Saturday, 22 January 2022

This Is My Real Name: A Stripper's Memoir by Cid V. Brunet

I just finished reading This Is My Real Name by Cid V. Brunet.

The electric and intimate memoir of a person who spent ten years as a stripper. 

This Is My Real Name is the memoir of Cid V Brunet, who spent ten years working as a dancer at strip clubs, using the name Michelle. From her very first lap dance in a small-town bar to her work at high-end clubs, Michelle learns she must follow the unspoken rules that will allow her to succeed in the competitive industry. Along the way, she and her co-workers encounter compelling clients and unreasonable bosses and navigate their own relationships to drugs and alcohol. Michelle and her friends rely on each other's camaraderie and strength in an industry that can be both toxic and deeply rewarding. 

Intensely personal, This Is My Real Name demystifies stripping as a career with great respect and candour, while at the same time exploring the complex, sex-positive relationships (queer and otherwise) that make it meaningful.

Cid V. Brunet is brutally honest in telling the story of her life. I never felt she held back or left anything out. It must have been very hard for her to relive some of the moments as she wrote. Many parts of the book are quite emotional. I love how she never apologizes for the life she led or took any time to feel sorry for herself. 

I really enjoyed this book and found her life outside the clubs as compelling to read as her work inside. A book definitely worth reading.

Sunday, 9 January 2022

Talking to Canadians by Rick Mercer

I have long been a fan of Rick Mercer ever since his This Hour has 22 Minutes Days. Always loved his rants. So when he came out with his latest book, Talking to Canadians, I had to buy it.

Canada’s beloved comic genius tells his own story for the first time. 

 What is Rick Mercer going to do now? That was the question on everyone’s lips when the beloved comedian retired his hugely successful TV show after 15 seasons—and at the peak of its popularity. The answer came not long after, when he roared back in a new role as stand-up-comedian, playing to sold-out houses wherever he appeared. 

And then Covid-19 struck. And his legions of fans began asking again: What is Rick Mercer going to do now? Well, for one thing, he’s been writing a comic masterpiece. For the first time, this most private of public figures has turned the spotlight on himself, in a memoir that’s as revealing as it is hilarious. In riveting anecdotal style, Rick charts his rise from highly unpromising schoolboy (in his reports “the word ‘disappointment’ appeared a fair bit”) to the heights of TV fame. Along the way came an amazing break when, not long out of his teens, his one-man show Show Me the Button, I’ll Push It. Or, Charles Lynch Must Die, became an overnight sensation—thanks in part to a bizarre ambush by its target, Charles Lynch himself. That’s one story you won’t soon forget, and this book is full of them. 

There’s a tale of how little Rick helped himself to a tree from the neighbours’ garden that’s set to become a new Christmas classic. There’s Rick the aspiring actor, braving “the scariest thing I have ever done in my life” by performing with the Newfoundland Shakespeare Company; unforgettable scenes with politicians of every variety, from Jean Chretien to George W. Bush to Stockwell Day; and a wealth of behind-the-scenes revelations about the origins and making of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Made in Canada, and Talking to Americans. All leading of course to the greenlighting of that mega-hit, Rick Mercer Report . . . 

It’s a life so packed with incident (did we mention Bosnia and Kabul?) and laughter we can only hope that a future answer to “What is Rick Mercer going to do now?” is: “Write volume two.

This is a funny and insightful book, recounting his early days right up to the start of the Rick Mercer Monday Night Report, which became simply, The Rick Mercer Report. I enjoyed each and every chapter but must say his story on the creation of Talking to Americans and the subsequent trips he took to the States were my favourite. Also enjoyed the behind the scenes of his Christmas trips to Bosnia and Afghanistan to entertain our overseas Canadian troops.

A definite 5/5, I look forward to his follow up on the 15 years spent doing the Rick Mercer Report.

Sunday, 26 December 2021

Binge by Douglas Coupland

I just finished reading Binge, by one of my favourite writers, Douglas Coupland. He did not disappoint. 

Thirty years after Douglas Coupland broke the fiction mould and defined a generation with Generation X, he is back with Binge, 60 stories laced with his observational profundity about the way we live and his existential worry about how we should be living: the very things that have made him such an influential and bestselling writer. Not to mention that he can also be really funny. 

Here the narrators vary from story to story as Doug catches what he calls the voice of the people, inspired by the way we write about ourselves and our experiences in online forums. The characters, of course, are Doug's own: crackpots, cranks and sweetie-pies, dad dancers and perpetrators of carbecues. People in the grip of unconscionable urges; lonely people; dying people; silly people. If you love Doug's fiction, this collection is like rain on the desert.

I really enjoyed the stories in this 60 short story collection. Some are funny. Some make you think. Many are connected. There might be a story early in the book, then 10 stories later, comes a story connected, continued or a prequel to it. Most of the time, you don't realize it till the end of the next story. 

Binge is well written, diverse and keeps the reader on their toes. A terrific book.

About Douglas Coupland 

Since 1991 Coupland has written thirteen novels published in most languages. He has written and performed for England’s Royal Shakespeare Company and is a columnist for The Financial Times of London. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, e-flux, DIS and Vice. 

In 2000 Coupland amplified his visual art production and has recently had two separate museum retrospectives, Everything is Anything is Anywhere is Everywhere at the Vancouver Art Gallery, The Royal Ontario Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, and Bit Rot at Rotterdam’s Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, and Munich’s Villa Stücke. In 2015 and 2016 Coupland was artist in residence in the Paris Google Cultural Institute. In May 2018 his exhibition on ecology, Vortex, opened at the Vancouver Aquarium. 

Coupland is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Officer of the Order of British Columbia, a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and receiver of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon

I just finished reading, You Will Remember Me, by Hannah Mary McKinnon. 

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland with a gash on his head and wearing only swim trunks. He can't remember who he is. Everything--his identity, his life, his loved ones--has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth uncovers more questions than answers. 

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he's been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he'd purposely left behind. 

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?

I really enjoyed this well written novel. The story alternates between the views of the tree people, Lily, Asher and Maya, all told in first person. It's clever, well crafted and kept me guessing throughout. 

About Hannah Mary McKinnon

I was born in Manchester, UK to British & Swiss parents. A year later they moved my older sister and me to Switzerland. Rather unsurprisingly I love mountains, chocolate and cheese…or mountains of chocolate and cheese, and my sister, of course.

After completing commercial studies in Geneva, I worked as a PA for DuPont. A year later I moved to Neuchâtel and became the Purchasing Manager for a high-tech company that made motors for industrial and space applications. While working, I returned to university, studying part-time for a Bachelor of Science. And then a friend of a friend introduced me to another friend who’d started up an IT recruitment business. I joined the company late 1995, and over the next fifteen years rose through the ranks to become CEO.

Things outside of work were hardly boring, either. A chance encounter back in the dark ages of the Internet in 1999 led me down the aisle with Rob, my Canadian rock, five months later. Actually it was exactly ten weeks after we met face-to-face at the Saint John airport in New Brunswick, Canada – and we’re still married. True story. Our first son was born in 2003, followed by identical twin boys just sixteen months later, so I’m heavily outnumbered (and at 5ft8 officially the shortest of the family).

My writing career began after we moved to Oakville in Ontario, Canada in 2010. Maybe it was the failed attempt at a start-up company, or an early mid-life crisis, but one morning I decided to follow my oldest passion, started writing, and never wanted to look back. My first book was a rom-com, but then I switched to the dark side of suspense (say it with me: muahahaha).

While I may never have enough time to get all of the ideas out of my head and on paper, I’ll be darned if I won’t have fun trying

Friday, 5 November 2021

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

I just finished reading Five Little Indians by Michelle Good.

Winner of the 2018 HarperCollins/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction Michelle Good's FIVE LITTLE INDIANS, told from the alternating points of view of five former residential school students as they struggle to survive in 1960s Vancouver—one finding her way into the dangerous world of the American Indian movement; one finding unexpected strength in motherhood; and one unable to escape his demons - and the bonds of friendship that sustain them, inspired by the author's experiences.

This is an amazing read. The story alternates between each of the five characters in the novel, all of whom were kidnapped by the authorities and placed in one of BC,s  residential schools on an island which was run by a church. Most of the story takes place after their release, which sees them leave by different methods and how their lives cross in Vancouver at different points. 

The story of each is well told. I found myself routing for each and every one of them, cursing the system that saw them having to go to one of these monstrous run institutions and hating with a passion, the man the kids knew simply as Brother. Certainly had no love for the sister who ran the institution either.

A powerful story of the effects a horrible system put in place and was kept running by different governments through the decades, had on innocent indigenous children's lives. I can see why it received so much acclaim. it won the WINNER: Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Amazon First Novel Awards and the the Kobo Emerging Author Prize plus was the finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Atwood Gibson Writers Trust Prize. All well deserved. 

About Michelle Good

Michelle Good is a Cree writer and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. After working for Indigenous organizations for twenty-five years she obtained a law degree and advocated for residential school survivors for over fourteen years. Good earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia while still practicing law and managing her own law firm. 

Her poems, short stories, and essays have been published in magazines and anthologies across Canada, and her poetry was included on two lists of the best Canadian poetry in 2016 and 2017. Five Little Indians is her first novel.

Friday, 22 October 2021

Her Last Breath by Hilary Davidson

I just finished reading Her Last Breath by Hilary Davidson.

When her beloved sister Caroline dies suddenly, Deirdre is heartbroken. However, her sorrow turns to bone-chilling confusion when she receives a message Caroline sent days earlier warning that her death would be no accident. Long used to being a pariah to her family, Deirdre covers her tattoos and heads to Manhattan for her sister’s funeral. 

The message claimed Caroline’s husband, Theo, killed his first wife and got away with it. Reeling from the news, Deirdre confronts Theo on the way to the cemetery, and he reveals both his temper and his suspicion that Deirdre’s “perfect” sister was having an affair. 

Paranoid and armed with just enough information to make her dangerous, Deirdre digs into the disturbing secrets buried with Caroline. But as she gets closer to the truth, she realizes that her own life may be at risk…and that there may be more than one killer in the family.

This is an excellent story which was spun very well. Told in first person from the viewpoint of Deidre in some chapters and Theo in others, it allows the reader to get into the head of both people who have lived screwed up lives. I really enjoyed it.

About Hilary Davidson 

Hilary Davidson was a journalist before she turned to the dark side and started writing crime fiction. Her novels include the award-winning Lily Moore series—The Damage Done, The Next One to Fall, and Evil in All Its Disguises—the bestselling Shadows of New York series—One Small Sacrifice and Don’t Look Down—and the standalone novels Blood Always Tells and Her Last Breath (coming in July 2021). She is also the author of some fifty short stories. Her fiction has won two Anthony Awards, a Derringer Award, and a host of other accolades. Toronto born and raised, she moved to New York City in October 2001. She is also the author of 18 nonfiction books.

Sunday, 10 October 2021

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I just finished reading "Station Eleven" by Emily St-John Mandel.

Set in the days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. 

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor's first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

Wow! The story swings back and forth between a number of characters and time periods. It sounds like a complicated read, but is far from it. We're told the story of each character from before the collapse of the world to 20 years post pandemic in bits and pieces..

When the pandemic started I swore that I wouldn't read a book based on the pandemic. This one caught my eye as it was published in 2014, and is an extreme example of a virus. When a person is infected, they are dead in 24 hours. Hospitals and the medical community can't keep up and within a month or two, 98% of the earth's population are dead.

Station Eleven, was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, plus it won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke award for science fiction.

An excellent dystopian novel which kept me reading.

About Emily St-John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York. She is the author of five novels, including The Glass Hotel (spring 2020) and Station Eleven (2014.) Station Eleven was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, won the Morning News Tournament of Books, and has been translated into 34 languages. She lives in NYC with her husband and daughter