An Unwanted Guest, by Shari Lapena

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

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

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

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

Until next time, happy reading!

 

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Transcription, Kate Atkinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, happy reading!!

Kingdom of the Blind, Louise Penny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Goddess of Yantai, by Ian Hamilton

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I was super thrilled when I received Ian Hamilton’s new addition to the Ava Lee series, The Goddess of Yantai. This series is one of my all-time favourites! This is the 11th novel in the series, and I highly suggest starting from the very first one if you want to get into this series. This series follows Ava Lee a forensic accountant, who is a Chinese Canadian, and also an avid runner and martial arts enthusiast. Ava chases big money losses, that are usually involving some very shady characters… hence the martial arts! I always say that this series is like the perfect mix of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and a Jackie Chan movie.

In the Goddess of Yantai, Ava travels to Beijing to view the premiere of her secret lover’s film, Pang Fai. After the premiere, Fai tells Ava that she is being blackmailed by the Chinese Movie Syndicate, who want sexual favours in return for continuing her successful career. At this point Fai has just had enough, and decided that she is with Ava’s help, putting an end to it. When they resist, the blackmail, and threats become increasingly worse. Will Ava be able to get to the bottom of it before the threats go to far??

Ekk… I wanted to just rip through this book, as the pace is fast, and the pages practically flip themselves. I actually limited myself to a certain page number each day though, because I found out that the next instalment isn’t out until July 2019.

These books are just fantastic. If you love great writing, an intense pace, and a bit of a thrill, then these are perfect for you. Ian Hamilton pulls in some real world issues into the plot with the #MeToo movement. He also describes the setting and the food so well that I just want to jump on a plane and fly over to Beijing for a trip. And lastly, Hamilton leaves Ava Lee fans on a cliffhanger with some of your favourite characters and a big old plot twist!!

Until next time, happy reading!

Girl, Stop Apologizing, by Rachel Hollis

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Okay, guys…  I’m a little bit obsessed with Rachel Hollis. I was gifted this book from Harper Collins Canada in exchange for my honest review. Oh boy, I can’t even contain my excitement for this book to hold on to the review until it’s release date… which is March 12, 2019. I get that it’s super mean for me to rave and be so excited about a book that’s release date is so far away. BUT, I will make you a promise to re-release the review days before the book is set to hit stores.

Here’s why I wanted to get this review out. Girl, Stop Apologizing, is the follow up book to Girl, Wash your Face. I think that reading them in succession is essential! I think that the first one is about acceptance, then the second is about action.

Rachel Hollis has a knack for noticing the pitfalls that women fallback on to excuse their living into their full potential. Because Rachel has been there. She has been the woman who needed to change. But what she did was… actually change. WHOA, right I know, no excuses. She just executed the habits, and committed to the positive changes.
In Girl, Stop Apologizing, Rachel Hollis is ready to arm you with a plan to start owning your life. She identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviors to adopt, and the skills to adapt to your lifestyle that will help with positive growth.

Straight up, I loved this book. As a woman, these books are deeply freeing. They make you feel less alone in your own little crazy world. They make you realize that feeling like a hot mess of a woman is okay, but just own it. And maybe take some steps in your life that help your morning/evening run a little smoother. Accept that you can be a successful woman, and also an amazing family person. You may not be perfect, but you can damn well try your best each day to commit to being ACCOUNTABLE.

Our own insecurities on any subject either spark our curiosity or they feed our judgement.

In a world where we live on social media, and have constant comparisons, it’s easy to get sucked into the this shame cycle of scrolling through IG, Facebook, Twitter… whatever it is. But what Rachel Hollis reminds us is that we are the ones in charge of what we fill ourselves up with. It’s so easy to play the “comparison game”, but remember that you are the one who can cater your lifestyle. If the IG model makes you feel less beautiful… unfollow. If the news makes you feel anxious… shut it off. If your schedule makes you feel like a chicken with your head cut off… slow down. If you feel like you have no energy… fuel your body.

I’m learning that slowing down is okay, but being mindful of actually scheduling is what makes the day feel more balanced. Currently I’m sitting in my office, shovelling mouthfuls of my homemade salad into my my mouth, while typing this review. Sometimes friends, you just have to do it. You just have to commit to the small chunks of time that add up to the hours that get the job done.

This book has literally breathed motivation back into my life. It’s full of things I needed to be reminded of. Now, it’s time to implement some of them 🙂

Happy reading, friends!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Midnight Blue, by Simone van der Vlugt

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

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

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

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

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

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