book. This is the one I agree with the most: “This book is both a dog lover’s dream come true- and their worst nightmare.”

I want to tell you that I hated it. I really hated how things played out… but I’m still glad I read it. The back cover listing the dogs was very handy, because I had a hard time keeping track of them all!

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sacre blues

Sacré Blues by Taras Grescoe (Non-Fiction)

This book came highly recommended if I wanted to learn a bit more about the Québécois. I almost dreaded reading it, thinking it would read more like a textbook. But it didn’t! {Well, not until toward the end.} I got a true glimpse of the people and way of life. However, this book was written in 2000, a time when cell phones weren’t quite popular yet. So I’m sure a few things were outdated.

A few things I learned…

We will be there for Canada Day, but it is also Moving Day in Québec! It’s when most leases end because it was once mandated that way. Now it’s tradition. This will be interesting to see… I also now understand the importance of the that classic work by Mordecai Richler.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:
The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
by Marie Kondō
(Non-Fiction)

tidy

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Of course, this book has nothing to do with Canada, but it became available on my library wait list. Plus it was perfect to read right before the weekend Rob was going to be out of town so that I could do some purging of my closet.

I probably did not have to read this book because I read so many reviews that I really got the gist. Reading the book actually made me realize how neurotic and obsessive the author was as a child! I read many {hysterical} reviews of this book on GoodReads that made me laugh. She did seem kind of kooky talking to her socks and such. And I got really sick of the words “tidy” and “spark joy” almost all too quickly.

But all silliness aside, I tried to take that talk with a grain of salt because:

  1. At least someone who has been obsessive with organizing and “tidying” since the age of 5 can put such a preoccupation to good use – helping others.
  2. This book is translated from Japanese, so that culture and language needs to be taken into consideration.
  3. While determining if your belongings “Spark Joy” seem to the main theme of the book, I don’t really find joy in things like dental floss, etc. Instead, I asked myself if the object was something I loved, made me happy or the outcome of using that object made me feel more comfortable. I did not keep clothes that I may have liked at one time, but that don’t fit or feel good anymore.
  4. While talking to your socks to thank them for all of their hard work during the day sounds crazy, I’ve interpreted it to be more of having an attitude of gratitude for your belongings. Most people aren’t grateful for socks, but feel entitled to them. It’s time we have gratitude for the little things in life. Also, when getting rid of something, it’s also a good idea to feel gratitude for the purpose it had while you had it or maybe what it is teaching you by getting rid of it.

In any case, this book is more about what you can get out of it, rather than how it can be critiqued. I really and truly believed that I didn’t have many clothes compared to most people. But once I took all of my clothes out of drawers, closets and any nook or cranny they might be, I had piles on both our king-sized bed and the queen-sized one in the guest room. I was astonished. {And I meant to take a photo. Oops.}

It took me one day to sort, but in the end I had:

5 trash bags of clothing to donate and 1 bag to throw away.

That’s the most I’ve ever done. Pretty amazing for someone who “doesn’t have many clothes”, no? I would say that this book served it’s purpose. And now I only {well, mostly!} have things I love in my closet. I can’t tell you how good that feels.

~

I have five more books in queue on Québec. I’m not sure if I’ll have them all read before we go, so I may have one or two left to take with me! I am currently reading this book, which was just published in 2014.

sat nite girl

So far, I absolutely loving it! It’s set in the Montreal in the 1990s. I’ll tell me you more in my next edition of Canadian books!

Do you read about a place before you travel?

Do you like travelogues?

If so, what’s been your favorite?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

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What I’ve Been Reading – Thanks to TripFiction

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In my last post on books, I was looking for recommendations of books set in Quebec. I was so glad that I tweeted that out to the Universe, because TripFiction sent me a link to their site that included a setting location search! What a cool idea. “I’ll be using this site for all of my travels!” I thought.

Because of TripFiction, I placed a hold on this book at the library:

Ru

Ru by Kim Thúy

Fiction – Wow. I would have never picked up nor probably even known about Ru if I had not seen that link from TripFiction. It’s set in both Quebec and in Vietnam, so the focus is not entirely on Quebec; but I loved this book. It’s another one of those that jumps around in time and had me a bit confused at the beginning; but I was brought in almost immediately with the poetic descriptions. We live in a time when there seems to be so much controversy over refugees: This is a must-read. Thúy gives you a taste of the struggle, the feeling of a life uprooted, the sense (or lack there-of) of belonging. Although this book is fiction, it reads like a memoir and is truly very touching. It’s also a quick read. Take a weekend afternoon and read it. {It was the perfect break I needed while reading the next book I’m mentioning below.}

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Duddy

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler

Fiction – This was recommended as a must-read classic if wanting a setting in Montreal. Who recommended it? I don’t know. The Google, probably. It wasn’t in my local library, so I purchased it used online, I believe from ThriftBooks. As I mentioned in my previous post, it took me a long time to get into. I felt like the book was confusing at first and all over the place. It wasn’t until about one-third of the way through that I started to get into it – making the connections and getting to know, relating to, understanding, empathizing with the character. Now that I’m done with the book, that first third doesn’t even feel relevant!

A Goodreads Review:

I threw the book across the room when I finished.

I saw that review before I read the book. I kind of understand why now! The ending didn’t really make me angry, though. In fact, there really wasn’t an ending. Duddy didn’t learn a thing nor grow. Maybe the reviewer threw the book across the room because it wasted her precious reading time!

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I finished that ^^ book on a trip to Chicago {more to come!} Since it was a difficult read for me, I hadn’t anticipated finishing it!

I decided to find a secondhand bookstore for another book, especially since my husband was sick and couldn’t leave the hotel room. I found this nearby independent bookshop called After-words

I made my way downstairs where all of their adult fiction is located…

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I could have spent all day down there! I probably could have filled one of these baskets, too.
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And since I was having the most difficult time making a decision on a book and knowing that I have several books waiting for me at home, I decided why not read something based in Chicago!? I pulled up the TripFiction website and searched for books set in Chicago.

From there I began to look for books by those authors. The top-rated book on that list was Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros. This book was not available, but I found another one by this author:

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The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Fiction – Like Ru, this book is an easy, poetic read, but in a different sense. Cisneros creates characters based on students she’s met. She then tells them through the voice of a girl living on Mango Street. I would recommend that you do not skip the Introduction to this book. It includes Cisneros’ insight on how this book was created. The way she writes just sings to my soul!

One of my favorite lines in the beginning:

The only people who ever enter the garden are the family who speak like guitars, a family with a Southern accent.

I  knew I was going to love this book. And I did. Although I have eight books set in Quebec awaiting me at home, I have now put Caramelo on my reading wish list.

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Thank you, TripFiction for introducing me to some new-to-me books and authors I would have never known about otherwise!

How do you find new books to read?

Cheers~
Carrie

What I’ve Been Reading…

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I have picked up reading again and it has been glorious!

I’ve fallen in love with the library! It’s what made this all happen.

Finding books I want to read and putting them on hold and then picking them up when they are available – what could be easier? I use my receipt as my bookmark so I know when to return it.

Here are a few books I’ve been reading since my last post:

girl on the train

Fiction – I chose Girl on the Train because I kept seeing it everywhere. I liked that the book was told from different points of views of the different characters. And it kept me guessing what had happened! But I thought my guesses were even a bit more creative than the ending was. I liked the book, though I didn’t love it.

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ella in europe

Non-fiction – Yes, another dog book! I’m sure Amazon recommended this one to me or something… This true story of a man taking his beloved {and well-trained} pet around Europe, because why not?! I loved every moment of it. Dogs do bring people together and light up many faces. I could not find this book in the local library card catalog, so I had the used version shipped to me. If you want to read it, let me know and I can send it your way!

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happiness project

Non-fiction – When I set out to begin reading again {what I mean by that is to always have a book that I’m reading}, I didn’t realize how many non-fiction books would come my way. Rubin’s account of her very own Happiness Project is quite detailed, sometimes scientific and almost overwhelming at times. However, there were still quite a few takeaways for me!

In fact, now that I’m writing this almost a month later, I’d like to skim through it again and put those little happiness reminders on post-it notes. I’ve begun following Rubin’s blog and have started to listen to one of her podcasts. There are little nuggets of info that I think anyone can pick up and apply to his or her life.

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all the light we cannot see

Fiction – I’ve seen All the Light We Cannot See on bestseller lists and recommended often. It’s popular enough that it took a while to become available at my library when I placed a hold on it. Then I had to make sure that I could read it in the two-week time span because there were no renewals allowed on this book!

I had a hard time getting into this book at the beginning, mostly because I wasn’t focused and I didn’t understand the author’s writing style yet. Once I got into it, I went back and could totally see the opening as if it were a movie! The book bounces around from the points of view of different characters {somewhat like Girl on the Train} and jumps back and forth to different time periods, too. Some of the book took place in St. Malo, a little seaside town in northwest France which I visited back in ’97. It was like I got to go back, but back in time!

The author was very knowledgeable in certain areas for this time period, but sometimes a little too detailed and technical for my reading pleasure. And, as with most books, I found the ending to be hurried to tie up loose ends. It could have ended earlier without the “where are they now” details, really.

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I am currently tried to find books set in Montréal or Québec because that is where Rob and I are traveling internationally there this year. I have found the following books recommended in searched on The Google and purchased them used off ThriftBooks.com because my library doesn’t carry any of them.

Do you have any book recommendations that are set in Montreal or Québec?

Name one book you read lately that you believe is a must-read!

Cheers~
Carrie