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Featured blogger: Jennifer Knoch of The KIRBC

Here at Anansi, we’ve been fans of Jen’s excellent blog, The Keepin’ It Real Book Club (KIRBC), for some time. When I got in touch with Jen to see if she’d be interested in reviewing Gil Adamson’s lovely collection of linked short stories, Help Me, Jacques Cousteau, her enthusiasm was palpable. So, without further ado, here she is:

The fantastic Jen Knoch in conversation with Anansi

1. We already know you love reading and reviewing books. What first got you into reading?
Oh the usual story: my parents who got me hooked on the good stuff when I was young and impressionable. I was also an only child for ten years, and quickly discovered that spending time with authors like Roald Dahl, Madeline L’Engle and Judy Blume was slightly more stimulating than playing Monopoly against my dog.

2. What do you do in your “real” life? How do you find the time to read and post on your blog?
IRL, I’m an Associate Editor at ECW Press in Toronto. But I do lots of other things beyond editing like some production work and running our Shelf Monkey program, which hooks up reviewers with free books! I get the majority of my reading done during my 2 hours of commuting on the grand ol’ TTC each day, and before I go to bed. Blogging happens whenever I can! Weekends and the occasional evening mostly.

3. Which books are you buying for friends and family this holiday season?
It would be a long list! Luckily my family and friends have embraced the fact that they’re pretty much ALWAYS getting books. But I figure working in books and reading so much makes me a qualified literary matchmaker, and they’re always happy with my choices. Anyway a couple examples: I’m getting Cathy Gildiner’s After the Falls for my grandmother, who loved Too Close to the Falls last year, my best friend is getting Lemon by Cordelia Strube. No spoilers for the rest of them!

4. What are you looking forward to reading this winter?
An even longer list! I can’t wait to get down to reading/re-reading the Canada Reads titles and joining the discussion over at the CBC and Roughin’ it in the Books. Aside from those, Victor Lodato’s Mathilda Savitch, Margaret Sweatman’s The Players, and Damian Rogers’ Paper Radio are all jockeying for position in the ‘To Read’ queue.

A short history of the Keepin’ It Real Book Club

by Jen Knoch

“So, the name’s a little unwieldy. And it makes a tongue-tripping acronym. But the name is important, because it came out of a distinctly un-real environment: grad school, where a simple love of books runs the risk of being beat to a pulp by critical theory and academic pretension. But English grad students are all book lovers at heart, and they’ve often read an incredibly diverse array of books. So I thought, why not bring them together and just ask them to talk about their favourites? The KIRBC was born and it was a runaway success. The room was filled with laughter and enthusiasm, and at the many meetings since the first, I’ve accumulated a killer list of to reads in any genre. Now the meetings continue in Toronto with a whole new group of people, but to the same results: great recommendations and great times.

How exactly does it work? All attendees bring a book to recommend. It can be any book, any genre. They make a short pitch for why people might like their book, sometimes reading from it, and usually caressing it and waving it about. The only rule? No book bashing. It’s an open-minded space where sci-fi, romance, kids’ books, literary fiction, poetry and non-fiction all come to play.

The KIRBC also lives on in an online form, where notes and picks are often posted alongside general book reviews by yours truly and other KIRBC members. The goal of the blog? To promote books and the discussion of books in a way that is intelligent, but accessible. Out of critical necessity it’s not quite the big love-in that meetings can be, but the same spirit remains. Check it out and join the discussion!”

Jen reviews Help Me, Jacques Cousteau

“In the third story from the end of Gil Adamson’s short story collection Help Me, Jacques Cousteau, Hazel, our valiant explorer and protagonist, admits that she has a terrible memory: ‘I can’t remember anything in its right order, and I rarely know if it’s a memory or just something I heard somewhere.’ It’s a common failing, I would think, our pasts clouded by time, by stories, by dreams and imaginings all swirling around in the depths of our consciousness. Just as on the playful and evocative cover, it’s like being under water, peering into the murky waters, searching for those brief moments when a errant ray of light temporarily clears the shadows. And it seems to me that each story in this collection, which ranges from Hazel being a few years old to her being in her late teens, is just that: those illuminated memories that we carry with us, for better or for worse.Read the full review on KIRBC.

Thanks for everything, Jen! Come by anytime.

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