A Tale for Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, happy reading!

 

The Almost Sisters, by Joshilyn Jackson

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Isn’t this picture magical? The mauvey-pink sunsets, and sunrises that we are experiencing in Canada are just gorgeous, and this picture caught it… minus the bandaid on my thumb! For anyone that knows me personally, I love to cook, but I am also a HUGE klutz. I drop things, I run into things, I fall off of things, and I misjudge my knife skills in the kitchen.

This is the second novel I’ve read now by Joshilyn Jackson, and the first one I read was Never Have I Ever, you can read that review here. What I am really loving about Jackson’s writing style is her characters have this snarky inner dialogue that I find really amusing, and also very relatable. The Almost Sisters is a very unique story, but one that deals with very real emotions.

Leia Birch Briggs is a very successful artist who writes graphic novels. One evening at a Fancon convention, she meets a handsome Batman whom she believes will just be a one-night-stand. Weeks later, when Leia’s pregnancy test tells her that she’s expecting a baby… she’s shocked, and in denial, and ready to keep this a secret while she deals with the emotions. Before Leia can break the news to her family , her perfect stepsister’s marriage blows-up. Then she learns that her beloved grandmother, Birchie, has dementia. And even with the help of Birchie’s beloved best friend, Wattie, she is rapidly progressing. So Leia does what she needs to do, and packs up her life and heads back to Birchville, Alabama, to get Birchie’s affairs in order. Just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, there is a discovery of a dangerous secret tucked away in a trunk in the attic that changes everything she believed about her family.

The Almost Sisters is a novel that really grew on me. Honestly for the first 100 pages, I kept thinking that there must be more to this story. I really liked the way the personalities of the characters shone through. And even though I haven’t been to the South in a long time, Jackson’s writing makes you feel as if you are embedded deep within in. She also captures the complexities of the South, and tackles the big issues that are socially still prevalent. On a smaller level, she also dealt with the emotional turmoil that one goes through while managing life’s catastrophes.

Along with the main story, Jackson wove in Leia’s graphic novel. At first I actually was just skimming these sections, because I was unsure of what was actually happening. But as the novel went on, you started to really see the parallels between Leia’s main character, and herself, and then eventually to her family life. Jackson’s writing is smart, snarky, and she also threw a couple little Easter eggs of classic literature. FUN FACT: This is something that graphic comic’s do ALL the time, and the superfans live for these little Easter eggs.

‘ “I thought…” She plopped down onto her suitcase like Anne of Green Gables abandoned at the train station.’

Well, that’s all for today. Until next time, happy reading!

All Shall Be Well, by Deborah Crombie (#2 Kincaid and James Series)

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All Shall be Well, is #2 in the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series, by Deborah Crombie. I’m so happy I stumbled upon this series, and you can read the book of the first review here. As soon as I finished this novel I was ready to pick up the next one, and anticipating the next novel is what a great series is all about!

Here’s the set up… Jasmine Dent has just died in her asleep. To the people in her life, it looks like the fight of a horrible disease that she’s been battling has come to an end. Upon autopsy it’s found that it’s not the disease, but an overdose of morphine. At first glance it looks to be a suicide, but small inconsistencies lead her neighbour, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, to trust his gut that Jasmine has been murdered. Kincaid then calls on his assistant Sergeant Gemma James to help him put together the pieces of this strange puzzle.

I really love a couple things about this series…the britishness, the cozy factor, and how Crombie is cultivating some real depth of her characters. When I first heard about the series being compared to Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache I knew I had to try it… but here’s the thing, Penny’s series needs you to give it some time. Each novel seems to gain a little more steam, and they just get better. Now after finishing All Shall be Well, the series is starting to pick up that steam. You begin to get to know Kincaid, and James a little more, and see their own personal struggles.

I’ve never considered myself a huge fan of mysteries. For some reason I had my little bookish snob hat on and thought that they were missing beautiful writing, and all about a driving plot. What I’ve come to realize is that a good mystery gets to the truth of what humans are really made of. You see the good sides, the bad sides, the secrets kept, and the type people who surround us at the end. Whether or not you want to believe it, crazy things happen everyday. On the news, or in your neighbourhood. A great mystery really just encapsulates the truth of the human experience… minus the major catastrophe… hopefully. There’s a great line from this book below that really brought on these thoughts for me.

Lights came on in the house behind the garden. Through the windows the illuminated rooms were as sharp and clear as stage sets, and Kincaid wondered what secret despair their inhabitants hid under their everyday personas. Someone drew the curtains, the glimpse into those unknown lives vanishing as quickly as it had appeared. Kincaid shivered and went in.

Anywho, that’s all for now. I know I’m really looking forward to digging into #3 of this series! Happy reading!

Quick Reading Recap

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Over the past six weeks, I’ve been doing a ton of reading and snuggling my wee newborn. Unfortunately, what I haven’t been doing is keeping up with writing about what I’ve been reading. So, I’m giving you today a quick fire of what I’ve been reading lately… and then I will get back to normal posting!

What I’ve Been Reading Lately:

A Better Man: A Chief Inspector Gamache NovelA Better Man, by Louise Penny. (5 stars). Oh goodness, to say I was excited about this release is an understatement. I pre-ordered it to make sure I would have my hands on it the day it came out! This is the Three Pines series, which I adore. Gamache is back at it, and this time as the water levels are rising and there is a flood warning out all over Quebec… a body turns up. Gamache’s team rushes to solve the crime, as the town of Three Pines is praying that they don’t become below the rising waters. This book is amazing, and even the acknowledgement is beautiful! Penny tells such a poetic mystery, and has you wanting more the minute you finish this book. Let’s all just say a little prayer that Louise Penny keeps on writing.

The Temptation of Gracie

The Temptation of Gracie, by Santa Montefiore.  (4 stars). Gracie is a widowed, grandmother living a quiet life. Her ambitious, executive daughter Carina, barely visits, and Gracie hasn’t spent much time with her granddaughter Anastasia. When she finds an advertisement for a weeklong cooking course in Tuscany, she surprises everyone by going… and Carina and Anastasia decide to join her. It’s in Tuscany where they begin to develop stronger familial bonds, and find out about Gracie’s past romance/life she had in Tuscany as a young woman. This book was a great book to be able to sit down, have a glass of wine, and get lost in. I enjoyed it, but I did find myself wanting just a little more depth.

Akin: A Novel

Akin, by Emma Donoghue. (5 stars). I received this novel upon begging Harper Collins for a review copy. I am a big fan of Emma Donoghue, and was so excited when it turned up on my doorstep. It’s a quiet story about an elderly man, Noah, and his great-nephew, Michael, who he ends up with because there is no one else to care for him. This all happens days before he is flying out to Nice, which happens to be where he lived as a young boy during the end of WWII. When Noah decides to take Michael to Nice, what they find out is there is more to Noah’s childhood story than he thought. I really loved this book, and what I didn’t expect was the hilarious dialogue between Noah and Michael. I highly suggest this one, and think it’d be great book for a book club to read!

The NeedThe Need, by Helen Phillips. (4 stars). Two things about this book… it’s both incredibly readable, and weird. Like so weird, that I stopped myself a couple times to say, f*#$ this is a weird book… but what’s going to happen next. The book opens to Molly, home alone with her two children, after a long exhausting day of work… and then she hears footsteps in the living room. For days Molly has been hearing footsteps, and noises, and is convinced someone has now broken into her house. From here, the reader is on a wild ride, and you will find yourself feeling the need to talk about this one after reading!

The Thorn BirdsThe Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough. (3.5 stars). This is a bit of a throw back, but this novel has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years… then with the cooler weather I had started to crave a big, old book to really dig into. The Thorn Birds is a romantic, atmospheric saga of the Cleary family. It goes through several generations of the family, and all the ups and downs that are in real life. It works through several characters and the decades of their lives as they are approaching their ultimate end. This novel is almost considered a classic, I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t put it on the MUST READ list. What I did enjoy was really digging my teeth into characters, and their plot lines.

A Nearly Normal Family: A NovelA Nearly Normal Family, by M.T. Edvardsson. (5 stars). For all the people who have been craving a dark, twisty, Swedish novel… well here it is. This was is the perfect novel for fans of the Dragon Tattoo series, and also for the changing weather. This is a literary, courtroom thriller, that is also seriously creative. It’s premise is that  perfectly normal parents of Stella are now putting the pieces together of why she has been convicted of a brutal murder. Told from each family members perspective at some point in the novel, you see this trial from all sides of the story! I LOVED this book, and can’t wait to hear more people talking about it.

A Quote to Ponder:

I’m going to leave you with a quote from A Better Man, by Louise Penny. I think that Penny’s character, Chief Inspector Gamache is such a beautiful person, and honestly he reminds me of my Dad. He says the most insightful things, and this quote below is just so true.

“Consequences,” said Gamache. “We must always consider the consequences of our actions. Or inaction. It won’t necessarily change what we do, but we need to be aware of the effect.”

Anywho, that’s all for this quick fire session. Hope you can find something you would enjoy reading from these novels!

 

What I’ve been Reading Lately (7/28/19)

 

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Hey Friends! Been awhile! My life has seemed a little busy lately, BUT I’m excited to tell you that I’m now officially on maternity leave… just waiting for a little babe to make it’s way into the world. And also give me a little more personal space. I’ve been doing lots of reading, just been lazy on the posting, so I’ve got 5 books for you today! All of which were highly anticipated books for the summer, and one of which was a big thumbs done for me.

The Current: A Novel

The Current, by Tim Johnson. (4 stars). When two young female college students head to Minnesota to visit one of their ailing fathers, they find themselves spun out on the side of the snowy road. The road is situated beside the icy Black Root River, and when someone has pulled up behind them they think to help them…. this driver nudges their car into the depths of the river. One lives, one dies, and the whole town is caught up in the investigation which is reminiscent of an unsolved mystery that occurred years before. This thriller, is a pulsing, slow burn of a novel, that really picked up in the last 100 pages. It had me flipping the pages at an alarming rate, and was actually the perfect cure for the heat and humidity that Ontario has been serving up!

If You Want to Make God Laugh

If You Want to Make Gods Laugh, by Bianca Marias. (4.5 stars) I received an advanced reading copy from Bianca of this novel, and I’m so glad I got a chance to read it early! This harrowing drama follows the lives of three separate female narrators, Zodwa, Ruth, and Delilah, and their lives, although very different, have become quite intertwined. It’s set in post-apartheid South Africa, where the AIDS epidemic is really starting to grow. It’s a gorgeous story, with some really heavy topics, and motherhood being one of the big ones. It’s just a gorgeously written book, and I think such an important novel in this world.

Ask Again, Yes: A NovelAsk Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane. (4 stars). This book has been EXTREMELY popular this summer, but I had a hard time deciding whether this was just a 3 or 4 star novel. The ending is what is the clincher here… it was just stunning and seemed to really wrap-up the story well. Francis and Brian are two rookie cops in New York, who also live next to each other. When a tragic event occurs, it has affects on both families for the next four decades. Especially when the two children from Francis and Brian decide to get married. It’s a story about the the inner secrets of a marriage, for better or worse. And it’s also a look into forgiveness, and what that really looks like.

The Quintland Sisters: A NovelThe Quintland Sisters, by Shelley Wood. (5 stars). This is a historical fiction on the true story of the Dionne Quintulepts. Shelley Wood has decided to tell the story from a character who was helping the midwives on the night the Quints were born. I really loved this novel, and think it was just so fascinating. I had no idea that any of this went on, and the most fascinating part was just speculating the affects that their childhood had on the rest of these women’s lives. This novel made me want to research the Quints, and then re-read the Louise Penny mystery based on one of the Quints!

The Cactus: A Novel

The Cactus, by Sarah Haywood. (2.5 stars).Ugh, here’s another on that’s getting a ton of buzz this summer, and I just didn’t dig it at all. It’s actually the Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick last month, which I’m surprised about! The concept of the novel is interesting, and had a lot of promise, but ending up looking like an attempt to copy the popular novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. The book is separated into months, as Susan Green has found her perfectly planned, perfectionist self, at 44 years old… pregnant. You follow her journey on dealing with letting go of control, and dealing with her family drama, as she comes to terms with being pregnant.

A Quick Quote:

The thing is, Peter, grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing any better than kids do. That’s the truth. – Mary Beth Keane, from Ask Again, Yes.

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

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Yet again, I had held off on a book because of the “hype” that surrounded it. Oopsy poopsy, I missed out for awhile… but so glad I picked it up, because I loved Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. And holy smokes, if you’ve read this one, you will understand why I say that I’m shocked that this was a debut novel!

Barkley Cove has had the mysterious “Marsh Girl” always zipping in and out of town without saying a word. But after many years of this town wondering her story, the handsome, town hero, Chase Andrews is found dead. The “Marsh Girl”, Kya Clark, is the immediate suspect… because there were rumours swirling around about their odd friendship/relationship. Having a tumultuous upbringing, or lack there of one, Kya has survived alone for years in the marsh and has a hard time with human contact. But as she grew up, she became quite the “looker”, and had the interest of two boys from town. When she is torn between the two of them is where the plot gets interesting.

This is a genre-crossing novel, combining mystery, romance, family drama… you think of it and you may find it in here! It’s also a coming of age story of Kya Clark, who at a young age is abandoned, and learns to survive and thrive off the Marsh. As she grows older her interest in the Marsh, and biology eventually flourishes into something worth all the time she has invested in it. Really, the Marsh was her playground as a child, and this novel is an ode to the wonders of wildlife within it. Then, when you least expect it you are thrusted into the solving of a crime.

Autumn leaves don’t fall; they fly. They take their time and wander on this, their only chance to soar. Reflecting sunlight, they swirled and sailed and fluttered on the wind drafts.

What this novel does a great job of is having you flipping the chapters quite quickly. It had me on the age of my seat, but I had to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the beautiful prose that Delia Owen had constructed for the reader. Owen has reminded us of our own childhood, and how we continue to see the place we grew up in, and the magic it holds.

Like I said earlier, Where the Crawdads Sing is a little bit of everything, and I think a wonderful novel that many people will love as much as I did.

Until next time, Happy Friday & here’s to hoping you get lots of reading in this weekend!

 

 

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!