It’s Been a Minute!

Well hello there!

It has been a hot minute since I’ve appeared in your inbox. To be honest with you, I had been contemplating about giving up writing in this space. For awhile, I just wondered who the hell cares about it? I felt like I was pouring my energy into something that didn’t really matter. Like who even cares about all these books I’m reading anyways? For so long I felt like reading was teaching me about history, about different cultures, and about human interactions… but maybe no one else cares.

Then I had a couple people in a week ask me why I hadn’t posted any book reviews on the blog lately. And then I found myself reviewing great books in my head, and trying to bring them up to several people in conversations. Lastly, there was this one big thing. I sent in a “listener press” to the Currently Reading Podcast… and they featured my press! You can listen here. It was a big deal to me. Not only did I feel like what I read is important, but I also felt someone else believed that reading can teach us things, and is important. So here I am!

During this blog break, I have been reading like crazy… not much has changed in my reading & running life! I’ve been working away on my Yoga Teacher Training course, signed up for a race this fall, and now it’s summer time… which is reading’s fav season. So today I’m going to share you with a few of my most favourite books I’ve read while I’ve been taking a break from writing here.

These books were all 5 star books for me. They are all pretty different, but as equally compelling. Enjoy!

Fiction Fav’s!

Five Little Indians, by Michelle Good. I had had this book on my Kobo for ages. I bought it on a deal, and thought the premise sounded interesting. Then after the mass grave of children at the residential school was found in B.C., I knew I needed to read it immediately… and I couldn’t put it down. This book is based in B.C., around five different residential school survivors. It’s their story about their struggle to find their way after their they leave. They are all coping with it differently, but it is clear to the reader that they are each struggling to cope, and find their way through their trauma. It is a story of resilience, and one that has so much to teach us.

If one book has taken me by surprise this year, Into the Drowning Deep, is that one. This book’s description sounds like nothing I usually read, but when I started it, I was sucked into it immediately. Hear me out… it’s of the mermaid horror genre, as Meredith from the Currently Reading Podcast said. But it is so good. It has Stephen King-esque vibes, mixed with a trip to find the lost city of Atlantis. Here’s the premise: Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “documentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legends. Something horrible went wrong, and the Atargatis was found with no people left on it, blood everywhere, floating miles away from it’s original place. Now, scientists, and a new crew is assembled to seek what actually took place above, and below the Mariana Trench. And I’m here to tell you, this mermaid tale is no “The Little Mermaid”. This book is so good, and so immersive, I couldn’t put it down!

Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This was the book I was looking forward releasing the most this year. I would read TJR’s grocery list, and be thoroughly enthralled. This book didn’t disappoint at all. She took a background character from Evelyn Hugo, and made his family centre stage. Mick Riva is a rock star, and an estranged husband, and father to his four children. While his children have been surviving, and thriving without him, their past and futures collide at the annual Riva party. This book is set basically around one night in their lives, but flashes back and forth between the history of this family’s checked past. It’s fantastic historical fiction. She drops in some famous musicians, and actors/actresses alongside this fictional family. What I found really compelling about this novel was that it almost gave me modern day Rebecca vibes. It’s got that big house, with big troubles theme. And TJR’s writing has you equal parts of wanting to flip the pages, but also slowly devour the beautiful sentences.

The Rose Code, by Kate Quinn. This is another book that I was dying to get my hands on… as much as I am all WWII fictioned out, Kate Quinn never does me wrong. This one was definitely a masterpiece. It was based on the women of Bletchley Park, featuring some of the real women, and some fictional characters as well. If you don’t know, Bletchley Park were the codebreakers in England… they were the people trying to intercept codes, and they say that the War would have been years longer if not for these codebreakers. These codebreakers were also under strict rules to NOT share with anyone what they were doing. So a lot of these women were just stay at home moms/wives, with this secret double life. I think Kate Quinn does historical fiction so well, you learn while be entertained! I especially loved the little author’s note at the end, where you learn something pretty neat about a real life women of Bletchley Park.

My Non-Fic Fav’s!

More Than A Body, by Lindsay Kite PhD, and Lexie Kite PhD. This book should be read by everyone with a body. It’s a good hard look at just what truly our body is… an instrument, instead of this ornament that we feel like we need to constantly change to “look better”. What is so good about this book is they give you tangible steps on how to set yourself up for better body resilency in a world that is obsessed with looks. I love that it teaches the reader, that we have been groomed by media to hate/change ourselves, but we are also in charge of creating an environment that is a healthy space for us to thrive in.

Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First. By Laura Tremaine. I’ve been following Laura Tremaine through podcasts for a long time, and she has always really interested me. Her love of conversation, and finding depth within relationships is what inspired this book. Each chapter is a question, and then she writes an essay based around this question… but what she encourages the reader to do is to ask yourself these questions. Then, to also ask these questions to the people in your life. This book brought on a really interesting and deep conversation with my little brother, and for that alone, I’m thankful that I read this book!

Crossroads, by Kaleb Dahlgren. I think every Canadian knows the horrific story of the Humboldt Bronco’s team bus crash that killed sixteen people, and injured 13 others. It was the tragedy that was heard around the world on the news. This is Kaleb’s story about the crash, and the way he has found the resilience to keep on living. When I heard this book was being published, I knew I had to read it. Kaleb’s perseverance, and dedication is so inspiring, and I think he does a beautiful job of honouring the lives that were lost that day.

Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle. I loved Glennon’s book, Untamed. I thought it was literally the thoughts in my head that I didn’t know were needing to be thought through. I also love Glennon’s Podcast, We Can Do Hard Things. So after saying I was going to read this book for approximately a year and a half, I finally read it, and it was SO good. I love this type of memoir, it is basically like a stream of consciousness that she is working through. Glennon does not have it all figured out, but she’s working on it. Just like everyone else, she has trauma, she has demons, but she shows up to do the hard work. This is what I love about her. Immediately after I finished reading Love Warrior, I bought Carry on, Warrior.

Okay, I’m finally done pressing books into your hands. These are the best books I’ve been reading since I took a bit of break from this space. I hope you find something that brings you as much joy as these books brought me!

Until time next, happy reading!

What I’ve been Reading Lately 07/28/2020

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Hi friends,

I made a challenge this summer to read some BIG BOOKS. It’s really easy for me to get caught up in the hype of reading what’s new and hot. Because of this fact, I tend to not choose books that are longer, because they take more time. They tend to grow on you, and you need to give them their time.

To qualify as a big book, in my head, it has to be over 500 pages. I have a ton of these doorstoppers on my to be read bookshelf. The Poisonwood Bible, and Broken Harbour were two really big books on my shelf! So I’m slowly knocking away it, and remembering how much a love a really big book that I can dig my literary teeth into.

Lastly, before we move onto the books, I wanted to share with you a quick recipe. I made these Healthier Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, and they are bomb. My family and I are really enjoying eating them!!

What I’ve been Reading Lately:

The Poisonwood Bible: A NovelThe Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. (5 stars). This is the story told from the perspectives of the mother/wife, and four daughters of an evangelical Baptist, who decides to take his family into the Congo on mission. This is a powerful story in which the characters trade off chapters, and Kingsolver has done an incredible job of making each character so well formed. I just loved her use of setting, and the way she wove the tumultuous political time that this country was going through, all while telling the story of this family. BUT, there is one chapter, that was absolutely gorgeous, and it’s told from the mother’s point of view about motherhood… this chapter made me weep, and hold my babies just a little closer.

The Black FlamingoThe Black Flamingo, by Dean Atta. (4.5 stars). Michael is a half Jamaican, half Greek Cypriot boy growing up in London. He knows from an early age that something is different about him. He’s mixed race, loves to dress like the girls in his class, and would rather have a barbie for his birthday. This is Michaels coming-of-age story, and his journey to accepting his identity. It is told in verse, and has poems sprinkled throughout it… it also has an epic Drag performance at the end. This book is truly a work of art, from the way it is compiled, to beautiful words.

Broken Harbour: Dublin Murder Squad:  4.  Winner of the LA Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller and the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction Book of the YearBroken Harbour, by Tana French. (3 stars). This is book 4 of the Dublin Murder Squad series… I just LOVED 2,3. But this one reminded me a bit of the first one in the series… I really love the way that Tana French writes, she’s really witty, and builds suspense in a slow, but compelling way. Scorcher Kennedy has been on the squad for years, and has the best solved crime rate on the department. Then he’s called to a case that has everyone confused. Husband, wife, and two children brutally murdered, with absolutely no trail. Then they find out that the wife is actually still alive, and from here he has to try to pull out what little details she remembers. I liked this book okay, but it wasn’t absolutely riveting like the last two books in the series. I will read the next ones for sure though!

The Sight of YouThe Sight of You, by Holly Miller. (4 stars). This one really surprised me, and I read it really fast… I really love a “beach read” that’s something you can’t put down, but has some really deep themes and makes you think. This one hit that sweet spot. When Callie and Joel meet in a cafe, they are both kind of over trying to find love. Joel has sworn off it, and Callie is still slightly open, but not wanting to pursue. They finally bite the bullet and meet each other in the middle. The only problem is that Joel has an unusual gift of dreaming the future. This is why love has always failed for him in the past, he sees the future, and can’t enjoy the moment. This is their life, and love story, and it’s surprisingly touching.

A Quote:

I’m going to leave you with a quote that spoke to me so deeply from The Poisonwood Bible. It’s from that chapter I talked about it in the synopsis, and it brought me to tears as I read it. The mother is talking about how she loves her children all so differently, and how she was only trying to do the best she could for each one of them… and it just hit him. Anyways, here it is:

A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strike out. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity, and crow it to the world. But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after–oh, that’ s love by a different name.

That’s all for today. Hope you are well and reading some great books!

Hollie 🙂

 

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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

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Oh boy, where to begin. It’s been a very wild couple weeks. With the talks of re-opening things amid the Covid-19 Pandemic, and then with the Black Lives Matter Movement, I have felt a little bogged down in trying to understand, learn, and empathize. This has me doing a couple things… trying to get my hands on more books with Black authors, fiction and non-fiction, and also trying to open up discussions with people I see or talk to.  Obviously the latter comes with interesting dialogue, but I think these conversations are important.

I’ve always believed that books have the ability to open up minds to different races and cultures, and also start hard conversations. Learning how people live differently, and understanding what their cultural differences are is important. Below I’m sharing with you a couple links that I’ve found quite helpful to diversify my reading life.

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

A Good Neighborhood: A NovelA Good Neighbourhood, by Therese Anne Fowler. (5 stars). Well, this is a timely read. It’s the gripping story of two neighbours, who live in the idyllic community of Oak Knoll, North Carolina. They have very little in common, other than their property line, and both have teenage children. One, a rich White family, the other a single Black woman. When things get complicated between the families, all kinds of things become unearthed. Therese Anne Fowler admits in the beginning of this book that as a White woman, she had to do a lot of research to tell this story. She also recognized that it could seem problematic to tell this story. But, I think this is such an important story to read… especially right now. It investigates privilege, race, class, and the repercussions of decisions… and how that differs between races.

These Women: A Novel

These Women, by Ivy Pochoda. (3.75 stars). This is a really clever novel about a serial killer set in L.A. It’s structure is so different, and is told from the point of view of the killer’s victims. This killer is targeting women of colour, and who were working in circumstances that were deemed unsavoury. Ivy Pochoda has said she wanted to give a voice to the victims, instead of highlighting the killer… which is often the case.It is a really gritty story, and somewhat unclear of what the real story is…which I think is exactly what Pochoda wanted to convey. I think she wanted to highlight just how unjust the system can be when it’s victim’s aren’t White.

Half of a Yellow SunHalf of a Yellow Sun, by Chimanada Ngozi Adichie. (5 stars). This is a sweeping saga of a novel, set in Africa in the 1960’s during the tumultuous decade in which the Nigerian War happened. The story of this War is told through five different characters… twins, Olanna & Kainene, their significant others, and Ugwu, a houseboy of Olanna’s. To really capture this story will be hard, but Adichie really nails the fact just how a War really strips a nation, and the people of all they have. I had no clue about the Biafra Nigeran War, and I found the history of this fascinating. She also really investigates the unknowns, and the grief of losing someone, without ever really knowing if they are gone.

I Want You to Know We're Still Here: A Post-Holocaust MemoirI Want You to Know We’re Still Here, by Esther Safran Foer. (2.5 stars). I was intrigued to read this memoir because of the tagline. A Post Holocaust memoir. I always find it fascinating that most stories of the Holocaust, and Wars finish when those events had ended… and I always wonder how the victims can move forward. Well, this memoir really digs into that. I really found the premise fascinating, but I found her writing somewhat blah. Esther’s research on her family, and their history was quite in-depth and impressive… but I also had some mixed feelings on that, and just really felt a lot of empathy for the people who will really never know what had happened to their family members.

Mrs. Everything: A NovelMrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner. (4.5 stars). Oh man this book just hit me at the right place, and the right time. If Forrest Gump, and In Five Years had a baby… Mrs. Everything would be it. This book is a beautiful love story, and it’s the kind that makes you crave to love the ones in your life more fully. Jo and Bethie are sisters, and it starts at the beginning of their young lives in the ’50’s, and this is their coming-of-age story. They both settle into the roles they play in their family, and then real life things happen. As these sisters grow up and work through their problems, they are constantly switching roles, and needs. I loved how this book highlighted many big social justice movements, and also significant points in history. Hence why I had a Forrest Gump feel while reading it!

That’s all for today. I hope you wash your hands, be kind to one another, and read a book!

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!

 

Long Bright River, by Liz Moore

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Hi friends, how are you doing today??

It’s super dreary here, and on top of all the rapidly changing news, and self-isolation… it’s easy feel to down. But I will tell you the one thing that’s really keeping me going is to be able to reading, and write daily. Expressing creativity is hard when you are busy running around all the time, so being in the stillness of self-isolation has brought so much more creativity to my life. I hope that today that you are able to do the thing that’s keep you going!

Okay, now on to Long, Bright River. To think that I almost returned this book back to the library unread is an absolute crime. I knew this one had some mixed reviews, but when I read the synopsis online I was intrigued by it’s premise. Then, I physically picked up the book and saw it was almost 500 pages with a super small font. Honestly, I almost didn’t read it… until I read the first page, and then the first chapter, and then next 70 pages in one sitting. This is a literary mystery, and a police procedural novel. But it’s also a story about the bond that siblings have, and just to what ends we will go to for our them.

It’s set in the Kensington area, which is the epicentre of the opioid crisis in Philadelphia. You follow the story of two sisters, Kacey and Mickey, who at one time were inseparable, and now strangers to each other. Kacey, lives and works the streets, in order to fuel her drug addiction. Mickey, a police officer and single mother, patrols the neighbourhood that her sister works. Then Kacey goes missing, just at the same time that Mickey is investigating a string of murders. She becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what has happened to Kacey, and tries to track her down.  It flashes back and forth from their childhood of addiction and trauma, and to the present of Mickey tracking Kacey.

This is the type of book that has your on the edge of your seat. The plot is driving, the setting is perfectly set, and you are just wanting to know what is going to happen to Mickey and Kacey. It’s also layered so richly with a wonderful, flawed cast. Moore wrote these fantastic character descriptions which were so fully formed in my head, but they didn’t feel overwritten. Truman, who is Mickey’s old partner, was just a fantastic character. He ran cross country, and marathons, and read books constantly… listen to this description;

He’s always walked on his toes, as if ready to spring. On the many occasions I saw him take off after some ground before they took five steps. Today he’s wearing a brace on his right leg, outside his jeans. I wonder if he’ll ever run again.

This novel is full of triggers such as addiction, anxiety, and abandonment. But I think this is what makes this novel feel so complete. She takes these triggers and works through all the emotions that the characters feel from them. The end of this mystery is legitimately the most thought provoking ending I think I have ever read… I won’t give it away to you though!

Lastly, I think what Liz Moore encapsulated in this novel is that we just really don’t know why or how an addiction clamps it’s hold onto people. Some people escape them, some people are owned by them. We can speculate as humans on how and why this happens, but I think we will always just be speculating. It isn’t about why it has happened to someone, but it’s in the living with these demons.

I LOVED this book, and flew through it! If you liked books such as Miracle Creek, and the Cormoran Strike novels I think you also really enjoy this book.

Until next time, stay home and read some great books!

 

 

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!

 

 

We Wish You Luck, by Caroline Zancan

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Hey friends! In these tough times when the news, is both fascinating and terrifying, I’m hoping I can bring you a bit of good reading material and discussion throughout it. So, stay home and read!!!

I was really excited to get this book, as I’ve heard multiple people’s book taste that I trust just raving about it. It wasn’t my favourite this year… but once I got about 150 pages into this one, I was super intrigued. Let’s call this one a slow burn. I was immediately interested, because the narrator is really unique. It’s written from the perspective of a whole class, and gives it a “talking behind your back” kind of feeling.

We Wish You Luck is set on the Fielding campus, in which the students that are enrolled there in the MFA program meet twice a year, for 10 days. The whole class seem to be enamoured with their glittery, popular classmates, Hannah, Leslie, and Jimmy. Between their writing periods at Fielding, a tragic situation happens, interrupting the three popular kid’s triangle. From here this becomes a story of friendship, and revenge on someone who interrupted that friendship.

This book is really character driven, with tons of intricate details on all the class members in the MFA program. I love a good character driven novel, but while I was reading this, I found my mind wandering. I can appreciate that she was slowly building these characters, and was inserting little details to help you figure out where this plot was going. The sentences were LONG, as in sometimes 4-5 lines, and no chapters… so if this is something that may frustrate you, this may not be your book. This book is definitely in the literary fiction genre, but gives you all the slow burn, thriller vibes.

The thing that Zancan did beautifully was create a really toxic, “talk behind your back” environment. Although these characters only spent 10 days here and there with each other, they spent all day everyday together. When we spend a days like these with people, we tend to get to grow strong bonds and get to know them on a really intimate level. We start to notice the small details that make them them. We also start to nitpick and notice small idiocincies that tell us about who they are.

People only seem to think something’s a problem when it’s a problem for them.

This novel was based on Caroline Zancan’s own experience at Bennington, in which she did a similar MFA program. I found this little detail fascinating, and would secretly love to run away and do a program like this! She also wrote one of the best, classiest burns I’ve ever read in a book. I literally said aloud, “ouch”!

She had a beautiful face, but it was from the wrong century.

Well, all in all, I think people will either love or hate this book. But one thing it will do is spur up conversations. Fielding, albeit fictional, is a place that seems like a character…  I wish that I could go visit and write there.

That’s all for today, stay home and read a book!