The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

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Having been placed in the “romance” genre, The Kiss Quotient, is a book I normally wouldn’t pick up. Upon hearing two of my fav authors Roxane Gay, and Taylor Jenkins Reid sing high praises about Helen Hoang’s writing, I decided…. okay, maybe this book is worth giving a shot. This book is reminiscent of The Rosie Project, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine… so if you enjoyed those ones, this one is worth picking up.

Meet Stella Lane, a 3o year old econometrician. She loves her work intensely, but dating is just really not her thing. The little fact that Stella has Asperger’s, makes dating seem more difficult. She hates kissing, speaks the whole, blunt, truth, and has quite a bit of anxiety on the whole process. So she does the logical thing, and hires a male escort, Michael Phan. He’s gorgeous, and martial artist, and is also willing to work with Stella’s plan to teach her how to date… and a couple more things. It’s doesn’t take long for Stella to realize that Michael may be her new obsession, and she starts to think that the feelings are being reciprocated. Here’s where the story gets really interested!

All the things that make you different make you perfect.

I just loved this book! I ripped through it in three days, and literally took it everywhere. The couch, the treadmill, the appointments, the lunch break, it was everywhere I was. Helen Hoang wrote a novel that is a modern re-telling, of Pretty Woman, with a twist. She has served up a novel that is a really fun story, with also some great writing. Without giving anything away, there are some pretty steamy scenes in this book. So if you are not a fan of that, you could possibly flip through or maybe it’s not the book for you.

In the Author’s Note, Hoang tells us that her daughter’s teacher had suggested the fact that she may have Asperger’s. Hoang was not convinced, but started really researching the subject as any parent would. What she found out was really interesting, Autism is represented differently in girls than with boys. She found out that she had a lot of the tendenacies that would lend to herself having Asperger’s. And at age 34 years old, Helen Hoang was diagnosed with Autism, and her daughter may very well be too. SO, long story short, she wrote a fantastic book with a wonderful heroine who really seems to tell the experience so truthfully.

Okay, so if you need a book to get you back into reading, want a book to read in a weekend, or just love great books…. put this book on hold at the library or go get it at your bookstore. It’s a great novel, and now I’m DYING to read Helen Hoang’s next one. It’s the second one in the series called The Bride Test. But wait for it… it’s not out until May 7th 2019. Seriously?!?! I’m dying!

Until next time, happy reading.

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The Goddess of Yantai, by Ian Hamilton

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I was super thrilled when I received Ian Hamilton’s new addition to the Ava Lee series, The Goddess of Yantai. This series is one of my all-time favourites! This is the 11th novel in the series, and I highly suggest starting from the very first one if you want to get into this series. This series follows Ava Lee a forensic accountant, who is a Chinese Canadian, and also an avid runner and martial arts enthusiast. Ava chases big money losses, that are usually involving some very shady characters… hence the martial arts! I always say that this series is like the perfect mix of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and a Jackie Chan movie.

In the Goddess of Yantai, Ava travels to Beijing to view the premiere of her secret lover’s film, Pang Fai. After the premiere, Fai tells Ava that she is being blackmailed by the Chinese Movie Syndicate, who want sexual favours in return for continuing her successful career. At this point Fai has just had enough, and decided that she is with Ava’s help, putting an end to it. When they resist, the blackmail, and threats become increasingly worse. Will Ava be able to get to the bottom of it before the threats go to far??

Ekk… I wanted to just rip through this book, as the pace is fast, and the pages practically flip themselves. I actually limited myself to a certain page number each day though, because I found out that the next instalment isn’t out until July 2019.

These books are just fantastic. If you love great writing, an intense pace, and a bit of a thrill, then these are perfect for you. Ian Hamilton pulls in some real world issues into the plot with the #MeToo movement. He also describes the setting and the food so well that I just want to jump on a plane and fly over to Beijing for a trip. And lastly, Hamilton leaves Ava Lee fans on a cliffhanger with some of your favourite characters and a big old plot twist!!

Until next time, happy reading!

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!!

 

 

Girl, Stop Apologizing, by Rachel Hollis

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Okay, guys…  I’m a little bit obsessed with Rachel Hollis. I was gifted this book from Harper Collins Canada in exchange for my honest review. Oh boy, I can’t even contain my excitement for this book to hold on to the review until it’s release date… which is March 12, 2019. I get that it’s super mean for me to rave and be so excited about a book that’s release date is so far away. BUT, I will make you a promise to re-release the review days before the book is set to hit stores.

Here’s why I wanted to get this review out. Girl, Stop Apologizing, is the follow up book to Girl, Wash your Face. I think that reading them in succession is essential! I think that the first one is about acceptance, then the second is about action.

Rachel Hollis has a knack for noticing the pitfalls that women fallback on to excuse their living into their full potential. Because Rachel has been there. She has been the woman who needed to change. But what she did was… actually change. WHOA, right I know, no excuses. She just executed the habits, and committed to the positive changes.
In Girl, Stop Apologizing, Rachel Hollis is ready to arm you with a plan to start owning your life. She identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviors to adopt, and the skills to adapt to your lifestyle that will help with positive growth.

Straight up, I loved this book. As a woman, these books are deeply freeing. They make you feel less alone in your own little crazy world. They make you realize that feeling like a hot mess of a woman is okay, but just own it. And maybe take some steps in your life that help your morning/evening run a little smoother. Accept that you can be a successful woman, and also an amazing family person. You may not be perfect, but you can damn well try your best each day to commit to being ACCOUNTABLE.

Our own insecurities on any subject either spark our curiosity or they feed our judgement.

In a world where we live on social media, and have constant comparisons, it’s easy to get sucked into the this shame cycle of scrolling through IG, Facebook, Twitter… whatever it is. But what Rachel Hollis reminds us is that we are the ones in charge of what we fill ourselves up with. It’s so easy to play the “comparison game”, but remember that you are the one who can cater your lifestyle. If the IG model makes you feel less beautiful… unfollow. If the news makes you feel anxious… shut it off. If your schedule makes you feel like a chicken with your head cut off… slow down. If you feel like you have no energy… fuel your body.

I’m learning that slowing down is okay, but being mindful of actually scheduling is what makes the day feel more balanced. Currently I’m sitting in my office, shovelling mouthfuls of my homemade salad into my my mouth, while typing this review. Sometimes friends, you just have to do it. You just have to commit to the small chunks of time that add up to the hours that get the job done.

This book has literally breathed motivation back into my life. It’s full of things I needed to be reminded of. Now, it’s time to implement some of them 🙂

Happy reading, friends!

Lethal White, by Robert Galbraith

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Robert Galbraith, is actually J.K. Rowling’s alias. She had written under this name after getting barely reviews for her adult fiction that was released after her final Harry Potter series. Well, J.K. you are a genius. This series (the Cormoran Strike series) gives me similar feelings that the Louise Penny series. I wait until these are released, and read them instantly. These are the type of books that you savour, because when they are finished you are impatiently waiting for the author to hurry up and write the next novel. So this is where I am now.. come on J.K., I need another book!!!!

Cormoran Strike’s office is interrupted by Billy, a mentally ill young man, who tells Strike that he had witnessed a crime as a child. The crime that he describes is a murder of a child, and possibly involving the inner workings of the British Parliament. As Strike begins to question Billy, he becomes uneasy, and decides the run. All the while, Robin is trying to carry on from the last novel where she was attacked, and is suffering from panic attacks and PTSD. Strike, and Robin are off investigating Parliament offices, big manor homes, and also trying to maintain their own lives. As the novel unfolds, their separate relationships become quite unravelled, increasing the tension between the two of them.

Although this book is quite long, at almost 700 pages, it is totally worth the read. What J.K. Rowling perfects is… just about everything. The setting, the characters, the plot, it’s just all so perfect. I would wake up every day thinking… hmmm I wonder what’s going to happen to Robin and Strike today?! She has also brushed on the fact that Robin is dealing with some mental strife, and I loved this. Strike is a war veteran, so he has tons of advice to give her.

Pretending you’re OK when you aren’t isn’t strength.

This series fills the space of “pretty great writing/guilty pleasure”. Cormoran, who is the main “Sherlocky” detective, is such a great character. He’s gruff, he’s charismatic, and complete womanizer. Robin, his “Dr.Watson”, is the type of character who is much more relatable… she’s beautiful, insecure, and ballsy. So here me out on this next line… the sexual tension between them is HIGH!!

I hope you have time to curl up with a blanket and a tea, and dive into a great book this weekend! Happy reading!

 

Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan

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If you haven’t seen or heard of Washington Black, you must be hiding under a rock!!! It is the “it” book this fall. While being nominated for both the Man Booker Prize, and the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the accolades for this book are everywhere. BUT, the reason I was motivated to go out and buy this one is that I had gotten very envious when I was told by someone that their book club was reading it… so I thought I’d read it as well, thinking there would be lots to think and chat about in this one. Well, yes, my assumption was accurate!

It’s 1830, in Barbados, on a sugar plantation where you meet Washington Black. He is an eleven year old field slave, who has been chosen by the slave master’s brother, “Titch”, to be his servant. Titch is a scientist, an inventor, and an abolitionist. Titch teaches Washington many things, and gets his help with building a hot air balloon. When the tension at the plantation has risen to an all-time high, Titch decides that he and Wash are getting out of there… via the hot air balloon. From here the adventure begins, with travels around the world, but Wash cannot run away from the trauma of his past. The deep cuts that the plantation has left, and the abuse that was put on the people there are unforgettable. Titch and Wash have a very deep relationship, and as the story unfolds the real adventure begins when they are separated.

Esi Edugyuan’s beautiful prose is a delight to read. It paints a picture so clear that you feel the humidity described, and really feel the characters personalities. What she has done is written a book that makes the reader realize that the trauma of your past can shroud what seems like a bright future. At first I thought this was going to be a story about slavery, but by the end you realize that it’s much more than that. Yes, the terrors of slavery are addressed, but what the real content showed me was how deeply trauma affects someone. Wash went from being a field slave, to a freeman. To the outside eye you would think how lucky his chances were. But the fact that he deals with the guilt, and shame of the people who were his family that he had to leave behind is just all too overwhelming. He deals with the memories that are deeply rooted within the scars of his body, and are resurfaced upon a familiar sight, smell, or feeling.

We must all take on faith the stories of our birth, for though we are in them, we are not yet present.

There were so many fantastic characters in this story. Obviously Wash, but mostly I loved Titch. He was a deeply human character, whom I need to learn more about. I think what would be brilliant to chat with a book club about his story. If you’ve read this book, you will understand what I mean, because his story for me just didn’t feel complete when I finished this book.

This is the type of book that feels like a complete joy to read, but after you close it you continue to think about it. I finished this book over two weeks ago, and just could not figure out the words to write that would give it justice. I just think it’s beautiful, and deserves to be read.

Have you read this one? Please… let’s chat. I’m dying to have a conversation about Washington Black.

 

November: Take a Minute to be Mindful

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It’s November, and you know what that means… another Happiness Project update. October was an eventful month for me. It was the peak of a couple goals, I ran my marathon, I had lots of coffee/lunch dates, and also some big work goals. So let’s just say that October left me feeling accomplished, but also ready for a good long sleep.

November, well needed, is based on mindfulness. I think this is a quite a hot topic these days, and meaning different things for different people. I am always so focused on the next thing, that I often forget to enjoy the thing I just worked so hard for. Whether mindfulness for you is meditation, or taking time to care for yourself, I think finding the ways that work well for you is what’s most effective. Here’s the little goals I’ve been working into my November so far:

  1. My Gratitude Journal. This guided journal gets you to fill it out first thing in the morning starting with what you are grateful for, what would make today great, and an affirmation. Later at the end of the day, you reflect on  how it went. I love this little journal. I have always had a romantic view of writing in a journal daily… Then flash forward to an empty journal!! So buying a guided one was the key for me.
  2. Using my Meditation App, Insight Timer. The most effective time for me to use them is right before I go to sleep. So I’m going to make an effort to do this more, because I slept so great when I do.
  3. Back to the breath. This always puts me right back into the moment, and reminds me to pay attention to how I feel physically and mentally.
  4. Listen to what my body needs. I love to run, but here’s my promise this month… If my body is sore, stretch. If my body has a lot of energy, move. If I feel tired, lay down. The key here is not forcing something on my body, just listening to what it truly needs.

Anywho, that’s all for this month.