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!

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!

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!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris

IMG_1517I was sent this book from Harper Collins Canada, and all I can say is thank goodness I was given the chance to read this book. This is a complete five stars rating!! Over the last couple years, I feel like WW2 fiction has increased in popularity…  but this novel, is one that you MUST read.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on a true story. Heather Morris had interviewed Lale Sokolov to get his story before he had passed in 2006. I’ve deep dived this topic in the last couple days… listening to interviews with Lale, podcast interviews with Heather Morris, and also using my “google search bar”. Let’s just say after reading this book I’m absolutely fascinated with the true story behind this novel!

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. When it’s discovered that he speaks several languages, he is given a job of somewhat privilege  as the Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist). He is able to get through his days by reminding himself that if he is the one that gives each prisoner a tattoo, they will at least see the sun come up the next day. Lale uses this position of privilege to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to feed his fellow prisoners. Then in July 1942, Lale meets Gita.  In his words, he tattooed the number 32407 on her arm, and she tattooed her number on his heartThe two of them witness barbaric events, and incredibly both survived.

“You know something, Tatoweierer? I bet you’re the only Jew who ever walked into an oven and then walked back out of it.”

This is Heather Morris’ debut novel. She had interviewed Lale when his wife Gita had passed away. It took her several years to write Lale’s story, and I think she did it with such compassion. This book stands apart from a lot of the historical fiction books based around the Holocaust, as it’s such a true account of what went on inside the camps. There are moments that Lale accounts from inside Auschwitz-Birkeneau that are remarkable and all for different reasons…. the Polish workers that helped smuggle food in, the fact that the guards planned a soccer game against the weakened prisoners, and the network of communication the prisoners had.

This book is so many things, but mostly inspiring. As a reader it reminds you about the human spirit, and it’s will to survive. It reminds you of the horrors that have happened not that long ago, and how we need to change. And lastly, it’s a beautiful love story.

Go read this book, please!! It’s so amazing, and I think exactly what humans need to be reading right now in this crazy world.

 

Midnight Blue, by Simone van der Vlugt

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You know that saying… “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. Well in this case, please do. This cover is just gorgeous, and my picture doesn’t even do it justice. It has tiny flecks of gold that sparkle in the sunlight, and every time I look at this cover I smile. I stumbled upon this book in Hunter Street Books, when I saw the beautiful Delft blue pottery resemblance, my dutch roots just had to buy it.

Set in 1654 in the Netherlands, this novel follows Catrin, who after the suspicious death of her husband she decides to move from her hometown. She runs away to Amsterdam in hopes to escape her past, and follow her dreams of opening her own business of painting pottery. Eventually Catrin ends up in Delft, where she has started to work at a place where she makes pottery. On a whim she decides to paint a plate with a beautiful blue pattern. She was inspired to do so upon seeing the Chinese vases, and thought she would give it a shot… and so began the Delft pottery.

Along with this historical timeline, Catrin’s story is quite a tumultuous one. Being widowed, and dealing with infant loss, her storyline is pretty inspiring. She’s a firecracker. What I really loved about this story was that it weaved in famous artists such as Rembrant, Vermeer, and Fabritius, and also true events, such as the plague, and the Delft Explosion. I love it when a novel teaches me something about a time in history that I hadn’t known before.

I’ve visited Delft numerous times, and I had know idea that there was a massive explosive there! I found this part so interesting, and wish I had of known this history before I visited… but there is always time to go back!! I just have to convince my Gramma to come with me to translate 🙂

If you like historical fiction, with a little bit of thrilling action, you will probably like this book as much as I did! I found it really easy to read, despite it being a translation… which can be at sometimes hard stories for me to read. I also found the pace of it really great. It moved along enough that I wanted to keep turning the pages, but I also wanted to look up little historical details.

That’s all on this one, and if you have read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Until next time, happy reading!

 

 

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Anne Fowler

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Good God, this novel is a beautiful, heart-wrenching story. I’ve been obsessed with the Fitzgeralds since high school when I first read The Great Gatsby. Let me rephrase, I’ve been obsessed with the writers who gathered in Paris for deep inspiration. The flapper dresses, the bobs, the glamorous cigarettes, prohibition…  everything is so alluring. I picked up this book awhile ago, but when I heard that the Badass Women’s Book Club had it on their list, I decided this was exactly the type of book I needed to read right now.

Let me take a minute to tell you, I had this romantic view of the Fitzgeralds. Ever devoted, very drunk, and a lot of passion. F.Scott Fitzgerald was a drunk in the truest form. Drinking all day, and drinking and writing all night. He wasted his life away while getting drunk with his writer pals, and obsessing about who truly wrote the greatest was American Novel. BUT, I knew nothing about Zelda, other than she was F.Scott Fitzgerald’s wife.

Scott reached for my hand. “Damn it all, you are the love of my life.”

This tragic, passionate love story had me right from the beginning. It’s basically a fictional biography, based in lots of research. I think that Therese Anne Fowler did an amazing job, and deserves a lot of praise for this. Without giving too much away, Zelda was a badass babe. She could write, act, dance, and on top of that bring the life of the party. Scott admired this, but also wanted to control this about her. By keeping her sheltered, he could achieve more greatness he believed. She was his muse, which he ultimately quelled to the point that she was driven to psychiatric hospital for a long stint. These two flew too close to the sun, and got ultimately got burnt.

If you do decide to pick up this book (which I strongly suggest you do) please read the Author’s Note at the end. It’s very informative, and covers the last half of Zelda’s life which does not include Scott. Being a historical fiction junkie, and a fan of literature, this novel was a perfect fit for me. Not only was the story fascinating, but Therese Anne Fowler wove a beautiful story.

Okay, so I will now be up all night reading about the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, Stein, and the rest of the literary cast. Until next time, happy reading!