What I’ve been Reading & Finding Joy

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Hello reading friends!

Well, the weather has officially turned for the better here, and my family is just loving it. What a mood lifter. On that note, I thought that today I’d share a little list of things that are bringing me joy lately. I make little lists of this sort in my journal, and I find it helps me look for joy throughout the day. I encourage you to give it try, because right now with all the wild things going on in the world we could all use a little refocus onto the joyful moments.

What’s Been Bringing Me Joy:

  • All the summer reading lists. It’s actually laughable when I look at my desk and see all the lists of books that I’m excited to read. I’ve been collecting these from blogs, podcasts, and bookstagram accounts… here’s a couple links of my favs. Sarah’s Bookshelves Live, Modern Mrs. Darcy, Happiest When Reading
  • Gardening. I am getting all my frustrations out on ripping out our back garden, which I have for the past 4 years called a “wildflower garden”. It’s really just a ton of weeds with some perennials peppered throughout. So this year is my year, and I’ve been transforming it, and started a little veggie raised garden bed. All that pulling weeds, and nurturing tiny plants has done a good thing to my mental health.
  • Little Fires Everywhere. Okay, this show so far is fantastic! I loved the book (here’s my review of it), and am slowly working my way through this show. From the music, to the acting, it’s all just so good. Reese Witherspoon produced it, and stars in it with Kerry Washington. Enough said, just watch it if you can… it’s on Amazon Prime.
  • Streak running and socially distanced runs with my running buddy. More to come on this one in a different post… but I’ve been doing some experimenting in my running life and loving the change. And no it’s not streaking, get your mind out of the gutter!! But it’s basically just running everyday, and really listening to what your body is feeling the day and adjusting distance/effort on how I’m feeling.

What I’ve Been Reading

A Million Little Pieces

A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey. (3.5 stars) I know you are thinking that this is a backlist book, and there was a ton of controversy around it. But James Frey’s story of his time spent in a drug and alcohol recovery centre is a raw, and emotional journey. The way he writes is almost manic, and you can feel the pull that the substances had on James. Whether this story has been exaggerated or changed, it’s still a very compelling story worth reading. It’s also now a movie on Amazon Prime, which I’m planning on watching one of these nights… that I’m not reading.

The Book of Longings: A Novel

The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd. (5 stars). Oh man, did I love this book…. but also I really took my time reading it because I wanted to really savour it. This is the imagined life of Jesus’ wife, Ana. Obviously this is fiction, but it’s a beautifully told story, with a kick ass cast of females. I loved that Ana was a writer, and that this story was hers, with Jesus as character in her life. I cannot even imagine the amount of research and bravado that Sue Monk Kidd had to have conduct this, and I’m sure that as many positive reviews of this one, there will be people who also condemn it. But, I loved it!! This one gave me all the Circe, Untamed, Where the Crawdads Sing vibes.

Big Summer: A Novel

Big Summer, by Jennifer Weiner. (2 stars). This book seems to the hot one of the summer… I didn’t love it, but I also think that tons of people will love it. The main character Daphne, who is a body positive influencer, has been invited to her high school best frenemy’s wedding. From here all sorts of drama, romance, and suspense ensues. What I really liked about this book was Weiner’s clever way of speaking about body positivity, the gaps that can exists in past friendships, and the hypocrisy of social media. What I didn’t love, and why it got lower rating for me was the predictability of the ending. But hey, some people love that, so I’m not saying don’t read it, I’m just saying it was exactly for me!

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See. (4 stars). This is my first novel by Lisa See, and I will be checking out some more in my future reading. The reader is introduced to Li-yan and her family who are Akha, and live in the mountain tea area. The native Akha are rich in routines, and rituals in which their people have been living by for thousands of years. Li-yan questions some of these rituals at a young age, and also craves to be educated. When Li-yan is giving the chance of an education, and to possibly leave their village, all types of coming-of-age dilemma’s pop up. This story is a visually stunning, and culture rich telling of a fascinating story. I loved learning about the history and science of tea, and think this is a great read for summer! Not a light read, but one that can suck a reader in and make them feel as if they experiencing some armchair travel.

A Quick Quote:

I want to share with you a quote from The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd. . I just loved this one, and thought it spoke so much truth.

When I tell you all shall be well, I don’t mean that life won’t bring you tragedy. Life will be life. I only mean you will be well in spite of it. All shall be well, no matter what.

That’s all for today! Hope you are doing lots of reading, and enjoying some sunshine!

What I’ve been Reading Lately

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Wow, it’s been a minute. I have been reading some great books lately, just not finding the time (or energy) to write about them. I had felt a bit meh after a couple books April, but May is really bringing it’s A game to my reading life. I think a lot of this has to do with switching up genres frequently.

You’ll notice my reading life is all over the place. I love to switch up genres for two reasons. One, being that it keeps my reading life spicy. Reading too much of one genre makes it feel stale to me. Two, being that I believe there is much to be learned from each genre. And if I didn’t dive into all of them, I would be missing out greatly on the experience that a great book can take you on. I need different topics, different writing styles, and definitely different era’s in my reading life.

I write my book reviews in the order that I read them, in hopes that if you too are feeling a little stale in your reading life, the sharp right turn I took after a recent read is exactly what you may need as well.

Anywho, enough of my rambles… here’s what’s up in books these days.

What I’ve Been Reading:

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires: A NovelThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix. (5 stars). This book completely shocked me, and was unputdownable. Yes, it’s a book about an actual vampire, set in Charleston in the 80’s-90’s, but it’s SO much more. This book club of women who mainly devours true crime, finds out a handsome, cunning, new neighbour is a vampire. And this book club has to take him down to save their families, and the town. It’s a little gory in parts, but the women’s friendship tackled that odd area of when a woman has kids, and a partner, and doesn’t really know where she belongs. It’s a novel about feminism, friendships, and trusting your gut… and it’s FULL of nostalgia. It’s a perfect novel. I haven’t read a ton of Stephen King, but this gave me all his vibes… smart, spooky, and a page turner.

The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. (4 stars). Ooopfh. This non-fiction book has been sitting on my shelf kind of just waiting for the right time. And I’m so glad I finally decided to pick it up. It tells two stories of two men’s lives, one, the man responsible for the building of the 1893 World Fair in Chicago. The other storyline is the serial killer H.H. Holmes who is also in Chicago during this time. I’m fascinated with his research process, I can’t even begin to imagine how long his book took him to write, and also just how life consuming it would be to write a book like this. There are little facts buried in here about Annie Oakley, Walt Disney, and so many more. Don’t get me wrong, this is a hefty book… it’s not something you can just breeze through, but it’s worth reading and taking your time with. I think this would be the perfect gift for Father’s Day!

The Mothers: A NovelThe Mothers, by Brit Bennett. (3.5 stars). Here’s another wonderful book. It’s told from greek chorus style, and set in modern day California, mostly within the church of a black community. Nadia is a young 17 year old grieving with the loss of her mother, and her wild behaviour has overtaken her. When her older boyfriend (the Pastor’s son) and her discover she is unexpectedly pregnant, their secret is covered up and dealt with… until years later down the road when their fates collide again in a love triangle that have them questioning what if. This book has some really complex family vibes, and explores mother/daughter relationships a ton. I really enjoyed it and blasted through it quite quickly.

My Dark Vanessa: A NovelMy Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell. (4.5 stars). This debut novel is very dark, psychoanalytical, and all things that a beautifully written thriller should be. But, this book is full of triggers, and not for the hypersensitive type. It follows Vanessa, a now 32 year old woman, who finds out that her former teacher, and lover, is being accused of sexual abuse. They entered their “relationship” when she was 15, and he was 42. It slides back and forth in time to when she was a teenager, and throughout the years between. This novel is fiction, and Kate had been writing it forever. It really sums up the whole experience of sexual abuse, and the confusing lines that surround it and who receives the blame. I think there are two types of people who will read this book… 1) Will be cringing the whole time, and it will make them feel sad.  2) Will feel icky, but also compelled to read Lolita, and all the other literary references in this book.

Pride and Prejudice (AmazonClassics Edition)

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. (2 stars). This is my second Jane Austen novel, and perhaps my last. I don’t know, I just can’t with her frilly writing, and silly romantic nonsense. I can appreciate tons of readers love it, and she ability to go against the grain and laugh at the societal pressures on women during this time. This is a dysfunctional family story, with several of the daughters who are trying to clamp down a marriage. The big love story is between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Even though this isn’t my favourite classic, I do understand many of the romance novel tropes a little better when I read Austen. But, long story short, I will take a moody Brontë romance novel over an Austen any day.

Faithful Place: Dublin Murder Squad:  3Faithful Place, by Tana French. (4.5 stars). Holy smokes, this series is amazing. I read The Likeness not too long ago, and LOVED it. Well, this is the third in her Dublin Murder Squad series, and she takes a new member of the Department in each book and gives their life the centre stage. Faithful Place is based on the Undercover Detective Frank Mackey, and the mystery of his first love… and her murder. In the novel Frank has to go back to his old stomping grounds, which is very much like a scene out of Angela’s Ashes, and uncover the truth of the 20 year old murder. French’s voice is just incredible. She describes the setting so richly, and her ability to take on a character and really become them gives the reader an immersive experience. Highly recommend this series, and I’m off to order book #4 and #5.

Alright, so that’s all for today. Hopefully you can find something in this post to read!

Happy reading!

Last Week in Reading

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Hey friends!

Well, here we are. Officially over six weeks of self-isolation, and man oh man, I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I have attempted some self-reflecting in this time, and thought about so many things. Today I’m coming at you with a list of things I’ve realized through self-isolation:

  • Feelings are for feeling. I’ve said this over and over again to myself and my kids. Feel the feelings, whether it’s being scared for the future, annoyed at everyone, or pure joy while out for a run. Feel it all, because there is time now to sit in them.
  • How resilient kids are. When this whole thing started, I immediately thought my kids would suffer from the lack of socialization, and routine. Turns out they are fine. People have much less, and turn out to be incredible people. 
  • Connection is key. With young kids, I’ve honestly felt like I’ve been in self-isolation for the past 6 years. But now with no socialization other than phone calls, emails, or text messages, I’ve really realized just how much connection adds to our lives. The family dinners, the playdates, the long runs with my running buddy, the neighbourhood chats… I miss it all, and know I will appreciate it much more in the future.
  • Making due with what we have. I have a freezer full of food that should have been eaten awhile ago, now we are cleaning it out. I have an “unread” bookshelf, now I’m reading weekly from it. There are so many examples of this, but learning to “play” with the things that we already own is a great lesson for our family.
  • Low maintenance is key. I’ve never been a girl to wear a full face of makeup, or spent a ton of time/money on “beauty” things… and not raising that bar on my personal beauty standards has resulted in more or less looking the exact same. A little more crazy, but the same.
  • Try on your jeans. Trust me with this one. Two reasons… the other day I wore real clothes, and for the first time since self-isolation, my hubby said, wow you look great! I laughed, because it was the first time out of leggings since March 13th. The other reason is all the extra wine, and snacks… just a little way to keep yourself in check.

What I’ve Been Reading:

The Forgotten Home Child

The Forgotten Home Child, by Genevieve Graham. (2 stars). Although this book is pretty buzzy… it completely missed the mark for me. It’s historical fiction, based on the true history of  Barnardo’s charity, in which vulnerable or orphaned children were sent to Canada from Britain. These kids were basically indentured slaves to families. It’s a dual-timeline story, where the reader is flashed back and forth through Winnie’s life. One timeline is Winnie as an elderly woman telling her story, the other as a young woman who has been just shipped over by Barnardo’s to Canada. Although the history was fascinating, and an important story, I found the writing to be cheesy, and at points I was huffing out loud at the ridiculous coincidences of the plot. Not for me, but lots of readers are enjoying it.

In Five Years: A Novel In Five Years, by Rebecca Serle. (4 stars). Another buzzy book, but this one completely surprised me. To be honest the synopsis won’t do this book justice at all, but here we go. Dannie is a highly calculated woman. As her life is falling into place with the perfect job, and her boyfriend proposes, and she finds herself blissfully sleepy in her new fiancé’s embrace. She falls asleep, and dreams the most real feeling dream she’s ever had. It’s exactly 5 years in the future, in a different apartment, a different engagement ring, and a different man. Then she wakes back up to her old life, but seems haunted by this dream. She goes through the next five years, trying to escape, and understand why this dream felt so real. This is a beautiful love story of a different kind. I wasn’t expecting this book to have the depth it did. It completely blew me away. Highly suggest!

Of Mice and Men: Teacher's Deluxe EditionOf Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. (4.5 stars). Off my “unread” bookshelf, I’ve always wanted to read it. So what better time than when in quarantine? George and Lennie are migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression in California. Lennie is a big, strong, mentally disabled man. George is the brains of their operation, and finds them a job at a ranch. They have plans to one day settle down on land of their own, but for the meantime they will work at this ranch. Then one day, Lennie’s pattern of not understanding his strength goes too far, and the tides change for their planned future. This book is small, but powerful. It’s a heartbreaking story, covering themes such as devotion, kindness, and loneliness. I will be thinking about this one for awhile.

Anywho, that’s all for today bookish friends.

Happy reading!

 

Last Week in Reading

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Hello friends!

How are you holding up these days? Better yet… how are you getting new reading material these days?? I thought I’d go over a couple things that have been saving my reading life lately.

I’ve been whipping out my e-reader a lot more these days, as my library, just like everyone else’s is closed. So I’ve been cruising the daily deals on BookBub, which has turned into a fun little routine. And also making good use of my library’s e-book catalogue. They use CloudLibrary, and the Kawartha Lakes Public Library has even started giving out electronic library cards for those who didn’t have one before. So if you don’t have a library card, check in with your local library and see if they offer something similar.

If you are lover of physical books, you can still purchase your books! I encourage you to check out the local bookstores and buy from them. Small businesses need all the support they can get these days, and by buying your books through them is a great way to do that. In my area, Hunter Street Books, and Kent Bookstore are both places you can still shop!

Lastly, I think this also a great time to pick up the unread books on your shelf. Or pick up an old favourite and give it a re-read. You have these books on your shelves for a reasons, and maybe a global pandemic was what you were waiting for. I know I’ve been tackling a lot of books of my unread shelf right now, and feeling like… why did I wait so long?!?!

Last Week in Reading

The Likeness: Dublin Murder Squad, Book 2

 

The Likeness, by Tana French. (5 stars). Here’s a readerly confession for you… this book has been on my shelf for 3 years! Just shy of 700 pages, I had put it off, because I need to be ready to commit to a big book like that. But I’ve been craving a literary thriller since I read Long Bright River. This book filled that void. I loved it so much, and for so many reasons. Cassie Maddox is a detective, and when she is called to a murder scene, it’s discovered that the body is her identical… and the body is also carrying her old undercover name as ID, Lexie. Cassie is then put into Lexie’s life undercover in hopes that she can find who the murderer is. Like I said, I LOVED this book. It’s smart, it’s literary, and told is a way that you just want to savour every word. I highly suggest it, and it’s very much based in the “big house thriller” genre. Tana French pays respect to Jane Eyre, and Rebecca-esque themes. This was fantastic, go pick it up. It’s also the 2nd in a series called the Dublin Murder Squad, and soon to be a BBC series!

What I Talk about When I Talk about Running: A Memoir 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami. (4.5 stars). This memoir was absolutely wonderful. It was about running, yes, but also much more about life as an introvert. You can understand probably why I loved it so much, because I can relate 100% to him. Haruki Murakami is a renowned author, who also runs, and  memoir is really just essays about the role running played in his life. I just loved it, and related to it so much. So many quotable sentences, but there were a couple that are now committed to my memory wholly. Running is an act that takes years of dedicated practice before it becomes a piece of you. For me, running is something that is so intrinsically motivated that if I don’t do it, I feel a void. I just love it…. but it’s not for everyone. And for this reason, I’m so glad that I’ve found something that I love to do that much. I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.

Well, that’s all for today. Stay home, and happy reading!

 

Last Week’s Reading Life

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This whole new way of living has forced me to do a couple new things. One being that I have to get my library books on my e-reader… I’ve been making great use of the CloudLibrary system that our library goes by. I’m not going to lie though, I do miss holding a real book every time I have to use my e-reader.

The other thing is that I’ve been doing is running more. Here’s why; my thoughts are a million miles a minute these days, and running has always been a great way to calm my brain. Secondly, running is about the only time that I can be alone right now. So, I’ve been hitting the road a little more often, and longer just to get away from my family!! Love them, but I’m a person who really enjoys my alone time. And that is not happening hardly at all right now… hence the long runs. What’s your go-to method of squeezing in some alone time right now? Post it in the comments, pretty please!

Anywho, I’ve got some book reviews from what I read last week. It’s a good mixture of genres, and hope you can find something that sparks your interest.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

Such a Fun Age

Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid.  (4.5 stars). I had ben hearing the buzz about this book for awhile… but I’m that person who does not want to follow the crowd in any sense. Well, I should have just picked up this book up ages ago, because it was SO good. Here’s the set up: Emira is a twenty-five year old black woman living in Philadelphia. She is a babysitter for a wealthy white family. At the beginning of the book there is an incident at a grocery store in which Emira and the child are browsing, and Emira is accused of kidnaping the child. This incident is the centre of this story, opening up the reader to the themes of race, class, privilege, and memory. Not only was it unputdownable, but this book was very thought-provoking. But let me be clear, not one of these characters is likeable. They are very real, and transparent, and ALL the characters thoughts (good/bad) are exposed. I really liked it, and think it’s an important book.

How to Be Fine: What We Learned by Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help BooksHow To Be Fine, by Jolenta Greenburg, and Kristen Meinzer. (3.5 stars). This book is written by the duo who host the podcast, By the Book. Essentially they live for 2 weeks by a specific self-help book, and review how it affected them. This was a really fun read, and I think it  explored the fact that self-help books ask you to subscribe to the author’s whole way of living… It’s ridiculous really. But taking little snippets from self-help books, and applying what works is the key to reading them. The other thing that these two really addressed was the issue of privilege in this genre. Most people who write a self-help book are in a position of privilege, whether it’s race, class, or gender. Now that I’ve said this, you will notice it more too! What is great about this book is you are getting a condensed look at the most helpful points of the books that they lived by.

You Are Not Alone: A NovelYou Are Not Alone, by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen. (2.5 stars). This thriller is a much anticipated one in the book world! This is the third novel written by these co-authors. Shay Miller is a bit of a loner, and also a data geek. She is headed to work, and about to get on the subway, and witnesses a suicide. She’s becomes obsessed with the victim, and goes to her memorial. Shay then meets the victim’s friends, Cassandra and Jane, and from here on out, Shay’s life changes as she slowly starts to take on the persona of the victim. Then it all starts to feel very confusing to Shay when her new found friends start ignoring her calls. This book was a fast, easy thriller. But it was just that, I found it lacked a lot of depth and was just throwing the plot twists around like crazy. Not my fav, many reader’s are loving it!

A Quote to Ponder

As I was saying earlier, running has really been quite therapeutic during this global pandemic. The roads are quiet, I’m alone, and it’s time for my brain to work out the kinks, and replace it with endorphins. Here’s a quote that just made me feel really seen. And I hope that you too have a way to escape into your own self right now.

All I do is keep on running in my cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgia silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says.

– Haruki Murakami

Okay friends, that’s all for today. Stay safe, and keep reading!

 

 

 

The Last Train to London, by Meg Waite Clayton

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I received The Last Train to London from my Aunt Sue as a gift when we welcomed our newest baby, Alice, into the family. I think this was such a sweet gesture, and a great reminder that mommy needs looking after too!! I’ve been meaning to pick up this book since last year… but my library pile had always seem to get in the way.

Now in the time of self-isolation, and covid-19, and the libraries are closed. So my unread bookshelf is getting a workout! I’ve read a ton of WWII books, and every time I pick up one I am always in awe at how many different stories there are to tell during this time period.

Set pre-war in 1936, this novel is based on the true story of Truus Wijsmuller, who was member of the Dutch resistance. As Germany’s political climate is becoming more troubling, Truus begins rescuing Jewish children here and there, and getting them fitted up with a family who will take them in Britain until this troubling time is over. Two of these children happen to be in Vienna, Stephan Neuman, the son of the famous Jewish chocolatier, and his best friend, Zofie-Helene, whose Christian mother is a journalist at an anti-Nazi Newspaper. Truus goes on to spear head the Kindertransport, where she tries to help these two, and also over ten thousand other children all over German-occupied countries. Amazingly enough, Truus struck a deal with Adolf Eichmann, and lo and behold was able to save these children before the War started.

I had a bit of a hard time getting into this one, but once I was down about 120 pages, I was in! The characters for the first while seemed somewhat disjointed from each other, but around that 120 page, it all came together. It is a really well-researched book, and one thing I found really neat and haven’t seen in many fictional WWII books is that there is some narration from Eichmann, and Hitler themselves. Usually you are seeing these characters from the periphery, so I found it really interesting, and also a big undertaking on behalf of the author! There were some really heartbreaking moments in this novel, and I don’t know if it was me or the quarantine-version of me… but I found myself choking up a couple times.

One thing that I loved about this book was the Dutch references, from food like hagelslag,  to the towns in Holland, I found myself reminiscing about the trips I’ve taken there with my family, and all the foods we ate my Gramma and Grandpa’s house growing up. Isn’t it wonderful how a book can strike such a personal chord with a reader?!

This feelings that this book brings on are so relevant to what’s currently going on in the world. I’ve heard multiple references to this pandemic being a War that we are fighting. I’m going to share with you one of the quotes that was on the back on the book;

Recommend this book to anyone who thinks no one person can make a difference. – Karen Joy Fowler

Well, if that’s not encouragement that’s needed right now in this crazy times, I don’t know what is. Just like Truus, any normal person can help.

That’s all for today, stay home and read!

The One, John Marrs

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After finishing the last book I read, Untamed, I needed a palate cleanser. Something that would hook me right away, because that book left me with a big book hangover. On a whim I bought this ebook when it was on sale ages ago, and I opened up The One, and was instantly thrust into it.

SIDENOTE: I buy my ebooks on a great site called Bookbub. They email you daily with all the great deals. Click the link to check it out!

Move over Tinder, because a new app is on the block for dating. It’s based on the taking the person’s DNA tests and matches them genetically with their soul mate. It’s described that when you meet your match, it’s like no other sensation you’ve ever had in love. It’s unbreakable, and unavoidable once you connect. The story is told through six different characters and their journey to find “THE ONE”. In the beginning all these characters are in the perfect scenario, then there are some twists, and thrills that weave in a totally unexpected plot.

This book is like if the Netflix show’s, You and Love is Blind, had a baby. And apparently it is to become a show, so I’m pretty excited about that! It has everything, some love, some murder, and lots of suspense. I finished this book within 2 days, and as you can see from the picture above was reading in every given moment. As my kid’s were working on a puzzle, I was reading. Instead of sleeping, I was reading. While cooking, yep you guessed it, reading.

The One is such a unique book and I had no idea where it was going to take me. That’s how you know it is a great book, if you can get sucked into a scenario that is completely unbelievable… but you are hooked anyways. Marrs’ writing was awesome, and just loaded you up on the train on the first page, and drove it incredibly fast to the end. It also explored all different kinds of love, which made a reader reflect on their own relationships, and stages within them.

Maybe when you took it back to basics, that’s what love really was: just being there for someone when the sun rises and sets.

Anywho, that’s all for today. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for an something to help you escape the news!

Until next time, stay home and read!