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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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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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: 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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Radio Segment: Focus on Alberta Writers

My fixation on Alberta writers comes with good reason. I’m on the board for the Writers’ Guild of Alberta yo! Their mission is to connect, encourage, inspire, promote and support Alberta writers and their writing, so it would be a down right travesty if I didn’t feature them on one of my radio segments this summer. So yesterday, I spoke about the three nominees for the George Bugnet Alberta Literary Award, click here to listen to it.

Behind the scenes with the ol' Mr. Dirks

Behind the scenes with the ol’ Mr. Dirks

Although the ceremony already happened in June (remember I blogged about it before?), I thought it was important to revisit the three nominees because they represent some of the finest fiction that come out of this province in 2015. Fishbowl by Bradley Somer won, but Tracey Lindberg’s Birdie and Richard Van Camp’s Night Moves were all worthy opponents, so no matter which of the three you pick up, you’re guaranteed to enjoy it.

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Book Review: The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis

Is this book literary? Yes. Is this book a thriller? Yes, of sorts. Is this book a worthwhile piece of historical fiction? Definitely! The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis is a lot of different things, it’s very unique in so many ways that it will appeal to many different audiences. But before I get into all the reasons I loved it, I wanted to state a few things up front.

The suspense of this book really kept Smokey on her paws

The suspense of this book really kept Smokey on her paws

Ellis still has some work to do in her plot development, I found the book to move a bit slow at the beginning, but the dangling of the protagonist’s misdeeds to come was enough to keep me going. Also, a few of the scenes were a bit repetitive, it seemed as though the same things were happening over and over again, so the lack of action needed some extra attention as well. However, even with these faults, The Butcher’s Hook is worth your time, and here’s why;

“His fingers trail over the book, stroking the patterned page as a snail marks its path with slime.” (p. 96)

and this;

“Hearing him speak is like stepping barefoot on a slug” (p. 107)

I absolutely loved Ellis’s writing. Just by quoting those two lines above, I’m sure you can see why: how perfectly she has evoked this terrible character Onions! The protagonist Anne is a fiery young woman whose terrible merchant father has promised her to Onions, an older, disgusting man who is well-placed to be a socially acceptable husband. However, Anne has fallen in very passionate love with the butcher’s boy Fub. As the novel progresses, the reader quickly realizes that Anne is capable of more than you initially think, and she will literally stop at nothing to make sure Fub is hers alone. Dum Dum Dummmmmmmmm… (insert scary piano music here).

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Anne is the other reason this is such a great book, and not just because she has the greatest name in the world. (I was hoping to use that joke on air last week, but I didn’t get the chance, so it gives me great pleasure to use it here). She is probably one of my favourite fictional characters I’ve read this year. She’s sassy, intelligent, and doesn’t suffer fools. For those of you who have read the wonderful Flavia de Luce series, she’s like Flavia, but grown up, and kind of evil. For those of you who have no idea who Flavia de Luce is, just trust me on this one, you’ll love Anne, and you’ll love The Butcher’s Hook.

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Radio Segment: Focus on Short Stories

I love reading short stories, and because they’re not as popular as they deserve to be, I’m always taking advantage of a little air time to talk about how great they are. You can click here to listen to my latest segment on CBC’s Homestretch. For those of you who listened to my radio spots a few years ago, you’ll recall me talking about short stories back then as well. No, I’m not recycling my ideas! I’m just putting emphasis on a style of writing that I really enjoy, and I think other would too, if they just gave them a chance. Can you tell I feel strongly about short fiction?

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I also give a little plug to my very first publishing gig at Cormorant Books, because I’m feeling a bit nostalgic these days.

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Radio Segment: Focus on Historical Fiction

All summer long, I’m appearing weekly on CBC’s Homestretch to talk about new books worth reading this summer. Each week, I’m focusing on a different genre, and yesterday I spoke about historical fiction. You can hear the segment here if you are interested. I don’t intend on listening to it myself, because hearing your voice on the radio is PAINFUL.

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Anyway, I spoke about two books, the first my blog readers will already be familiar with: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. You can check out my full review of it here. The second book I talked about (which I plan on posting a review of soon), was The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis. Both are very different, but very worthwhile reads in the category of historical fiction. Next up: short stories! But those of you who follow my goodreads account will already know that.

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IveReadThis is back on the radio-again!

Well folks, people don’t seem to be getting sick of my voice yet, because I’ve been asked to return CBC Calgary as their summer books columnist again. Many of you will recall me doing this a few years back, which was a ton of fun. And then last year I was on CKUA a bit, which was great fun as well. Because I’ve been asked to do this a second time around at the same radio station, I’m hoping that my nervousness will be able to take a back seat so I can focus on just enjoying myself, because chatting books is what I love to do!giphy (1)

I’ll be appearing each week on Tuesday afternoons between 3-6pm on The Homestretch, although next week, because it’s Stampede Week, I’m speaking on Thursday instead. I’m going to be talking about a different genre of writing each week. I already have a pretty solid idea of what I’m going to talk about, but if you guys know of any unique areas I should address specifically, please comment below!

I had my first radio session on Tuesday, and although you can’t hear the recording again, you can check out an article about it here.

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