Happy 200th Post!!!!

Whew, how did I get here? 200 posts plus numerous cat pictures later, and I’veReadThis is still going strong, thanks to you guys, my readers. When I first began this blog, I had just left my job in the publishing industry, and was desperate to keep ties to the book community I knew and loved. But what I didn’t know was that I was about to step into the even bigger, more interactive community known as book blogging.giphy

Just to recap how this site has grown, I decided to take a look back at what I’ve been up to for the past three years. Aside from posting reviews and getting to know you book-loving folks out in the blogosphere, I‘ve had the pleasure of participating in a few radio programs where I got to ‘talk books’ to an even bigger audience, which was a TON of fun (and quite a bit more challenging, when you can’t use the delete button on your keyboard to erase something you regret saying!). And now, I regularly review books from the following publishers: Penguin Random House of Canada, House of Anansi Press, Simon and Schuster Canada, Hachette/Little Brown, Aksashic Books, Freehand Books, and many other small, independent presses. My foray into author interviews hasn’t been extensive, but I’ve loved my experiences so far, and hope to do others soon (hit up my contact page if you’re interested). Participating in book tours has also been part of my learning curve, but again, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Cleave even used some authentic WWII stamps when he signed it-I watched him do it!

Cleave even used some authentic WWII stamps when he signed it-I watched him do it!

So to reward you, dear reader for making your way through that paragraph of bragging above, I’m doing a giveaway! I’ve got a (SIGNED!!!) advanced reading copy of Chris Cleave‘s latest novel Everyone Brave is Forgiven, and a Tom Dixon etched metal bookmark, all the way from Germany (seriously, I lugged this thing with me through my month-long travels specifically for this purpose), just ready to be shipped to the winner of this contest. All you have to do is comment on the post below. One week from today, I’m going to count up all the comments in total, and draw a number to determine the winner. I’ll contact you directly to let you know you’ve won, and ship you the prize to your doorstep. Oh, and you can only comment once you sneaky buggers.

So thanks again for being a part of my blogging and book reading journey-please keep in touch!

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Just Call Me President

Wowza! I’m so excited to announce that I was voted in as President of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta on the weekend. Many of my blog followers will know that I’ve been involved with the organization for a few years now, but this promotion is a big step for me, so I feel the need to officially ‘announce’ it here. It’s a great organization- we support, connect, and engage with Alberta writers through various programs, advocacy initiatives, and retreats, and we’ve got close to 1000 members, which makes us the biggest guild in the country.

The 2016-17 WGA Board of Directors!

The 2016-17 WGA Board of Directors!

 

During our conference, I was able to meet a few of the people who have held this position in the past. Most of them are well-known writers, which means I have some big shoes to fill: especially because I don’t consider myself a ‘writer’. I’m a reader, first and foremost, and the majority of my ‘writing’ is on this blog alone, which isn’t very creative, compared to the excellent writing of my colleagues that I’m lucky enough to surround myself with.

So why volunteer with an organization dedicated to writers, if I’m not one myself? I get this question quite a bit actually. My answer is this: if there were no writers, there would be no books, and the idea of a world without books sounds like my own personal hell. Being a writer isn’t easy; they don’t get paid very much (if at all) and most write in their spare time, which means a lot of evenings and weekends lost to writing a single book. It’s a pretty thankless task, so I’m making it my mission to keep writers happy and healthy, so they can keep writing books for me to read. So, I guess my volunteering is a bit selfish when I put it that way…but that’s what keeps me going!

Shameless plug alert: if you are a writer in Alberta, you really should become  a member of the WGA. Click here to sign up!

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Here Come the Alberta Book Awards!

The shortlist for the Alberta Book Awards was just announced, which means a couple of exciting things are happening:

  1. The nominated writers will begin to trash talk* each other on social media
  2. I can announce that fact that yours truly will be hosting the awards. Yes, me.giphy
  3. People will begin reading these specific books in droves; prepare yourselves booksellers!
  4. From now until June 4, the Writers Guild of Alberta will be top of mind for everyone in the Alberta publishing industry, getting its well-deserved attention. I will smugly appreciate this attention, and try to capitalize on it as the chair of our fund development committee.

*by trash talk, I mean congratulate in a supportive manner

Did I mention that I’m hosting the awards???? Can you tell I’m excited by the amount of question marks I just included there? The winners will be announced on June 4 at MacDonald Hall, SAIT Campus, in Calgary. You can buy your tickets here. Oh, and congratulations to all the nominees…let’s party!

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Continuing the Conversation with Donna Bailey Nurse and Marina Endicott

A few days ago, I received a lovely email from Donna Bailey Nurse regarding my book review of Marina Endicott’s Close to Hugh. Like myself, she was disappointed it didn’t make the Giller shortlist, but she also wanted to share with me downloada wonderful piece she did on Endicott for the literary magazine Black Iris.  For those of you who read and enjoyed the book, or for those of you who simply can’t get enough of Endicott, you can find the profile on this wonderful Alberta author here. 

Nurse makes an extremely poignant observation about Endicott’s writing that really rang true for me in this piece; she points out that Endicott has incredible compassion for her characters, and that she treats them much the same way as Anne Tyler or Carol Shields does. Having just read Anne Tyler for the first time a few months ago, I couldn’t agree more!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with her, Donna Bailey Nurse is a very well-established writer in her own right, and I’m a big fan of her book reviews. So make sure to check out Black Iris for some more bookish writing.

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Touring the Grimm Brothers Museum in Kassel, Germany

On my European adventures I visited many car museums, mainly because that was what my husband wanted to do. However, we also visited some literary hotspots to appease my interests too, and one such destination was Grimm World in Kassel Germany.

Even the staircases had words at Grimm World!

Even the staircases had words at Grimm World!

We walked to this beautiful museum through a gorgeous park, and the museum itself had just opened in September 2015, so everything was brand new. Apparently the Brothers Grimm are considered Kassel ‘celebrities’,(they lived a great deal of their lives there) as the route to this museum and other important monuments to them were clearly marked with street signs that we saw as we walked through the town.

When you enter Grimm World, there is a (surprisingly) small area of book shelves with Grimm books for sale in all different languages. It won’t surprise you that I purchased an English book for my daughter, and at this point, she is ambivalent about it being seven months old, but I’m sure she’ll grow to love it once she’s a bit older. Some of the stories in the collection include: “Rapunzel”, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”, “Hansel and Gretel”, etc. Yes, Disney has made lots of money off the Grimm fairy tales, but it’s worth while mentioning the fact that the Grimm Brothers themselves didn’t write a lot of these. They actually collected the stories from other people, as they were passed down from generation to generation.

Translations of Grimm Fairy Tales from all over the world

Translations of Grimm Fairy Tales from all over the world

The exhibition itself was fantastic and broken out into three different sections: information on the Brothers’ work on the German dictionary, their individual lives, and their story collections. It included artistic representations of their tales, actual artifacts from their homes, and pages of their work.  One of the coolest things I saw was a child-sized house with a bed, and a projection of an old man sleeping in the bed, alongside speakers playing a recording of snoring sounds. I know what you’re thinking: what the hell does that represent? I wasn’t sure myself, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. Each part of the exhibition was very interactive, in fact I huddled inside that house for a few minutes taking it all in, ready to jump back out if something creepy started to happen. Keep in mind, this place was meant for both adults and children, which is something I had to keep reminding myself of whenever I came across something that I found a bit unnerving.

So while my husband dreams of his day at the Porsche museum, I reminisce about my time at Grimm World; both are popular attractions in Germany, but only one will continue to keep rewarding us with stories for years to come!

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The Literary Festival Season Has Begun!

So with the onslaught of Fall book awards come the annual procession of literary festivals. Canada is lucky enough to have quite a few of them, although there is always room for more! As you all know, I used to work for Wordfest, so this is a topic near and dear to my heart.

I just finished reading a fun little piece in the Globe and Mail interviewing various authors about their coping techniques on the festival circuit. And just so we’re clear, most authors are dying to be on this kind of tour, and find it an honour to simply be invited to these festivals. There are of course, those mega super stars who can pick and choose what they do, but for 98% of Canadian writers, these appearances are fun because they’re finally getting paid to read their own writing to audiences.

4067553As Mark Medley notes at the beginning of the article, there is no shortage of debauchery at these things, and I can attest to that. Dave Bidini wrote an article about this, and lucky me, the inspiration for this came from a certain evening we both participated in during Wordfest. (Side note, he’s attending Wordfest again this year, go check him out!) Everyone seems to think that your university years are when you party hardest. In my case, it was when I was exposed to poets, musicians and fiction writers looking to let loose in the mountains.

Each festival week that I worked was a mixture of exhaustion and stress.  But every time an author I really admired spent time chatting with me, or genuinely thanked me for my hard work, it made it all worth it. I even have a few, treasured gifts from some writers who I can now call friends, which is just icing on the literary cupcake for me.

This is all to say that I’m a bit nostalgic when this season rolls around, because I miss the roller coaster of emotions that would typically accompany my work at the festival. However, being in the audience is just as fun, especially because I don’t have to worry if the readers are going to party too hard for their own good that night. They probably will, but I’ll be fast asleep at home while it’s happening.

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Elizabeth Hay is coming to Wordfest and I Love Her

I recently finished reading Elizabeth Hay‘s new book His Whole Life. And I loved it. Obviously, because Elizabeth Hay is great. I’ve also been helping the wonderful Shelley Youngblut program the 20th anniversary of Wordfest this year. So…they filmed me (nervously) reviewing this book as part of the festival preparations. Should I stick to doing written review of books, rather than video reviews? Probably, but this was super fun all the same. Check out the awesome Festival line-up (many appear on the Giller longlist) and buy your tickets now!

Giller Longlist Announced!

Well the Giller Longlist has been announced, and it’s a good one! I may be a bit biased, simply because I’ve read and loved many of the books on the list, but it’s also pointed to a few I need to hurry up and read. You all know by now that I loved Patrick deWitt’s Under Major Domo Minor, and Michael Christie’s If I Fall, If I Die. And if you ever listened to my segments on CKUA, you would have heard me rave about Connie Gault’s A Beauty with Tony King. But now I have my next book to pick up and devour: Marina Endicott’s Close to Hugh, which just happens to be on my book shelf already.

Another reason I love this list? Simply because I know that as soon as it comes out, regardless of what books are on it, it’s going to inject some much needed money into the Canadian publishing industry. People are going to run to their local book store, or go online and purchase one, or all of these books. And that is a good thing for the whole publishing food chain. I’m also excited because I’ll be hosting the Calgary Giller Light Party, so we can find out the winner together on November 10th!

Big book alert: Patrick deWitt has a new book coming!!!

Ahh the Fall. For book nerds like me, this is a great season for a few reasons; one, the weather is getting colder, so we have better excuses to stay in and read, and two, the Fall is when highly anticipated books are released, just before book award lists are announced. Canadian book lovers will no doubt know about Patrick deWitt, his last book The Sisters Brothers was HUGE, download (2)appearing on virtually every award list possible, keeping critics buzzing for months. My American readers may or may not be aware of him (or perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, assuming I even have American readers on this blog) but anywho, the SB should be made into a movie any day now, so you will know about him sooner rather than later!

9781770894143_edacd8ca-0aef-45b1-a5d6-aaa327c8278b_1024x1024But back to why the Fall is so great: I’ve got deWitt’s new book Undermajordomo Minor on my to-read shelf, and I’m planning to pick it up shortly, but in the meantime, his publisher has released this book trailer for those who don’t have access to the advanced reading copies I so lovingly covet as a book blogger. Who’s excited now????

Also-how great is the cover treatment on this book? I love themes!!!! I have to use a lot of exclamation marks here to demonstrate how excited I am…

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Book News: Harper Lee to publish her second novel

I’m a couple days late on this one, but I thought I’d weigh in on this latest piece of exciting book news anyway. Harper Lee, author of the classic To Kill a Mockingbird (published in the 1950s), has announced that she will be releasing her second novel titled Go Set a Watchman in July 2015, with publisher HarperCollins (those lucky bastards, other publishers are most likely muttering to themselves).harper-lee

Before I delve further into this topic, I would like to admit something horribly embarrassing (because why not?). I thought Harper Lee was a man, until this past Tuesday, when I saw her publicity photo appear on my facebook feed accompanying this breaking news. In my defense, when I read the book in Grade 10, I’m sure I knew at the time that Lee was a woman, but that fact seems to have slipped my mind in the 15 plus years since. I was also unaware that Harper Lee was still alive (yes, I’m sure my ignorance is surprising to many), so I felt doubly awkward when hearing this news, mainly because it forced me to realize how little I actually know, vs. how little I actually think I know.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I want to say how excited I am about this. Will I rush out and buy the book? Probably not, I don’t typically jump on these book bandwagons like others. I will consider buying the book (from a local independent of course) as a gift for someone though, it could be a great conversation starter, and I’m sure many of my friends won’t hear about this news at all, so I’ll appear very knowledgeable just by getting it for them.

Since the news broke, there have been questions around the timing of this book, mainly because it is widely known that Lee is in failing health, and her dutiful attorney passed away a few months before this new book mysteriously appeared. Apparently Lee wrote it before To Kill a Mockingbird, but it hadn’t been up for release until now. Is Lee being taken advantage of by a big corporation? Who knows? And does anyone want to point out how strange it is that the imprint releasing her book is also named Harper? I haven’t seen any jokes about this yet, so perhaps I’m missing something, or I simply have a childish sense of humour.

But  I AM excitone-of-katy-perrys-dancing-sharks-reveals-his-identity-during-a-reddit-amaed about this because of how much press and attention it’s getting. Who knew, that just mere days after the internet’s incredible over-focus on dancing sharks during a Superbowl halftime show, that our intelligence could return this quickly to discuss something so worthwhile? Lately I’ve been reviewing the the ‘trending’ topics on facebook with distaste and pity for humankind, but my spirits are buoyed by the articulate discourse coming out of this latest announcement. Yes, people believe there are more important things than Kim Kardashian’s latest photo shoot and the 10 ways in which Missy Elliot out-shined Katy Perry, and it simply took a blast from the past to get us there. God bless you, Harper Lee.

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