Book Review: I’m Your Biggest Fan by Kate Coyne

So this isn’t technically a book I would normally read. Celebrity culture is a low priority topic for me; I don’t read tabloid magazines (where the hell would I find the time?), and I avoid looking at blogs that focus on famous people. I will state up front that I don’t judge other people who do though, because at least they’re reading…

Therefore,  my review of I’m Your Biggest Fan, Awkward Encounters and Assorted Misadventures in Celebrity Journalism by Kate Coyne may come as a surprise to some. But something that many of you will already know is even if you don’t follow the lives of celebrities, it’s still fascinating to read about them. Who hasn’t gotten sucked into a VH1 special “The Fabulous Life of…”? Which is why I still enjoyed this book; it’s good fun, especially for the summer.

Smokey is showing unprecedented interest in this book

Smokey is showing unprecedented interest in this book

Kate Coyne is currently the Executive Editor of People Magazine, but the book follows her climb to this position from her beginnings as a contributor to the New York Post to an editor at Good Housekeeping. Her career path is one of the most interesting things about her story actually, although her writing is mostly self deprecating, you can tell she must be an extremely hard working and intelligent woman to have gotten where she is. So although this may not be seen as an underlying theme of the book, I really picked up on the feminist undertones of her story.

Coyne takes us along with her as she interviews and socializes with some of the top celebrities in the world: Tom Hanks, J-Lo, and Tom Cruise just to name a few. But she never loses her ‘fan girl’ mentality. Although she works with celebrities each day, she still gets nervous when meeting them, and her awkwardness is great fun to read about. We also learn some very surprising facts, one of them being that Tom Cruise has an extremely good memory!giphy

I’m Your Biggest Fan is a great book to pack along on your next vacation because it’s not very long, and no question there will be others on your trip who want to read it as well so you won’t have to pack it home either. And each chapter reads like its own story, so you can put it down and come back to it whenever you feel like you’re in need of a good chuckle.

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The Entertainer Blogger Award

So it looks like I’ve been nominated for The Entertainer Blogger Award. There are a bunch of these blogger awards going around, but this is one that’s not as common, and the questions are a bit weird. Who makes this stuff up? I have no idea, but it’s a fun way to learn a bit more about other bloggers, so I’m always excited to do these. Thanks to Poppy’s Best of Books for nominating me.

THE RULES

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Add these rules to your post.
  3. Answer all the questions below.
  4. Display the award picture in your post.
  5. Nominate 12* other bloggers who are funny, inspiring and most important of all ENTERTAINING!

And here is the random picture I need to include, as per the rules. Why a sailboat? I have no idea.

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Q1. Why did you start a blog in the first place?

I had quit my job in the publishing business, and was moving onto something a little more ‘stable’ for my career. But, books are my passion, and I had really grown to love the people I was working with. So, I started a book blog to continue participating in this wonderful industry. The free books are a nice perk too.

Q2. What is your favourite book?

That’s a really difficult question, and one that I get asked all the time. I usually refuse to answer, mainly because I can’t really think of anything off the top of my head. But, I did really really really enjoy To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. I will commit to keeping my copy of it too, so that’s how you know I REALLY liked a book.

Q3. What do you dislike the most?

Hmmm not sure if this question refers to books, or anything about life in general, so I will give two different answers. I hate books that are too long, it’s not only a waste of time for the writer and the people who published it, but it’s a big waste of time for the reader, first and foremost. What do I hate about life in general? People who text/talk on the phone while driving; it’s just so dangerous.

Q4. What is your favourite food item from the mall?

Cinnzeo/Cinnaroll/Cinnabon.

Q5. What is your favourite pastime?

Reading, obvi.

I NOMINATE…

  1. Jo’s Book Blog
  2. Fiction Fan’s Book Reviews
  3. The Misstery
  4. Play Baby Play!
  5. The Paperback Princess
  6. Grab the Lapels
  7. The Owl on the Bookshelf

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*I only nominated 7 other bloggers, because 12 is just too many yo!

Radio Segment: Focus on Science Fiction and Fantasy

Now I don’t want to give readers the wrong idea here; I’m not usually one to pick up and review the genre of science fiction and fantasy, so don’t expect a one-eighty in the types of books that I’ll pick up going forward. However, it’s important to me that I explore as many genres as possible this summer for the CBC, so I couldn’t in good conscience miss this very popular categorygiphy of writing. With that in mind, I spoke about The Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay, and The Genius Asylum by Arlene F. Marks this past Tuesday on the Homestretch.

I was also excited to talk a bit about Edge Publishing: a publishing house right here in Calgary that’s been producing fabulous books since 2000. Reading local doesn’t just mean reading Alberta authors (although that’s a good thing to get in the habit of doing!), it also means reading books published in Alberta. Whether you’re following warriors into an epic battle in a historical fantasy, or shooting lasers in a space opera, this genre has something for everyone to enjoy!

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My Interview with The Black Lion Journal

Things seem to be coming up “Anne Logan” these days. I’m really enjoying recording my weekly radio segments on the CBC, because it’s so fun to chat books with other people who really enjoy reading. And the fact that a large audience is forced to listen to my babble is a secondary perk. And now, the great people at Black Lion Journal have posted an interview with yours truly on their blog, along with a nice pictorial timeline of my life in publishing so far. They even have a featured series that showcases some truly adorable pictures of my cats. What else could a girl ask for?

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Radio Segment: Focus on “Humour”

This past week, I spoke about the genre of humour with the wonderful Chris dela Torre on the CBC Homestretch. I would have posted this segment sooner, but a sick toddler has derailed my blogging schedule (among other things) so I’m just getting to this now. But don’t let my tardiness deceive you, this was a really funny interview. And it’s not just funny because we’re talking about hilarious books, a few interesting things came up too. For instance, Chris and I both admit we won’t technically buy gossip magazines, but we will pick them up if we find them lying somewhere. I also remind aspiring writers to ‘keep their day job’ if they’re trying to make it big. A harsh piece of advice for someone who volunteers with the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, but believe me, I’m just being realistic.

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But back to the books; we chatted about Kate Coyne’s I’m Your Biggest Fan, and Terry Fallis’s Poles Apart. You can listen to the segment here.

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Book Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Here’s  a good book buying tip for you: when a major actress like Reese Witherspoon has blurbed a book, you can generally assume it’s going to be worthwhile. Now I know what you’re thinking; “But Anne, aren’t we just buying into the publicity plan that the publisher has laid out for us?”. The answer is yes, you are. But Hollywood actresses don’t just willy nilly blurb books, they’ve got better stuff to do than lend a helping hand to the publishing industry. So clearly, Simon and Schuster has gone out of their way to get this blurb, which couldn’t have been easy, even if Reese is making a movie of the book. And publishers aren’t stupid, they wouldn’t waste their time on a dud of a book, they clearly thought In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware was worth the effort. Not surprisingly, I’m on board as well.

Smokey trying to look spooky

Smokey trying to look spooky

The story is about a small, intimate bachlorette party taking place in completely glass house in the middle of the woods over a weekend. That alone is creepy right? They could have played board games the entire time and I still would have been nervous for them. But of course, someone ends up dying, and there are drugs and alcohol involved, so it’s difficult to say who is really doing what. What else makes this book freaky? The party attendees (four girls, one guy) all play with a Ouija board, and scare themselves silly when an unexpected message comes up.

Ware uses a common tactic in her plot development where she starts off the book in the future, with one character in the hospital, injured, and recently discovering that a murder investigation is taking place. So, before we even get into the woods, we know something bad is going to happen. As the book progresses, we return to that hospital room every few chapters to learn another tiny piece of information while the story also unfolds in the glass house. Slowly, we start to put the puzzle together of what happened that weekend, along with the protagonist. My only complaint about this book is Ware’s decision to jump back and forth in time like that. The atmosphere of this book is so important; we need to be creeped out about the situation as much as the characters on display in their glass cage, but the scenes in the hospital are an interruption to this build-up of the creep factor. It returned the reader to a ‘safe place’, whereas Ware would have been better off leaving us to squirm in the woods.

Despite that, I still really enjoyed this book, I raced through its pages, so take a page from a famous Hollywood actress and pick it up.

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Radio Segment: Focus on the “Thriller”

Yesterday I spoke with the lovely Judy Aldous about one of my favourite genres of books: the thriller. giphy (1)We discussed The Fall by Noah Hawley and In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. Obviously, I loved both these books, and I knew I would, based on the extraordinary publicity efforts made by the publishers. Am I buying into the publicity machines of Simon and Schuster and Hachette? Obviously. But I’m no fool, this is a good way to make book choices, because publishers are some of the most trustworthy readers I know. Judy is also no fool, because she correctly guessed that Reese Witherspoon is making a movie out of Ware’s book.

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Book Review: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Pretty sure I’ve mentioned that I’m a nervous flier before on this blog before. I wouldn’t call myself a bad flier, because I do it quite often (one of my life’s greatest ironies unfortunately), but I’m a white knuckler for sure. I care how big the plane is, I refuse to sit in the back few rows because I KNOW it is bumpier, and I absolutely hate turbulence. I most recently confessed to a friend that I would rather endure a non-life threatening surgery than get on a plane; yes, that is how much I hate flying.giphy So why would I read a book about a plane crash you ask? Quite simply, I knew that Before the Fall by Noah Hawley would be good, and if I don’t let my fear of flying get in the way of my travelling, why would I let it affect the books I read? Luckily, I was right, I really enjoyed this book. Plus, the actual plane crash isn’t really described in detail, so I was spared that trauma.

I would call Before the Fall a perfect summer thriller-it’s a great beach read because most of the characters are either beautiful, rich, or both. Hawley is also a television writer, so his plot line is extremely tight. The pace of the book is fast, there is always something new and exciting happening, and there are great twists that kept the pages turning.

Smokey has never flown on a plane before, but I can only guess she would be white knuckler too

Smokey has never flown on a plane before, but I can only guess she would be white knuckler too

The book begins with the unexplained crash of a private plane carrying a few very wealthy people,  two kids, and a random painter that befriended one of these rich gals and got on the flight last minute. He ends up surviving the crash with one other person, the 4-year-old son who inherits millions as he is the only surviving family member from the crash. The majority of the book details the last few days (and relevant backstories) of everyone else on board that flight, including the crew and flight attendant. We even get the perspectives of a few of the investigators working on the case, all in an attempt to explain what really happened because there are many theories: mechanical malfunction, terrorism, etc.

One of the spookiest scenes in this book is when the divers find the remnants of the plane on the bottom of the ocean, and they have cameras strapped to their heads that are sending the video feed back to the investigators on land. This situation perfectly highlights the benefits of Hawley’s television writing; he paints an extremely vivid picture for us, it’s like he’s beaming a screen right into the reader’s brain. That’s why I found this book so easy to read, it was like watching television.

But Hawley also made us care about the characters, and there are many of them. As we continue through the chapters, we realize that almost every person on that plane may be the reason it went down. So, it’s a wonderful thriller and whodunnit in one. Have I convinced you to read this book yet? It’s set to be made into a movie as well, so although I won’t be watching it (seeing a plane crash on screen is too much for me, I learned that by foolishly watching Alive), I know lots of people will be.

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Book Review: Fishbowl by Bradley Somer

Wow, I’ve made a big mistake. I waited way too damn long to read this book. Fishbowl by Bradley Somer came out in 2015, has won a bunch of awards since then, and I still didn’t read it until last week, right before I was slated to talk about it on the radio. What was I thinking? I even talked to the author myself a few months ago, and in my head I thought “I really need to read that book” but other things just kept getting in the way. Well thankfully I picked it up a few days ago, and I’ve ripped right through it once I realized how amazing it is.

It’s got a really interesting premise; it takes place over the span of about half an hour (with a few flashbacks thrown in for good measure), and details the lives of a select few apartment dwellers in a particular building. It’s all brought together by the fact that a goldfish named Ian (love that name!) is falling from the top floor balcony of the building, and is witnessing each character for a split second within their apartments. Each story spins off from there, and we cycle through each story in short chapters, many of them ending with exciting cliffhangers that keep the reader pushing through the pages.

Somer-the Calgarian!

Somer-the Calgarian!

I’m so impressed with this book for a few reasons. One is that the writing is really good, it’s fun and descriptive, but doesn’t get in the way of the story, because plot is a big player in this book. Second is that the characters are thoroughly fleshed out, and we finish the book caring deeply about each and everyone one of them. Third, Somer has chosen just enough story lines to keep us engaged, but not too many to confuse us. Fourthly (is that a word?) the storyline itself has something for everyone; there are sexy times, there are sad times, there are really funny times, there are quirky times that made me secretly smile on public transit, the list goes on.

I’m so embarrassed that it took me this long to read this book because Somer lives in Calgary, he’s a member of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, and so many people told me how great the book was, but I still didn’t pick it up. It’s been sold in a bunch of countries, and people in Poland are reading and enjoying Fishbowl, but it still took me over a year to read this, even though it was written right in my own city. This is why reading local is so important, because supporting the authors that live around you benefits not only them, but your whole community, especially when amazing books like this are being written in your own backyard. Seriously, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like this book, and I don’t think I’ve ever stated that on this blog before, so you know I mean business. What are you waiting for???? Go buy this book now.

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Book Review: The Pain Tree by Olive Senior

I had never read anything by Olive Senior before, but I had heard of her, and I knew she was a good writer, so picking up The Pain Tree was an easy decision for me. As was recommending her, and gushing about her publisher Cormorant Books on the radio last week.

Smokey pondering the serious subjects addressed in this book

Smokey pondering the serious subjects addressed in this book

If you’re looking for a collection of well-rounded, well-written, and well thought out stories, this book is for you. As a fan of this genre, I’m always excited to see how different authors have put their collections together. With some books I’ve read, it’s clear the stories were thrown together to just get the book published. Many authors write short stories sporadically over the years, so sometimes these collections are simply put out once the author has written enough to fill a book. The Pain Tree is different, because you can tell the stories are carefully curated to evoke particular emotions in the reader:personally, I felt wonderment at reading them.

The one and only Ms. Senior

The one and only Ms. Senior

The stories vary widely in tone, theme, and perspective. One story is told from the view of an old man fearing the progress of his community, scared that the future will punish him for his dealings with the devil during his lifetime. Another is told from the perspective of a woman returning to her childhood home, tearful and full of regret after realizing how poorly she treated the house keeper that raised her from birth. One of my favourite stories, “The Country Cousin” details the fairy tale life of a young woman brought into a household, taken advantage of, and then kicked out again, but landing in the lap of luxury with a rich, loving husband.

Some of the pieces have a fun, even supernatural storyline attached to them, while many others are quite somber. All the stories deal with serious issues; slavery, sexual assault, gender politics, even class discrimination are dealt with in the 190 pages of The Pain Tree. So why did I feel ‘wonderment’ at reading this? Senior is an amazing writer, drawing us into a world where we don’t feel entirely comfortable, but still enjoying our experiences within it. Race seems to be at the forefront of many issues in the U.S. these days, so reading a book that explores the complicated relationship between different classes, races, and genders is a very timely and worthwhile activity for us all to participate in.

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