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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Conversation with Tom Stern, Author of Sutterfeld: You Are Not a Hero

So you may recall my review of Tom Stern’s book Sutterfeld: You Are Not a Hero from a few months ago. The lovely Tom Stern and his publisher Rare Bird Books contacted me after I posted it wanting to talk more about the book, so here’s an edited version of our conversation. It’s always fun to chat with authors directly, especially when you have some burning questions to ask them!

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*Warning: it sounds like we are ignoring each other at some points, this is because our connection was bad and we had trouble hearing each other. Towards the end, the dialogue sounds way more awkward than it should have, so bear with us!



Ive Read This is back on the radio!!!

I’ve got some exciting news! Ive Read This is back on the radio, in fact some of my Alberta readers may have heard me already, the first broadcast of my monthly column aired on Sunday, February 8 at noon (MT) on CKUA Radio. In Calgary, that’s 93.7 for y’all. You can also listen to the station live via the interwebs.

micSo each month, I’ll be chatting with Tony King on the show Muse, which features interviews with many different people in the arts, and features on culture from across the province. There’s a short description of this week’s show here. If you missed my column on Sunday’s show, Muse is  re-broadcast every Wednesday at 6pm MT, so tune in then if you want to hear me.

My faithful readers will remember hearing my high pitched and nervous voice just a few years ago on the CBC Homestretch, so I’m excited and honoured to have another opportunity to discuss my love of reading on-air. Blogging can be a very lonely endeavor at times (although because I love reading, this clearly doesn’t bother me), so it will be great to connect with everyone this way as well.

I’d love to hear your ideas on what I should talk about, feel free to comment below! Books, publishing, reading in general, it’s all on the table.




Books Ive Read in 2013

For those of you who followed my dalliances into blogging while I was at WordFest,  you will recognize this list of mine. It’s a record of every book I read this year, in order of reading. Not the most exciting post I’ve ever made, but I find that people are interested in this nonetheless, so I’ll throw it up here anyway. And yes, you will notice I read 15 less books in 2013 than I did in 2012 and 2011. Why is that? Well I no longer work for a literary festival, and my current job description doesn’t include “reading books”, so unfortunately I have less hours in the day to enjoy my favourite pastime.

If you want to know what I thought of these books, some of them link directly to reviews I’ve written on this blog for them, or on-air reviews I’ve given. Just because I didn’t write a review on the book doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. In fact, I’d like to write reviews on all the books I read, but I simply don’t have the time (see above reasoning), and I’d much rather spend my time reading than attempting to write witty yet interesting anecdotes about 65 different books.

You’ll notice a wide range of titles here-some of that is due to the fact that I was reading books in preparation for my CBC appearances, which required very different genres than I am used to. I can always find redeeming qualities to every book (seriously, I can) so I really enjoyed that experiment.

  1. How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
  2. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
  3. The Lion Seeker by Kenneth Bonert
  4. A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam
  5. The Miracles of Ordinary Men by Amanda Leduc
  6. The Rapture by Liz Jensen
  7. The Village by Nikita Lalwani
  8. The Truth About Luck by Iain Reid
  9. The Dilettantes: A Novel by Michael Hingston
  10. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  11. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  12. The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper
  13. Roost by Ali Bryan
  14. Reconciliation by Dorothy Speak
  15. You Are a Cat by Sherwin Tija
  16. The Green and Purple Skin of the World by Paulo da Costa
  17. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
  18. Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
  19. Caught by Lisa Moore
  20. Canary by Nancy Jo Cullen
  21. How to Host a Dinner Party by Corey Mintz
  22. Festival Man by Geoff Berner
  23. Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady
  24. Out of Their Minds by Luis Humberto Crosthwaite
  25. Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
  26. Ballistics by D.W. Wilson
  27. Hellgoing by Lynn Coady
  28. Screw Everyone by Ophira Eisenberg
  29. Secret by L.M. Adeline
  30. The Blind Man’s Garden by Nadeem Aslam
  31. The Deep Whatsis by Peter Mattei
  32. Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahari Delijani
  33. Dance,  Gladys Dance by Cassie Stocks
  34. The Dark by Claire Mulligan
  35. Let’s Explore Owls with Diabetes by David Sedaris
  36. Little Cat by Tamara Faith Berger
  37. The Devil & the Detective by John Goldbach
  38. Death at Christy Burke’s by Anne Emery
  39. Beautiful Day by Elin Hildebrand
  40. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
  41. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  42. I Know Who You Remind Me Of by Naomi Lewis
  43. The Family Took Shape by Shashi Bhat
  44. This is How you Die-Various Authors, Edited by Ryan North and Others
  45. Life Without Death by Peter Unwin
  46. Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked by James Lasdun
  47. Almost a Great Escape by Tyler Trafford
  48. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
  49. Burning from the Inside by Christine Walde
  50. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
  51. Everything is so Political by Sandra McIntyre
  52. The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
  53. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  54. Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland
  55. Cataract City by Craig Davidson
  56. Muse by Mary Novik
  57. Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
  58. Are You Ready to be Lucky? by Rosemary Nixon
  59. Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
  60. Corpse Flower by Gloria Ferris
  61. Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas
  62. Life Class by Ann Charney
  63. Eleven Pipers Piping by C.C. Benison
  64. Bedrock Faith by Eric Charles May
  65. The Guts by Roddy Doyle

So what do you think? Do I need to read more, or should I be embarrassed that I spend this much of my life reading already?

Signature | The Homestretch | Book suggestions | The Homestretch | Book suggestions.

Not only do I enjoy referring to cats on a regular basis on this blog, but I also like to BROADCAST the fact that I’m a crazy cat lady as well. Click on the link above to hear that and my book picks for this holiday season. Oh, and do yourself a favor by finishing your Christmas shopping quickly and easily at your local independent bookstore.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

The books I recommend on-air included: Life Class by Ann Charney, The Circle by Dave Eggers, Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland, Simon’s Cat Vs. The World by Simon Tofield, Clearing the Plains by James Daschuk and Black Code by Ronald J. Diebert.


My Last Two Summer Book Recommendations

Well, we’ve come to the end of summer, and this means my summer book recommendations on the CBC is also coming to an end. To commemorate the occasion, I got a little picture of myself and the trusty Doug Dirks to post up here, so you get a peek at the studio I inhabited for the past two months. Riveting, I know. Is it everything you dreamed of and more? I don’t have a link to share with you to listen to my last segment, but for those of you who are interested, I recommended The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud and Give Me Everything You Have by James Lasdun, as my theme was “The Private Lives of Teachers”, in honour of the first week back to school.

I’m way behind in my book reviewing, so I’m hoping to get some full reviews of these books up on here over the next few weeks, but just in case I don’t, all you need to know is that they’re good books and you should read them! Especially if you need something to get you back in the mood for Fall. These aren’t ‘summer’ reads per say, because they’re not light and fluffy (they can quite dark actually), but they’re not as dense as some of the Fall books we have coming in the next few months either.

Signature | The Homestretch | Short fiction picks

Has anyone ever heard of YOSS? Well it stands for Year of the Short Story, and it happened a couple years ago, but I’m still trying to keep the momentum alive by highlighting how important short fiction is. Listen in for my (somewhat) convincing arguments! | The Homestretch | Short fiction picks.