[Book Review] How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

How to Build a GirlThe key to being a teenager is knowing how to “fake it ’til you make it” and if you’re Johanna Morrigan, “faking it” means taking on a new persona that goes by the name of Dolly Wilde. Dolly’s a bit different than Johanna, she’s a drinker, a top hat wearing Lady Sex Adventurer. Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s niece who was a lesbian, drinking, heroin addict, Johanna’s determined that if she becomes “goth”, she’ll be able to help her family out of a jam she ended up putting them in and this makes perfect sense since How to Build a Girl is set in the 90’s. Johanna’s family is quite large and her Father’s pipe dream of making it in the “music biz” doesn’t appear to be panning out anytime soon. By accidentally letting it slip that their family collects disability, Johanna lives in constant fear that she’s ruined her family’s steady income. In preparation of the big fallout, she determines that her writing will help that “save them” after winning a contest in their town.

With the prize money as her indication that she might actually be good at this writing thing, she decides to become employed. As a teenager, I got the typical teenager job… fast food, telemarketing, etc… but Johanna’s got something else in mind. She decides that she’s going to focus and channel Dolly and study music at her local library. She considers herself the only one in her home with a real job and is determined to learn everything there is to know about music history that have helped to shape 90’s bands and music. Diligently spending hours at the library (sometimes with her twin siblings at her side) and patiently waiting to sign out music with her library card, she becomes better and better at understanding music and the ways in which she should write about music. It’s that determination that lands her a job at D&ME magazine and allows her to get front stage (and backstage) passes to any show she’s interested in reviewing.

With gumption and a little narcissism, Johanna/Dolly is the perfect combination of confidence and insecurity. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a character like this sixteen year old girl. Things were challenging for her and her earliest writing for the magazine got misconstrued with being a IMG_7023bit fan-girly, so she amps it up and spends much of her energy “telling the truth” i.e. being “Dolly”. With constant begging from her Father to include his music in the magazine and her Mother’s instance about saving money, she finds herself pushing boundaries and making decisions that she wants to make, regardless of what others have to say. Sometimes she’s very aware that it might not be the best decision, but she’s all about going against the grain and sometimes that means making decisions that scare you. I only wish that at sixteen, I had half as much charisma as she has in this book! You’ll want to be friends with her and you’ll want to be her, which is the best kind of character in my opinion.

Caitlin Moran is a face I’d see constantly popping up at bookstores and on Twitter, but it wasn’t until my friend Anne insisted we head to Indigo to go get one of her “free hugs”. I stood in line with my one job… taking a nice picture of Caitlin and Anne. I honestly had no intention of buying a book. That was until I started chatting with those around me in line. They insisted that my world would expand by reading any of Caitlin’s books. They promised she’d be witty, hilarious and rambunctious and I’m officially happy to report that they weren’t lying. There was no exaggerations and no bullshitting. Caitlin Moran can write and she knows how to make a goth, sex obsessed sixteen year old come to life in a way that can only be explained by reading this book.  Highly, highly recommended.

If you’ve read this one, leave a comment below sharing your reaction to the book. And if you haven’t read it yet… what are you waiting for? Take my word on it, you don’t want to miss out on this glorious read. 

6 Days of Giller Prize Shortlist Reading

giller-logo-20111_0

Today the Giller Prize Shortlist was announced and since I was sick, I lay in bed hitting refresh and watched as the book community was waiting with baited breath for the CanLit announcement. When the list was finally announced, it was exciting to see that for the first time in a really long time, the list is split 50/50 between two major publishers, Random House of Canada and HarperCollins Canada. The books nominated were:

  • Frances Itani, Tell (HarperCollins Canada)

The lack of small publishers was a bit surprising, but since the longlist was announced, we’ve come to expect some curveballs thrown our way this year. It was previously announced that founder Jack Rabinovitch, had increased the prize to $150,000, the winner will receive $100,000 and the runners up will receive $10,000. It was also exciting to see a sixth book added to the shortlist this morning. We’re all so use to only seeing five titles on the list each year, so it was wonderful to see an additional candidate in the running.

This year, like every year, I’m taking on the challenge of reading all six books. But unlike other years, this year I’m actually going to follow through and read and report my thoughts on all six books. What better way to make a commitment than to put it in writing, right? So, I’m declaring October 26 – October 31st, Reeder’s 6 Days of Giller Prize Shortlist Reading. Be sure to tune in to read a review of each book and hear what I think of each book on the shortlist this year. Here are books I’ll be chatting about on each date.

Please Note: You are more than welcome to join along by posting your thoughts and reactions on the corresponding dates too if you’re interested in reading with me!

October 26 October 27 October 28 October 29 October 30 October 31

 

The Scotiabank Giller Prize Winner will be announced on CBC Television on Monday, Nov. 10 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) with host Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio’s Q.

5 Apps that Every Book Lover Should Have on Their Phone

iphone_2011806cLike any other warm blooded individual, I’m addicted to my phone. Sadly, I’ve  become accustomed to reaching for it practically every 30 minutes it seems. Statistically, this need and want to be on our phones 24/7 is not uncommon, so I feel okay about providing you more ways in which you can use your phone, but I promise that my hope is to enhance your reading habits/experience. We word nerds are always on the hunt to find new and fun ways to spend time reading, so why not use our phones in that process? Some reading apps are obvious… Goodreads, Kobo, iBooks, but I want to dig a little deeper and provide you with a list of some conventional and unconventional apps you should have on your phone if you’re addicted to books.

1. OverDrive App

I’m going to be real honest with you and tell you that I use to be really unsure of how to borrow eBooks from the library. It seemed like a really intimidating experience. Then someone in my life sat me down and explained that if I just got overdrive, all that anxiety would disappear. And it did.

All that’s required for OverDrive is a library card and some empty storage on your phone. From the comfort of your home, you can borrow or reserve eBooks and audiobooks quickly and efficiently. Books can be searched by genre, author or title and there’s also a great function that allows you to search for ‘available now’ titles that are just sitting there waiting for you to download them.

The best part is that after you download the file (ePub or audio file), it will be on your phone (in this app) for 2 weeks, allowing you to read or listen to it at your earliest convenience and then it returns it to the queue when those two weeks are up. For me, this has been a lifesaver for long commutes and for my morning walks. If you don’t already have it, you need to get it ASAP.

2. Podcast App

podcastHere’s another thing that use to be really overwhelming to me… podcasts. I remember hearing that a lot of people were listening to them via their iTunes account, but when I went to do it, I didn’t know how to sync it with my old iPod and it just seemed really confusing. When I got my iPhone a few years back, I made a goal to really get the hang of podcasts. Luckily for me, there was a simple and easy way to do it.

From the app store, download the purple podcast app, hit search to browse the “store” where you’ll pay nothing and search the term books. You’ll get plenty of suggestions, such as NYT Book Review, NPR: Books, Books on the Nightstand and one of my favourites, BookRiot. Once you subscribe to these podcasts, they’ll download their recent episodes and live in this app until you remove the download.

If you’re someone who loves reading, you’re going to get a number of book suggestions by tuning into these podcasts (which are all usually updated weekly). I often get some of my best book recommendations by opening this app.

3. Songza App

I feel that by now, most of you know what Songza is, but just in case you don’t… Songza is a free music streaming and recommendation service that suggest playlists for you based on the time and date of when you open the app. I’ll create a scenario for you…

It’s Sunday afternoon. Your laundry is done. Your kids are down for a nap and it’s just you and your phone. Open Songza and it’ll break it down for you in real simple terms; are you…

  • Driving
  • Reading
  • Relaxing at Home

You decide that it’s reading time… you tap that option and get more options:icon320x320

  • Jazz
  • Solo Piano
  • Nature Sounds

You click Solo Piano and then have three varied music playlists that have been curated for you.

  • Mello Solo Piano
  • Classic Piano Jazz
  • Strictly Piano

Voila, you’ve now got a specific playlist that can create some really great background music for you as you dip into that new Ian McEwan or Ann-Marie MacDonald. This app has become my go-to app for when I’m reading and want some background music. Highly, highly recommended.

4. Dictionary App

I often stumble across a word in my reading that I’ve never seen before, so having the dictionary app makes it quick and easy to find a words definition. I wish that I wise enough to recognize all words, but that just isn’t the case and having this app has really helped to enhance my reading.

Not to mention, the app in itself is really great. Each day you get a different word and it’s definition. Today’s word is,

Hypogeum – noun; an underground burial chamber

Now I don’t know when I’ll be having my next conversation about burial chambers, but when I do, I’m definitely going to weave the word hypogeum into my lingo. This app also has some great word and literary posts embedded into the app. Some of today’s options are, “8 Words That Are Older Than You Think, 13 Essential Literary Terms & Word Fact: I Couldn’t Care Less vs. I Could Care Less”

If you’re a word nerd like me, this is a GREAT app to have on your phone!

5. WattPad App

icon220x220To quote my good friends at Wikipedia,

Wattpad is a writing community in which users are able to post articles, stories, fan fiction, and poems about anything either online or through the Wattpad app.

Not only do I think it’s a great tool for readers and aspiring writers, but I think it’s really cool that it’s headquarters is located in Toronto. Broken down into ‘Discover’ categories, you can select reads for writers in the featured stories section, the stories you might enjoy section and my favourite, the lunch break reads section. Of course, you can also sort through genre specific categories as well.

Whatever your pleasure, there’s a little something for everyone on this app.

—–

And there you have it friends, 5 apps you should have on your phone if you love books. Of course, you should get all the original gangsta’s like, Kobo, Goodreads, Audible, but try some of these really great ones too! I’m sure there are many, many more apps that will help to enhance your reading experience, so if you know of an app(s) that I (or all of us reading this post) should download to our phones immediately, please leave a comment below and share, because sharing is caring.

~Happy Reading… on your iPhone or Android.

 

[Video] Document Your Life – September 2014

September 2014

Can you believe it’s October? I feel like I blinked and September was over! September’s are always a busy month for anyone that works in publishing. It’s when the books that will be prominently featured around the holidays are released and it’s also a time when many authors come to town to release said books. This past month I met many great authors and had the luxury of spending time in their home, dining with them and chatting about our favourite books to paddle boarding. I tried my best to capture it all on film, as well as a look at some of the great books I read this month. Not to mention my trip to the CN Tower, an Ed Sheeran concert with my cousins and a quick (ninja like) video of Lena Dunham attending JFL42. Needless to say, it was busy 30 days, but oh so much fun!

Have a look at the month of September below and let me know if the comments what you read in the month of September and what books you can’t to read this fall!

 

*The concept of the Document Your Life videos was created by Lauren Hannah. Her story, videos and a description of the project can be found here.

** The song in this video is Girls Chase Boys by Ingrid Michaelson http://www.ingridmichaelson.com

Toronto International Book Fair 2014

One of the best perks of being a reader is that today, more than ever, it’s easy to connect with the people who write all the incredible books that are on your bookshelves. You can write them a message on Facebook, you can share your reaction with them in 140 characters and you can ask them anything with the help of Reddit. But there are also traditional ways to connect with authors, you can go to one of their readings, a hosted bookstore event or, in some cases, you can invite them to your book club. Either way you spin it, you now have access to authors.

TIBF-EN-FR

At the Toronto International Book Fair, you can spend three full days connecting with over 400 of your favourite authors! Thanks to Rita Davies and John Calabro, now Executive Directors of the TIBF, and with advice from an Advisory Committee (comprised of leading figures in the publishing industry), they did some research and discovered that Toronto was in need and want of a book fair and voila, the Toronto International Book Fair was born. As someone who loves literature and can’t always fly to the US to attend book conventions, I’m so thrilled that we’re going to have a Canadian book fair. I’m sure most of you feel the same way and for the low cost of $15.00 for a 3 day pass, it sounds as if it will be a fabulous event! Come out and support your love of reading on November 13-16. All the details about the book fair are listed below.

WHAT

This information is obtained from their website.

INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair will appeal to all book lovers and readers. From Literary to Romance, from Science Fiction to Mystery, from Children’s Books to Cookbooks, the Fair makes the Book, in all its various forms, the star of the show. It will provide for the English-language market as well as Toronto’s diverse language communities, hosting international, national, regional and local exhibitors.

It will be part exhibition, part market and part cultural festival, celebrating reading in all forms and embracing all facets of the book trade. It will be a place for readers to connect with those who write and produce the books they love—to learn, explore and be entertained, in all print and digital formats.

WHY

This information is obtained from their website.

INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair is a place for readers to connect in the most immediate ways with those who write and with those who produce the books they love; a place where people can reconnect with the passion and enchantment of the world ofreading.

WHO

As I mentioned above, there are going to be over 400, yes, 400! authors present over the three day fair. To name a few…. Margaret Atwood, Chris Hadfield, Anne Rice, Elaine Lui, Jim Gaffigan, Sylvia Day, Michael Cho, Dr. George Elliott, Lev Grossman, E. Lockhart & more.Book Fair

You can see the full list here.

WHEN

November 13 – 16

WHERE

Metro Toronto Convention Centre (N. Building)

TICKETS

The cost of 1 ticket is only $15.00 for a 3 day pass. Which is an incredible deal if you ask me! And if you and your book club exceed the number 20, you can get a group admission price of $10.00 each.

Purchase your tickets here.

CONNECT

Twitter: @InspireTIBF
Facebook: Inspire Toronto International Book Fair

I look forward to seeing each and everyone of you there!