The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

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Having been placed in the “romance” genre, The Kiss Quotient, is a book I normally wouldn’t pick up. Upon hearing two of my fav authors Roxane Gay, and Taylor Jenkins Reid sing high praises about Helen Hoang’s writing, I decided…. okay, maybe this book is worth giving a shot. This book is reminiscent of The Rosie Project, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine… so if you enjoyed those ones, this one is worth picking up.

Meet Stella Lane, a 3o year old econometrician. She loves her work intensely, but dating is just really not her thing. The little fact that Stella has Asperger’s, makes dating seem more difficult. She hates kissing, speaks the whole, blunt, truth, and has quite a bit of anxiety on the whole process. So she does the logical thing, and hires a male escort, Michael Phan. He’s gorgeous, and martial artist, and is also willing to work with Stella’s plan to teach her how to date… and a couple more things. It’s doesn’t take long for Stella to realize that Michael may be her new obsession, and she starts to think that the feelings are being reciprocated. Here’s where the story gets really interested!

All the things that make you different make you perfect.

I just loved this book! I ripped through it in three days, and literally took it everywhere. The couch, the treadmill, the appointments, the lunch break, it was everywhere I was. Helen Hoang wrote a novel that is a modern re-telling, of Pretty Woman, with a twist. She has served up a novel that is a really fun story, with also some great writing. Without giving anything away, there are some pretty steamy scenes in this book. So if you are not a fan of that, you could possibly flip through or maybe it’s not the book for you.

In the Author’s Note, Hoang tells us that her daughter’s teacher had suggested the fact that she may have Asperger’s. Hoang was not convinced, but started really researching the subject as any parent would. What she found out was really interesting, Autism is represented differently in girls than with boys. She found out that she had a lot of the tendenacies that would lend to herself having Asperger’s. And at age 34 years old, Helen Hoang was diagnosed with Autism, and her daughter may very well be too. SO, long story short, she wrote a fantastic book with a wonderful heroine who really seems to tell the experience so truthfully.

Okay, so if you need a book to get you back into reading, want a book to read in a weekend, or just love great books…. put this book on hold at the library or go get it at your bookstore. It’s a great novel, and now I’m DYING to read Helen Hoang’s next one. It’s the second one in the series called The Bride Test. But wait for it… it’s not out until May 7th 2019. Seriously?!?! I’m dying!

Until next time, happy reading.

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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!

Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall

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The best runner leaves no tracks. Tao Te Ching

Born to Run is a book that SOOOOO many people over the years have asked me if I’ve read it. I’ve been running for what seems like forever. It feels like its always been a part of my life. It’s the thing that energizes me when my batteries feel low, it’s the thing that calms me down when I feel crazy, and it’s a place of joy for me. So when I needed some mojo the week before my marathon, I finally decided to read it.

If you are starting to read this review, and thinking, “Meh, running book?!?! I’m out.” DON’T LEAVE!!! This book is definitely not meant only for people who run. It’s a great story, and has some really interesting facts sprinkled throughout it.

Christopher McDougall is a runner, and a journalist. He loves his daily runs, but his body doesn’t. When he is plagued with running injuries he travels to the Copper Canyons in Mexico to discover the running secrets of the Tarahumara Indians. He is perplexed by the differences in their footwear, diet, and habits, and their ability to run for many hours in their deadly terrain. McDougall discusses all these differences, along with a fantastic story about a great race in the Copper Canyons. It includes the running phenomenon Scott Jurek, and many other eclectic runners.

This story was amazing. I felt like it paced like a marathon. A medium pace while slowly picking up to a fast sprint by the end of it. Ultra running is a unique sector of the running world. I love to go to these trail runs in which there are tons of ultra distances… myself, always doing the distance below the ultra. But, this book makes me want to run an ultra. I felt like the true spirit of running was completely captured through the people in this book. Jenn Shelton was my fav.

Jenn isn’t battling a rival to the bitter end, or striding across a mountaintop with the steel-jawed majesty of a Nike model, or gasping toward glory with a grimace of heartbreaking determination. All she’s doing is…running. Running, and smiling.

This past weekend I participated in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with my forever running buddy, Krystal. This was a goal that was in for My Happiness Project. I used to race a lot, then when I had kids, I just enjoyed when I could get out for a run. But this year I decided I would start doing the things that I used to love to do, and discover new things as well.

This race was determined for it to be different. To not be obsessed with time, paces, and proper fueling.  The gradual letting go of controlling the run, coincided with less injuries, more joy, and a surprisingly not much different on race day. In short… when I decided to stop controlling the run, it stopped making me it’s bitch!

So that’s what I did friends. I let go of the idea that I needed to run this marathon so fast that it felt painful… and ya know what?!?! I literally had people who were cheering compliment me on my smile. I was so damn happy this race, and it didn’t hurt. Lesson learned… let go, and let what happens be.

Next up… maybe an ultra?!?!

 

 

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.

 

The Dutch Wife, by Ellen Keith

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This book was lent to my by a client… just another reminder about how amazing it is to be surrounded by bookish people. This person also shares a love of great stories, and good writing… so I trusted that this book would be worth reading. THEN, a couple days later, my Dad had told me he had recently read a great book… when I asked him what was it, after a couple minutes of pondering, he said… The Dutch Wife. Two trusted book opinions later, I picked this book up ASAP.

The Dutch Wife is a historical fiction, dual timeline novel based around three different perspectives from the experience of WW2. You have first introduced to Marijke, who with her husband Theo, lived in Amsterdam and were convicted of some illegal activity by the Germans. They were both arrested and shipped off to different concentration camps as political prisoners. When the beautiful Marijke is noticed by the guards, she is selected to work in the brothels that serve the prisoners. Caught between the need to survive, and the morality of her situation, she meets Karl Müller. Karl is a high up German officer, who falls in love with Marijke. The other timeline is Luciano’s story, a young man, who is in Argentina in the ’70’s and being held captive and being tortured. Slowly as these stories are being told, you realize how intertwined they are and you are rushing through this story to see what will happen.

Father, you once said that nobody in this world is truly evil, that it’s all a matter of circumstance. I wonder if you tell yourself that so you don’t have to come to terms with what happened in your own country.

I LOVED this book. It was a perfect historical fiction novel for me. With my dutch roots being satisfied, and also having such an interest in WW2, learning about this side of the war was extremely interesting, and equally upsetting. What the through line for historical fiction for me is that I found myself so fascinated with humans, and their willingness to survive. I fell in love Marijke’s character. I felt like she was such a conflicted woman who wanted nothing more than to survive and find her husband. Alternatively, I also loved Luciano. His story was heartbreaking for a whole other reason… which I won’t give away. But there are some words that he had written for his father that were just perfect. They made you understand just how deeply the mental effects of a trauma can be like a ripple in the pond, growing bigger and more complicated the further it gets away. So often we are told that time will heal things, and this part of the story just really made you challenge that old adage.

One more thing, this author is Canadian… just another reason why I loved this book. So enough of me gushing, just go read this one. You will love it!

Until next time, happy reading!

 

The Summer List, by Amy Mason Doan

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I stumbled upon this book when a friend of mine had brought a couple books and asked me if I was interested in borrowing some. Of course, like any bookworm, I thumbed through them all… deciding this is the one I wanted to borrow as I had seen The Summer List every time I walked into Shoppers Drugmart.

The Summer List follows two friends, Laura and Casey, who were once inseparable. Like any childhood/teen friendship they were always together, and knew everything about each other. Then one summer night, Laura is shocked when she finds out a betrayal that involces Casey and her mother. Laura flees to college early, and tries to erase her past life as Casey’s best friend. Seventeen years later Laura receives an invite in the mail, requesting her presence for a good old fashioned girl’s weekend. Laura is trepidatious, but decides to go. This staged girl’s weekend, turns into a scavenger hunt which ultimately pulls them back together.

My reading life needed a quick, easy, fun book… so enter The Summer List. And it was just that, a really fun read, but it was also a really sweet story. This is Amy Doan Mason’s first novel, and I really loved her premise. It jumped around from past to future, tying together the threads of the two girl’s friendship.

Where the book lacked in poetic prose, it made up for it through nostalgia. This book made me reflect on my friendships throughout the same eras, and it made me reflect on the memories I had with a certain bosom buddy! I think what is so special about a book is that you get to reflect on how it makes you feel, and the special meaning it has to you.

Anywho, if you are looking for a deep, introspective read, this one isn’t the book for you right now. BUT if you need something that is sweet, and easy to read, I’d say pick it up. I wanted to read it all day long… but two little humans wouldn’t let me do that!

Up next, Stephen King’s new one, The Outsider. King is legit a King, so I’m hoping this one is as fantastic as it seems so far!

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!