What I’ve been Reading Lately

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It’s been awhile! Between trip planning, and busy days, I’ve made loads of time to read… but writing about what I’m reading was put on the back burner. So today I am coming at you with 6 book reviews. All very different, and most of them were fantastic! A little bit of a caution… my star ratings are in no way indicative of whether the novel was great, but has everything to do with how much I liked them. So I suggest reading the quick summary, and see if the content interests you. What I hope is that you can find the right book to hit you at the right time!

What I’ve been Reading Lately:

Five Wives: A Novel

Five Wives, by Joan Thomas. (3.5 stars). This novel had so much potential to be a perfect fit for me. And it was a fascinating story, but the writing style did not jive with my brain. This is based on the true story of five Christian missionaries and their families who travelled to Ecuador to convert the Waorian people in 1956. This mission went horribly wrong, ending in a massacre. The novel investigates some pretty big issues, and begs the reader’s consideration on the complications of pushing one’s beliefs onto another. Or a whole culture. When I think more about this novel, I am struck with the fact that Thomas wrote it in such a non-judgemental way, and was able to tell many sides to this story.

Inside Out: A Memoir

Inside Out, by Demi Moore. (4.5 stars). When I heard that Demi Moore was coming out with a memoir, with Ariel Levy as the ghost writer… I was in. I requested my library purchase this book, and lo and behold they did! This is your basic celebrity tell-all type of memoir… but with Levy’s writing it is absolutely unputdownable. I thought it was fantastic, with some dirty details into her marriages, and relationships. Told in a classic coming of age way, you are immediately sucked in. My favourite part was when she talked about her training for G.I. Jane… one thing is for sure that Moore is committed to work, even if it took away from her personal life.

The Wives: A Novel

The Wives, by Tarryn Fisher. (3 stars). For the first 2/3 of this novel, I really loved it. It’s premise was fantastic, and told in a thrilling psychologically twisty way. But the last 1/3 fell kind of flat for me, I found myself going WHAT?!? I’m confused. But, I will say, many people are raving about this one! So maybe it’s just me. The premise is, Thursday is married to Seth… who has two other wives. She’s never met them, but she has settled into this agreement with him. She’s madly in love with him, to the point of obsession. Then one day she finds some evidence of one of the other wives, and finds out something shockingly different than the man she married. Now, Thursday finds herself hunting and searching for answers.

The World That We Knew: A NovelThe World that We Knew, by Alice Hoffman. (5 stars). Set during WWII in Berlin, Hanni starts to hear the horrors that are happening to her people. She decides to sent her daughter, Lea, away in hopes that she can run and survive the Nazi regime. Hanni finds a rabbi who creates a golem, a mystical creature made of clay, to protect Lea. Once this golem has been brought to life she looks like a person, with extraordinary powers. Her one job is to protect Lea and help her survive the war. This is a fascinating story, told during a horrific time. Hoffman’s use of magical realism completely transformed this story, and there is a sort of glittery, fairy tale element to this novel. I adored it, and highly recommend it!

The Family Upstairs: A Novel

The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell. (3.5 stars). I have just loved the last two novels by Jewell, but this one was great until the last 1/4. On her 25th birthday, Libby has come home from work to find a letter that she thinks will change her life. This letter has the names of her birth parents, and also the news that she is inheriting their abandoned mansion in London’s highly esteemed area, Chelsea… worth millions. But it all gets very dark, very fast, as she learns the truth of her parents, and siblings. Like I said, it was a pretty good story, with a driving plot, but the ending was somewhat blah.

The Dearly Beloved: A Novel
The Dearly Beloved, by Cara Wall. (5 stars). This novel was as gorgeous on the inside as the cover on the outside is. When Charles and James are hired together to steward the Third Presbyterian Church in New York, they are as opposite as can be… and expected to work together as a team to help the Church through a turbulent time. Together, with their wives, they navigate through personal and work struggles. It’s a beautiful life story of two families learning to accept their differences in many areas, and also learn how to support each other. I thought it was just such a beautiful story, and told in a way that made this character-driven novel exciting. Highly suggest this one!

A Quote to Ponder:

I’m going to leave you with a quote from the end of Demi Moore’s book that I just loved. I actually read it a couple times, and looked around at my house, and my life… and thought I too belong here.

I belong. Here. In myself. In this house. On this planet. I’m in my mid-50s now, I’ve outlived both of my parents, I know that what I walked through was a lot, especially coming from where I came from. The truth is, the only way out is in.

Anywho friends, that’s all for today! I hope you have found something in here that you can get your hands on & get some great reading in.

Waiting for Eden, by Elliot Ackerman

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While in one of my deep, dark rabbit holes of lurking Instagram one evening, I saw two ladies whose book taste I really trust had posted about Waiting for Eden. They had both said similar things in that it’s a small novel, that will give you all the feelings. So yes, I put it on hold at my library and it came in days later.

Eden Malcom is in a hospital bed, stuck in a body that is no longer recognizable, and even worse he is imprisoned in his own mind unconscious. He will never be the same, and never get to see friend and fellow soldier who didn’t survive the attack in a war-torn country. His wife, Mary, spends her days on the couch waiting for him to wake up, and torn between who she should be with, Eden or their daughter. When Mary makes the hard decision to go home for Christmas, she gets a call that Eden has gained consciousness. He begins to try to communicate to the nurses, his wife, and to his friend who has died. You learn the couples troubled past, through love, loyalty, and acceptance.

Holy smokes, this is a little novel, coming in at 192 pages with small pages, but as sparse as it may look to a reader, it packs a big punch. The telling of this story is so important, for me it created so many feelings of empathy. You sit infront of your television, or computer, and have probably all heard the stories of the lives that soldiers have lost. You think of they families, and you have all the feelings. Then what happens, is you get up and go on with your day, and forget about it. This story makes you crawl into the skin of the family who has been deeply affected by the atrocities of war.

What Waiting for Eden isn’t, is… is a happy book. It will leave you feeling a little shattered. You learn the past of their relationship is rocky, but you see a wife who rallies to be by her husband’s side. It’s so moving, and sad. But very necessary.

The author, Elliot Ackerman, has served 5 tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and is the recipient of the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. I can’t help but wonder how much of this novel has been written as a way for him to deal the the terrible things he’s seen, heard, and experienced.

Stay warm, friends, and I hope you are curled up under a blanket with a book that you don’t want to stop reading 🙂

The Proposal, Jasmine Guillory

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Okay, confession time… I would have said a couple books back that I don’t waste my time reading “chick-lit”. But this book is more than that!! After reading The Kiss Quotient, it was recommended to me that I pick up The Proposal… so I did!! Oh my goodness. If I didn’t have a household of people pulling me in every direction, I would have sat down, and devoured this whole book in a sitting. It was SO. DAMN. GOOD!!!

Deciding to spend your life together shouldn’t be a surprise.

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Said actor boyfriend is a complete fool, whom Nik had no intention of anything other than sex. So when he proposes, her genuine shock and NO floors him and the whole crowd at the Dodgers game.

At the game with his sister, Carlos comes to Nik’s rescue and whisks her away from a camera crew by pretending to know her. Well, let’s just say from here the two can’t stop thinking about each other… Each not wanting anything serious the two embark on an rebound, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them gets realized the feelings are a little more serious!!

Where do I start?? How about the diversity in the characters… Nik is a successful black woman, Carlos is a super hot paediatrician, Nik’s friends include a lesbian, and a chunky Korean cupcake maven… I just loved the cast! What was so great about this book was there were no dull moments, it rolled along so well that at one point I realized I had reading 150 pages in a sitting… and that never happens! There was also a really background plot of Nik dealing with some past negative relationship stuff… she even joined a women’s self-defence class to help her overcome some of her self-doubt. In this day in age, Nik’s character is just the bomb. She’s a strong female presence, who finally decides that letting a man see the real vulnerable her doesn’t make her any less of the woman she’s worked on becoming.

Reading two well-written, extremely fun, “chick-lit” novels recently has taught me that when I previously judged the genre, I was knocking it before I tried it. I will now be opening up my mind to books that are in this genre. I think that there is a time and place for every book IF it’s well-written!!! I love to read diverse novels, with complex characters, and big issues. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be super fun. This book makes you remember that feeling when you were a kid, curled up around a book and hoping that no one interrupts you!

Until next time, stay warm & keep reading!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

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I recently picked this book up off my TBR shelf. I spent a delightful hour long conversation at my local bookstore (Hunter Street Books) with a bookseller there. Turns out we had very similar taste in books, and she handsold me Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. This novel reminded me so much of The Rosie Project. It was creative, funny, and also tragic.

This isn’t a spoiler at all, but it turns out Eleanor Oliphant is NOT completely fine. Eleanor is struggling socially, and has the habit of truly speaking her mind. She isolates herself from human contact, and spends her weekends eating frozen pizza, and drowning herself in vodka. Here enters Raymond, her co-worker, who helps her take care of an elderly man who has fallen. This experience has bonded Eleanor and Raymond, and it turns out they each can help each other’s damaged hearts.

Time only blunts the pain of loss. It doesn’t erase it.

I am usually not a fan of “fun” books. I like a really dark, introspective novel. I like when a book makes me reflect and think a lot. But this book just brought together those two worlds for me. Eleanor, within 20 pages of this novel, has decided to get her first waxing of her nether regions. That scene had me dying of laughter. I actually chatted about this scene to a friend who also read this book, and we both teared up for the laughs.

Then this novel had me welling up at certain points. Eleanor’s childhood, you find out, has jaded her. She has shoved this childhood down so far within her in hopes she wouldn’t have to deal with the emotions that came along with the trauma. Now, at 30 years old, we watch Eleanor deal with her traumatic childhood, and climb out of her socially anxious box.

Although it’s good to try new things and to keep an open mind, it’s also extremely important to stay true to who you really are.

This book was such a gem. Like I said earlier, it made me have the same feelings that The Rosie Project did. I loved, and will be recommending it completely to many different types of readers.

Until next time… Happy Sunday, bookish friends!

 

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez

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I think most readers have a list of books that in their lifetime they want to have read. One Hundred Years of Solitude is on that great big list of books I want to read, so when our book club had it come up as the next one to read I was thrilled to finally have the push to crack it’s spine.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is an epic family story that spans 100 years of their lives throughout this novel. Gabriel García Márquez is a Nobel Prize Winner, and is said to have written this novel based on the stories his grandmother told. Along with the family story, it is a story based in the magical realism genre, and García Márquez is said to be the creator of it. It was incredible how the setting was so real to life, then in the next sentence something out of this world was happening. There was contagious insomnia, people eating dirt, and also coming back from the dead! Below is a quote that I think is such a great example of why this novel is so unique and brilliant:

A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta’s chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.

This is the type of classic that you will feel strongly one way of the other… love or hate. I loved it. I felt like with every page the writing was making me feel smarter, and develop a deeper understanding of what great literature is. BUT, here’s the thing, this isn’t the type of book you can blast through. Each sentence requires such attention that I think this is why some people will not be able to read it or enjoy it.

García Márquez used this novel to also intertwine historical Columbian events such as, the Thousand Days’ War and, the Banana Plague. Along with these events, there were some big themes on solitude, fate, and the parallels that the novel ran with Catholicism. I love when a fictional novel can expand your knowledge on something you didn’t know, and for me, that is why reading is so powerful.

So friends, that’s all I have to say on this one! I’d love to hear if you’ve read it, or what book(s) is on your lifetime list.

Until next time, happy reading, friends!

 

 

 

I Was Anastasia, by Ariel Lawhorn

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I Was Anastasia was the book that I waited for on hold at the library for a LONG time. Between the hold list, and all the buzz in the bookish world, when I got this book in my hot little hands, I was pretty excited to crack it open.

This novel flops back and forth between two timelines. One being Russia, 1918, at the height of the revolution with Anastasia Romanov, and the entire imperial family, where they are forced into a damp basement in Siberia where their fate has brought them in front of a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed. The second timeline is Germany, 1920, when a young woman who closely resembles Anastasia Romanov is pulled from a freezing cold canal. This young woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia. From here, the reader is forced to try to make sense of whether this is or isn’t the real Anastasia.

Countless others have rendered their verdict. Now it is your turn.

This novel had great potential for me. I love historical fiction, and an interpretation on what really may have happened at a point in history. But this book, despite all the buzz, fell flat for me. I felt like the plot was could have been sensational, but the thread that should have held the book together just was not compelling at all to me. I felt this book lacked a passion behind it’s writing.

What I will tell you though is this book has been either a huge hit, or a huge miss for readers. I had reached out to some other readers over on Instagram and found that some people gave it a 5 star rating, and other’s were in the 2-3 range.  So my conclusion is that I think if you are a reader who love the bones of a book… great writing, and big themes, this may not be the book for you. But if you are the reader who loves a driving plot, and twists, this is one that you would probably really enjoy! I also think that this book could have some great discussion in a book club.

Please let me know what you think, I love hearing other opinions. Until next time, happy reading!

 

Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood

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I have to be honest with you, the only reason I picked this book up off my shelf was because the series Alias Grace popped up on my Netflix feed. And now this book will be on my FAVOURITE BOOKS of all time. I can’t believe I have been bypassing this battered book that I picked up at Vinnie’s for $1 for a while now, and am really glad I decided to read it.

Here’s a quick synopsis: It’s 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and his housekeeper/mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders. When Dr. Simon comes to interview Grace, he tries to unravel the truth of this crime.

Murderess is a strong word to have attached to you. It has a smell to it, that word – musky and oppressive, like dead flowers in a vase. Sometimes at night I whisper it over to myself: Murderess, Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt across the floor.

Atwood is an incredible writer, but she’s also just a ballsy woman! She has the power to make you feel inside her character’s head, and to make you miss them the minute you finish reading her novels. She also takes really important topics, and weaves them through an entertaining plot. As a Canadian, this book is fascinating… it’s setting is at a pillar of Ontario history, the Kingston Penitentiary, and also Toronto area.

Grace’s character is mesmerizing. This whole novel you have no idea whether she had committed the crime, or was falsely accused. She is an excellent seamstress, and this is a big part of her character. Constantly weaving her clothing, and quilts, as she weaves her story of a crime.

And inside the peach there’s a stone.

Margaret Atwood put in so many interesting quotes, letters, and based this novel off of a real crime! It’s a fascinating story and I truly think that you need to read the book, or watch the Netflix show, as this is really interesting time in Canadian history… plus it’s just really entertaining.

Until next time, happy reading!

the Arrangement, by Sarah Dunn

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Okay, this one wasn’t my favourite… It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book I haven’t liked. And that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this one, it actually brought up a lot questions and situations that made me squirm! It was kind of like a train wreck.

Here’s the premise: Lucy and Owen have been married long enough to have lived in New York City and moved to the suburbs, have an 8 year old autistic son, decide to get 19 chickens, and be involved in their communities. Long enough to fall into a comfortable place within their marriage. Then after a very drunken night with some friends, they discuss the rules that they would place within their relationship if they planned on having an open marriage. After a long day, and a lot of thinking about how she has lost herself, Lucy decides to propose to Owen that they should do this as a trial for 6 months. Owen agrees… and I bet you can guess where this story is going to.

This book had a great potential to have some really deep, dark feelings get examined, but I feel like it fell short. It lacked a depth that I was craving within this story of relationship. Albeit the story was super juicy, and that kept wanting to read right till the bitter end. For anyone looking for a fast, beach read… go pick this one up! It fits the bill completely.

Until next time, happy reading!!!

Out with March, in with April!

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Happy Easter! I’m going to do a double whammy with this post, as I don’t want to bombard your inboxes this long weekend. Here’s a little wrap up of the March instalment of My Happiness Project.

  • Stretch/Yoga: I was pretty excited get back to yoga. I’ve been working more, getting headaches, and something had to change in my daily routine that made my body feel less sore! So I went back to Salti Yoga, which is a local yoga studio to Peterborough, and I am in love with how it makes me feel. Often I go into a class with a lot of thoughts, and a twisted up body. As soon as I leave, I feel like a wringed out, clean sponge. It’s incredible, and I’m so glad I got back on the yoga train!
  • Drink more water: This was a small change, with a big pay-off. I bought a new water bottle, and some pure lemon juice, to motivate me to drink more. And I love it! I already drank a good amount of water everyday, but now I feel like such a small change has impacted my health in a big way. Less headaches… but more trips to the bathroom!!
  • Foam rolling: Okay… I failed here. I look at it everyday and think I should jump on it… better luck next time!

Okay! So now that we’ve wrapped up March, let’s move on to April.

April: Work, work, work, work, work!

Fun fact, I’m a procrastinator. In my home life I’m not as bad as my work life. I always get the job done on time, but I leave everything to the last minute. I am a small business owner, and I am the only employee, so being organized is something I have to be. Recently I’ve decided to grow this business, and I’ve realized I have to really work on being organized now.

  • Plan daily and weekly time for marketing, emails, and book work: I have a bad habit of forgetting that this takes time to get it done, so I end up cramming all these things into a short time period. And it really stresses me out! So here’s my solution, booking time for it!
  • Learn how to use spreadsheets better: Let’s just say I do not know my way around a spreadsheet, and some learning some simple ways to navigate around it would be great! Wish me luck.
  • Do it now! Every time I think “I can do it later”, I will do it now. Period.

Some work related books on my reading list for April:

Some non-work related books on my reading list for April:

 

One True Loves, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Sometimes you don’t realize that you are in a bit of a reading rut, until you pick up a book that just steals your heart. I had no idea who Taylor Jenkins Reid was until I read her beautiful book, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Then when I read Evelyn, I promptly followed TJR on Instagram, and kept my eyes peeled for books by her at my local bookstore.

One True Loves follows Emma Blair who married her high school boyfriend, Jesse. They built a life halfway across the country, based on travel and freelance journalism. When Jesse goes on a solo trip to Alaska before their one year anniversary, his helicopter goes missing. And Jesse is gone. Emma does her best to move on slowly, and each day it becomes easier for her to live again. Then she runs into Sam, an acquaintance from high school, and falls in love. When Sam and Emma become engaged, Emma gets a phone call that will change everything. It’s from her husband.

My Top Five Favourite Things from One True Loves:

  • Emma Blair (the main character) has got a booty, and an everyday girl type of body!!
  • Emma, and Taylor Jenkins Reid both love Leonardo DiCaprio. This is a girl after my heart.
  • The Blair family owns a bookshop. Enough said.
  • I learned when applying mascara, if your lashes clump, to use a safety pin to straighten them. Genius!
  • There’s a reference to a T-shirt that says, “Read a Mother F&#king Book”.

This book is great. It’s funny how many times I’ve said “I don’t do romance, or love stories!” Then I stumble upon a well written, funny, great love story, and regret that I say that. I just fell in love with the main character, Emma. She’s real, flawed, and so sweet. She’s an everyday girl whose been thrown into a situation that is almost impossible to understand what you would do until you have to make a decision like that.

If you need a book that has a storyline that just sucks you, but doesn’t feel too heavy, then this is the book for you! It’s a fast, fun, engaging read, and I would suggest picking it up.

Anywho, that’s all for today bookish friends. Happy reading!