Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen

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Bruce, you are amazing. Done! See you next time.

Just kidding, but really, this memoir was absolutely incredible. There is not one thing I didn’t love about it. I had been procrastinating reading Born to Run… it’s long (over 500 pages, and LONG pages)… until I heard Taylor Jenkins Reid who wrote Daisy Jones and the Six  absolutely raving about how amazing Bruce Springsteen’s book was. She said the rumour was he had a huge advance, because he had promised to tell all his deep dark secrets. So, I dove in head first.

My brother was the one who got me hooked on Bruce. We would sit in the basement of my parent’s house, and he would tell me all the stories behind the tracks, while we listened to the albums. Then I heard Thunder Road, and was in love. A rock band, that incorporated the piano like that, it was incredible. And just when you thought it couldn’t get better, Clarence comes in on the sax, and your mind is blown.

Writing about yourself is a funny business. At the end of the day it’s just another story, the story you’ve chosen from the events of your life. I haven’t told you “all” about myself. Discretion and the feelings of others don’t allow it. But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise: to show the reader his mind. In these pages I’ve tried to do that.

God, I could go on and on about how incredible his lyrical prose was, and how poetic this whole book was… but you would probably get sick of it. So I’m going to give you a few things that I absolutely loved about it:

  • It’s nostalgic. Whether you can relate to the memories of childhood, loving the home you grew up in, or listening to music that inspired you as a child… Bruce has you covered.
  • It’s honest. His rocky relationship with his parents, he was a bit of a player, and his battle with his mental health. It’s all so honest, and troubled.
  • Clarence Clemons. Bruce’s words on his talent, their relationship, racism, and then in the end, his death, made me cry. It’s beautiful.
  • Garage Land. There is one chapter that he talks about when he’s given the opportunity to sing Tumblin’ Dice with The Rolling Stones… and I almost died. It’s everything.
  • Lastly his talent. Just listen to the lyrics of the songs he writes. After reading this memoir, you realize how much work he put into these songs and albums. He’s a perfectionist, and found how to blend many types of music into an incredible rock band.

See, I told you. Not one thing I didn’t like about this one. You don’t have to be Bruce’s #1 fan to read this book, because if you a reader you will have so much appreciation for this incredible piece of work.

Until next time, happy reading!

 

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The Lost Man, by Jane Harper

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Jane Harper is one of those writers who SO many people are talking about right now. I have had so many positive recommendations about her first novel, The Dry… and although I never read it, when I saw that she came out with a new one this January, I put it on hold at the library. Knowing what I had heard about her first couple novels, I thought, I’m going to take a chance and read The Lost Man.

Set in the Outback of Australia, the Bright family lives hundreds of miles away from their neighbours. To get supplies, to town, or help, it’s a long drive. The three boys that grew up on the family farm, are now grown, and have spread out a bit in space, but also in their relationships. When Bub and Nathan find their brother, Cameron, face down dead at the infamous stockman’s grace, they are shocked. It seems as if Cameron, who grew up knowing the dangers of the Outback, had forgotten how to survive and succumbed to it. But when little tiny signs start pointing to the fact that he may have been murdered, the secrets of the town, and the family start spilling out.

Even though this novel is getting some high praise, I liked it… but didn’t love it. But, just because it wasn’t my favourite, does not mean a thing. The average Goodreads rating on The Lost Man is a 4.3/5, so this could very well be the next great book you pick up! What I can appreciate about this novel is the mysterious, family drama element. Jane Harper has written an atmospheric, suspenseful novel. I will say that the twist at the end, I was not expecting. My only wish would be that the novel had a little more drive behind the plot throughout.

Jane Harper has expertly planted a reader right in the middle of the Outback. You can see the dirt, and feel the heat penetrating through the pages of her novel. And the fact that the family is learning these secrets about Cameron after he has died, is kind of disturbing, but super thrilling. I’m just glad this isn’t my family!!

That’s all for today, happy reading!

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

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Let me begin by saying, when I started this book I had heard of Trevor Noah’s name, but never listened to any of his content. I knew he was a comedian, but nothing more. After reading Born a Crime, I now know Trevor Noah is so much more than a comedian.

Born a Crime is Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa, in which he was literally born a crime. His mother being a black Xhosa woman, and his father a white Swiss man, meant his birth was punishable by five years in prison in his parents were caught. Noah tells the story of his childhood through eighteen personal essays in which he transforms from a wild, mischievous kid, to an ambitious, and ultimately successful man. His transformation was based around the relationship he had with his mother, or as he calls her, his teammate. She was the one who was determined to save his life, and for his life to have a bigger meaning.

The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate, is what it was. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another so you can run them all.

This memoir is a funny a lot of the times, sad at moments, and most of all makes you want to give your momma a hug. Trevor Noah has written a memoir about the stark realness of apartheid South Africa. One of the reviews that I read about it, was that this was essentially a love letter to his mother. And it is just that. It is the story of a boy whose mother stood up against the tidal wave of racism brought to a country, and decided to raise a child that would overcome it.

“Learn from your past and be better because of your past,” she would say, “but don’t cry about your past. Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you, but don’t hold on to it. Don’t be bitter.”

There are essays in Born a Crime, that are absolutely, pee your pants funny. He has you killing yourself laughing into the spine of the book. This is definitely a necessary part of the story, because you are really hit with the fact that this country was torn apart from apartheid, and just how lucky we are in our country. Whether it’s the food on your table, the education you receive, or the safety you have in your home… this was not Trevor’s upbringing. But what he did have was a mother whom would do anything to propel him forward. The ending of this novel, left me feeling gutted and crying. 

The world needs this memoir, and also Trevor Noah. He’s exactly the type of person we need as role models in the world. Lastly, go listen to Oprah’s episode of Super Soul Sunday with Trevor Noah. It’s also brilliant, and funny.

Happy reading!

 

The History of Bees, by Maja Lunde

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The History of Bees was our latest book club pick. And I have to say, it’s was a great pick for book club. There was a lot to talk about, plus we had dinner at a new restaurant, the Hunter Street Tavern… and it was a hit!! The evening was a win all around.

The novel is told through three different characters, who are all beekeepers from the past, present, and future. In 1852 England, William is a seed merchant/biologist who decides to make himself a name by developing a new design of a beehive. In 2007, The United States, George is the owner of a bee farm, which has been in the family for generations. He battles internally with the idea of whether he should be adopting modern bee farming techniques, and trying to guide his son to become the next generation on the farm. Lastly, 2098, China, Tao works as a pollinator on a fruit farm, as there are no bees anymore. When Tao’s young son is taken away after an accident, she is determined to find out what the cause of his accident was. These three storylines are intertwined with the backdrop of the potential loss of the bees, and their bonds with their children.

Our book club had some great discussions about The History of Bees. Although this wasn’t my favourite book we’ve read, I can definitely appreciate it’s importance. In a world where we are starting to see the affects that our modern technology has had on our earth, it’s great for people to read reminders of how we need to make a more conscious effort to help our world be here longer. The things I didn’t like about this book was the writing was a bit rough for me, and it lacked a flow. But at book club it was mentioned that this is a translation, so this could be a reason why the writing just felt a little choppy. The other part of this book that I didn’t love, was that it felt SO close to home. It made me scared for the world’s, and my children’s future. So although it made me feel uncomfortable, maybe this book accomplished exactly what Maja Lunde was hoping it would.

I found the relationships between these characters and their children fascinating. There was so much internal dialogue, that you as the reader you knew what they were thinking, but their children were left in the dark to their thoughts. This made me think just how much of an issue comes from the things that we don’t actually say to each other. The assumptions that are made on the things that are unsaid, can drastically change outcomes, and relationships.

That’s all for today, happy reading until next time!

Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah

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This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time. I had clients, and close friends, both recommend Winter Garden to me… but the cover just looked so cheesy that I was definitely judged the contents! So when yet another close person to me in my life said, you need to read Winter Garden, I picked it up finally.

Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard, while the other traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. The one thing that these two sisters have in common is an unbreakable bond with their father, and an almost non-existent relationship with their mother. But when their father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves having to comfort their cold, and distant mother, Anya. As children, the only connection they had with Anya was the unfinished Russian fairy tale she told the girls at night. When their father is dying, he requests one last wish… that Anya tells the whole tale. This begins a curiosity in the girls, who find out that the fairytale, is actually the real life events of Anya in war-torn Leningrad during WW2.  Between the fairytale, and the bonding with their mother, Meredith and Nina discover the harrowing story of their mother’s life before they were in it.

Okay, so be patient with this novel in the first 100 pages. I wasn’t completely hooked until I realized the fairytale was actually Anya’s real life story. But when things really started to unwind, I found I was unable to put it down! I ripped through the last 200 pages in one day.

This was a WW2 history which I wasn’t aware. Learning the St.Petersburg was actually called Leningrad when Stalin was in power was completely new to me. What’s incredible about this story is it’s just the story of a woman and her experience getting through the war. You realize how much could be lost in just a few short years. Then once the war was over, you are expected to live on. How does one do this? How do you just start over? These are the questions that you are asking yourself this whole novel.

Seeing the sisters develop a stronger relationship with their mother was probably the most rewarding part of this novel. You see just how hiding a part of your past can truly affect the people around you. As a mother, I think we want to protect our children from the bad things that happened to us, or the bad things that we had done to other people. But when we open up and become vulnerable, it lets your children know that we are all just humans trying live.

We women make choices for others, not for ourselves, and when we are mothers, we…bear what we must for our children. You will protect them. It will hurt you; it will hurt them. Your job is to hide that your heart is breaking and do what they need you to do.

If you are a lover of historical fiction, and complex family relationships… then this is the perfect novel for you. Because of the large amount of WW2 fiction being produced nowadays, it’s always refreshing to hear a story that you’ve never heard before.

Anywho, that’s all for now. Happy reading, friends!

The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai

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As you can tell from the pictures above, I went into to pick up my latest library haul and was greeting with a bunch of amazing books. But when I read the first page of The Great Believers, I had to pick that continue reading! This novel has been getting a ton of praise, and after reading it you see that this is a work that needed to be written, and that also needs to be read.

It’s 1980’s Chicago, and Yale Tishman works at an art gallery in which he is developing their collection. As Yale’s career is starting to take off when he starts working on bringing a collection of 1920’s paintings to the gallery. As he career sky rockets, the AIDS epidemic is growing closer around him. When one of his closest friends Nico dies from the virus, one by one, his friends are also being picked off. Yale, along with Nico’s sister, Fiona, take care of their dying group of friends. Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking her estranged daughter, and staying with an old friend. This old friend, just so happens to be a photographer who thirty years ago was documenting the Chicago crisis. In the search for her daughter, old memories of her past are brought up, and the feelings are all too familiar to Fiona.

They meant well, all of them. How could she explain that this city was a graveyard? That they were walking every day through streets where there had been a holocaust, a mass murder of neglect and antipathy, that when they stepped through a pocket of cold air, didn’t they understand it was a ghost, it was a boy the world had spat out?

I don’t really know where to begin. This is such an incredible story, and also so sad. Other than watching Philadelphia, and Dallas Buyers Club, I would consider myself to have very little knowledge of the AIDS epidemic. After reading this novel, I found myself googling, and checking out non-fiction novels to learn more about it. What Rebecca Makkai has accomplished is the beginning of an education for me, and I bet many readers. The AIDS epidemic claimed a generation of people, and has definitely shaped several generations. But the things that we don’t hear are the stories of the people’s lives who were lost at start a fast rate that they couldn’t even grapple with it.

Nico’s death, although being the first friend to die, had such an impact on this story. His friends had taken some of his belongings as ways to remember him, and as each one of them were dying they were passing on Nico’s scarf. These characters and the community in Chicago were all so capable of good things, and then equally quite evil things. I listened to an interview with Rebecca Makkai, and she said that she used this as a tool to make AIDS the real villain. Even to this day, people are unaware to what and how HIV/AIDS are contracted. In this novel the parents of the characters who had died would go into their child’s apartment with masks and gloves.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this novel, have you read it? If not, I recommend it. The Great Believers is a book that I haven’t stopped talking about, or thinking about since I put it down.

Becoming, by Michelle Obama

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I had been resisting reading Becoming, by Michelle Obama since there was so much hype around this book. Then when a client said it was amazing, I downloaded Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations with Michelle Obama, I was HAD to read it. Sidenote: If you want to be inspired, go listen to it. It’s just everything.

Michelle Obama has been proven to be one of the most inspiring and iconic women of this era. A lawyer, the first African-American First Lady of the United States of America, a wife, and a mother, she really has no limits that she won’t try to rise to. This memoir is a story of becoming herself. She invites readers into her childhood, on balancing motherhood and work life, and lastly on her experience in the White House. She is incredibly honest in her memoir, and also reminds you to reflect on your becoming, and how you got here.

To say I was going into this book skeptically is an understatement. I always head into a memoir like this, thinking that is going to be a version of the author’s self that they best want to represent. But friends, I will tell you that this book was not that. The more I read it, and the more I thought about it upon closing it, the more I keep thinking about it.

For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.

This memoir is such a great insight to how Michelle, and her family in the past have had to overcome hardships and stigma to rise to the top. Michelle is an absolute powerhouse. From a young age she was a perfectionist. She could read before she entered school, and had extremely high expectations of herself. There are so many pieces of the book that will stay with me forever. There was one moment in particular that gave me goosebumps, and that was when she talked about the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. She describes how deeply it affected her and Barack, and that they would never truly know how the families lives of the victims would forever be changed. We all know that feeling of knowing exactly where we were when terrible things happen. But having to face these families, knowing that nothing can make them whole again is a whole other hardship.

Becoming is just the most perfect title of this. Michelle says in the preface that she hates that age old question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, as if growing up is finite and once you get there you are done becoming. Well, when you reach adulthood you realize this. And Michelle has totally captured the essence of growing as an individual, as a partner, a mother, and also a role model. This is an important book to read, and I think so wonderful for a young person who is finishing high school, or if you are curious about her life, or someone who continues to become yourself.

Anywho, that’s all for today. Have you read this one? I have so many thoughts about it that my head is about to explode, and would love to chat. Drop me a message in the comments so we can chat 🙂