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!

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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!

 

Becoming, by Michelle Obama

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I had been resisting reading Becoming, by Michelle Obama since there was so much hype around this book. Then when a client said it was amazing, I downloaded Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations with Michelle Obama, I was HAD to read it. Sidenote: If you want to be inspired, go listen to it. It’s just everything.

Michelle Obama has been proven to be one of the most inspiring and iconic women of this era. A lawyer, the first African-American First Lady of the United States of America, a wife, and a mother, she really has no limits that she won’t try to rise to. This memoir is a story of becoming herself. She invites readers into her childhood, on balancing motherhood and work life, and lastly on her experience in the White House. She is incredibly honest in her memoir, and also reminds you to reflect on your becoming, and how you got here.

To say I was going into this book skeptically is an understatement. I always head into a memoir like this, thinking that is going to be a version of the author’s self that they best want to represent. But friends, I will tell you that this book was not that. The more I read it, and the more I thought about it upon closing it, the more I keep thinking about it.

For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.

This memoir is such a great insight to how Michelle, and her family in the past have had to overcome hardships and stigma to rise to the top. Michelle is an absolute powerhouse. From a young age she was a perfectionist. She could read before she entered school, and had extremely high expectations of herself. There are so many pieces of the book that will stay with me forever. There was one moment in particular that gave me goosebumps, and that was when she talked about the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. She describes how deeply it affected her and Barack, and that they would never truly know how the families lives of the victims would forever be changed. We all know that feeling of knowing exactly where we were when terrible things happen. But having to face these families, knowing that nothing can make them whole again is a whole other hardship.

Becoming is just the most perfect title of this. Michelle says in the preface that she hates that age old question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, as if growing up is finite and once you get there you are done becoming. Well, when you reach adulthood you realize this. And Michelle has totally captured the essence of growing as an individual, as a partner, a mother, and also a role model. This is an important book to read, and I think so wonderful for a young person who is finishing high school, or if you are curious about her life, or someone who continues to become yourself.

Anywho, that’s all for today. Have you read this one? I have so many thoughts about it that my head is about to explode, and would love to chat. Drop me a message in the comments so we can chat 🙂

Victoria, by Daisy Goodwin

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They think I am still a little girl who is not capable of being a Queen.

From a young age Princess Alexandrina Victoria, knows that she will most likely be Queen one day. Just before her 18th birthday she becomes Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Having a sheltered upbringing, small in size, and lastly, being FEMALE, most of her ruling had thought it was madness that she would be taking the throne. When she is crowned, Victoria starts to flex her muscles, and steer herself away from the grip her mother has had on her. As a young Queen, Victoria finds herself leaning on the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne for guidance… and possibly has something else in mind as well.

Victoria is a fictional account based on true events of the young Queen Victoria. Daisy Goodwin was hired to write for the PBS series Victoria, and she decided to also write a novel. She had done many years of research on Victoria, and what I found fascinating was that Victoria was a lifelong diarist. This little fact gave Daisy Goodwin tons of really valuable research, and probably why you feel like Victoria’s voice in the novel was just perfect. She made her seem intelligent, full of wit, and also quite dramatic… like the teenager she was.

This is such a thrilling time in Britain. There is the women’s movement starting, and at this time women are still considered “property” of their husbands. You also have this being a monumental time in the abolishing of slavery. Which Victoria was very much pushing for. The other thing I really enjoyed learning was that Victoria had an intense relationship that she developed with Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister. These two spent countless hours together, riding, dinner, educating… and then enters her “prince” Albert. And that put to end the possibility of Victoria, and Lord Melbourne ever exploring the possibility of their relationship.

Now what I really want to do is watch the PBS Masterpiece show, Victoria, to compare! I really enjoyed this book, and learning more about this time in history.

Until next time, happy reading!!

 

 

Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall

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The best runner leaves no tracks. Tao Te Ching

Born to Run is a book that SOOOOO many people over the years have asked me if I’ve read it. I’ve been running for what seems like forever. It feels like its always been a part of my life. It’s the thing that energizes me when my batteries feel low, it’s the thing that calms me down when I feel crazy, and it’s a place of joy for me. So when I needed some mojo the week before my marathon, I finally decided to read it.

If you are starting to read this review, and thinking, “Meh, running book?!?! I’m out.” DON’T LEAVE!!! This book is definitely not meant only for people who run. It’s a great story, and has some really interesting facts sprinkled throughout it.

Christopher McDougall is a runner, and a journalist. He loves his daily runs, but his body doesn’t. When he is plagued with running injuries he travels to the Copper Canyons in Mexico to discover the running secrets of the Tarahumara Indians. He is perplexed by the differences in their footwear, diet, and habits, and their ability to run for many hours in their deadly terrain. McDougall discusses all these differences, along with a fantastic story about a great race in the Copper Canyons. It includes the running phenomenon Scott Jurek, and many other eclectic runners.

This story was amazing. I felt like it paced like a marathon. A medium pace while slowly picking up to a fast sprint by the end of it. Ultra running is a unique sector of the running world. I love to go to these trail runs in which there are tons of ultra distances… myself, always doing the distance below the ultra. But, this book makes me want to run an ultra. I felt like the true spirit of running was completely captured through the people in this book. Jenn Shelton was my fav.

Jenn isn’t battling a rival to the bitter end, or striding across a mountaintop with the steel-jawed majesty of a Nike model, or gasping toward glory with a grimace of heartbreaking determination. All she’s doing is…running. Running, and smiling.

This past weekend I participated in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with my forever running buddy, Krystal. This was a goal that was in for My Happiness Project. I used to race a lot, then when I had kids, I just enjoyed when I could get out for a run. But this year I decided I would start doing the things that I used to love to do, and discover new things as well.

This race was determined for it to be different. To not be obsessed with time, paces, and proper fueling.  The gradual letting go of controlling the run, coincided with less injuries, more joy, and a surprisingly not much different on race day. In short… when I decided to stop controlling the run, it stopped making me it’s bitch!

So that’s what I did friends. I let go of the idea that I needed to run this marathon so fast that it felt painful… and ya know what?!?! I literally had people who were cheering compliment me on my smile. I was so damn happy this race, and it didn’t hurt. Lesson learned… let go, and let what happens be.

Next up… maybe an ultra?!?!