On Monday, October 28th, I received an advance screening pass to The Book Thief movie. I hadn’t read Markus Zusak’s book since 2006 and although I like to think that I remember most books plots, I couldn’t seem to remember what took place in this book, so I was looking forward to seeing its film adaptation. All I could remember was that the narrator of the book was death. I didn’t feel like I had any spoilers because my mind was so foggy about it’s premise. However, you would think that if I knew that the narrator was death, I’d have packed some kleenex… but nooo, apparently, I’d much prefer to use my sleeve as tears streamed down my face. First things first, the star of the film is Sophie Nélisse who plays the role of Liesel Meminger, a young orphan who’s been adopted by Hansand Rosa, played by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson. Of course, being adopted would be stressful but Hans quickly eases Liesel’s ease by helping her learn how to read. The only book she brought with her when she first arrived in Germany was a Grave Digger’s Handbook, which the two read together. Their relationship was one of the most endearing Father/Daughter relationships I’ve ever seen on screen. The movie is set in a Nazi Germany where the town is covered in flags and the children sing songs praising Hitler. Any books that had modern ideas were forced to be burned in the town square and Jewish people were forced to hide their identity if they hoped to live. I saw an article recently that this movie is like a history lesson for today’s children and youth. Filled with what was once a sad reality for Germany, this movie dips into heavy topics of WWII and Nazi Germany, you spend two hours shaking your head at a back drop that was in fact a sad reality in 1940. Liesel’s love of books is at the core of this movie/book and you watch her face challenges that no young girl should have to face. Even though we all know how this war and this struggle played out for many, you’ll watch with baited breath to see how Liesel’s story will shake out. It’s tough to watch at times and as I mentioned before, you will cry, but don’t let that stop you from making a point to see (or read) this powerful story. It’s both haunting and striking. The movie will be in theatres on November 15th.
Back in 2010, I stumbled upon Allie Brosh’s blog Hyperbole and a Half, a blog with few words and a whole lot of pictures. These pictures were drawn by Allie herself with the use of paintbrush on her mac computer. Her essays/artwork often depicted hilarious antidotes from her childhood and showcased her two dogs, “simple dog” and “helper dog” getting into crazy scenarios. My favourite picture is probably this one:
Then things went silent for quite a long time. I had Allie’s website saved to my bookmarks and at least once a week, I’d find my way to her site only to see that there was nothing new happening. I’d read in articles that she takes a lot of time to create one post/essay so as a loyal reader, I was being patient and waiting for the hilarity to ensue each week. But then in 2011, things took a different turn on her blog. Things weren’t so funny as her loyal readers learned that she’d been battling depression. In two heartfelt and hauntingly real posts over the span of two years, she depicted what dealing with depression feels and looks like.
Post 1: Adventures in Depression
Post 2: Depression Part Two
These posts (the first one in particular) gained lots of attention. Many saying that it created an accurate depiction of what it’s like to deal with this condition. Now I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve never struggled with depression, but I have friends and family that have battled with it, so it was eye-opening to see what people with this condition struggle with each day. Allie clearly depicts through her pictures that it’s not something that you can just snap out off and each day is an uphill battle.
As I mentioned, these posts continued to rocket Allie Brosh’s website and her experiences, humour and struggles landed her a book deal. Her book, Hyperbole and A Half: Unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened is a collection of some her funniest posts and some new stories that have never been shared on her blog.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with it this past weekend and I devoured it in one sitting. As a loyal fangirl to all things Allie Bosh it was exciting to see some of my favourite posts bound together in a book. I know we’re not friends and we’ve never spoken via social media (what with her 400,000 Facebook fans and her 100,000 Twitter followers) but I feel like I’ve gotten to know her throughout the years. This is why I’m such a huge fan of blogs in general, because even though you don’t know the person typing out (or in this case, drawing) their experiences, you’re invited into their lives and you somehow begin to feel like you know them. You celebrate in their accomplishments and you feel for them when they face hardship.
If you’re like me and you’re familiar with Allie’s story, pick up this book for a walk down memory lane and discover some of her new and hilarious stories.
If you’re unfamiliar with Allie Brosh’s story, start with this book and then head over to her hilarious website for more laugh out loud moments.
Thanks to Sarah from Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with a copy of Hyperbole and A Half.
I’m not going to give you excuses as to why I’m so behind on my book reviews, I’m just going to work on playing catch up. Luckily for me, many of the things I’ve been reading are books that are coming out from January – May, so that gives me plenty of time to write thought provoking and riveting reviews. [Insert laughter here] Below are some of the books I’ve read lately that are available at your local bookstore.
Longbourn by Jo Baker
There have been many adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but this is by far one of the most creative versions I’ve read. Jo Baker was a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice, but always wondered about what went on beneath the main floorboards at the Bennett’s Longbourn estate. So she created her own account by giving a voice to young servant Sarah. She lives with Mr. & Mrs. Hill and Polly. All are responsible for cleaning, washing clothes and cooking/serving food to the Bennett family. Things take an unexpected turn when James shows up looking for work. Mysterious James intrigues Sarah and their romance slowly begins to take shape.
Readers are quite familiar with the story of Lizzie Bennett and Mr. Darcy, but as you’re reading Longbourn, you’ll start to forget what’s taking shape upstairs and be thrust into a whole new and unfforbidden love story between Sarah and James. A beautiful and original rendition of a well loved story.
Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
Yes, the big spoiler was revealed before the book hit the shelves and if you’ve been living under a rock, here’s your chance to look away, because I’m about to share what happens. The loveable and charming Mark Darcy has died and Bridget is left to pick up the pieces. Now at 50+, she’s once again a singleton with two children. Gone are the days of bottles of wine and dressing up like a playboy bunny, this new Bridget is packing lunches and searching her child’s head for lice.
It was wonderful to revisit Bridget’s life, despite the fact that one of my favourite elements of her story was removed. We still had the clumsy, yet charming Bridget and I laughed out loud a couple of times while reading. Bridget’s story has been one I’ve been following since the first book was released in 1996, but I’ll be honest and say I’ve always preferred the movies to the books. That being said, I think the book had moments of charm and wit and if you’ve ever read or seen any of Bridget’s adventures, you’ll have to read this great book to see how Bridget’s journey ends.
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg
I actually don’t read a lot of graphic novels, but every one in our office was talking about the brilliance that is Isabel Greenberg’s The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, so I had to pick up a copy. This book was a beautiful and stunning package. I compared it to those Russian dolls (known as Matryoshka Dolls) where each doll decreases size and lives inside the other. Why that analogy you ask? Because at the start of this graphic novel, we’re introduced to a young boy that begins telling a story. Each story weaves into the one before it, so that they can stand alone on their own, but they work so much better when they’re all linked together.
This is Isabel Greenberg’s debut graphic novel and the concepts and ideas that she’s formulated are nothing short of brilliance. I had the pleasure of meeting her and she said most of the inspiration came from watching a BBC program as a ten-year-old where there was violence and intricate ideas that “kind of frightened her”, but lucky for us readers, helped to formulate this stunning story.
If you’re like me and you’ve been devouring books, share with me what you’ve been reading in the comments!
I think this picture says it all.
This edition is from Penguin Canada.
As part of the publishing gig, I get the opportunity to go to many authors events. Many of which have personal and unique elements. But never in my six years of working in this industry have I experienced anything like the event I went to last Thursday night.
You see last Thursday night, I went to my first Chuck Palahniuk event. And if you ever read any of Chuck Palahniuk’s work, you know why my mind was blown. If you’ve never read any of Chuck’s work, let me set the scene for you.
It’s cold and rainy, but that’s not stopping the 400+ Chuck fans who’ve shown up to Faculty of Music building (UofT) in their pyjamas. Yes, you read that right… this was a pyjama party! Housecoats, Fight Club PJs, teddy bears, even onesies were all filing in one big line where Chapters/Indigo was handing each attendee their signed copy of Doomed. But it wasn’t just books they were handing out. They were asked to keep going down the table to find white beach balls, neon glow sticks and black sharpies. Each person was encouraged to decorate their ball and write a question on it for Chuck to answer during the Q&A portion of the night.
I knew that he had a bit of a cult following, but I never knew it was to this extent! I was helping out with the event and had the opportunity to meet Chuck who was kind, funny and down to earth. Like a champion, he showed up already in pyjamas! He also had two Shoppers Drug Mart bags and a garbage bag with him. As a quiet observer, I was silently thinking to myself that it’s probably a change of clothes. Boy was I wrong.
1. Candy… A LOT of candy
2. Stuffed cats or in true Chuck fashion what he liked to call his pussies.
I knew my cues and headed out into the audience to sit with my pal to watch the start of the event. As Indigo’s Cammy came out in his plaid pjs he said what a thrill it was to have Chuck be there that evening and then the moment that everyone had been waiting for had finally arrived. Chuck walked out to huge applause, with his bags of Halloween candy and started throwing to everyone in the audience in his bare feet. Kit Kats, Caramilk and Aero bars were being tossed all around. People were literally jumping out of their seats to get their hands on that bag of candy. *The great thing is that the candy made the rounds throughout the crowd, as many shared their winnings* Then Chuck read. He read a story that I won’t be able to recap because I won’t do it justice, a story that I’ll never be able to unhear, a story that will forever make me think of it anytime I hear people say the words “guts”. It was hilarious, disturbing and perfect in every way.
When the story ended, it was my cue to run down to the side of the stage to get ready for my big cat (er, um, pussy) throwing duties. BUT before that happened, it was time for a question. To my surprise, Chuck asked the lighting team, to dim the lights and asked the people to throw their balls to the middle of the room so everyone’s questions got mixed together and it would create one hell of an experience. I captured it all on video, so you’ll understand just what I’m talking about:
Now that is how you do a Q&A! Questions about writing, what advice he’d give to a newborn baby and who his favourite character is were asked in this format. From where I was standing, it was an incredible sight to see. Then it was time for the cat throwing… Here’s a fact you need to know about me, I’ve always wanted to be the gal who got to be onstage and throw something, anything, really, even if it is stuffed cats. I took my job very seriously. I wound up my 12 year old baseball arm and biffed those cats as far and as wide as I could get them. It was every bit as thrilling as I’ve imagined it for all these years!
Chuck read one more story about zombies which was equally as entertaining as the first story and did one more question/beach ball throwing portion of the night before the night came to an end. As I said when I started writing this post, this is an author event like no other. For many, this was their first author reading/event, so I can only imagine the excitement they must have been feeling. It’s one thing for an author to be good at their craft, it’s a whole other thing for them to be an entertainer and on October 17th, that’s exactly what the audience experienced. An entertainer at his best.
A job well done to Chapters/Indigo for hosting an amazing event and a huge thank you to publicist/friend Frances for letting me be a part of it all!
With so many books on the reading agenda, I’ll be honest and share that I didn’t have the new Dave Egger’s The Circle on the list. That was until I attended the Toronto Bookstravaganza event. Listening to Anne Collins, editor at Knopf Random House talk about this book was enough to make me look up from my social media responsibilities that night and do one of these:
A book all about the world of social media and it’s impact on our society. Yup, sign me up! So the day after Bookstravaganza, I went into work and asked around and voila, I had an advanced reading copy of The Circle.
Mae Holland is a recent graduate who has finally hit her lucky break. Her friend Annie works at the Circle, otherwise known as the world’s most powerful internet company and has helped secure a job for Mae. Their office isn’t your normal, run of the mill office, rather, it’s referred to as the Circle campus. If you’ve worked too late, just have a nap in their provided beds, shower in their showers and you’re welcome to utilize the clothes they’ve purchased for staff. Sounds amazing, right? At first it is… then things become a little too invasive.
The novelty of all the great things affiliated with the job start to wear thin when Mae attends a meeting early on in her Circle career. The meeting is referred to as ‘Dream Friday’, where something new they’re working on is showcased. They present a camera so tiny that it fits on a blade of grass and has the ability to transmit an image via satellite, no wires needed. As Eamon Bailey (one of the co-founders of the Circle) explains,
You can buy ten of them for Christmas and suddenly you have constant access to everywhere you want to be – home, work, traffic conditions. And anyone can install them. It takes five minutes tops. Think of the implications.
Mae of course is intrigued and excited about what she’s just signed up for. She smiles as the words land on the screen,
ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN.
Of course, at this point during your reading experience, you’re thinking to yourself, well that’s not right. I’m entitled to a private life. But as you continue to read on, you’ll become a little frightened to learn that even though this book is fictional, it has a non-fiction element to it as well. For example, during my reading of the book, I travelled to Second Cup to read it with a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. Here’s where the irony comes into play… I started taking a picture of my coffee shop experience. I positioned my croissant, my coffee and the book for a picture that I had intended to share on Instagram, but stopped myself before I posted it. Wasn’t I doing the exact thing that Dave Eggers set out to explore in this book? Sharing details of my life that don’t necessarily need to be shared? So naturally the picture never got shared, but as I continued reading this gripping book, my accessibility and responsibility for my social media habits continued to be called into play.
Mae’s technical abilities are top notch, but her ability to interact with the Circle community isn’t up to par. She’s called into her managers office to talk about her “Participation Rank”, often referred to as the “Popularity Rank”, which is a ticker in the bottom right hand screen (on her many computer screens) that documents her interaction with the Circle community. If she sees something/anything that interests her, she’s encourage to share it. Their universal operating system allows for everything to be connected so rather than trying to keeps some things personal, she’s told to join the conversation… immediately. Of course in an attempt to be a part of the team, she dives in head first. But of course all of this comes at a cost and her life outside the Circle starts to become disconnected. The more she interacts with strangers, the less she connects with humans.
Theres no better way to describe The Circle than how it’s described on the catalog page,
What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.
You’ll be forced to take a closer look at what should actually be shared after reading this novel. You’ll also find yourself talking about it with everyone you encounter. No word of a lie, I’ve talked about this book with my Mom, my Dad, my friends, colleagues and fellow book bloggers. This book is Dave Eggers at the top of his game and I’ll be shocked if you don’t adjust the way you interact online after reading this fabulous novel.
The shortlist for the 20th anniversary of the Scotiabank Giller Prize is:
- Dennis Bock for his novel Going Home Again, published by HarperCollins Canada
- Lynn Coady for her short story collection Hellgoing, published by House of Anansi Press
- Craig Davidson for his novel Cataract City, published by Doubleday Canada
- Lisa Moore for her novel Caught, published by House of Anansi Press
- Dan Vyleta for his novel The Crooked Maid, published by HarperCollins Canada
The winner will be announced on November 5th.
Congratulations to all the nominees!