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Falling Backwards – Jann Arden

1 Nov

Oh, Jann. When I think of people I’d love to sit down with over a pot of tea and shoot the shit, you’re always on the list. And after reading Falling Backwards, you have the #1 spot.

Falling Backwards was such an amazing look into Jann’s life and she is so candid about events in her past that I felt like I was getting to know Jann the wonderful person, not Jann the wonderful singer. I actually felt like I WAS sitting down with her. I think the best way to describe Falling Backwards is honest. It was a super honest book.

While there were hilarious moments and descriptions ( as you would expect from Jann) there were also moments of, well, not quite darkness, but of sadness. For me, it was these moments that really made the book so absorbing and addicting. Jann talks about some difficult experiences and times in her life and I really appreciated her opening up.

I don’t read a lot of memoirs but Falling Backwards makes me want to change that.

And if you’re ever in PEI, Jann, let me know. I’ll put on a pot of tea. :)

One Bird’s Choice by Iain Reid

30 Nov

Publisher: House of Anansi Press
Released: August 23, 2010
Genre: Memoir, non-fiction, humour
For review from author via publisher

Meet Iain Reid: an overeducated, underemployed twenty-something, living in the big city in a bug-filled basement apartment and struggling to make ends meet. When Iain lands a job at a radio station near his childhood home, he decides to take it. But the work is only part time, so he is forced to move back in with his lovable but eccentric parents on their hobby farm. What starts out as a temporary arrangement turns into a year-long extended stay, in which Iain finds himself fighting with the farm fowl, taking fashion advice from the elderly, fattening up on a gluttonous fare of home-cooked food, and ultimately easing (perhaps a little too comfortably) into the semiretired lifestyle.

A hilarious and heartwarming comic memoir about food, family, and finally growing up, One Bird’s Choice marks the arrival of a funny, original, and fresh new voice.

From publisher’s website.

 

As a book blogger I sometimes get emails from authors and publicists asking if I would be interested in reviewing a certain book. This is fine with me. If fact, I’m at the stage where it doesn’t happen a lot, so I usually end up giggling like a twit when it does. The emails are almost always polite and it’s always a bonus when the pitch is one that actually fits my blog.

I probably would never have heard of One Bird’s Choice if not for the fact that the author emailed me and said that he thought it would be a good fit for my blog. No it isn’t YA. And it isn’t paranormal or urban fantasy. But Iain was right: it was the perfect fit for me and my blog. Because it was a book I could relate to. And it was funny. Oh, and it was well written. VERY well written. In short I loved it.

It’s a memoir, a genre I tend to steer clear of. I read a couple of memoirs that were very boo-hoo it’s so hard being me even though I’m a privileged upper classer. There wasn’t a purpose or a story to those memoirs, and it turned me off the genre completely. Well, One Bird’s Choice has done the opposite.  It’s reconfirmed my new belief that I’ll enjoy reading in any genre as long as the book is good.

I loved this book. Really. As someone who did a return stint at home in her early 30s, I could totally identify with Iain and what he was going through. It’s not an easy thing to do, but my generation seems to be the “boomerang kids”. (Yes, Iain is younger than me and not quite my generation, but you know what I mean.)

There’s a lot of humor in this book, particular in the scenes where he deals with his parents. The great thing is, never once did I feel that that he was taking any cheap shots at them. Sure, his interactions with them were often snort out loud funny, but they were never the butt end of the jokes. He portrayed them as loving and caring, if sometimes overbearing and nosy (but in that good way that parents are overbearing and nosy).

This is more than just a funny look at Iain’s life: there is a thread of desperation and despair running underneath. After all, he’s back home, somewhere he never thought he’d end up again. And he’s clearly floundering, unsure really where his life is headed. But he doesn’t get all woe is me angsty about it. In fact, he shows us his state of mind through his actions (or sometimes inactions) rather than coming out and saying exactly how he’s feeling, which is great. I got the distinct feeling that sometimes he wasn’t even aware that he was a bit depressed and feeling “meh” about where his life was. For me, it made the book, and his story, much more enjoyable than if he had been hitting me over the head with the “my-life-sucks-so-I-wrote-about-it” stick.

The only thing I thought was weird about One Bird’s Choice was that it was written in the present tense. Since it’s a memoir, I thought it odd that I was reading about things as if they were currently happening. But in all honestly I was only aware of this for the first chapter or so. After that Iain’s story and writing style drew me in and I forgot about the fact that it was written in present tense. Now that I think about it, it’s really a matter of preference: I generally prefer books written in the past tense than the present tense. But like I said, it wasn’t a biggie and didn’t distract me from enjoying the book.

I also enjoyed all the animals and the interactions Iain had with them. I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s one scene involving a chicken that had me laughing my ass off.

This was a great read and a pretty quick one too. It flowed easily and when I was done I was left with a smile on my face and the desire to know the next chapter in Ian’s life. Both signs of a successful memoir in my books.

 

Review: After the Falls by Catherine Gildiner

8 Feb

Random House Canada, 2009

I’m not normally a fan of memoirs. Quite often I find then self indulgent and more than a little whiny. But when I had the chance to read Catherine Gildiner’s memoir After the Falls as part of an online book club started by Marci at Serendipitous Readings, I thought, What the heck? I’ll give it a go. I started reading it one evening and after staying up until 5 am finishing it, I’m awfully glad I did.

I unfortunately wasn’t around for the 60s, but through the author’s description of the era, I felt like I was there. I was pulled not only into the personal aspects of the book, but the time period as a whole.

While After the Falls is essentially Gildiner’s story, there were plenty of other people weaving in and out of her life. I loved the fact that she would introduce a person and rather than simply let their story end when they were no longer part of her life, she fills the reader in on what happened to them later on. And the switching back and forth from the 60s to other times was done so fluently that it didn’t jar me out of the story at all.

I really, really enjoyed After the Falls. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I just may have to rethink my opinion on memoirs.

Thanks to Marci and the folks at Random House for the review copy.

Browse inside After the Falls.

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