Last Week in Reading

what i read this week

Hello friends!

How are you holding up these days? Better yet… how are you getting new reading material these days?? I thought I’d go over a couple things that have been saving my reading life lately.

I’ve been whipping out my e-reader a lot more these days, as my library, just like everyone else’s is closed. So I’ve been cruising the daily deals on BookBub, which has turned into a fun little routine. And also making good use of my library’s e-book catalogue. They use CloudLibrary, and the Kawartha Lakes Public Library has even started giving out electronic library cards for those who didn’t have one before. So if you don’t have a library card, check in with your local library and see if they offer something similar.

If you are lover of physical books, you can still purchase your books! I encourage you to check out the local bookstores and buy from them. Small businesses need all the support they can get these days, and by buying your books through them is a great way to do that. In my area, Hunter Street Books, and Kent Bookstore are both places you can still shop!

Lastly, I think this also a great time to pick up the unread books on your shelf. Or pick up an old favourite and give it a re-read. You have these books on your shelves for a reasons, and maybe a global pandemic was what you were waiting for. I know I’ve been tackling a lot of books of my unread shelf right now, and feeling like… why did I wait so long?!?!

Last Week in Reading

The Likeness: Dublin Murder Squad, Book 2

 

The Likeness, by Tana French. (5 stars). Here’s a readerly confession for you… this book has been on my shelf for 3 years! Just shy of 700 pages, I had put it off, because I need to be ready to commit to a big book like that. But I’ve been craving a literary thriller since I read Long Bright River. This book filled that void. I loved it so much, and for so many reasons. Cassie Maddox is a detective, and when she is called to a murder scene, it’s discovered that the body is her identical… and the body is also carrying her old undercover name as ID, Lexie. Cassie is then put into Lexie’s life undercover in hopes that she can find who the murderer is. Like I said, I LOVED this book. It’s smart, it’s literary, and told is a way that you just want to savour every word. I highly suggest it, and it’s very much based in the “big house thriller” genre. Tana French pays respect to Jane Eyre, and Rebecca-esque themes. This was fantastic, go pick it up. It’s also the 2nd in a series called the Dublin Murder Squad, and soon to be a BBC series!

What I Talk about When I Talk about Running: A Memoir 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami. (4.5 stars). This memoir was absolutely wonderful. It was about running, yes, but also much more about life as an introvert. You can understand probably why I loved it so much, because I can relate 100% to him. Haruki Murakami is a renowned author, who also runs, and  memoir is really just essays about the role running played in his life. I just loved it, and related to it so much. So many quotable sentences, but there were a couple that are now committed to my memory wholly. Running is an act that takes years of dedicated practice before it becomes a piece of you. For me, running is something that is so intrinsically motivated that if I don’t do it, I feel a void. I just love it…. but it’s not for everyone. And for this reason, I’m so glad that I’ve found something that I love to do that much. I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.

Well, that’s all for today. Stay home, and happy reading!

 

The Last Train to London, by Meg Waite Clayton

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I received The Last Train to London from my Aunt Sue as a gift when we welcomed our newest baby, Alice, into the family. I think this was such a sweet gesture, and a great reminder that mommy needs looking after too!! I’ve been meaning to pick up this book since last year… but my library pile had always seem to get in the way.

Now in the time of self-isolation, and covid-19, and the libraries are closed. So my unread bookshelf is getting a workout! I’ve read a ton of WWII books, and every time I pick up one I am always in awe at how many different stories there are to tell during this time period.

Set pre-war in 1936, this novel is based on the true story of Truus Wijsmuller, who was member of the Dutch resistance. As Germany’s political climate is becoming more troubling, Truus begins rescuing Jewish children here and there, and getting them fitted up with a family who will take them in Britain until this troubling time is over. Two of these children happen to be in Vienna, Stephan Neuman, the son of the famous Jewish chocolatier, and his best friend, Zofie-Helene, whose Christian mother is a journalist at an anti-Nazi Newspaper. Truus goes on to spear head the Kindertransport, where she tries to help these two, and also over ten thousand other children all over German-occupied countries. Amazingly enough, Truus struck a deal with Adolf Eichmann, and lo and behold was able to save these children before the War started.

I had a bit of a hard time getting into this one, but once I was down about 120 pages, I was in! The characters for the first while seemed somewhat disjointed from each other, but around that 120 page, it all came together. It is a really well-researched book, and one thing I found really neat and haven’t seen in many fictional WWII books is that there is some narration from Eichmann, and Hitler themselves. Usually you are seeing these characters from the periphery, so I found it really interesting, and also a big undertaking on behalf of the author! There were some really heartbreaking moments in this novel, and I don’t know if it was me or the quarantine-version of me… but I found myself choking up a couple times.

One thing that I loved about this book was the Dutch references, from food like hagelslag,  to the towns in Holland, I found myself reminiscing about the trips I’ve taken there with my family, and all the foods we ate my Gramma and Grandpa’s house growing up. Isn’t it wonderful how a book can strike such a personal chord with a reader?!

This feelings that this book brings on are so relevant to what’s currently going on in the world. I’ve heard multiple references to this pandemic being a War that we are fighting. I’m going to share with you one of the quotes that was on the back on the book;

Recommend this book to anyone who thinks no one person can make a difference. – Karen Joy Fowler

Well, if that’s not encouragement that’s needed right now in this crazy times, I don’t know what is. Just like Truus, any normal person can help.

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

What I’ve Been Reading, & Covid-19

 

Things are crazy right now. With the unsettling news of Covid-19 spreading like wild fire, staying home is the first thing we can do. Well… introverts everywhere are singing HALLEJEUH, AMEN!!!! But all jokes aside, this is such a terrifying time for us all.

In saying this, I believe it is our job to play an active role in the ways that we can. Check in with the elderly, family, and neighbours that surround you and see if they need some groceries dropped at their door. STAY HOME, only leave for essentials. Wash your hands. Focusing on doing the things that we can control is what is going flatten that curve, and make us feel more grounded.

Earlier this week I made a self/family care list. It’s pretty much a list of things that my family and I can do to make us feel less scared or alone while we are staying close to home. I’m going to share mine with you, because I hope it inspires you to make one for yourself!

  • Call/text/email family and friends. Talk to each other about all the things. If they are quarantined, offer to run an errand or grab some groceries for them.
  • Reading, journalling, and playing games with our kids! We’ve made a little family journal for this time, and are keeping track of what we are reading, and doing each day. Something fun to do, but also hopefully one day we can look back and remember this crazy time with some positive memories.
  • Movement. Whether we get outside to play, walk, do a yoga class on Youtube, or a home work out… movement is always a great way to burn off the extra cortisol that this prolonged season of stress and worry is causing.
  • Do a silly hobby that you usually don’t have any time for in your busy life. Whether it’s crafty, musical, writing, or whatever… allow yourself to get creative to help relieve some stress.
  • Early spring clean. The house is starting to already seem a little dirtier, and cramped… but a project can always be done!
  • Make some good food. How often do you say, “I don’t have time to cook”? Well, here’s your chance… clean out your freezer, cupboards, and get creative. And eat and drink slowly, there’s no hurry.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately:

Know My Name: A MemoirKnow My Name, by Chanel Miller.  This memoir should be required reading for all high school students, and adults. If you are familiar with the Stanford Brock Turner rape case, this is the victim, Chanel Miller’s memoir. It’s absolutely incredible about how an institution can fail a victim, but in the end it’s Chanel’s message that is incredible, and will make you really think about the fact that justice is never truly served. Crimes like these haunt a victim, their families, and the places they live forever. Please if anything, go read Chanel Miller’s victim impact statement. I’m linking it here.

Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters: A NovelSecret Lives of Mothers and Daughters, by Anita Kushwaha.  I really loved this mother/daughter story, and was lucky enough to have the author send it to me! On Asha’s eighteenth birthday, her parents tell her that she was adopted and gave her a letter from her mother. Asha feels betrayed by her parents, but also very curious about who her mother was. She knows she passed away when Asha was a new baby, and her father was forced to put her up for adoption. From here the family secrets unravel as Asha chases the story of her birth mother and father. This book is SO good, and there is a massive plot twist too that had me with my mouth agape!

Saint X: A Novel

Saint X, by Alexis Schaitkin.   The description of this book hooked me immediately. Claire, a seven year old girl, and her family are in Saint Kitts for a resort vacation. Then, her sister, Allison is murdered. Flash forward over 15 years later, after her family has closed that terrible chapter, Claire jumps into a cab… and the cab driver was the accused murderer of her sister. From here, it jumps back and forth in the timeline, and Claire obsessively pieces of the murder together. I would describe this as a character driven thriller… so page turning, it is not, but it is beautifully written, and the plot slowly builds to a resolution.

The Jetsetters: A NovelThe Jetsetters, by Amanda Eyre Ward. I LOVED this book. Honestly, time’s are tough right now. With the social distancing, and travel bans… this book is an absolutely perfect way to armchair travel. It is the story of a mother, and her grown up children who have definitely fallen out of touch, and then Charlotte, the mother, wins a Mediterrean cruise… and takes her children with her! The cover of this book may seem light, but it’s not. There are heavy themes, family dysfunction, all while being incredibly readable. I highly recommend this one.

A Quote to Ponder:

I’m going to share a little part of Chanel Miller’s victim impact statement with you. And I hope this little portion pushes you to go read the whole thing here.

And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you.

What I’ve Been Reading

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January has been a good reading month for me! Not only have I been reading lots, but for some reason, I’ve been reading lots of great books. Hence the reason that I’m doing a quick lit review for you… I just couldn’t keep up with the longer reviews over the past week. Anyhow, below I’ve got some great book reviews spanning a bunch of different genres. I think that you may be able to find something that you will want to read!

What I’ve Been Reading

The Innocents

The Innocents, by Michael Crummey. (5 stars). When a bookish mentor suggests you read something, you just do. This book is an incredible story of survival based in 1800’s on the Newfoundland coast. A brother and sister are orphaned at a young age, and left with the struggle of surviving this harsh landscape. They have to confront the lack of just about everything, and the two are also tested by their loyalty to each other. The writing is incredible, and the story will have you hooked… although some of the subject matter had me grimacing quite a bit!

Regretting YouRegretting You, by Colleen Hoover. (4 stars) Sometimes your palate just needs a cleanse, so I decided to pick up this one based on it’s lighter cover. Ooph, was I wrong… but I loved it. Regretting You is a mother/daughter story, in which the two are struck by a family disaster. This story is a little bit of a love story, a family story, and a struggle with grief. As their grief is deepening, their once close relationship seems to be pushed further apart. It’s their journey back to each other. I really loved this story, and even though the writing seems somewhat light, it is actually quite heavy. I recommend this one for sure. And now I’ve put a lot of Colleen Hoover’s backlist on hold at the library!

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and MeWild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me, by Adrienne Brodeur. (4.5 stars). Well, the subtitle of this memoir made me go hmmmm. Adrienne was woken up at 14 years old in the middle of the night by her mother, who was hosting a dinner party with their families closest friend. Her mother tells her that Ben (her husband’s best friend) kissed her. And then you follow the story of an affair, and the destruction of trust and relationships. Although this sounds depressing, Brodeur’s writing is as delicious as her food descriptions throughout the book. This memoir is intriguing, especially as a mother, to see from the outside how complex mother/daughter relationships can be. Highly suggest this one, and would love to hear from you if you’ve read it!

The Turn of the KeyThe Turn of the Key, by Ruth Ware. (4.5 stars). Oh man, I’ve had my little bookish nose up in the air, and been avoiding reading what I thought was just commercial mystery fiction. Well this story is engrossing, and unputdownable. It reminded me so much of Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier (which is one of my favourite books of all time)… Just a big old, beautiful, haunted house!! Rowan is down on her luck, and stumbles upon a great live-in nanny job for four children in remote Scotland. After she’s applied, and aced her interview… she thinks she’s landed the dream job. Until the ghosts of this big old house start playing tricks on her… and when someone dies it’s all goes horribly wrong.

A Quote to Ponder:

I’m going to leave you with a quote that’s from Wild Game. I’ve heard this quote before, but when it marked the beginning of a chapter in this book I was reminded of just how true it is. Hindsight really is 20-20.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

—Søren Kierkegaard

What I’ve been Reading Lately

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Just like that 2019 is coming to a close! This month has been wonderful for so many reasons, with a lot of really great books… and also some not so great ones. All in all, this year has been my best reading year yet. More to come here as I will be doing a yearly wrap up, and a look ahead very soon. But in the meantime, I urge you to take a look at your reading life in 2019 and how you want to move ahead with it in 2020.

Now, onto the books…

What I’ve been Reading:

Beyond the Point: A NovelBeyond the Point, by Claire Gibson. (4 stars). This novel follows three women that are attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. They are brought together by the rigorous training, but also somewhat plotted against each other, until 9/11 happens. After the tragic events on 9/11, these three women are pulled in different directions, but bound together by their friendship. I really liked this novel, and the perspective of the U.S. military was fascinating. It covers really big topics like heartbreak, grief, and forgiveness. This novel almost makes you crave to be part of a team, and the bonds that the characters in this novel had made.

The Snow Child: A NovelThe Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey. (5 stars). The most perfect novel for  this time of year. Based on a Russian fairytale, Jack and Mabel are recent settlers in Alaska during the 1920’s. They have come to the understanding that after years of trying to have a child, they will not be able to… and it is pushing them apart. But in a spontaneous moment during the first snowfall, Jack and Mabel make a child out of snow. The next morning, the snow child is gone, but they glimpse a young child running through the trees. Like I said, this novel is perfect. Ivey really summed up the desperation of wanting a child, and the grief that comes with infertility. It’s as if this novel has transported you to Alaska, and breathed life into a magical fairytale.

What the Wind KnowsWhat the Wind Knows, by Amy Harmon. (3 stars). Anne Gallagher grew up listening to the stories her grandfather told her about his homeland of Ireland. When he dies, she takes his ashes to his childhood home. Anne has been consumed with learning about the history of the Easter rising prior to this trip, and becomes literally thrown into the middle of it. Somehow she finds herself pulled into history, and learns first hand some of the history she has been studying. This novel had so much potential… but I just found it a little long, and dragged out. Two things that have my interests peaked now though are Yeats’ poetry, and doing some more reading on the Easter Rising.

The Bromance Book Club

The Bromance Bookclub, Lyssa Kay Adams. (2.5 stars). I needed a palate cleanser awhile back, and in most cases a smart romance is always perfect. Ugh, this one didn’t really satiate that need. Gavin plays baseball in the major leagues, but even though he is hitting it out of the park in ball… his marriage is not. His wife Thea has let it slip that she’s actually been faking it in bed their whole relationship, and Gavin flips out. Well, this is the last straw for Thea, and she asks for a divorce. Gavin reaches out to his friends who decide to let him into their “book club”, which includes cheesy romance novels. The book club believes that men could learn a lot about women, if they just took the time to read them. Like I said, this wasn’t my favourite, but it did cleanse my palate for some deeper reading.

A Quote to Ponder:

Although What the Wind Knows wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read, I did think that Amy Harmon had put a lot of thought into this book. I really appreciated the poetry that opened every chapter, and some of the sentences were really thought provoking. The quote below really stuck with me and made me reflect.

We turn memories into stories, and if we don’t, we lose them. If the stories are gone, then the people are gone too.

The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett

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Ann Patchett is one of those authors who I will always countdown the days to an upcoming release. She’s also the owner and a bookseller at Parnassus Books in Nashville,  and a Margaret Atwood fan! This cover is just stunning in person, it kind of reflects the paintings of the Dutch Golden age.

The Dutch House is the story of siblings Maeve and Danny. They have a really intense sibling bond. At the beginning of the story they have moved into in a big, beautiful house nicknamed “The Dutch House“, which is the envy of surrounding neighbourhoods. Their mother disappeared when they were young, and their father re-married an “evil stepmother”. There are many rumours about what the stepmothers intentions are, and when a family tragedy happens, the siblings lives are upended and it sets them on a different path. Stretching over decades you see the affect that this family tragedy had on their lives and relationships.

It’s a simple novel that is reflective of a typical fairytale structure. Ann Patchett has the ability to write a quiet novel, with such a driving plot and a massive amount of family dysfunction. It’s also a story about a big house, which plays a very large character in. And I love these types of novels… they usually have such vivid descriptions of the setting, and the house.

There are some reviewers saying that Maeve and Danny’s relationship is too close, but I thought it was so sweet. I loved their relationship, and I really enjoyed reading about how time after time they kept coming back into each other’s lives.

This book is so hard to explain, as like all Patchett novels it gives the reader such feelings. She has this gentle style of writing that coaxes the reader through a problematic, relatable situation. Other books I’ve loved by her are Bel Canto (which is now a movie), Commonwealth, and my favourite of hers… State of Wonder.  They all have this powerful narrative that will stay with you for a long time.

But we overlay the present onto the past. We look back through the lens of what we know now, so we’re not seeing it as the people we were, we’re seeing it as the people we are, and that means the past has been radically altered.

Anywho, that’s all for this one. It’s a pretty hot off the press book, so I expect we will be hearing much more about this short, but sweet novel.

Until next time, happy reading!

 

 

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!