19

Obsessed with The Name Therapist

When you grow up with a name that is always mispronounced, you become interested in names. This interest becomes a full blown obsession when your mom insists that everyone has to agree on the names of your four little siblings, starting when you are 11.

My name is Eva (pronounced Ava) and I am a name nerd.

People that know me in real life have known this about me for a long time. I love talking about names and I love naming things. My car was called Sally Mazda, I had a bicycle called Betty, and I talked about names for weeks and weeks and weeks for my dog, Henrik. If you are having a baby and are ok talking about names, I will spend hours and hours throwing them at you.

But it’s not a normal hobby, you know? You can’t exactly take baby name books out of the library just to peruse. (Why can’t we?!)

Thanks to the internet, I know that I’m not the only one.

Duana Taha has long been one of my favourite parts of my daily gossip obsession Lainey Gossip. I was delighted the day her casual pieces on celebrity baby names became a full on advice column about baby names.

Then came the announcement that she was releasing a full-length book all about names. I wrote the release date in my agenda right away. And on April 5th, I went and bought the book.

I spent an entire day last weekend reading the whole, glorious thing.

name

The Name Therapist: How Growing Up With My Odd Name Taught Me Everything You Need To Know About Yours is wonderful. I laughed and nodded the whole way through. Not only does Duana discuss the history of her own unusual name and how it marked her out as different from day 1, she talks to other name experts, looks into the Jennifer phenomenon, stripper names,  discusses how culture and religion influence names and looks back at naming her son.

I was horrified to read my name mentioned in the stripper chapter. Duana starts looking at stripper names in an effort to see if there are any themes. And for comparison, she looks at the names of high-end escorts. Obviously.

These names still have a sexy factor – Paloma, Tatiana, and a lot, lot, lot of Evas – but they end in A and there’s often an implication of an exotic, not-from-here locale.

I guess that’s ok, then.

And how about this cover? Do you know what a Starbucks name is? If you use one, you know what it is. I love seeing what names will be written on my cup when I tell them my name. I’ve gotten Amy, Ivy, and once Victava. Which is not a real name, as far as I know.

Oh I loved this book. And reading it and telling people about it has uncovered a number of closeted name nerds I didn’t know about. One friend admitted that when she was 8, her favourite book to take out from the library was a baby name book. So I guess I can take those out of the library!

If you are flirting with a name interest, if you are in the middle of a full blown obsession, if you are looking at naming a human in the not-too-distant future (or a pet – Duana looks at pet names too!), read this book. I want to read it again.

17

My CanLit Journey: Canada Reads

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I’ve struggled with liking CanLit. This might not sound like a big deal for those of you that aren’t Canadian, but if you tell Canadians that you don’t really like Canadian Literature, it’s a thing.

Canada has a long, proud history of literature. We’re a bookish country. But I never really connected with CanLit. Not on purpose anyway.

But, one of the great things about having started this blog and connecting with other bookish people (I’m thinking especially of Naomi at Consumed by Ink and Tania and Kurt at WriteReads), is that I’ve been challenged to re-evaluate my position on CanLit. And I’m making progress. So much so that this year for the first time ever I tuned in to Canada Reads.

Oh yeah, I wasn’t kidding when I said Canada was a bookish country. We have a national reality show to choose a book that the whole country should read. Past winners include The Book of Negroes, The Orenda, and A Complicated Kindness. Finalists have included Life of Pi, A Fine Balance, The Prisoner of Tehran and The Birth House. Notable Canadians pick the books and then argue for why their book should win.

And actually if I’m being honest, of the ones I just listed, I’ve read and enjoyed four. Not too shabby for a CanLit snob.

Anyway, I tuned in this year and was blown away by the debate. It was passionate, it was intelligent, it was what I wish book club was actually like – at times it was emotional. The panelists argued about what it meant to be Canadian, which book broke the most barriers, writing quality etc.

Let me be honest – the reason I actually tuned in this year was because Elaine Lui (aka Lainey Gossip) was one of the panelists, defending When Everything Feels Like the Movies, the first YA book included in the competition. She was brilliant and really made me want to read the book.

I ended up reading the book that won over the weekend (I don’t want to ruin it for you, but really, you’re not going to get very far not knowing if you look at anything related to books and Canada). It was beautifully written, lyrical and poetic but honestly? I’m not sure it’s the kind of book that people are going to be clamouring to read. I think it’s one of those books that book critics love, but regular people are going to have a hard time with. The kind of book that most people are going to go “oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to read that…”

Still, actually tuning in to the competition feels like a watershed moment in my CanLit journey. If you’re looking for something to listen to, I really recommend it. It’s available as a podcast, or here.  Four sessions, four hours of fabulous bookish debate – what’s not to love?

20

2015 TBR Pile Challenge: Book 1 Read

I have always been the person that doesn’t like to be scared. I never watch scary movies, I don’t like ghost stories told over campfires and I will turn on all the lights if I see a funny shadow in the corner. I have an overactive imagination and I can’t be filling my head with all kinds of scary things.

Last year I started watching American Horror Story and found that I could totally handle it. But scary books I still stayed away from – books have a way of getting into your soul like TV shows and movies just can’t.

So that’s why Night Film was sitting on my shelf for over a year. I had asked for it for Christmas last year (having read about it on Lainey Gossip’s site)  but then every time I went to read it I was scared off by its size (it’s just over 590 pages) or its content matter.

But then the TBR Pile Challenge happened and I put it on the list. I finished it this weekend and it felt so good.

night film

In a nutshell, five years ago Scott McGrath was researching famous horror director Stanislas Cordova, a recluse for more than 30 years. He got a tip off that something untoward was happening and when he pursued it he basically lost everything. Five years later, Cordova’s daughter Ashley dies at 24. Her death is ruled a suicide, but Scott, knowing what he does about Cordova, suspects that there’s more to the story so he starts investigating. He ends up being assisted by a coat-check girl, Nora (one of the last people to see Ashley alive) and Hopper, a guy that knew Ashley casually when they were younger and winds up poking around the building where she died.

This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. You really feel like you are working on the case with Scott – pages of the book are laid out like websites and magazine articles, like you are discovering everything at the same time as Scott. The amount of detail that Marisha Pessl has put into this book is astounding. Cordova is a cult horror director whose films are so scary that they are barely even shown in theatres – they are underground. He has diehard fans that have set up an alternate internet to secretly discuss everything Cordova. Pessl has created an entire database of films and actors and backstories, entire movie plotlines and film signatures for the critics and fans to dissect.

I’m a reader that likes dialogue, who tends to get lost in sequences that are all action or descriptive. There’s an entire section of the book where Scott is lost, alone. Normally I end up skimming these kinds of pages. But Pessl had me completely enthrall to this book and I read every word, clutching the book between white knuckled fingers.

There is no other book like Night Film. It’s something completely original and incredible and I’m jealous if you still get to read it for the first time.

5

Celebrity Lifestyle: Jennifer, Gwyneth and Me

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve mentioned often that I am a pupil at the Lainey Gossip School of Celebrity Studies. I love her take on fame and the celebrity eco-system and she’s taught me to take People.com with a helping handful of salt.

I also adored Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. I think I talk about it less on the blog but in my real life I’m always telling people about that book and how simple she made it sound to change your own happiness quotient.

Enter Rachel Bertsche’s memoir, Jennifer, Gwyneth and Me: The Pursuit of Happiness One Celebrity at a Time. It’s basically the perfect amalgamation of the two!

jennifergwyneth_1217-1

After being laid off and deciding to start working from home, Rachel Bertsche starts to feel kind of sloppy. She’s not exercising like she used to, she spends her days in sweat pants because that’s the whole point of working from home and her meals are mainly of the frozen variety. She’s also a celebrity connoisseur and wonders if emulating her favourite celebrities will make her feel more fabulous and together. She decides to find out by emulating Jennifer Aniston’s fitness habits, Gwyneth’s (there’s only one) kitchen prowess, Sarah Jessica Parker’s fashion sense, Jennifer Garner’s approach to marriage and Beyonce’s…well having it all.

While Bertsche’s celebrity worship was a little too eager for me sometimes (Lainey has trained me well, I’m snarky) I really enjoyed this book. I love people’s personal transformations and I really enjoyed the celebrity aspect of it; I thought it was a really clever idea. She would spend some time researching the celebrity’s approach to their facet of life and then implement a few key rules: Don’t eat shit; invest in one statement piece; don’t talk smack about your husband in public.

And it worked! She did start to feel more content, more together, healthier. She read that Jennifer Aniston does bicep curls when she watches TV so she started doing that (I did it last night – excellent idea). She started dressing up for herself, even if she wasn’t going to leave the apartment. She became more conscious of the food she was buying and learned that she loved hosting a dinner party.

But it all also took a lot of TIME. It’s part of Jennifer Aniston’s job to look good. For the rest of us – it’s a struggle to get it all in. By the time Bertsche got to Beyonce and trying to incorporate it all, it was tough to get in the workouts, the cooking time, meditation and looking fabulous. But she was still trying and when she got in some as opposed to none, it still meant she felt a lot better about herself.

Bertsche’s chronicle of her struggle to conceive was an unexpected part of the memoir. As they are trying to get pregnant and ultimately go through IVF, Bertsche uses her celebrity methods to try and cope. Both processes kind of line up perfectly actually – when they are waiting to hear if they were successful, she is trying to emulate Julia Roberts’ calm and meditating which enables her to relax at least some of the time.

I’m probably not going to mirror my life on any celebrities ever. But I appreciated the insightful journey while Bertsche did. And I’m going to keep it up with those TV bicep curls because if it’s good enough for Jennifer Aniston…

11

Finding a Silver Lining: The Commute

I commute to work; nearly an hour each way.

And I complain about it a lot. I live in the city that I work in. If I drove it would take 15-20 minutes. Because I take the bus, it takes 50. That’s just bus travel time.

Commuting has the added benefit of exposing you to all kinds of a-holes too: people that have zero consideration for other people’s personal space; folks that don’t believe in deodorant; individuals that like to shake their umbrellas out all over you.

If you’ve ever stumbled on my twitter account, you may have noticed that every once in a while, I get into it with the transit company.

My particular bus schedule is insanely unreliable. I’ve brought this up since I don’t particularly love waiting an extra 20 minutes for a bus that may or may not show up on a Friday afternoon. I’ve called, left official complaints, tweeted at them for a quicker response, but it’s still a thing that evidently does not actually matter.

And let’s not even get started on the surly effing bus drivers I deal with on the regular.

But this is not meant to be a post about all the things that are wrong with our transit system (no one has that kind of time). My fiancé had knee surgery last week so he’s off work until the end of the month, which leaves the car free for me to take to work.

I thought about all the ways that I could spend the time I’d save by not taking the bus. Mainly they involved sleeping and more quality time at home (with Netflix obviously). I was excited to leisurely drive in, stop by a Starbucks where they just get me, park in the underground of my office building and not have to worry about all the stuff I had to carry because I wouldn’t have to carry it very far.

But somewhere in my saved time, I lost something awesome: two hours of reading time. Yesterday, in a whirl of traffic sitting, Starbucks sipping and paying for parking, I didn’t have a chance to take a time out from life and spend some quality time with a book. And I really noticed it. I came home completely burnt out.

I was so looking forward to starting Lainey Gossip’s Listen to the Squawking Chicken and I didn’t get that chance until I went to bed last night! I took the bus this morning. And despite the crowd of other sleep deprived commuter zombies, I enjoyed the ride because I took it with Lainey.

So even though a lot of the time I hate taking the bus and think about how much better it would be if I could get home faster, for now I’m going to sit back and read while someone else deals with rush hour traffic.

10

Coming Soon: Books I’m Waiting For

Spring is almost here. I can feel it. The days are so much longer, tiny flowers are starting to poke through the ground and the sun is finally up to making more regular appearances. I went for a walk at lunchtime yesterday and it was sunny and warm and so wonderful.

While we all start shedding our winter coats and dreaming about the not-so-distant days of patio lunching and t-shirt weather, can we also take a minute to think about all the great books that are coming out to celebrate the season with us?

I don’t know if you’ve let yourself loose in a bookstore recently (I keep finding myself in them despite trying so hard to stop buying more books!) but they are clearing out a lot of books to make room for the new titles and it’s really becoming a problem. So if you love a good book discount (and who doesn’t?), you need to get in on that.

Aside from the books that are already laid out on tables and set up in window displays, here are some of the ones that I’m most excited about coming out soon.

Buried Angels by Camilla Lackberg. It’s no secret that I love Camilla Lackberg. If I could read Swedish I would have finished reading all her books by now. But I can’t so I must wait for English translations. Her seriously creepy, yet strangely domestic books about all the murders that happen in a small Swedish town are addictive and I can’t get enough. Looks like I won’t have to wait much longer – Buried Angels is set to come out April 15th.

Listen to the Squawking Chicken by Elaine Lui. I’ve already ordered this – as soon as it’s released it will be on it’s way to me. I’ve long hoped that Lainey Gossip would write a book; her blog is full of sharp observations and caustic remarks that always seemed to be begging for a book deal. Her memoir about life with her mother, a huge presence on her blog and in her life, is sure to be crammed full of excellent advice and hilarious anecdotes. I am so looking forward to it’s debut April 8th.

The One and Only by Emily Giffin. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Giffin’s books. I remember devouring Something Borrowed and Something Blue, and enjoying Baby Proof. There’s something about spring weather that makes me want to read something chick lit-y and I suspect that this new book of Giffin’s will more than fit the bill. I can expect to carry The One and Only home with me on May 27th.

It would appear that Jo Nesbo has really taken off in North America. It seems that every time I turn around, a new Jo Nesbo book has made it to bookshelves. Cockroaches, then The Police and now The Son. Like Lackberg, Jo Nesbo is a master at dark and twisty crime fiction. The difference of course, is that Nesbo’s hero is just as dark and twisty as his cases. It looks like this one doesn’t feature the infamous Harry Hole though which definitely piques my interest. The Son is out on May 13th.

Did you read Room by Emma Donoghue? I did and it stayed with me for weeks. I put off reading it for ages and when I finally gave in, I was completely swept up in it. Emma Donoghue has another book out this spring – Frog Music. This one takes place in 1870s San Francisco and centers around a murder in a saloon. I’m into it. The cover design alone is worth stopping and taking a second look. Frog Music comes out on March 25th.

I can’t wait for these books to come into my life! It’s going to be a pretty alright spring. Any books that you’re waiting to be released?

8

Why I love reading books by Julia P. Gelardi

I am a disciple of the brilliant Lainey Gossip and she always says that girl sh*t is the best sh*t. What she means is that the kind of gossip that goes down between girls is always the most interesting/fun/hilarious.

(Incidentally Lainey, or Elaine Lui to use her actual name, has a book coming out! Listen to the Squawking Chicken arrives in Canada on April 1st and the US on April 21st. Don’t worry, I already ordered my copy!)

This is true in Hollywood today and 60 years ago (Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Fisher anyone?) and it was true at the Russian court in the 1800s.

I just finished reading From Splendor to Revolution: Romanov Women 1847-1928 and it was full of girl sh*t.

Julia P. Gelardi has got to be one of the best biographers of famous women. I’ve mentioned it loads of times before, but her book about the five granddaughters of Queen Victoria who all went on to become Queens in their own right, is among my favourite biographies. From Splendor to Revolution is another excellent example of the talent of this woman to take the incredible lives of four women and the times they lived in and break them down into a 389 page book. That’s a tall order.

splendor

The book follows the lives and loves of the Empress Marie Feodorovna (who had been Princess Dagmar of Denmark), and her sisters-in-law Marie Pavlovna (a German princess who married a Russian Grand Duke, also known as Miechen), Marie Alexandrovna (daughter of Alexander II who married Albert, the Duke of Edinburgh and became the Duchess of Coburg), and Olga Constantinovna (a Russian Grand Duchess who married Marie Feodorovna’s brother George who became King George I of Greece, making his wife Queen Olga of Greece).

Did you get all that?

Aside from all the Maries (and Olgas and Alexanders) to keep track of, this book was full of gossip. The Russian court loved to gossip and compete with each other. Marie Feodorovna and Marie Pavlovna did not like each other and things only got worse as Russia headed ever faster towards Revolution. Meanwhile, Marie Alexandrovna, used to the level of status she had in Russia as the daughter of Alexander II, fought her English relations for her level of precedence in their society.

Of course their lives weren’t all about gossip and fighting and the most exquisite jewels; Russia’s Imperial family were living on borrowed time and their Greek relations were no better off. By the time the 1920s rolled around, most Russian royals were living in exile (if they were living at all) while the Greeks made one last attempt at maintaining the throne.

One of the reasons why Gelardi is so adept at making these sprawling biographies of hers so accessible is that she is able to show the human side of history’s personalities. If you look at portraits or photos of these women, you see them covered in the garb of their position, dripping in jewels that don’t seem like they could be real. But when you get the chance to read their letters to each other during one of the most tumultuous epochs of human history, you get to meet the person beneath the crown. Queen Olga was an affectionate and empathetic woman, writing adoring letters to her nephew, the future George V; Marie Alexandrovna was a proud Russian and an involved mother, looking out for the interests of all her daughtes, especially Missy who became Queen Marie of Romania; Marie Pavolvna was an excellent hostess who loved to surround herself with the most glamourous people and in the end was a most loyal mistress; and Empress Marie Feodorovna was incredibly devoted to her husband and her children, and adored by Russia while she shared the throne with Alexander III.

I learned a lot from this one. The period of time covered seems so available because their lives bled into the 20th century – their descendants still exist! They’re not that far removed either. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is a grandson of Queen Olga after all.

So that’s another fantastic book about woman from Julia P. Gelardi. Now I just need to get my hands on In Triumph’s Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters and the Price They Paid for Glory!