Author Archives: annelogan17

Book Review: You have to F**king Eat by Adam Mansbach, Illustrated by Owen Brozman

Although this book is illustrated, it is in fact meant for adults. Perhaps the expletive in the title makes it obvious enough, but it thought I’d mention it, just in case. You may already be familiar with the similarly named Go the F**k to Sleep book, which as you probably guessed is also meant for adults, so this new installment in the series which addresses the dreaded ‘mealtime’ is a logical next step for the author.

YouHavetoFuckingEat-800x600You Have to F**king Eat has gotten an enormous amount of attention, as did it’s predecessor. You’ll find multiple TV interviews with Mansbach about the book, which as my publishing friends will know, is extremely rare for any kind of book that doesn’t have the words “Harry Potter” or the “Hunger Games” in the title. One of my favourite clips is below, which includes a portion of the book being narrated by Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame.

What’s great about this book is the juxtaposition between the profane text and the idyllic illustrations. For example, there is an adorable picture of bunnies munching on carrots and happy looking baby lambs frolicking in a meadow, while above it, the following line appears:

“The bunnies are munching on carrots, the lambs nibble grasses and bleat. I know you’re too hungry to reason with but you have to fucking eat. “

So technically, you could read this to your child before they reach the age of understanding meaning behind words (whatever age that is, I clearly have no idea) just because the pictures are so cute, and you’ll get a real kick of reading this out loud.  But as my common sense prevails, this book is probably best left on your own nightstand, so you and your partner can chuckle at it together after a particularly difficult day of trying to force-feed your children vegetables.

I also like this little gem because it’s published by the small and mighty Akashic Books, based out of the United States. Yay independent publishing! If this review convinces you to purchase the book (fingers crossed), please do so on their website here.

And don’t worry, this isn’t the beginning of an influx of parenting book reviews on this blog, I promise to remain true to my adult-book focus regardless of the status of my personal life.

More importantly, this is the 100th post on ivreadthis.com, so the first person to comment on this post will receive a special gift from me. Thank you for following me and reading my reviews!!!

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Book Review: World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z by Max Brooks: the book about the zombies. Yes, I know it’s a bit of a strange pick for me. Zombie apocalypses don’t typically fit in with my literary explorations of the human soul, but I’ve decided to go out on a limb here and try reading a book I wouldn’t normally pick up. I have my friend Jenny to thank for this; she lent me this book with a glowing recommendation, and she has great taste, so I was eager to give this a go.

I saw the movie that was based on this book when it came out with my husband. Again, not a movie I would typically jump at the chance to see, but he likes action movies, and I like Brad Pitt so I reluctantly agreed. The film  was (not surprisingly), gruesome and disturbing, but kept me interested, which is really all I can expect from a Hollywood flick these days anyway.

The book is entirely different from the movie. In fact, I couldn’t even determine which character in the book was supposed to be the Brad Pitt character in the movie (perhaps there wasn’t one) because clearly the author’s original premise was the only thing that actually made it into the movie. World War Z (the novel) is essentially a compilation of interviews. The narrative of the book is structured as a report put out by the UN to summarize the apocalypse once it had mostly ended. Essentially, the interviewee travels around the world to listen to people’s stories in an attempt to understand how the outbreak happened, how it was fought in each country, and how the clean-up is going.

book_cover_wwzThe apocalypse is kicked off by a virus that turns people into zombies once they are bitten by someone who is infected. So, the world’s population is slowly taken over by the ‘undead’. The only way to kill these zombies is to destroy or puncture their brain. Thus, there are many gory scenes in the book. However, many political issues are also addressed, which is what makes this story not only well-written, but interesting as well. Topics include: what happens in the middle eastern conflict zones when there is an entirely different war that needs to fought, how the open ocean becomes a place that people ‘escape’ to, the strange disappearance of all North Koreans during the conflict , etc.

This novel also does a great job of answering that burning question that would be on everyone’s mind, mainly: what would happen if the world was thrust into a war that involved every single human that lasted years on end? Brooks’s predictions are fascinating. He even addresses the problem of animals and ignored pets; the remaining population trains sniffer dogs that can detect the undead before the virus becomes visible, and all abandoned dogs are put to use on canine teams to aid the greater fight against the zombies. Another interesting point that is addressed are the people who are not actually infected, but begin to act as though they are infected, and bite other people needlessly. Basically, some people have psychotic breaks that make them believe they are zombies anyway, and these groups are a threat of their own. Soldiers are advised to avoid killing them if possible, because the government believes they can be rehabilitated. All of these smaller side effects of this huge war are explored in ‘mini chapters’ throughout the book, which kept me reading late into the night.

I’m not sure this could be called a dystopian novel, because  (spoiler alert!) it seems as though human life continues as it did before the outbreak, although the population is severely decimated, and PTSD is at an all-time high. But the world of World War Z seems much like our own, which is what makes it so scary. With the Ebola scare fresh in everyone’s minds, I can understand if people would avoid reading a book like this right now, but it is a very good, and dare I say, educational read.

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Book Review: The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips

‘A fairy tale for adults’ is the best way I can describe The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips. This book has it all: unicorns, knights, magical swords, princesses, and of course, lots of swear words. It reminded of why I loved fairy tales so much when I was a kid; you had a general idea of what the outcome would be, but you still enjoyed the journey to get there.

The novel includes some really fun characters too: Martha, the naive queen, Elaine, the feisty princess, Jemima, the trusty elephant, and Conrad, the prickly giant who rides Jemima because he’s too big for horses. Each person has their own quirks, which endears the reader to them even more. In fact, I wanted to keep reading more of the book once it  ended, just because I was disappointed to leave these new friends behind. Reading about them on a knight’s quest was funny, but I’m sure reading about them doing their laundry would be just as hilarious. Phillips is clearly a master at dialogue and character development as both of these things came together to create an amazing book.9780307359964_0

The idea of writing a fairy tale for an adult is a new one (for the most part). People typically see kids as the main audience for fairy tales, mainly because they are expected to always end well. Yes, this book ends on a happy note, and the bad people get punished while the good get rewarded, but it’s also realistic in some of its plot elements too. For instance, the very end of the book introduces a homosexual male couple-not your typical fairy tale couple, that’s for sure! Yes, it’s a book for adults, so this inclusion isn’t shocking by any means, but I believe  Phillips included this  because she is highlighting the impossibility of the ‘happily ever after’ mentality of fairy tales. Why should everything fit into the tiny mold of perfection that fairy tales expect us to aspire to? It shouldn’t, which is why there are gay knights in this book, lots of swear words, self-doubt, tyrannical men who aren’t fully punished, and friendships between African animals and giants. After all….happily ever after comes in all shapes, sizes and colors.

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Book Review: Reunion by Hannah Pittard

What defines chick-lit? Or as people in the biz like to call it, “contemporary women’s fiction”-what does that even mean? I just finished reading Reunion by Hannah Pittard, and my first instinct was to define it as a ‘heavier’ kind of chick-lit, although I don’t think that’s giving it enough credit, because t20706746he book isn’t about romance or shopping. Why am I leaning towards this genre? Well, the book was fairly short and uncomplicated, so you can read it in a couple of hour-long sittings. The plot line is also simple, and told only from the perspective of the female protagonist, Kate. Family and marriage are the main topics of discussion throughout the book, so this is what pushes the novel into the chick-lit realm for me.

The book begins with Kate, a thirty-something woman at the end of her marriage, in the throes of debt, learning about her father’s suicide. She is dragged to Atlanta by her siblings to attend his funeral. What makes this book uplifting, and in the end quite funny, is the fact that their now-deceased father was married a total of five times, so Kate is joined by an assortment of extended family, all thrown together through circumstance alone. Not surprisingly, many of them do not get along, but because of the situation, they pretend to anyway.

143a5a96b179a60ca1714d1ecf3d66bfI like to think that I’m too literary to like books like this, but I’m not. I LOVE books like this, ones that delve into family dynamics, marriage issues, and relationships in general. One of the most interesting topics that are explored in this book is infidelity. Kate’s older sister Nell and older brother Elliot are dead-set against cheaters. They despise people who cheat on their significant others, and believe it is an unforgivable crime. Kate however, has essentially ended her marriage by cheating on her husband, and finds herself in the unfortunate position of coming clean to her siblings to explain why her marriage is ending. At the same time, she’s forced to admit  that she cannot financially support herself alone, and needs to explain to Nell and Elliot that she has been hiding a significant amount of consumer debt at the same time. Suddenly, their black and white opinions have to make room for the gray matter, which I found to be juicy, and ingenious twist in this book.

Basically, Kate’s life is imploding, which is always fun to read about, because in most cases, it puts the audience in the smug position of thinking “well, at least my life isn’t THAT bad”. This isn’t the only reason to read about people’s troubles and heartache, it’s really just a nice by-product, but I do feel the need to mention that in case I begin to sound a bit smug myself.

I’m assuming what I’ve written above is convincing enough to read the book, or to put you off of it entirely, both options seem particularly relevant in this case,as many people don’t like reading about these particular topics.  Either way, I’m in favour of reading books that make you feel good, no matter what they’re about.

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Book Review: Serpents Rising by David A. Poulsen

I just finished reading a great mystery by a great Alberta author. And by the way, he’s also got another job as a rodeo announcer, when he’s not writing (see video below).  David A. Poulson has written over 20 books, some for kids, some for adults, but according to the acknowledgements at the end of Serpents Rising, this is the book he’s wanted to write all along, but never had the courage to until now.

I can understand that hesitation, especially after reading the influences that led him to love and eventually write his own mystery book. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson were just a few of the names that he listed, but as any mystery lover knows, those are some pretty heavy-hitters! Although Serpents Rising wasn’t written in the same style that these authors are known for, it’s obvious that Poulsen knew enough about the genre to create a decent attempt at what he loved for so long.

9781459721722Serpents Rising is set in Calgary, Alberta which is one of the reasons I picked it up. For some reason, I love reading books set in my own city, and Poulsen clearly enjoyed working within this setting, picking many well-known locations for his plot to unravel in. He also gave the main character Cullen a very Calgary-esque job as a former reporter for the Calgary Herald, now a freelance journalist. All locals know that full-time Calgary Herald writers are hard to come by now, so the narrative was clearly well researched.

Is it necessary for the bad guy to always be a complete surprise to the reader in a mystery? No, I’ve certainly read enough mysteries that don’t contain a twist at the end when revealing the perpetrator. However, I must admit I’m always a bit disappointed when the killer/thief/criminal ends up being someone you suspected earlier on. I won’t include any spoilers here, but I will say that I wasn’t at all surprised when the culprit was revealed. Please surprise me!!! Especially if you’re just beginning the series (the cover of the book says it is a “Cullen and Cobb Mystery”), I’m expecting more to come in the future and I want to be wowed from the very beginning.

Regardless of the final result, the lead-up to the climax was interesting, and kept me reading at a faster pace than usual, so that’s always the sign of  not only a good writer, but a budding mystery writer in the making. I do hope Poulsen continues with this series, as I’d love to see what Cullen and Cobb get up to next. But he needs to step up his game, as the mystery market is crowded as is, and readers need that last little push to pick up one book over the next.

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Defending Us Conductors by Sean Michaels

So, the Giller Prize is upon us. In just a few short days, an author’s life will be changed forever. No, this is not an exaggeration, this IS a life changing prize, especially now that it is worth $100,000 (basically the equivalent of 10 years of working for most Canadian authors, if not more).

But I don’t want this post to be depressing, I want this post to be exciting!!!! On Nov. 10, I’ll be a part of the Giller Light Calgary party, defending the novel Us Conductors by Sean Michaels. I wanted to give you a sneak peek of what I would be discussing at the event, so below is a brief summary of what I thought of the book.

Firstly, it’s important that you understand what a theremin is when reading the book. To demonstrate, I have included a video of the instrument below. This is of course a miniature version of it, because a cat is playing it.

Thank you to “Mr. HarlemTwerk: for posting that video! Granted, theremin’s don’t really look like that; they’re much bigger with no antennae, but you got the point.

Us Conductors is about the Russian inventor Lev Terman who invented the theremin back in the 1920s. He also invented a few others things, most notably some technology that allowed the Soviets to spy on Americans in the 30s, but this book mainly focuses on his love of music, and the effect the theremin had on his early life.

Following an exciting first half of the book that details Terman’s wealth and celebrity-filled time in American, comes a very dark second half of the narrative. Terman is forced back to Russia and shuffled between gulags and various other prisons, basically working as a slave for his country. Similar to concentration camps from WWII, Terman barely survives the inhumane conditions. All in all, from the little I’ve read about Terman’s  life, this story is fairly true to history.

I realize this description of the book has remained fairly unbiased up until now, but I will be making the argument on Monday that Michaels  should win the Giller. Why? Sean Michaels is a great writer. At the very least, this is a requirement to win the richest literary prize in Canada. But he also has phenomenal storytelling skills. The book begins in one genre, and ends as an entirely different one. This abrupt change kept me reading, but Michaels was smart enough to maintain his tone and character development throughout. Because the narrative voice remained consistent throughout the book, the drastic plot change was not jarring or unbelievable to me as a reader.

If the above observations have piqued your interest, come on our to the Giller Light Bash on Monday to celebrate literary merit in Canada. If you don’t live in and around Calgary, make sure to tune in to the Giller Prizes on television, Rick Mercer is hosting!

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Book Review: The Freedom in American Songs by Kathleen Winter

Before I launch into my next book review, I wanted to put up a bit of a disclaimer. The author’s books that I have and will continue to review that were part of my Afternoon Tea event at Wordfest last week will all be receiving positive reviews. I’m not being biased, I just enjoyed them all, so there.

Here she is reading at the wordfest event a few weeks ago

Here she is reading at the wordfest event a few weeks ago

The Freedom in American Songs is a book of short stories. There is a wide variety of perspectives demonstrated throughout, (other than the first couple, those seem to be linked somehow), but this range of voices is what kept me interested. From a gay man still in the closet to a housewife who is struggling to keep a friend’s secret, each character is well-developed, and most of all believable.

Kathleen Winter is probably best-known for her book Annabel, which was nominated for and won numerous Canadian literary prizes a few years ago. I will admit that when I read the first few stories, I was concerned that Tindexhe Freedom in American Songs would read similarly to Annabel: full of nature-based metaphors and not much plot. However, I was pleasantly surprised as I moved through the book, because some stories contained twists, some contained subtle character shifts, and others were just wry observations that made me chuckle to myself as I turned the page. This demonstration of breadth is a true sign of strength in a writer, and I believe that Kathleen is worthy of all the praise she has received in her career.

Not only did Winter publish this collection this year, but she also published a book titled Boundless: Chasing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage, which is a memoir that details her trip to the Northwest Passage.  I know right? Pretty impressive. I try to think of my accomplishments this year, and somehow ‘keeping my cats alive’ and ‘not being fired from my day job’ don’t seem to stack up against publishing two books in one year*.

*yes, I recycled this joke from my hosting remarks at Wordfest, but I still feel entitled to do it, because it was my joke to begin with

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Liebster Award

Last week, Elsie Ohem, who I’ve never met but will be continually grateful to, nominated me for the Liebster Award. I have no idea what this award is, but I’m so honoured to be nominated for ANYTHING that I will gladly participate in this chain-letter type thing that comes along with a nomination. As I typed that last sentence, I realized I had better figure out what the award is, if I’m going to be nominating other blogs for it.index

So, apparently it’s awarded to blogs that have less than 200 followers (which is apparently a category that ivereadthis.com falls into), but this not something to be ashamed of, rather it’s something to be proud of, because hey-I’ve got a readership!

Part of being nominated for this award means you have to answer a bunch of questions that your nominator has set out for you, so I’ve answered a few below. My readers know I like to keep things short and sweet, so here goes:

  1. What is your favorite hobby? Reading!
  2. Do you prefer books made into movies or movies made into books? Both!
  3. What is something that no one would ever guess is true about you? I don’t have a favorite author or book.
  4. If you could spend the day with any person of your choice, who would it be and why? Lil’ Bub the famous internet cat sensation, because he is so adorable.
  5. What is the one thing you want to accomplish before you die? Visit the Galapagos Islands.

There you have it! I’d like to nominate one other blog for this award. Congratulations goes to: Becky in Bookland

And the questions you can choose from to answer are:

  1. Why do you blog?
  2. Who do you imagine reads your blog?
  3. How long have you been blogging for?
  4. Who is your favorite author?
  5. Do you hope to be blogging for the rest of your life?

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Book Review: Leaving Tomorrow by David Bergen

So as my hosting gig draws closer, I  have quickly realized that I should be getting these reviews up quicker than I have been in the past. In my defense,  I am taking a professional writing class this fall, so the majority of my online creativity is going towards my course work, rather than this blog. Don’t get too concerned about me though, I’m still taking the time to read books, just not as fast as I would like.

This weekend I finished reading David Bergen’s Leaving Tomorrow, and not surprisingly I enjoyed it. Bergen is a beautiful writer, and many of you may be familiar with his work already because he won the Giller Prize in 2005 for his book The Time in Between. Like many avid readers, I cannot remember if I’ve actually read this book or not, which is why I keep a list of what I’ve read in the past for times like this. I’ll have to refer to it later to jog my memory.9781443411387

Anyway, the book focuses on a boy named Arthur, who dreams of living in Paris, becoming a writer, and leading a very romantic life in general. What’s surprising about this story is Arthur’s background. He lives in a very small (fictional) town in Alberta called “Tomorrow”, and he grows up on a ranch, assisting his father with training horses and various other farm duties.

So, with the heart of a poet and the body of a farmer, Arthur moves to Paris for a year to find himself. I know what you’re thinking-this sounds like the beginning of a Harlequin novel. And of course, a follow up movie starring Zac Efron. But it’sbergen-photo not! Bergen is too fine a writer to let his work spiral into something as cliche as that (not that there’s anything wrong with that, the Harlequin publishing model is one of the most successful in the world, fyi).

This novel is more about self-realization and soul-searching than it is about action. I will be the first to admit that nothing much happens throughout the plot, but it’s strength lies not in what happens, but what doesn’t happen. Arthur is a character of dichotomies-both physically and emotionally, and it’s fun to follow him in his French adventures, even if many of them end in despair or loneliness.

I’m not sure I’ve done this book justice in this review, so you best attend Books and Afternoon Tea to hear Bergen read from and speak about this book himself. In the meantime, pick up a copy of Leaving Tomorrow, start reading it before Sunday and bring it with you to the event so he can sign it for you!

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Book Review: The Last Days of the National Costume by Anne Kennedy

I am lucky enough to be hosting a Wordfest event this year, which means I was the giddy recipient of a box of books a few weeks ago.  The festival sends each host a copy of the book(s) that will be included in the event they are managing, so in my case, I was sent six books in total, including The Last Days of the National Costume by Anne Kennedy.

I chose to read this book first because Kennedy is a New Zealand author living in Auckland, and I had some guests staying with me this past weekend who had been living in Auckland for the past four years, so I thought I could ‘get to know their experience a bit better’ by reading some of their literature from down under. Other than a few strange words that I wasn’t used to, it read much like North American literary novels do, which was of course a great relief to me!

Now to the book. This is a scandalous novel. It’s not erotica by any means, but it does delve into the dicey world of extra-marital affairs, lies between couples, and people just being altogether naughty. Have I piqued your interest yet? If that doesn’t sound appealing enough, the narrator and protagonist “GoGo” is an absolute hoot. She’s got fun little quips and observations about everyone around her, and she talks directly to the reader as if you’re also a character in the book, so you really feel like you’re a part of the story, even though you’re only an observer.

If you’re in the Calgary area on Sunday, October 19 you should be making plans to attend Books and Afternoon Tea. What could be better than listening to six different authors from around the world read from and discuss their latest books? Nothing, that’s what. So buy your tickets now!

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