Picking the next great book, and 4 Book Reviews!

734892CA-DB5C-4C9F-8A80-1BB35691F1BFHey there bookish friends,

Let’s talk about how to pick the great next book. I’m sure most of you can relate to looking for a book that makes you feel such feelings that you can’t do anything but finish it. I’m not claiming that I know how to pick the best book all the time, or that you will all after reading this… but figuring out your book taste, and the people who align with it with definitely get your book picker working better. Here’s some resources I use:

Instagram:

Here’s where you can find yourself a bookish soulmate. Follow some book loving people, and when they starting raving about the books that you love, maybe pick up the one that they recommend and you haven’t read. Some of my bookish soulmates on IG are: @happiestwhenreading, @readvoraciously, @notesonbookmarks, @anniebjones

Booksellers:

Go to your local bookstore, and get friendly. Chat with the booksellers, ask them what they’re reading, and ask them to help you. Make sure you tell them a couple books that you loved, and maybe they can steer you in a direction that will get the next book you will love.

Podcasts:

I LOVE podcasts, and these ones below will definitely give you a diverse selection of books to add to your TBR. There is something about listening to someone rave or trash a book that can really influence your reading decisions. Let’s just say most of my TBR is built from these following podcasts. Also… if you don’t listen to podcasts, because you don’t know how to, check out this post.

Book Reviews:

The Boat PeopleThe Boat People, by Sharon Bala. (3.75 stars) A rusty old cargo ship pulls up onto Vancouver shores full of Sri Lankan refugees who are escaping a war torn life. There is over 500 refugees on this boat, and the Canadian government is really unsure whether these people should be allowed into the country. Mahindan, and his son, are two of the refugees escaping the trauma of the past, and are thrown into detainment until their individual case is processed in court. You follow the shipmates, and Mahindan’s life throughout this book, and the troubled past with the terrorist group the Tamil Tigers. This is fictional account of a true story, and I found Sharon Bala’s account of what these families dealt with so eye opening. It was a Canada Reads nominee, and also won many other prizes!

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and FortuneNatalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune, by Roselle Lim. (4 stars) So this was I was sent as an advanced reading copy from Penguin Books. It comes out on June 11th, and is SO good! When Natalie’s mother passes away, she is regretting not speaking, or visiting her for the past several years. Natalie has been a bit of a vagabond, travelling and collecting experiences, but the one experience she will never have is truly knowing her mother. When her mother passes unexpectedly, Natalie travels home to San Francisco and decides to re-open her Grandmother’s restaurant. Upon this decision, she lives in her mother’s apartment, gets to now the neighbours, and truly begin to know and understand her mother. I loved it, and I think it’s perfect for the reader who likes a fun book with a little depth.

Cat and Nat's Mom Truths: Embarrassing Stories and Brutally Honest Advice on the Extremely Real Struggle of Motherhood

Mom Truths, by Catherine Belknap, and Natalie Telfer. (1 star) You all know that I hardly ever give a bad review, but I need to get this one off my chest. The only reason this one has earned any star rating, is the feelings that this book brought up for me. This “mom truths” book was literally a whole novel telling each and every woman to forgive themselves for making mistakes everyday. That it’s okay to drink copious amounts of liquor to be able to get through your day, and complain to your girlfriends about your kids. YES, I get it being a parent is hard…but when did the word “MOMMING” become a verb. It’s actually whole life change, and if you decide to become a parent, please, please be an intentional parent and partner. I realize that there is no one way to parent, but I think this book really pushed a very dangerous message. Let’s just take a moment and realize that this whole “Millenial Whiny Mommy” trend, isn’t cool. Yes it’s funny for a second, until you really think about how pathetic it is. It really opened my eyes to be more present, and intentional.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry GirlsThe Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, by Anissa Gray. (3.75 stars) If you loved American Marriage, I think this is the next book that will fill that hole for you. Husband and wife diner owners, Althea and Proctor, are suddenly thrown into jail for a reason which will up end their whole town… let alone their family. Althea and Proctor’s children are suddenly thrust into the hands of Althea’s sisters, and are each of them are struggling to adjust in a town who they are all looked at like criminals. This is a really great look at how three dimensional this type of situation can really be. You hear from each family member, through letter’s, past experiences, and the present. This was Anissa Gray’s first novel, and I think a great read.

Okay, that’s all for today. Until next time, happy reading!

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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!

Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams

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When I picked up Queenie, I was fully expecting to enter into the light, fluffy world of chick lit. This is an easy read, but has deep content, and I was pleasantly surprised. This novel is getting a TON of praise, and selling like hot-cakes. With it’s eye-catching cover, and being compared to a combination of Bridget Jones Diary and Americanah… how could you not want to read it?

Meet Queenie. She’s a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London. She has a great job at a newspaper, and after a hard break up with her white boyfriend, she starts to slowly put everything… her job, her friendships, her family, and also her mental health at risk. You follow Queenie as she makes one bad decision after the next, and listen to her ask herself why she keeps doing these things. Eventually Queenie finds a better path, but you will have to read the book to see how she turns things around.

This is essentially a coming of age story. You are following Queenie through her daily life, but also flashing back to the past where she is re-visiting some of the past trauma from her childhood, and her current struggles in learning how to identify herself. Right about now, you are probably saying… hmmmm doesn’t sound like a light, fast read?!?! But, I’m telling you, the way that Carty-Williams has written these complex characters is actually really fun. The dynamics that Queenie has in her relationships with family and friends, is actually quite funny most times, and had me laughing out loud.

But let me warn you, this is a novel full of triggers… sexual harrassment, racism, miscarriage, and graphic sex. But the way that Candice Carty-Williams has addressed these issues is in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you need to skip pages! I think that this is a really exciting time for literature. We are slowly seeing more relatable characters integrated into the white-washed world of literature. Queenie is a full-bodied, Jamaican woman, who has suffered childhood trauma, and starts to do the work to heal mentally.

PS- This is a debut novel, that Jojo Moyes has really got behind!! If review hasn’t talked you into this reading it, that little tidbit of information should get you intrigued!

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. 

 

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

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Yet again, I had held off on a book because of the “hype” that surrounded it. Oopsy poopsy, I missed out for awhile… but so glad I picked it up, because I loved Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. And holy smokes, if you’ve read this one, you will understand why I say that I’m shocked that this was a debut novel!

Barkley Cove has had the mysterious “Marsh Girl” always zipping in and out of town without saying a word. But after many years of this town wondering her story, the handsome, town hero, Chase Andrews is found dead. The “Marsh Girl”, Kya Clark, is the immediate suspect… because there were rumours swirling around about their odd friendship/relationship. Having a tumultuous upbringing, or lack there of one, Kya has survived alone for years in the marsh and has a hard time with human contact. But as she grew up, she became quite the “looker”, and had the interest of two boys from town. When she is torn between the two of them is where the plot gets interesting.

This is a genre-crossing novel, combining mystery, romance, family drama… you think of it and you may find it in here! It’s also a coming of age story of Kya Clark, who at a young age is abandoned, and learns to survive and thrive off the Marsh. As she grows older her interest in the Marsh, and biology eventually flourishes into something worth all the time she has invested in it. Really, the Marsh was her playground as a child, and this novel is an ode to the wonders of wildlife within it. Then, when you least expect it you are thrusted into the solving of a crime.

Autumn leaves don’t fall; they fly. They take their time and wander on this, their only chance to soar. Reflecting sunlight, they swirled and sailed and fluttered on the wind drafts.

What this novel does a great job of is having you flipping the chapters quite quickly. It had me on the age of my seat, but I had to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the beautiful prose that Delia Owen had constructed for the reader. Owen has reminded us of our own childhood, and how we continue to see the place we grew up in, and the magic it holds.

Like I said earlier, Where the Crawdads Sing is a little bit of everything, and I think a wonderful novel that many people will love as much as I did.

Until next time, Happy Friday & here’s to hoping you get lots of reading in this weekend!

 

 

Starring as Sally J. Freedman as Herself, by Judy Blume

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I’ve been listening to a great new podcast called 10 Things to Tell You, and the host, Laura Tremaine, did a whole episode dedicated to her favourite Judy Blume books. Her taste in books is really similar to mine, so when she said that Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself was her favourite Blume book of all time, I decided to read it.

Meet Sally J. Freedman. She’s a ten-year-old girl, who is very imaginative, and her family has just moved to Miami Beach for the winter since her older brother had an illness. It’s post World War II, and Sally’s family is Jewish. Being extremely imaginative, Sally has dealt with the aftermath of the War through writing, games, and telling stories. It’s really a coming of age story, about a girl who deals with sibling rivalry, bullies, friendship, and interpreting her parents problems.

Let’s get this straight, this definitely a YA novel. I used to be so opposed to reading YA novels, until I realized that they tackled big topics in such a readable way. It gives me a little bit of a vibe of Anne of Green Gables in the ’50’s. You just fall in love with Sally, and the way she sees the world. Although there really isn’t a plot in this book, it’s the stories of what happens in childhood that make you feel nostalgic, and keeps you so entertaining. There is this really delightful way that Sally is dealing with the way that her family had been affected in Europe by the concentrations camps, and Hitler. Sally’s dealt with heavy material by imagining she is the hero, and trying to save her family!

This is a really great story, and I had been reading several really heavy novels… I was in need of a story that just felt really fun to read. Do you ever feel like that?? Sometimes I just need to read something that makes me remember why I love to read again… and this type of book always snaps me around.

Now I’m off to write a review about the next book I read… which had a ton of hype, and of course, I was holding off on reading it… BUT it was fantastic!

Until next time, happy reading!