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Oh, hey there!! Let me apologize right off the bat, because the formatting in this post has me perplexed. I cannot fix, so bear with me.

It’s been a bit… I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot lately. Anyways, here we are, halfway through 2020. And let’s just all agree that this has been a rollercoaster of a year so far! I don’t think I need to go into specifics, as we are all in the same place. But one thing I know for sure, that the halfway point throughout the year always has me reflecting on my reading life. And this year I’ve read so many great books!!

Here’s why I think that’s been happening…

  • It could be the fact that there are great books being published.
  • I think I’ve gotten the science of picking books I really enjoy down.
  • I don’t waste time on books that don’t grab my attention.
  • Finding my book twins on IG, podcasts, and in real life. You know who you are, because I always tell you! So thank you for sharing great books with me 🙂
  • Mood reading. Current events, mindsets, and seasons… all these things go into considering what I want to read. Just because a book is a great book, doesn’t mean it’s a great book for the time you are in your life.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately:

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead. (3.75 stars). There are two types of readers… one sees the Pulitzer Prize sticker on a book and picks up immediately, the other doesn’t even consider. This is definitely worth reading, and a very timely book at that. This novel follows Cora, a slave, who is trying to escape her master, and bounty hunter. Along this journey, Cora is helped by many people, and gets on a real Underground Railroad. Like there is literally tracks, stations, and what not all below the soil in which she is being hunted on. It really touches on the differences between States, and the experience of being a Black person in admist this horrifying time in history. There is a lot of abuse, and trauma, and it is a wonder that a human can persevere through it! And although this story was fantastic, Colson Whitehead’s writing is not my favourite style. But I know there are so many readers that sing his praises!
All Adults Here: A NovelAll Adults Here, by Emma Straub. (3.5 stars). If you are looking for a summer book that has some depth, I’d say this is a great, and quick read. You follow Astrid Strick, who is now a grandmother, mother, and widow. She witnesses a school bus accident, that results in the death of an acquaintance in her small town… this incident brings up a ton of old memories from when her children were growing up. From this event, the reader follows each member of the family and there individual lives problems. It’s a book that is all about family dynamics, and the drama that ensues within them. I really liked it, and found it to be a book that I could easily jump in and out of.

 

A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara. (5 Stars). Read this book. Holy smokes, I am still just so hungover from it. A Little Life follows four college classmates, Jude, Willem, Malcolm, and J.B., who have remained friends since they graduated. It follows their failures, their successes, addiction, and jealousies. The four men are all tied together by their loyalty to Jude, who had an awful childhood, but has always refused to speak about it. As they grow older, and their relationships change, as a reader, you feel some engrossed in their lives. This book had me weeping multiple times, and I know it will stay with me forever. It’s now one of my all-time favourites, and I will be recommending it for sure… to the right reader.

 

The Vanishing Half: A Novel
The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett. (4 stars). This is a very timely book right now, and also a much anticipated release after her last book The Mother’s. The Vanishing Half follows the Vignes twins who are light-skinned Black girls. They grew up in a small Black southern town, and at the age of 16 run away. After a couple years of trying to make it, the two are separated, and Desiree decides to go back to her hometown. Stella meets a White man, and decides to live a life as a White woman. The two grow up into women, and their different paths present different problems in their lives. They haven’t spoken, let alone even heard from each other in years… until their paths are forced to cross. I really enjoyed this book, Brit Bennett’s voice is being compared to Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin, and I just can’t wait until her next novel.

 

The Glass Hotel: A NovelThe Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel. (4.5 stars). Emily St. John Mandel also wrote the stunning novel, Station Eleven. So when I heard she was coming out with another one, I was excited. The premise of this novel is a Ponzi scheme gone wrong. It follows the lives of all the main players within this Ponzi scheme, and details the grey details, and the big repercussions that their lives had taken. The writing is absolutely magical. I was completely shocked that I cared so much about these characters, and was fascinated by the premise of just convinced humans can be of someone else’s good idea. I thought this book was fantastic, and it’s completely my kind of beach read… thought-provoking, thrilling, and a character study.

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A true (as told to me) storyNobody Will Tell You this But Me, by Bess Kalb. (5 stars). Okay, I can’t even write about this book without crying. First off, you must know just how special my Gramma Lisa is to me… so when I read this book it just brought up so many beautiful memories for me. I hope that you have a special grandmother in your life, and that this book brings up all the wonderful feelings it did for me. This is a memoir about the author’s relationship with her grandmother. She collected the stories, voicemails, and emails, and wrote a beautiful little book. I don’t even know where to begin with this one, but what I can say is it is truly a reflection on a beautiful life well-lived. There are sweet moments like putting on her grandmother’s lipstick and high heels, and then the next essay is about the things that were hard in her life. Buy it for your mother, your grandmother, but read it yourself first. My copy is marked up, dog-eared, and will be re-read for sure. I just LOVED it.

Saving Ruby King: A NovelSaving Ruby King, by Catherine Adel West. (4 stars). This is a debut novel, and it was captivating! It reminded a lot of a similar style as Brit Bennett. Ruby King’s mother, Alice, was found murdered in their home in Chicago’s South side. The police has just closed the case as another act of violence in a Black community. Now, Ruby is left with her abusive father, and the only support Ruby has is her best friend Layla. As Layla tries to save her, she finds out some secrets that have bound their families, and could lead to the collapse of her own prominent family. It is a novel with big themes such as race, deception, and faith. It’s an important story, wrapped up in a thrilling ride.

So that’s all for now. I’m so sorry that I’ve been slacking on the review department! Moving forward, I’m going to get them out a little quicker to you 🙂

What I’ve been Reading & Finding Joy

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Hello reading friends!

Well, the weather has officially turned for the better here, and my family is just loving it. What a mood lifter. On that note, I thought that today I’d share a little list of things that are bringing me joy lately. I make little lists of this sort in my journal, and I find it helps me look for joy throughout the day. I encourage you to give it try, because right now with all the wild things going on in the world we could all use a little refocus onto the joyful moments.

What’s Been Bringing Me Joy:

  • All the summer reading lists. It’s actually laughable when I look at my desk and see all the lists of books that I’m excited to read. I’ve been collecting these from blogs, podcasts, and bookstagram accounts… here’s a couple links of my favs. Sarah’s Bookshelves Live, Modern Mrs. Darcy, Happiest When Reading
  • Gardening. I am getting all my frustrations out on ripping out our back garden, which I have for the past 4 years called a “wildflower garden”. It’s really just a ton of weeds with some perennials peppered throughout. So this year is my year, and I’ve been transforming it, and started a little veggie raised garden bed. All that pulling weeds, and nurturing tiny plants has done a good thing to my mental health.
  • Little Fires Everywhere. Okay, this show so far is fantastic! I loved the book (here’s my review of it), and am slowly working my way through this show. From the music, to the acting, it’s all just so good. Reese Witherspoon produced it, and stars in it with Kerry Washington. Enough said, just watch it if you can… it’s on Amazon Prime.
  • Streak running and socially distanced runs with my running buddy. More to come on this one in a different post… but I’ve been doing some experimenting in my running life and loving the change. And no it’s not streaking, get your mind out of the gutter!! But it’s basically just running everyday, and really listening to what your body is feeling the day and adjusting distance/effort on how I’m feeling.

What I’ve Been Reading

A Million Little Pieces

A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey. (3.5 stars) I know you are thinking that this is a backlist book, and there was a ton of controversy around it. But James Frey’s story of his time spent in a drug and alcohol recovery centre is a raw, and emotional journey. The way he writes is almost manic, and you can feel the pull that the substances had on James. Whether this story has been exaggerated or changed, it’s still a very compelling story worth reading. It’s also now a movie on Amazon Prime, which I’m planning on watching one of these nights… that I’m not reading.

The Book of Longings: A Novel

The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd. (5 stars). Oh man, did I love this book…. but also I really took my time reading it because I wanted to really savour it. This is the imagined life of Jesus’ wife, Ana. Obviously this is fiction, but it’s a beautifully told story, with a kick ass cast of females. I loved that Ana was a writer, and that this story was hers, with Jesus as character in her life. I cannot even imagine the amount of research and bravado that Sue Monk Kidd had to have conduct this, and I’m sure that as many positive reviews of this one, there will be people who also condemn it. But, I loved it!! This one gave me all the Circe, Untamed, Where the Crawdads Sing vibes.

Big Summer: A Novel

Big Summer, by Jennifer Weiner. (2 stars). This book seems to the hot one of the summer… I didn’t love it, but I also think that tons of people will love it. The main character Daphne, who is a body positive influencer, has been invited to her high school best frenemy’s wedding. From here all sorts of drama, romance, and suspense ensues. What I really liked about this book was Weiner’s clever way of speaking about body positivity, the gaps that can exists in past friendships, and the hypocrisy of social media. What I didn’t love, and why it got lower rating for me was the predictability of the ending. But hey, some people love that, so I’m not saying don’t read it, I’m just saying it was exactly for me!

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See. (4 stars). This is my first novel by Lisa See, and I will be checking out some more in my future reading. The reader is introduced to Li-yan and her family who are Akha, and live in the mountain tea area. The native Akha are rich in routines, and rituals in which their people have been living by for thousands of years. Li-yan questions some of these rituals at a young age, and also craves to be educated. When Li-yan is giving the chance of an education, and to possibly leave their village, all types of coming-of-age dilemma’s pop up. This story is a visually stunning, and culture rich telling of a fascinating story. I loved learning about the history and science of tea, and think this is a great read for summer! Not a light read, but one that can suck a reader in and make them feel as if they experiencing some armchair travel.

A Quick Quote:

I want to share with you a quote from The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd. . I just loved this one, and thought it spoke so much truth.

When I tell you all shall be well, I don’t mean that life won’t bring you tragedy. Life will be life. I only mean you will be well in spite of it. All shall be well, no matter what.

That’s all for today! Hope you are doing lots of reading, and enjoying some sunshine!

What I’ve been Reading Lately

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Wow, it’s been a minute. I have been reading some great books lately, just not finding the time (or energy) to write about them. I had felt a bit meh after a couple books April, but May is really bringing it’s A game to my reading life. I think a lot of this has to do with switching up genres frequently.

You’ll notice my reading life is all over the place. I love to switch up genres for two reasons. One, being that it keeps my reading life spicy. Reading too much of one genre makes it feel stale to me. Two, being that I believe there is much to be learned from each genre. And if I didn’t dive into all of them, I would be missing out greatly on the experience that a great book can take you on. I need different topics, different writing styles, and definitely different era’s in my reading life.

I write my book reviews in the order that I read them, in hopes that if you too are feeling a little stale in your reading life, the sharp right turn I took after a recent read is exactly what you may need as well.

Anywho, enough of my rambles… here’s what’s up in books these days.

What I’ve Been Reading:

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires: A NovelThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix. (5 stars). This book completely shocked me, and was unputdownable. Yes, it’s a book about an actual vampire, set in Charleston in the 80’s-90’s, but it’s SO much more. This book club of women who mainly devours true crime, finds out a handsome, cunning, new neighbour is a vampire. And this book club has to take him down to save their families, and the town. It’s a little gory in parts, but the women’s friendship tackled that odd area of when a woman has kids, and a partner, and doesn’t really know where she belongs. It’s a novel about feminism, friendships, and trusting your gut… and it’s FULL of nostalgia. It’s a perfect novel. I haven’t read a ton of Stephen King, but this gave me all his vibes… smart, spooky, and a page turner.

The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. (4 stars). Ooopfh. This non-fiction book has been sitting on my shelf kind of just waiting for the right time. And I’m so glad I finally decided to pick it up. It tells two stories of two men’s lives, one, the man responsible for the building of the 1893 World Fair in Chicago. The other storyline is the serial killer H.H. Holmes who is also in Chicago during this time. I’m fascinated with his research process, I can’t even begin to imagine how long his book took him to write, and also just how life consuming it would be to write a book like this. There are little facts buried in here about Annie Oakley, Walt Disney, and so many more. Don’t get me wrong, this is a hefty book… it’s not something you can just breeze through, but it’s worth reading and taking your time with. I think this would be the perfect gift for Father’s Day!

The Mothers: A NovelThe Mothers, by Brit Bennett. (3.5 stars). Here’s another wonderful book. It’s told from greek chorus style, and set in modern day California, mostly within the church of a black community. Nadia is a young 17 year old grieving with the loss of her mother, and her wild behaviour has overtaken her. When her older boyfriend (the Pastor’s son) and her discover she is unexpectedly pregnant, their secret is covered up and dealt with… until years later down the road when their fates collide again in a love triangle that have them questioning what if. This book has some really complex family vibes, and explores mother/daughter relationships a ton. I really enjoyed it and blasted through it quite quickly.

My Dark Vanessa: A NovelMy Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell. (4.5 stars). This debut novel is very dark, psychoanalytical, and all things that a beautifully written thriller should be. But, this book is full of triggers, and not for the hypersensitive type. It follows Vanessa, a now 32 year old woman, who finds out that her former teacher, and lover, is being accused of sexual abuse. They entered their “relationship” when she was 15, and he was 42. It slides back and forth in time to when she was a teenager, and throughout the years between. This novel is fiction, and Kate had been writing it forever. It really sums up the whole experience of sexual abuse, and the confusing lines that surround it and who receives the blame. I think there are two types of people who will read this book… 1) Will be cringing the whole time, and it will make them feel sad.  2) Will feel icky, but also compelled to read Lolita, and all the other literary references in this book.

Pride and Prejudice (AmazonClassics Edition)

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. (2 stars). This is my second Jane Austen novel, and perhaps my last. I don’t know, I just can’t with her frilly writing, and silly romantic nonsense. I can appreciate tons of readers love it, and she ability to go against the grain and laugh at the societal pressures on women during this time. This is a dysfunctional family story, with several of the daughters who are trying to clamp down a marriage. The big love story is between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Even though this isn’t my favourite classic, I do understand many of the romance novel tropes a little better when I read Austen. But, long story short, I will take a moody Brontë romance novel over an Austen any day.

Faithful Place: Dublin Murder Squad:  3Faithful Place, by Tana French. (4.5 stars). Holy smokes, this series is amazing. I read The Likeness not too long ago, and LOVED it. Well, this is the third in her Dublin Murder Squad series, and she takes a new member of the Department in each book and gives their life the centre stage. Faithful Place is based on the Undercover Detective Frank Mackey, and the mystery of his first love… and her murder. In the novel Frank has to go back to his old stomping grounds, which is very much like a scene out of Angela’s Ashes, and uncover the truth of the 20 year old murder. French’s voice is just incredible. She describes the setting so richly, and her ability to take on a character and really become them gives the reader an immersive experience. Highly recommend this series, and I’m off to order book #4 and #5.

Alright, so that’s all for today. Hopefully you can find something in this post to read!

Happy reading!

Last Week in Reading

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Hey friends!

Well, here we are. Officially over six weeks of self-isolation, and man oh man, I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I have attempted some self-reflecting in this time, and thought about so many things. Today I’m coming at you with a list of things I’ve realized through self-isolation:

  • Feelings are for feeling. I’ve said this over and over again to myself and my kids. Feel the feelings, whether it’s being scared for the future, annoyed at everyone, or pure joy while out for a run. Feel it all, because there is time now to sit in them.
  • How resilient kids are. When this whole thing started, I immediately thought my kids would suffer from the lack of socialization, and routine. Turns out they are fine. People have much less, and turn out to be incredible people. 
  • Connection is key. With young kids, I’ve honestly felt like I’ve been in self-isolation for the past 6 years. But now with no socialization other than phone calls, emails, or text messages, I’ve really realized just how much connection adds to our lives. The family dinners, the playdates, the long runs with my running buddy, the neighbourhood chats… I miss it all, and know I will appreciate it much more in the future.
  • Making due with what we have. I have a freezer full of food that should have been eaten awhile ago, now we are cleaning it out. I have an “unread” bookshelf, now I’m reading weekly from it. There are so many examples of this, but learning to “play” with the things that we already own is a great lesson for our family.
  • Low maintenance is key. I’ve never been a girl to wear a full face of makeup, or spent a ton of time/money on “beauty” things… and not raising that bar on my personal beauty standards has resulted in more or less looking the exact same. A little more crazy, but the same.
  • Try on your jeans. Trust me with this one. Two reasons… the other day I wore real clothes, and for the first time since self-isolation, my hubby said, wow you look great! I laughed, because it was the first time out of leggings since March 13th. The other reason is all the extra wine, and snacks… just a little way to keep yourself in check.

What I’ve Been Reading:

The Forgotten Home Child

The Forgotten Home Child, by Genevieve Graham. (2 stars). Although this book is pretty buzzy… it completely missed the mark for me. It’s historical fiction, based on the true history of  Barnardo’s charity, in which vulnerable or orphaned children were sent to Canada from Britain. These kids were basically indentured slaves to families. It’s a dual-timeline story, where the reader is flashed back and forth through Winnie’s life. One timeline is Winnie as an elderly woman telling her story, the other as a young woman who has been just shipped over by Barnardo’s to Canada. Although the history was fascinating, and an important story, I found the writing to be cheesy, and at points I was huffing out loud at the ridiculous coincidences of the plot. Not for me, but lots of readers are enjoying it.

In Five Years: A Novel In Five Years, by Rebecca Serle. (4 stars). Another buzzy book, but this one completely surprised me. To be honest the synopsis won’t do this book justice at all, but here we go. Dannie is a highly calculated woman. As her life is falling into place with the perfect job, and her boyfriend proposes, and she finds herself blissfully sleepy in her new fiancé’s embrace. She falls asleep, and dreams the most real feeling dream she’s ever had. It’s exactly 5 years in the future, in a different apartment, a different engagement ring, and a different man. Then she wakes back up to her old life, but seems haunted by this dream. She goes through the next five years, trying to escape, and understand why this dream felt so real. This is a beautiful love story of a different kind. I wasn’t expecting this book to have the depth it did. It completely blew me away. Highly suggest!

Of Mice and Men: Teacher's Deluxe EditionOf Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. (4.5 stars). Off my “unread” bookshelf, I’ve always wanted to read it. So what better time than when in quarantine? George and Lennie are migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression in California. Lennie is a big, strong, mentally disabled man. George is the brains of their operation, and finds them a job at a ranch. They have plans to one day settle down on land of their own, but for the meantime they will work at this ranch. Then one day, Lennie’s pattern of not understanding his strength goes too far, and the tides change for their planned future. This book is small, but powerful. It’s a heartbreaking story, covering themes such as devotion, kindness, and loneliness. I will be thinking about this one for awhile.

Anywho, that’s all for today bookish friends.

Happy reading!

 

Untamed, by Glennon Doyle

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We can do hard things.

Glennon Doyle is a writer, and a public speaker. She covers topics like feminism, faith, mental health, and limitations. Then when Glennon went through a big life change, she unleashed a lot of her limitations, and this book her revelations. This isn’t a self-help book, this is an inspirational memoir. It’s about sitting with the great and nasty feelings in life. To stop running from them, and allowing them to be, and to undo our own caging.

This book opens up with a story about a cheetah. She writes about her family visiting the zoo, and they meet the cheetah. She was born and trained in the zoo, so this is the only life she knows. But this cheetah, she’s irritable, and she is pacing the fence line knowing that there is something deeper out there. She has been tamed, but deep inside of her is a voice wanting to run, and chase, and be untamed.

I’ve walked away from this powerful memoir with multiple lightning bolt moments. It’s made me look at myself and the way I’m interacting in a completely different way. I am someone who apologizes constantly, and feels all the feelings. I feel strongly about things like politics, climate change, and healthcare. This book has removed the lump that sits in my throat when I feel like I have to swallow my opinion. It’s the thing that has made me tune into my children in a new way, and teach them that it is okay to care deeply. It’s the reminder to myself to be still, and listen to the voice deep inside of me.

The opposite of sensitive is not brave. It’s not brave to refuse to pay attention, to refuse to notice, to refuse to feel and know and imagine. The opposite of sensitive is insensitive, and that’s no badge of honor.

Glennon’s writing is incredible. She sometimes leads you down a path that has you wondering where this story is going to take you. Well, she will show you. Her writing is like a cinnamon bun, beautiful on the outer ring, but as you delve into and unwind it, the deeper you go the more rich, warm, and a little raw it is. And at the same time, it makes you want to rise up, and show the world who you are.

She talks multiple times about basically marching to the beat of your own drum, instead of marching in line. To stop being martyrs, and become models. To listen to what our inside dreams are, and stop abandoning ourselves. To do the very thing that we want want our children to do. And all these things just made me want to stand up and give her a round of applause.

My children don’t need me to save them, they need to see me save myself.

That’s all for today… this was a deep post. I promise you the next book will be a fun distraction from all the daily changing news!

 

 

What I’ve Been Reading, & Covid-19

 

Things are crazy right now. With the unsettling news of Covid-19 spreading like wild fire, staying home is the first thing we can do. Well… introverts everywhere are singing HALLEJEUH, AMEN!!!! But all jokes aside, this is such a terrifying time for us all.

In saying this, I believe it is our job to play an active role in the ways that we can. Check in with the elderly, family, and neighbours that surround you and see if they need some groceries dropped at their door. STAY HOME, only leave for essentials. Wash your hands. Focusing on doing the things that we can control is what is going flatten that curve, and make us feel more grounded.

Earlier this week I made a self/family care list. It’s pretty much a list of things that my family and I can do to make us feel less scared or alone while we are staying close to home. I’m going to share mine with you, because I hope it inspires you to make one for yourself!

  • Call/text/email family and friends. Talk to each other about all the things. If they are quarantined, offer to run an errand or grab some groceries for them.
  • Reading, journalling, and playing games with our kids! We’ve made a little family journal for this time, and are keeping track of what we are reading, and doing each day. Something fun to do, but also hopefully one day we can look back and remember this crazy time with some positive memories.
  • Movement. Whether we get outside to play, walk, do a yoga class on Youtube, or a home work out… movement is always a great way to burn off the extra cortisol that this prolonged season of stress and worry is causing.
  • Do a silly hobby that you usually don’t have any time for in your busy life. Whether it’s crafty, musical, writing, or whatever… allow yourself to get creative to help relieve some stress.
  • Early spring clean. The house is starting to already seem a little dirtier, and cramped… but a project can always be done!
  • Make some good food. How often do you say, “I don’t have time to cook”? Well, here’s your chance… clean out your freezer, cupboards, and get creative. And eat and drink slowly, there’s no hurry.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately:

Know My Name: A MemoirKnow My Name, by Chanel Miller.  This memoir should be required reading for all high school students, and adults. If you are familiar with the Stanford Brock Turner rape case, this is the victim, Chanel Miller’s memoir. It’s absolutely incredible about how an institution can fail a victim, but in the end it’s Chanel’s message that is incredible, and will make you really think about the fact that justice is never truly served. Crimes like these haunt a victim, their families, and the places they live forever. Please if anything, go read Chanel Miller’s victim impact statement. I’m linking it here.

Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters: A NovelSecret Lives of Mothers and Daughters, by Anita Kushwaha.  I really loved this mother/daughter story, and was lucky enough to have the author send it to me! On Asha’s eighteenth birthday, her parents tell her that she was adopted and gave her a letter from her mother. Asha feels betrayed by her parents, but also very curious about who her mother was. She knows she passed away when Asha was a new baby, and her father was forced to put her up for adoption. From here the family secrets unravel as Asha chases the story of her birth mother and father. This book is SO good, and there is a massive plot twist too that had me with my mouth agape!

Saint X: A Novel

Saint X, by Alexis Schaitkin.   The description of this book hooked me immediately. Claire, a seven year old girl, and her family are in Saint Kitts for a resort vacation. Then, her sister, Allison is murdered. Flash forward over 15 years later, after her family has closed that terrible chapter, Claire jumps into a cab… and the cab driver was the accused murderer of her sister. From here, it jumps back and forth in the timeline, and Claire obsessively pieces of the murder together. I would describe this as a character driven thriller… so page turning, it is not, but it is beautifully written, and the plot slowly builds to a resolution.

The Jetsetters: A NovelThe Jetsetters, by Amanda Eyre Ward. I LOVED this book. Honestly, time’s are tough right now. With the social distancing, and travel bans… this book is an absolutely perfect way to armchair travel. It is the story of a mother, and her grown up children who have definitely fallen out of touch, and then Charlotte, the mother, wins a Mediterrean cruise… and takes her children with her! The cover of this book may seem light, but it’s not. There are heavy themes, family dysfunction, all while being incredibly readable. I highly recommend this one.

A Quote to Ponder:

I’m going to share a little part of Chanel Miller’s victim impact statement with you. And I hope this little portion pushes you to go read the whole thing here.

And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you.

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.

A Tale for Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki

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A Tale for the Time Being is our most recent book club’s pick. Before this I had never heard of this novel! It was published in 2013, and was a Man Booker Prize Finalist. And boy, oh boy, am I going to have a hard time giving you a review about this one. I am going to keep it spoiler free, but really try to punctuate the parts that moved me. Because that’s exactly what this novel did, it moved me.

It’s a story told in two voices, one being Nao in Japan. She’s writing a diary in which she’s trying to tell the story of her great grandmother’s life, Jiko, who is a Zen Buddhist Nun. The diary ends up also intertwining Nao’s personal struggles with wanting to end her own life.  The diary then ends up washing up on the shore of a Vancouver beach, in which a novelist, Ruth finds it. From here the mystery of this diary ensues as Ruth becomes obsessed with trying to figure out what has happened to Nao following the Fukishima disaster, and also through her family, and personal struggles.

Sometimes when she told stories about the past her eyes would get teary from all the memories she had, but they weren’t tears. She wasn’t crying. They were just the memories, leaking out.

Where do I begin? Ozeki has written a novel that opens up like nesting dolls. As you slowly start to delve deeper into the novel, and into memories in which both characters are reflecting on, the novel picks up with such a pace that you just need to know what’s going to happen. I think that many people who read this novel will all say just how awesome a character Jiko is. Nao portrays her as this calm, and sweet soul, but one who has a strong voice and an incredible sense of humour. There were sections I was laughing out loud! Then the next moment, you are struggling to read through Nao’s battle with bullying, and suicide. There are such complex themes in this culturally rich novel.

Lastly, the most beautiful part of this novel is the fact that Nao’s book fell into the right hands. And reader’s will know the feeling of when they love a novel, and pass it on to someone who also adores it! Ruth was the exact right reader for Nao’s diary. Ozeki places some of the most beautiful quotes throughout this novel from Proust, Socrates, Baudelaire, and more… and I just loved this little detail.

You might notice that one of the main character’s and the author share a name… Ruth. Until the Fukishima disaster, Ruth was writing a totally different book, with different characters. And then that tragedy had changed Japan, and possibly the world forever. Ozeki had decided to write herself as a fictional character responding to the events. She’s even said that using fiction to deal with the reality of great tragedies is as good as anyway to deal with the pain of it.

53D60719-FE92-44E7-9147-2F0C8555D227I could go on and on about this novel. I literally post-it marked, dog-eared, and underlined my way through A Tale for Time Being. There is SO much I haven’t told you about this novel, ranging from climate change to kamikaze pilots in WWII. But I’m not going into that, you will have to read it to find out 🙂

Until next time, happy reading!

 

Mourn Not your Dead, by Deborah Crombie

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This is the fourth book in the Kincaid & James series that I have been slowly working through. If you don’t know anything about my reading life, know this one thing… I believe it’s VERY important to read a series in order! So if you haven’t read the first three, get started at the beginning. This series follows the personal and procedural life of two British police detectives who are partners.

Mourn not Your Dead starts at the cliffhanger on which the last one, Leave the Grass Green, left us. Gemma and Duncan have both had some personal matters happen in which they are a bit flustered with. Then they get put on a call of investigating the brutal murder of a police commander of the Scotland Yard… who is not well-liked among the department, and within his own social circle resulting in a lot of suspects. Gemma and Duncan slowly start to try to put the pieces together to find out who the killer in their community is.

This series is really growing on me, the minute I finish one, I put the next one on hold. I really enjoy the britishness of them. Mourn not Your Dead was really atmospheric, giving me all the cold, wet, mysterious feels. The reader is getting to know more about Duncan and Gemma by this instalment, and I find that I am wanting to know more about their personal lives with each novel. This is what I love about a great series. I find myself wondering what these characters are up to throughout my day!

What I also really like about this series is that Deborah Crombie writes about food and drink very well. I think that sometimes this gets skipped over in books, but when someone can write about food really well it makes you want to cook something lovely for yourself. Or get up and pour yourself a glass of red wine in my case. This is something that Louise Penny also does a fantastic job of it, and I think that’s why this series gets compared to hers frequently.

“I could do with a bit of that.” Kincaid sipped his wine, holding it for a moment in his mouth. The flavours exploded on his tongue – buttery rich, with a touch of the oak found in good whiskey, and beneath that a tiny of flowers. The sensation was so intense that he wondered if he were experiencing some sort of perceptual enhancement.

I’m going to continue to read this series, and just slowly plunk along and enjoy it. It’s not ground-breaking fiction by any means, but these novels inserted in between books that are a bit heavier seems to be the perfect combination for my reading life.

Until next time, happy reading!

Daughter of Family G, by Ami McKay

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Have you ever read a book that you felt you had to recover from?? Well, this Daughter of Family G gave me the biggest book hangover I’ve had all year. I’ve read a couple of Ami McKay’s novels and loved them. When I heard that she had a new book out that was a memoir based on her families history with hereditary cancer, I debated on whether I should read. I was torn because I love her writing, but I also thought that the content of this memoir might be just a little sad. I took a chance and read the first page, and was instantly hooked.

In 2002 Ami McKay decided to take the genetic testing for Lynch syndrome. Her family history with cancer stems all the way back to her great-great aunt Pauline (1895), who had a premonition that she would die young like so many others in her family before her. She was a seamstress who worked for a Pathology Professor at the local University, and he decided to carefully track her families health history. This has gone on to become the longest and most detailed cancer genealogy that has ever been studied. After all this research what they had been able to identify is that there is a genetic mutation that has predisposed her, and other families to develop Lynch Syndrome. People with this syndrome are at a very high risk of developing several types of cancer; colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, and pancreatic. She then finds out she has tested positive, and tells her story on how she has dealt with this information.

Ami continually calls herself a previvor. Someone who has been diagnosed, and is at such a high risk for these cancers… but hasn’t had it, yet. This memoir is remarkable for many reasons, her families genealogy and tracking of the familial cancers is fascinating. But what she has done is told her families story in a way that reads like fiction. She bounces the timelines all the way back to the beginning of when Pauline was alive, and then goes through the generations that continue to be affected. The moments that Ami spends with her grandmother, and her mother are just told with such love. You can feel just how much Ami holds onto these precious memories with the loved ones that have now passed in her life. And also how deeply affected her own life’s little moments have been from experiencing such loss.

It is very obvious that this memoir is Ami’s work of art. There are pictures of her family sprinkled throughout, and she has inserted beautiful quotes, and poetry throughout the book that are just so thoughtful and perfect. There are lines in this book that are so beautifully written that I stopped and re-read them. I think the big question a memoir like this sparks for me is ultimately whether you would want to know if you are going to die early. And does this predict your future? Or does it make you want to fight for your future?

Of the paths ahead to travel, some will have twists and turns and step climbs. But if I look at each day as my mother did, as an invitation to live, then I think I’ll be all right.

Anywho, Daughter of Family G is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year. I think it’s the type of book that a reader can admire for the story, but also recognize how important the knowledge within it is.

Until next time, happy reading!