An Unwanted Guest, by Shari Lapena

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Shari Lapena’s newest novel, An Unwanted Guest, is a thrilling, suspenseful ride. This was the first book of hers that I have read, as I don’t usually do the “murder mystery” genre. But I will also admit that when I do read this genre, I find myself curled up all day on the couch, turning the pages so fast.

It’s a snowy, wintry night in Catskills at Mitchell’s Inn. Car by car, guests are arriving separately as they are looking to escape their hectic lives to have luxurious stay at the Inn. On top of escaping, they all have separate reasons for escaping… re-kindling relationships, repair a friendship, or write a novel. Then, when one of the guests turns up dead. The guests start to panic, just when the next guest is found murdered. Whodunnit??

This novel has all the Agatha Christie vibes. Lapena writes with all the flair of the classic mystery feels, which leaves you not wanting to put this book down. Her characters are well developed, and you feel like you get a great backstory on their lives. This little detail though can be pretty deceiving, because you actually have no idea who is the killer. Now admittedly, I am the worst person at figure out who the killer is, but I still thought it was well executed!

Shari Lapena is a Canadian author, from Toronto, which is a little detail I did not know before reading this book. She had two other bestsellers before this, The Couple Next Door, and A Stranger in the House… which I will now be reading!

Until next time, happy reading!

 

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Circe, by Madeline Miller

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Circe, oh Circe!! This book has been everywhere in 2018… and for that reason, I had dug my heels in and was not going to go near all the hype on this book. Well, when a dear friend, with fantastic reading taste, told me she loved Circe. I thought, fine. I will just give it a try.

This is Madeline Miller’s second book. I had read her Orange Prize winning novel, The Song of Achilles, which was based off of the Iliad. And now she comes out with Circe, which is based off the Odyssey. Miller has said that as a child, she was obsessed with both these works of literature, and had so many questions about all the characters. So she decided to write her own version of what she thinks happened.

Circe is a coming of age story of the immortal nymph, who finds out she possesses the power of witchcraft. It starts from her young age, and interacting with the Gods and Goddesses. She feels inadequate in their presence as she lacks their beauty, and their powers… but what she lacks in these areas, she makes up with her ability of witchcraft. When Circe discovers this, and uses it to her advantage, and the detriment of others, she is exiled to the island of Aiaiai. It is here where Circe becomes a total queen, and discovers herself on so many levels.

This book is a must read. If you have any faint interested in Greek mythology, you will LOVE it. If you don’t, then just read it anyway, because it’s absolutely stunning. Miller’s writing style is so calm, and gently explanatory. It feels as if there is someone reading this story to you. It has some faint #metoo feminist vibes, and the ending is incredible. It’s, dare I say, perfect.

Lastly, there is a passage that is written so beautifully about motherhood. Miller uses the dichotomy of goddess and mortal, and shows the reader how perilous motherhood really can be. The nausea endured during pregnancy, endless diaper changes, the sleepless nights.  And then there is the overwhelming love, the guilt, and the worries. She just nails it. I think the motherhood experience is on a small scale what Circe goes through the whole novel, trying to balance whether being immortal is really all it’s cracked up to be.

That is one thing gods and mortals share. When we are young, we think ourselves the first to have each feeling in the world.

Have you read this one? Please let’s chat if you have.

Happy reading!

Transcription, Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson is one of those author’s that her book’s are an automatic “to read” on my list. Her novels, Life after Life, and God in Ruins, were amazing. So when Transcription came out, I immediately put it on hold at my library. My feelings about this novel are a little bit murky, but the reviews on it are INCREDIBLE. So, what do I know??

Transcription follows Juliet Armstrong, who at 18 years old has been recruited to join an espionage team in England for M15 in 1940. Just like her last two novels, Atkinson plays with time travel, and takes you to post-war (1950), and to her current life (1981). While Juliet is a naive, pathological liar, the M15 admires these qualities in someone… as long as they are good at it. And she was. When something tragic happens to her and her work mates, she finds herself in a state of paranoia and panic. And also questioning whose side her work mates are actually one.

First off, let me tell you what I did like. Kate Atkinson can dazzle a reader with her snarky one-liners, and her perfect placement of words. But, I found this book’s pace to be quite sketchy. For pages it was so moving, and I found my brain wandering as I read it. Then it would pick up at an incredible pace, and you were turning the pages so fast! As I sit here writing this, I think that possibly Atkinson used this as a tool. That being a spy would be much like this. From one moment you are just waiting for something to happen that is worthy of reporting, or reacting to. Then the moment it actually happens you have to react fast, and get moving.

I have listened to a couple podcasts in which Atkinson was being interviewed, and doing this was really eye opening. It made me appreciate the novel much more. She talks a lot about how the “Phony War”  played a part in her novel, in the sense that she wanted to create a foggy, secretive setting… just like the British were experiencing in 1940 as the War was also very unknown to them. They had no idea what they were to expect, and ultimately what was coming there way until the Battle of Dunkirk. The interview I enjoyed the most was The Guardian Book Podcast.

One last thing I will leave you with about this book, is a quick quote that really captures just how snarky, and smart her writing is. And of course, it’s quick little nod to Jane Eyre wins me over immediately.

Juliet felt slighted yet relieved. It was curious how you could hold two quite opposing feelings at the same time, an unsettling emotional discord. She felt an odd pang at the sight of him. She had been fond of him. She had been his girl. Reader, I didn’t marry him, she thought.

Until next time, happy reading!!

December: Embracing it all.

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The year has come to an end, and so has my Happiness Project. I dedicated December to embracing all the things that actually worked for me this year.

Here’s what I’ve learned throughout this process. That happiness isn’t actually a state, or a personality trait. Happiness is a fleeting moment, it’s the smile of your child’s face when you walk in the room. It’s quiet moments of hot coffee and books while the household is sleeping. It’s the complete bliss of actually being in the moment for once, instead of looking at your phone or ahead to the future. I think that the idea of being eternally happy initially sounds great, but how do we know true happiness if we haven’t experienced the lows.

This project was definitely productive as I picked up some great habits in which I will carry with for hopefully a long time. Here’s my quick list of things I will continue to do:

  • Breathe. Take moments to take a deep breathe, and really enjoy how your lungs feel when they are full.
  • Pursuing passions. After finally signing up for a marathon again after 6/7 years, what I realized is that I am so capable of anything I put my mind to. So whether it’s running, a fun hobby, or reading, I want to continue to pursue and working towards goals for fun. No pressure to do certain times, or setting high bars… just purely enjoying doing something.
  • Saying no. This includes not over scheduling, telling people what I actually want, and focusing on what’s most important for our family.
  • Dates with my Husband. This was life changing. We have actually been really keeping this goal up, and it’s been great to get out as a couple again.
  • Yoga. Enough said… perfect for my mindset, and my body.

Well friends, that rounds up a whole year of working on happiness!! If you are interested in reading about the my personal project, check this link out. If you are interested in doing a happiness project, feel free to drop me a line, or a comment. I’d love to chat!

 

Kingdom of the Blind, Louise Penny

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Happy Christmas Eve, friends! If you have been following my blog for a bit, you will know how deeply I love the The Armand Gamache series, by Louise Penny. Kingdom of the Blind is the newest addition to the series, making it #14. The most frequent question I get when I chat with people about this series is, “do you have to read it in order?” And my answer is always YES. Start at the beginning, and enjoy every beautiful page of each book in the series. It’s just that good.

Kingdom of the Blind starts off with Armand with a letter in which he’s been invited to an abandoned farmhouse just outside of Three Pines, in Quebec. He soon finds out that he’s been made an executor of the homeowner’s will… and she’s a complete stranger. This elderly woman who owned this delapitated house, has some delusion requests in her will which Armand seems to find quite stranger. That is until a body turns up, and the layers of the mysterious will start to become peeled back.

With each instalment of this series, I find myself feeling really scared to read the newest one, and have it not be as good as the last one. Louise Penny NEVER disappoints me. She draws these characters so well in your mind that you really feel like you know them. I also have a theory that she really loves food, because every time I read these novels, I want to curl up with some comfort food after reading her descriptions.

This instalment was incredible, and I feel like a bit of a departure from most of the other ones in the series. You get to really see Armand starting to slow down and train his predecessors. Which feels really wrong, and sad to me, but I don’t think he’s getting anywhere near retiring. Although the ending of this book has me wondering where she’s going to take this series, as there are a couple definite options.

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.

What was the best part of this book was the Author’s Note. Louise Penny talks about how she felt that after her husband’s passing, there would be no more instalments to the Armand Gamache series. She has spoken openly about how much her husband had inspired her to write a character like Armand. He who is gentle, intelligent, poetic and equipped to get a job done. So she felt like continuing writing was impossible without her muse. And yet, one day she just started to write a sentence. Then a couple pages, and then now, we are reading this fantastic book.

As a little holiday gift to you… here’s a list of the Armand Gamache books in order:

  1. Still Life
  2. A Fatal Grace
  3. The Cruelest Month
  4. A Rule Against Murder
  5. The Brutal Telling
  6. Bury your Dead
  7. A Trick of the Light
  8. The Beautiful Mystery
  9. How the Light Gets In
  10. The Long Way Home
  11. The Nature of the Beast
  12. A Great Reckoning
  13. Glass Houses
  14. Kingdom of the Blind

Hoping you all have a great holiday season, and are getting lots of time to read 🙂

 

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.

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!