What’s up in my Reading Life (07/08/19)

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Hey friends! Let’s talk bookshops before I dive into what I’ve been reading lately. There is a bunch of little bookshops in Peterborough, ON, CA, but downtown hands down has my two favourites. There is the beautiful Hunter Street Books, which is Peterborough’s independent bookstore, and owned by author Michelle Berry. It’s stunning, and I try to stop in there whenever I feel the need for my cortisol levels to drop! My other fav little downtown bookstore is actually also a restaurant. By the Books is located next to By the Bridge. The reason this is my fav place to go is first off the food is legit amazing, the people that work here have literally become friends, and it has the most beautiful collection of second hand curated books. Go check it them out if you are ever in Peterborough!

What I’ve been Reading:

Recursion: A NovelRecursion, by Blake Crouch. (4 stars). My synopsis of this novel is short, because I’m just scared that the description will have you backing away slowly. I’m not a “Science Fiction Junkie”, but both of Blake Crouch’s books, Dark Matter, and now Recursion, have been fantastic. New York City cop Barry Sutton is investigating an epidemic that the has been coined as False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived. When he delves into the investigation what he finds is astounding, and also a chance to relive the past precious moments that are now long gone. This is a mystery, thriller, love story all combined into one. The last 50 pages are truly beautiful, and this is a must-read for the summer!
Grace After HenryGrace after Henry, by Eithne Shortall. (3.5 stars). After a tragic accident, Grace’s life with Henry was halted. Henry was killed in a bike accident, but Grace keeps seeing Henry everywhere. Memories come flooding back, and she sees him everywhere… at the grocery store, and even while visiting him at the graveyard. Until, one day, “Henry” shows up to fix her boiler, and Grace can’t decipher that this man Andy isn’t Henry… although he looks exactly like him. This stranger does have a connection to Henry, and as Grace begins to heal, the connection starts to unwind and she starts to see the whole truth behind Andy’s sudden appearance. This is a lovely little story with a not so predictable ending!

The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After

The Unwinding of the Miracle, by Julie Yip-Williams. (4 stars). The subtitle of this book describes it perfectly. The fact that Julie survived infancy was a miracle, she was born blind in Vietnam, and her grandmother had tried to euthanize her. Luckily she survived, lived a very full 37 years, before she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Okay, stay with me, I know this book sounds extremely depressing… and it’s sad at moments, but it’s a beautifully told, raw journey that Julie departs on to deal with the grappling truth that she will eventually die. But here’s the thing, this story is such a beautiful documentation of a life so well lived, and I think that reading Julie’s book has taught me a lot, and how layered the feelings are.

Things My Son Needs to Know About the WorldThings My Son Needs to Know about the World, by Fredrik Backman. (5 stars). This sweet little novella is a fast, fun read. If you’ve read any of Fredrick Backman’s backlist, this is something completely different… but equally worth reading. Between sleepless nights, and firsts with his son he was written a collection of essays that sum up his experience with fatherhood, and little lessons he’s learned so far. These essays include: What You Need to Know about Ikea, Different Types of Friends, and a very short one that simply states, spit on the napkin and wipe the face, don’t spit directly on the child’s face. In moments this is laugh out loud funny, and then it slowly careens into a deep, thoughtful reflection on fatherhood.

A Quote to Ponder:

“Live while you’re living, friends.” – Julie Yip-Williams

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What I’ve Been Reading

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Happy Summer!!! It’s finally here, and I am so ready for it. Getting to the end stage of this pregnancy, I find myself so excited to meet this new baby and incredibly aware of how much my body is accommodating this growing babe.

Recently I was out on a run early one morning with my dog. I was struck by the fullness of the trees, and just how green and lush everything had seemed to become overnight. In that same moment I had the thought of just how fast the trees will be bare, and the leaves will be crunching under my feet. Then I realized that I will then have a child moving up a grade, staying home with a 3 year old, and newborn, and my life will look completely different. When I read I Miss You When I Blink, the very first essay made me go, whoa! How many moments have I let pass by in hopes that the future will soon be here.

This book made me stop and realize that I need to start really living in the present. Instead of complaining how uncomfortable I am at the end of this pregnancy, I need to enjoy every barrel role that this little baby is doing, because soon I will feel so empty inside without it. Instead of counting down the days until I start my maternity leave, I need to enjoy my interactions at work, because soon I will have very littler interactions with adults on a daily basis. It made me realize that I need to not rush through the present, do a really slow blink, and open my eyes to what the current moment is giving me. Anywho, heavy thoughts, but isn’t that the gift of reading a great book?!

WHAT I’VE BEEN READING LATELY:

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottleib. (4 stars). Lori Gottlieb is a therapist in L.A. She has intertwined 4 of her patients therapy sessions, within her own crisis and journey with her own therapist. This non-fiction book is one that will stay with you for awhile. The four patients Lori is counselling have very different reasons they are grieving, and very different journeys with their grief. There is moments that you are laughing, and then moments that strike you down with sadness. I will be thinking about this book for a very long time, and really recommend it. Emotional pain is something that I think we can all take some lessons on, and the more stories we hear, the more feelings we become capable.

Miracle Creek: A NovelMiracle Creek, by Angie Kim. (4.5 stars). This is a gorgeous literary mystery, that I think fans of Celeste Ng, or Jodi Picoult will LOVE! Based in a very small town, Miracle Creek, Korean immigrants, Young and Pak Yoo own an experimental medical treatment device which is a hyperbaric chamber. They treat patients with conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, and infertility. But when the chamber mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a complex murder trail opens up and unravels secrets, and the lives of the people involved. This is a beautifully written, plot driven novel and so worth reading. This would be a great book club pick, as there are so many things to talk about!

The Farm: A NovelThe Farm, by Joanne Ramos. (3.5 stars). The Farm is a sumptuous retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, private fitness trainers, daily massages—and all of it for free. You can earn some big bucks, but the only catch is that you have to become a surrogate mother to the Farm’s wealthy clientele. For nine months, the staff of the Farm are watching your every move, and the former life you had doesn’t really exist. We see the whole perspective of the Farm through the eyes of Jane, who has become a surrogate mother, and had to leave her young daughter. It’s a great look at motherhood, money, and the sacrifices that we all have to make to grow a child, and then raise it.

I Miss You When I Blink: EssaysI Miss You When I Blink, by Mary Laura Philpott. (5 stars). I loved this book so much. This is a memoir told in essays, about Mary Laura who is an essayist, and a bookseller at Parnassus Books, and a Type A. I felt like I related to this one so much. It’s a great look at Mary’s reflections on her balance with identity, motherhood, and her relationships. It’s exactly the thoughts out of my own head, and I feel like so many readers will also feel this. Her incredible talent to relate to a reader will have you laughing, saying ME TOO, and wishing you could sit down on your couch and have coffee with her. It’s perfect!

A QUOTE TO PONDER:

“Over time, “I miss you when I blink” became another one of these phrases. It helps me live in the moment. It slows me down and makes me absorb each instant instead of rushing, because I know already how much I miss things that happened in the past-how they’re right there behind my eyelids but also gone forever.”  Mary Laura Philpott

Great Summer Reading

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Good Monday morning!

The lovely weather this past weekend, has me very motivated to move into a new week… and get to the next weekend! But in the meantime, I’m going to talk a bit about summer reading before I share the latest reviews with you.

Summer reading can mean so many different things to people. Some prefer a super light book that can be picked up and put down when they please. Some readers want a door stopper of novel that they can really dig their teeth into. For me, it means reading more and purely on mood. I find myself able to squeeze in more reading time as the days are longer, and possibly while the kids run around outside.

Below I have shared a couple of really great book lists. I’ve been putting my library books on hold based on several of these, so the books that I reviewed today you will most likely find in these links.

The Goodread’s Staff Picks

Sarah’s Bookshelves Summer Reading List

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 20 hot summer books

Anne Bogel’s Summer Reading Guide

Book Reviews:

Normal People: A Novel

Normal People, by Sally Rooney. (5 stars). This book is everything great fiction is. Connell and Marianne have been friends since high school. He’s the popular guy, and she’s the brainy, private girl. When their friendship moves into a romantic territory, they are both determined to keep it a secret. The two move in and out of each other’s lives as they move through high school, university, and after. They are drawn to each other like magnets, but the things that go unsaid are ultimately their demons. This novel is really a complicated love story, about nothing, but everything. Somehow Sally Rooney has captured the ability to see into these two characters on such a deep level that you feel so intertwined in this relationship. It’s so brilliant, and confusing in the best way possible. Put it on your reading list now, everyone in the book world is talking about it!

Life Will Be the Death of Me: . . . and you too!

Life Will Be the Death of Me… and you too! by Chelsea Handler. (3.5 stars). This is a memoir about the year that Chelsea decided to dedicate to self discovery. She talks in depth about her psychiatry appointments, her family, her dogs, and her relationship with drugs and alcohol. I really liked this book, it’s an easy read, but it’s also quite introspective. Whenever I think of Chelsea, I think of this flakey TV character, but after reading this you see that someone so successful still has the struggles that we all feel… and possibly more.

 

The River, by Peter Heller. (5 stars).  Best friends, Wynn and Jack, are bonded by their love of the outdoors and literature. They have decided to go on a leisurely paddling trip in Northern Ontario, and when a wildfire starts to pick up pace towards them. They are happy with their movement ahead of the fire, when they hear a husband and wife, also camping in the middle of nowhere, arguing. The next day Wynn and Jack see the husband paddling alone. From here it’s an adventurous chase from a fire, a potential dangerous person, and survival. This book is SO good. The writing about the setting is extremely picturesque, you feel plunked into a canoe on a river. But honestly I was kind of bored, until about page 60… and then I didn’t put this book down again until I finished it that same day. It’s a well-researched, thrilling fictional story sparked by a dinner conversation that Peter Heller had with a guest and their story.

 

The Bride TestThe Bride Test, by Helen Hoang. (4 stars). This is Hoang’s second novel, her first one The Kiss Quotient, was a super successful debut (which I loved). Yes, it’s fits into the romance genre, but it is SO much more. Khai Diep is a twenty-something, autistic bachelor. He’s extremely successful, but his mother is bound and determined that he will find a bride. So she decides to fly home to Vietnam and find him one. Enter Esme, she’s a single struggling mother, and when she’s presented this opportunity by Khai’s mother, she takes a leap of faith and tries woo Khai. But as Esme begins to get to know Khai, she learns that she will not only have to woo him, but she will have to teach him how to show her love too. This is such a great story, and a necessary novel in the world. Hoang connects a reader with the feelings and confusion that autism can bring up for an individual, and the people who surround them. I loved it, and can’t wait until Hoang’s next one. This is the PERFECT book to throw in your bag for some summer reading!

A Quote to Ponder:

“There is a line I had written down from Viktor Frankl’s memoir about surviving the Holocaust, Man’s Search for Meaning, that stopped me cold when I read it: “it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.” I had never thought about what life expected from me. I had only thought about what I expected from life. That was a book putter-downer. It was a look up at the sky and wonder Where the fuck have I been all my life? moment.” – Chelsea Handler.

4 Books & A New Direction

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Oh hey there, friends! This year I’ve made a goal to read even more. Yes, I know, some of you may think, what the hell?!? You read a lot already. But in my defence, I’m 25 weeks pregnant, and holding on to a little piece of me and what I love to do… or at least until August. So, in turn what I’ve been finding is the book reviews are piling up. And even though I have so much to say about each book, maybe for now, less will be more.

Here’s comes the NEW DIRECTION. What I’m thinking of serving up for you for the next little bit is quick, fast reviews. I hope you will gain from this is a clear sense of whether you should pick up this book, or not. Because let’s be honest, not every book is worth your time. Life is way too short to read books you don’t enjoy, and not everyone will love the same books.

Below you will find the four books I’ve read lately. In brackets beside the title, I’m giving you a star rating. Just like GoodReads, 1 star is ekkkkk I hate this book! 5 stars is holy moly, stop what you’re doing now and go read this book asap. After this rating, I will give you a general idea of what the book is about, and a couple of my personal opinions about it. Lastly, because I’m a bit of a quote lover, so I’m going to leave you with just one quote that stuck with me.

What I’ve Read Lately:

The Lost Girls of Paris, by Pam Jenoff. (3.75 stars) There is a literary trend that I’m so digging right now. Badass females in historical fiction! In this novel, you are hearing the stories of 3 different women and their experience throughout WWII and the network of female spies. So interesting, and based on actual people and events. People who loved The Alice Network, The Huntress, or Lilac Girls NEED to read this one.

Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese. (4.5 stars) Put this one on your list to read if you are human, appreciate great writing, or are Canadian. This is the fictional, becoming of age story, of Saul Indian Horse. At a young age he was forced into a residential school, experienced horrifying trauma, and then fell in love with hockey. Based loosely on Richard Wagamese’s life, this novel will have you feeling like you need to talk about it, and a much better human for having had read it. Plus, his writing is INCREDIBLE. It’s the perfect book for a book club, and there was recently a movie made about it.

Women Talking, by Miriam Toews. (4 stars) Okay, I love this Toews. Everything she does, I will read, so when I picked up this novel which also a fictional account of true events, yet again I was floored. From approximately 2005-2009 in a Mennonite community in Manitoba, some women of this colony were waking up complaining of symptoms of rape. Their leader, who had concocted a lie to them that it was actually their sins giving them this trauma, had covered up the fact that the men had been drugging the women, and raping their own family and friends. The setting is a barn hay loft, and told through the minutes of a meeting that these women have snuck away to have. The meeting is to decide whether they as a group, 1) Do Nothing. 2) Stay. 3) Leave. I read this one in 2 days and could not put it down, even though the writing style is a little different.

Tell Me More, by Kelly Corrigan. (5 stars) This is my first book I’ve read written by Kelly Corrigan, and holy S*@$… I will be reading her whole back catalogue. This will be a book I press into so many hands and say you must read! The subtitle of this memoir is; Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say. This is a hard one to describe, but I do feel as if it should be required reading as an adult. This book is gorgeous, and told around the two facts that her father and best friend died within a year of each other. The chapters of this memoir are broken into the words you say in hard conversations. It’s so raw, funny at times, and makes you cry at times. There are sentences that literally brought goosebumps to my arms. Go read this one, and maybe go buy it for your momma for Mother’s Day.

A Quote that Struck Me:

This is a quote from Tell Me More, by Kelly Corrigan. This chapter was called I Love You, and it’s based around those three little words.

The first time the words pass between two people: electrifying. Ten thousand times later: cause for marvel. The last time: the dream you revisit over and over and over again.

Until next time, happy reading!

Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen

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Bruce, you are amazing. Done! See you next time.

Just kidding, but really, this memoir was absolutely incredible. There is not one thing I didn’t love about it. I had been procrastinating reading Born to Run… it’s long (over 500 pages, and LONG pages)… until I heard Taylor Jenkins Reid who wrote Daisy Jones and the Six  absolutely raving about how amazing Bruce Springsteen’s book was. She said the rumour was he had a huge advance, because he had promised to tell all his deep dark secrets. So, I dove in head first.

My brother was the one who got me hooked on Bruce. We would sit in the basement of my parent’s house, and he would tell me all the stories behind the tracks, while we listened to the albums. Then I heard Thunder Road, and was in love. A rock band, that incorporated the piano like that, it was incredible. And just when you thought it couldn’t get better, Clarence comes in on the sax, and your mind is blown.

Writing about yourself is a funny business. At the end of the day it’s just another story, the story you’ve chosen from the events of your life. I haven’t told you “all” about myself. Discretion and the feelings of others don’t allow it. But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise: to show the reader his mind. In these pages I’ve tried to do that.

God, I could go on and on about how incredible his lyrical prose was, and how poetic this whole book was… but you would probably get sick of it. So I’m going to give you a few things that I absolutely loved about it:

  • It’s nostalgic. Whether you can relate to the memories of childhood, loving the home you grew up in, or listening to music that inspired you as a child… Bruce has you covered.
  • It’s honest. His rocky relationship with his parents, he was a bit of a player, and his battle with his mental health. It’s all so honest, and troubled.
  • Clarence Clemons. Bruce’s words on his talent, their relationship, racism, and then in the end, his death, made me cry. It’s beautiful.
  • Garage Land. There is one chapter that he talks about when he’s given the opportunity to sing Tumblin’ Dice with The Rolling Stones… and I almost died. It’s everything.
  • Lastly his talent. Just listen to the lyrics of the songs he writes. After reading this memoir, you realize how much work he put into these songs and albums. He’s a perfectionist, and found how to blend many types of music into an incredible rock band.

See, I told you. Not one thing I didn’t like about this one. You don’t have to be Bruce’s #1 fan to read this book, because if you a reader you will have so much appreciation for this incredible piece of work.

Until next time, happy reading!

 

By Chance Alone, by Max Eisen

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If there is one very important book that you read this year, read By Chance Alone, by Max Eisen. Although you will learn by the end of this review, the content is extremely heavy, it’s an incredibly readable book. It has been on my radar only since the the Canada Reads nominations came out. And, lo and behold, it won!! I read it shortly before the winners were announced, but it’s taken me a long time to sum of my thoughts on this incredible story of survival and character.

More than 70 years after the trauma that Tibor “Max” Eisen had survived at Auschwitz, he decided to write By Chance Alone detailing the slave labour at Auschwitz I, the “death march” in January 1945, and the journey of his life after the liberation. He details the experience of dealing with the physical and psychological trauma that he was worked in these 70 years. And now, Eisen has made his father’s final wishes come true, he is educating the world about the Holocaust in hopes that something of this tragic does not happen again.

Then he said, “If you survive, you must tell the world what happened here. Now go.”

Max’s title By Chance Alone, could not have been more perfect. There are many moments where Eisen’s survival is based solely on luck or circumstance. I’m not saying that he’s just “lucky” to be alive, but what I am saying is that his luck, his will to survive, and his intelligence is what led him to survive. Between being the right age, and meeting/making friends within Auschwitz with the right people, Eisen made the right choices, even while he was starved and had trouble thinking, to keep on living. 

Eisen had eventually after the liberation, made his way… which was NO easy task… to Toronto, Canada. When his oldest granddaughter asked him to accompany her overseas Auschwitz for a class trip, he decided he would go back for the first time. Since then he has made it his mission for the past 22 years to educate people about the Holocaust. His first public speaking engagement was in Barrie, Ontario, to a grade 5 class, and now he travels all over Canada and the World.

“Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people.” – Heinrich Heine

Every Canadian, and every person, should read this book. I’m so thrilled that Max’s book won the Canada Reads, because he has given us the chance to dig down into the prejudices, and radical thinking that happens in this world and that we have the chance to change. Max Eisen is donating a portion of his royalties from this book to institutions promoting tolerance and understanding. SO after I read my copy from the library, I went out to buy a copy for my own personal library. 

Please, do me a favour, and read this book. 

 

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

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Let me begin by saying, when I started this book I had heard of Trevor Noah’s name, but never listened to any of his content. I knew he was a comedian, but nothing more. After reading Born a Crime, I now know Trevor Noah is so much more than a comedian.

Born a Crime is Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa, in which he was literally born a crime. His mother being a black Xhosa woman, and his father a white Swiss man, meant his birth was punishable by five years in prison in his parents were caught. Noah tells the story of his childhood through eighteen personal essays in which he transforms from a wild, mischievous kid, to an ambitious, and ultimately successful man. His transformation was based around the relationship he had with his mother, or as he calls her, his teammate. She was the one who was determined to save his life, and for his life to have a bigger meaning.

The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate, is what it was. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another so you can run them all.

This memoir is a funny a lot of the times, sad at moments, and most of all makes you want to give your momma a hug. Trevor Noah has written a memoir about the stark realness of apartheid South Africa. One of the reviews that I read about it, was that this was essentially a love letter to his mother. And it is just that. It is the story of a boy whose mother stood up against the tidal wave of racism brought to a country, and decided to raise a child that would overcome it.

“Learn from your past and be better because of your past,” she would say, “but don’t cry about your past. Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you, but don’t hold on to it. Don’t be bitter.”

There are essays in Born a Crime, that are absolutely, pee your pants funny. He has you killing yourself laughing into the spine of the book. This is definitely a necessary part of the story, because you are really hit with the fact that this country was torn apart from apartheid, and just how lucky we are in our country. Whether it’s the food on your table, the education you receive, or the safety you have in your home… this was not Trevor’s upbringing. But what he did have was a mother whom would do anything to propel him forward. The ending of this novel, left me feeling gutted and crying. 

The world needs this memoir, and also Trevor Noah. He’s exactly the type of person we need as role models in the world. Lastly, go listen to Oprah’s episode of Super Soul Sunday with Trevor Noah. It’s also brilliant, and funny.

Happy reading!