Novel Reactions: The Saturday Night Ghost Club

I found The Saturday Night Ghost Club when I was browsing in bookstores in Toronto. At first, I was hesitant to buy this book. Ghost Club? No, thanks. I already know I don’t like horror, but I was intrigued: The Saturday Night Ghost Club was set in Niagara Falls—how quintessential Canada can you get? (See: A Taste of CanLit)

And what a great decision it was. This book was a short yet powerful read, and, frankly, I would have finished the book within a day if it were not for a cute dog trying to get my attention. (Yes, there are things other than mobile phones that distract your typical millennial population, too.)

Well, fine. I also voluntarily paused halfway through because I kept feeling like something really bad was going to happen, and I wanted to delay the impending doom as much as possible. Funnily enough, although I was suspicious that something was wrong, I didn’t get that something right! Nice try, brain; the story’s twists and turns weren’t that obvious.

I’d say Craig Davidson kept me on my toes for all ~250 pages of the book. He also managed to break my heart and then mend it in the same number of pages. What a ride.

Supply Scheduling

A few months ago, I decided to invest more in the hungriest reader to (1) brush up on my writing skills; (2) keep my mind sharp while I was on vacation; and (3) learn a little bit of marketing. Over the past four months, I came up with a reasonable schedule for my posts: Wednesdays for Short Bites, Thursdays for Novel Reactions, and Sundays for Curious Travels (and others). I had no work obligations then, so it was fairly easy for me to keep up with my self-imposed schedule.

Today I am two weeks into my new job, and so far, so good. I have been learning a lot, and, mission accomplished: reading books kept me sharp and (the nonfiction ones) prepared me for my new job. Managing the hungriest reader has also been a great way for me to keep share my interests, reading and traveling, so instead of shutting this down, I’ve decided it’s time to readjust to my new lifestyle.

TL;DR, here’s my new posting schedule:

  • Short Bites: First and Third Wednesdays
  • Novel Reactions: Every Thursday (until further notice)
  • Curious Travels (and others): Second and Fourth Sundays

If this doesn’t work out, I’ll readjust again. Better to start now than have everything crashing down later. (I’m pretty much stretching the lean startup mindset and applying it into managing my blog, no big deal.)

A Taste of CanLit

During my grand detour, I picked up a few CanLit reads from my two favorite bookstores, Bakka-Phoenix Books and Indigo. I couldn’t purchase too many because (1) I had (and still have) a large pile of books to be read; and (2) I couldn’t fit too many books in my luggage. I ended up a total of four books, and I loved them all. Slightly wish I could have picked up more, but luggage restrictions did not permit…

A lot of the CanLit books on Indigo’s We the North shelf touched on immigration. This wasn’t too surprising, and it reminded me of the new immigrant welcome-ish posters I used to see around Toronto. Anyway, a disclaimer: the We the North shelf was not big enough to accommodate all CanLit works. I also looked for (what I thought were) less mainstream books since I wanted to broaden my scope. The ones I picked up only cover a small portion of CanLit.

Here’s my list of CanLit reads in order of date read.

Cocktails at Seven, Apocalypse at Eight

Thank you, Don Bassingthwaite, for bringing us Derby Cavendish. Cocktails at Seven, Apocalypse at Eight (see: Short Bites: Special) is a short story collection that features Toronto’s LGBT community, with Derby Cavendish and friends saving Church Street’s butt every holiday.

Radicalized

Another story collection, Cory Doctorow’s Radicalized (see: Novel Reactions: Radicalized) touched on a lot of what if scenarios. This one didn’t seem to be set in Canada (or exclusively in any state), but it was a great read nonetheless.

Children of the Moon

Children of the Moon (see Novel Reactions: Children of the Moon) is an immigrant story of sorts. It focuses on the hardships faced by two characters, both of whom have reached old age by the time they were recounting their stories. It was quite the emotional read, so be ready to decompress after finishing this book.

The Saturday Night Ghost Club

The Saturday Night Ghost Club surprised me. I’m still not over it. Based on the title, I was expecting the story to be more along the lines of Goosebumps (remember that?), but it was totally different. I loved it so much that if I could only recommend one among the four books, I would pick this in a heartbeat.

Novel Reactions: The Lean Startup

In preparation for reentering the workforce, I also read The Lean Startup. I liked that the book provided real life examples and was not too prescriptive, in a workbook kind of way. It was easy to read and to follow, and it helped a lot that I was annotating as I read through. The numerous flags (I know, they were a lot) actually helped me out when I was writing summary notes after finishing the book.

There were a lot of repeated concepts throughout the book, but I think that was Eric Ries’ way of putting everything together and making sure that everything sticks. The two main ideas I learned from the book were (1) avoid wasting time and effort by testing a minimum viable product and obtaining consumer insight sooner and (2) use validated learning to know when to pivot or to persevere. The book made a lot of sense, at least for someone in the startup world, and I rank it highly (probably top 5) among my nonfiction reads.

Also, kudos to Eric Ries and his editors for keeping the book’s tone condescension-free. (I know, I also noticed that this is a recurring thing I point out for nonfiction…) Even when Ries was talking about his experience at IMVU, his tone remained normal, humble even, and I think that is one of the reasons I found this book so pleasant and enjoyable to read.

So yes, I think people should pick up this book and read it! It may not resonate to everyone (the strategy is a little industry-specific), but there are good points here even for well established companies. (Ries talks about Toyota a lot.) If this isn’t the book for you, you can always pivot, too.

Short Bites: #connollyhouse #weshouldntbehere

I love Twitter threads. These can be especially funny when someone live tweets a strangers’ intriguing conversation at a coffee shop (think: Titas of Manila style). If the live tweeter is munching on popcorn, we can join in, too.

In “#connollyhouse #weshouldntbehere,” Seanan McGuire brings a haunted house to life through @boo_peep’s tweets. (@boo_peep and the crew have an accompanying live stream as well, but we readers are content with the tweets.) McGuire shows us how to rock a good story using an alternative medium.

I absolutely loved this story. Can someone please give Seanan McGuire a thousand gold stars for story, style, and execution? Thanks. But please don’t bother me again with ghost stories because no one’s home, and I’m done, done, done with scaring myself. Yet here I am still seeing What the #@$% is That? through… (See Those Gaddam Cookies and Little Widow for other short stories in the collection.)

PS: Earlier this week, I saw a copy of Seanan McGuire’s Middlegame, which I would have purchased earlier if not for my self-imposed book buying ban. If you’ve read it already, let me know how you liked it!