What I’ve Been Reading Lately

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Hello friends!

Before we get to what’s been going on in my reading life lately, I have to tell you about my latest author crush. Elizabeth Gilbert.

Whose Elizabeth Gilbert? Gasp… please tell me you know her, and are possibly as obsessed with her as I am! I think most people know her from her best-selling novel, Eat, Pray, Love, which was not my favourite. My personal fav, and possibly favourite non-fiction book of all time is Big Magic, click on the link to read my raving review here. Anywho, Gilbert just released on June 4th, her newest novel, City of Girls.

I am so excited to read this book, it’s possibly the one I’m most excited to read this year! I ran out and bought it the day it was released, and I have been consuming all the podcasts that Elizabeth Gilbert has been on. I’m going to link to a couple below, because these episodes in particular are just so inspiring. I particularly think her view on creativity, and her positive relationship with fear is so interesting.

Dax Shepherd’s Experts on Experts with Elizabeth Gilbert

Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations with Elizabeth Gilbert

What I’ve been Reading Lately:

 

The Mother-In-Law, by Sally Hepworth. (4 stars) I think fans of Big Little Lies will just love this one, and it is getting rave reviews as a fantastic summer read! Diana was Lucy’s mother-in-law. From the very beginning Diana was polite, and friendly enough, but not completely accepting of Lucy. Their relationship was to tolerate each other, from a distance, and help out when needed. Flash forward to five years later, and Diana has been found dead, with a suicide note in which she claims she no longer wants to battle cancer. But here’s the catch, her autopsy report finds she doesn’t have cancer, and that there are traces of poison on her. Who did it? This is a fantastic, fast read, but also shows you the complexity of family relationships.

The Bookshop of the Broken HeartedThe Bookshop of the Broken Hearted, by Robert Hillman. (2.5 stars) Okay, this one wasn’t my favourite, but it has received some really great reviews, so I kept pushing through it. This is a complex love story, between Tom, a farmer, whose first wife left him and took his child away, and Hannah, the newest resident to the Australian small town, who has opened a bookshop. She is an Auschwitz survivor, trying to escape the memories that continue to haunt her. Although this had a lot of promise for me to like it, the writing just seemed to lack heart, and the romance felt stale to me.

Homes: A Refugee StoryHomes, by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung. (4 stars) This book was shortlisted for the Canada Reads Prize, and although it didn’t win, it is definitely worth reading! It is the true story of how a family survived war torn Syria, and finally found safety in Canada. This is such an important book especially for Canadians, as I’m sure we all can remember when there was such controversy over accepting Syrians as refugees. Winnie Yeung has told the story through Abu’s first account. It’s almost unbelievable that this goes on in a world where in Canada we live comfortably.

 

The EditorThe Editor, by Steven Rowley. (5 stars). You may remember Rowley’s name from his last novel, Lily and the Octopus, which was a bestseller! After reading that one, I was eagerly awaiting his next novel. Well, The Editor blew my socks off. I loved this book SO much. It’s set in 90’s New York, where struggling novelist James Smale finally sells his book to an editor at a major publishing house. When he arrives for the first meeting, he is shocked that none other than Jackie Kennedy Onassis is his editor. This is story that is complex in relationships, and deals with the reality that a huge success comes with complications. I just adored it, and if you loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, this one is for you!

 

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Great Summer Reading

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Good Monday morning!

The lovely weather this past weekend, has me very motivated to move into a new week… and get to the next weekend! But in the meantime, I’m going to talk a bit about summer reading before I share the latest reviews with you.

Summer reading can mean so many different things to people. Some prefer a super light book that can be picked up and put down when they please. Some readers want a door stopper of novel that they can really dig their teeth into. For me, it means reading more and purely on mood. I find myself able to squeeze in more reading time as the days are longer, and possibly while the kids run around outside.

Below I have shared a couple of really great book lists. I’ve been putting my library books on hold based on several of these, so the books that I reviewed today you will most likely find in these links.

The Goodread’s Staff Picks

Sarah’s Bookshelves Summer Reading List

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 20 hot summer books

Anne Bogel’s Summer Reading Guide

Book Reviews:

Normal People: A Novel

Normal People, by Sally Rooney. (5 stars). This book is everything great fiction is. Connell and Marianne have been friends since high school. He’s the popular guy, and she’s the brainy, private girl. When their friendship moves into a romantic territory, they are both determined to keep it a secret. The two move in and out of each other’s lives as they move through high school, university, and after. They are drawn to each other like magnets, but the things that go unsaid are ultimately their demons. This novel is really a complicated love story, about nothing, but everything. Somehow Sally Rooney has captured the ability to see into these two characters on such a deep level that you feel so intertwined in this relationship. It’s so brilliant, and confusing in the best way possible. Put it on your reading list now, everyone in the book world is talking about it!

Life Will Be the Death of Me: . . . and you too!

Life Will Be the Death of Me… and you too! by Chelsea Handler. (3.5 stars). This is a memoir about the year that Chelsea decided to dedicate to self discovery. She talks in depth about her psychiatry appointments, her family, her dogs, and her relationship with drugs and alcohol. I really liked this book, it’s an easy read, but it’s also quite introspective. Whenever I think of Chelsea, I think of this flakey TV character, but after reading this you see that someone so successful still has the struggles that we all feel… and possibly more.

 

The River, by Peter Heller. (5 stars).  Best friends, Wynn and Jack, are bonded by their love of the outdoors and literature. They have decided to go on a leisurely paddling trip in Northern Ontario, and when a wildfire starts to pick up pace towards them. They are happy with their movement ahead of the fire, when they hear a husband and wife, also camping in the middle of nowhere, arguing. The next day Wynn and Jack see the husband paddling alone. From here it’s an adventurous chase from a fire, a potential dangerous person, and survival. This book is SO good. The writing about the setting is extremely picturesque, you feel plunked into a canoe on a river. But honestly I was kind of bored, until about page 60… and then I didn’t put this book down again until I finished it that same day. It’s a well-researched, thrilling fictional story sparked by a dinner conversation that Peter Heller had with a guest and their story.

 

The Bride TestThe Bride Test, by Helen Hoang. (4 stars). This is Hoang’s second novel, her first one The Kiss Quotient, was a super successful debut (which I loved). Yes, it’s fits into the romance genre, but it is SO much more. Khai Diep is a twenty-something, autistic bachelor. He’s extremely successful, but his mother is bound and determined that he will find a bride. So she decides to fly home to Vietnam and find him one. Enter Esme, she’s a single struggling mother, and when she’s presented this opportunity by Khai’s mother, she takes a leap of faith and tries woo Khai. But as Esme begins to get to know Khai, she learns that she will not only have to woo him, but she will have to teach him how to show her love too. This is such a great story, and a necessary novel in the world. Hoang connects a reader with the feelings and confusion that autism can bring up for an individual, and the people who surround them. I loved it, and can’t wait until Hoang’s next one. This is the PERFECT book to throw in your bag for some summer reading!

A Quote to Ponder:

“There is a line I had written down from Viktor Frankl’s memoir about surviving the Holocaust, Man’s Search for Meaning, that stopped me cold when I read it: “it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.” I had never thought about what life expected from me. I had only thought about what I expected from life. That was a book putter-downer. It was a look up at the sky and wonder Where the fuck have I been all my life? moment.” – Chelsea Handler.

Picking the next great book, and 4 Book Reviews!

734892CA-DB5C-4C9F-8A80-1BB35691F1BFHey there bookish friends,

Let’s talk about how to pick the great next book. I’m sure most of you can relate to looking for a book that makes you feel such feelings that you can’t do anything but finish it. I’m not claiming that I know how to pick the best book all the time, or that you will all after reading this… but figuring out your book taste, and the people who align with it with definitely get your book picker working better. Here’s some resources I use:

Instagram:

Here’s where you can find yourself a bookish soulmate. Follow some book loving people, and when they starting raving about the books that you love, maybe pick up the one that they recommend and you haven’t read. Some of my bookish soulmates on IG are: @happiestwhenreading, @readvoraciously, @notesonbookmarks, @anniebjones

Booksellers:

Go to your local bookstore, and get friendly. Chat with the booksellers, ask them what they’re reading, and ask them to help you. Make sure you tell them a couple books that you loved, and maybe they can steer you in a direction that will get the next book you will love.

Podcasts:

I LOVE podcasts, and these ones below will definitely give you a diverse selection of books to add to your TBR. There is something about listening to someone rave or trash a book that can really influence your reading decisions. Let’s just say most of my TBR is built from these following podcasts. Also… if you don’t listen to podcasts, because you don’t know how to, check out this post.

Book Reviews:

The Boat PeopleThe Boat People, by Sharon Bala. (3.75 stars) A rusty old cargo ship pulls up onto Vancouver shores full of Sri Lankan refugees who are escaping a war torn life. There is over 500 refugees on this boat, and the Canadian government is really unsure whether these people should be allowed into the country. Mahindan, and his son, are two of the refugees escaping the trauma of the past, and are thrown into detainment until their individual case is processed in court. You follow the shipmates, and Mahindan’s life throughout this book, and the troubled past with the terrorist group the Tamil Tigers. This is fictional account of a true story, and I found Sharon Bala’s account of what these families dealt with so eye opening. It was a Canada Reads nominee, and also won many other prizes!

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and FortuneNatalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune, by Roselle Lim. (4 stars) So this was I was sent as an advanced reading copy from Penguin Books. It comes out on June 11th, and is SO good! When Natalie’s mother passes away, she is regretting not speaking, or visiting her for the past several years. Natalie has been a bit of a vagabond, travelling and collecting experiences, but the one experience she will never have is truly knowing her mother. When her mother passes unexpectedly, Natalie travels home to San Francisco and decides to re-open her Grandmother’s restaurant. Upon this decision, she lives in her mother’s apartment, gets to now the neighbours, and truly begin to know and understand her mother. I loved it, and I think it’s perfect for the reader who likes a fun book with a little depth.

Cat and Nat's Mom Truths: Embarrassing Stories and Brutally Honest Advice on the Extremely Real Struggle of Motherhood

Mom Truths, by Catherine Belknap, and Natalie Telfer. (1 star) You all know that I hardly ever give a bad review, but I need to get this one off my chest. The only reason this one has earned any star rating, is the feelings that this book brought up for me. This “mom truths” book was literally a whole novel telling each and every woman to forgive themselves for making mistakes everyday. That it’s okay to drink copious amounts of liquor to be able to get through your day, and complain to your girlfriends about your kids. YES, I get it being a parent is hard…but when did the word “MOMMING” become a verb. It’s actually whole life change, and if you decide to become a parent, please, please be an intentional parent and partner. I realize that there is no one way to parent, but I think this book really pushed a very dangerous message. Let’s just take a moment and realize that this whole “Millenial Whiny Mommy” trend, isn’t cool. Yes it’s funny for a second, until you really think about how pathetic it is. It really opened my eyes to be more present, and intentional.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry GirlsThe Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, by Anissa Gray. (3.75 stars) If you loved American Marriage, I think this is the next book that will fill that hole for you. Husband and wife diner owners, Althea and Proctor, are suddenly thrown into jail for a reason which will up end their whole town… let alone their family. Althea and Proctor’s children are suddenly thrust into the hands of Althea’s sisters, and are each of them are struggling to adjust in a town who they are all looked at like criminals. This is a really great look at how three dimensional this type of situation can really be. You hear from each family member, through letter’s, past experiences, and the present. This was Anissa Gray’s first novel, and I think a great read.

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

4 Books & A New Direction

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Oh hey there, friends! This year I’ve made a goal to read even more. Yes, I know, some of you may think, what the hell?!? You read a lot already. But in my defence, I’m 25 weeks pregnant, and holding on to a little piece of me and what I love to do… or at least until August. So, in turn what I’ve been finding is the book reviews are piling up. And even though I have so much to say about each book, maybe for now, less will be more.

Here’s comes the NEW DIRECTION. What I’m thinking of serving up for you for the next little bit is quick, fast reviews. I hope you will gain from this is a clear sense of whether you should pick up this book, or not. Because let’s be honest, not every book is worth your time. Life is way too short to read books you don’t enjoy, and not everyone will love the same books.

Below you will find the four books I’ve read lately. In brackets beside the title, I’m giving you a star rating. Just like GoodReads, 1 star is ekkkkk I hate this book! 5 stars is holy moly, stop what you’re doing now and go read this book asap. After this rating, I will give you a general idea of what the book is about, and a couple of my personal opinions about it. Lastly, because I’m a bit of a quote lover, so I’m going to leave you with just one quote that stuck with me.

What I’ve Read Lately:

The Lost Girls of Paris, by Pam Jenoff. (3.75 stars) There is a literary trend that I’m so digging right now. Badass females in historical fiction! In this novel, you are hearing the stories of 3 different women and their experience throughout WWII and the network of female spies. So interesting, and based on actual people and events. People who loved The Alice Network, The Huntress, or Lilac Girls NEED to read this one.

Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese. (4.5 stars) Put this one on your list to read if you are human, appreciate great writing, or are Canadian. This is the fictional, becoming of age story, of Saul Indian Horse. At a young age he was forced into a residential school, experienced horrifying trauma, and then fell in love with hockey. Based loosely on Richard Wagamese’s life, this novel will have you feeling like you need to talk about it, and a much better human for having had read it. Plus, his writing is INCREDIBLE. It’s the perfect book for a book club, and there was recently a movie made about it.

Women Talking, by Miriam Toews. (4 stars) Okay, I love this Toews. Everything she does, I will read, so when I picked up this novel which also a fictional account of true events, yet again I was floored. From approximately 2005-2009 in a Mennonite community in Manitoba, some women of this colony were waking up complaining of symptoms of rape. Their leader, who had concocted a lie to them that it was actually their sins giving them this trauma, had covered up the fact that the men had been drugging the women, and raping their own family and friends. The setting is a barn hay loft, and told through the minutes of a meeting that these women have snuck away to have. The meeting is to decide whether they as a group, 1) Do Nothing. 2) Stay. 3) Leave. I read this one in 2 days and could not put it down, even though the writing style is a little different.

Tell Me More, by Kelly Corrigan. (5 stars) This is my first book I’ve read written by Kelly Corrigan, and holy S*@$… I will be reading her whole back catalogue. This will be a book I press into so many hands and say you must read! The subtitle of this memoir is; Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say. This is a hard one to describe, but I do feel as if it should be required reading as an adult. This book is gorgeous, and told around the two facts that her father and best friend died within a year of each other. The chapters of this memoir are broken into the words you say in hard conversations. It’s so raw, funny at times, and makes you cry at times. There are sentences that literally brought goosebumps to my arms. Go read this one, and maybe go buy it for your momma for Mother’s Day.

A Quote that Struck Me:

This is a quote from Tell Me More, by Kelly Corrigan. This chapter was called I Love You, and it’s based around those three little words.

The first time the words pass between two people: electrifying. Ten thousand times later: cause for marvel. The last time: the dream you revisit over and over and over again.

Until next time, happy reading!

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!

 

 

Starring as Sally J. Freedman as Herself, by Judy Blume

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I’ve been listening to a great new podcast called 10 Things to Tell You, and the host, Laura Tremaine, did a whole episode dedicated to her favourite Judy Blume books. Her taste in books is really similar to mine, so when she said that Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself was her favourite Blume book of all time, I decided to read it.

Meet Sally J. Freedman. She’s a ten-year-old girl, who is very imaginative, and her family has just moved to Miami Beach for the winter since her older brother had an illness. It’s post World War II, and Sally’s family is Jewish. Being extremely imaginative, Sally has dealt with the aftermath of the War through writing, games, and telling stories. It’s really a coming of age story, about a girl who deals with sibling rivalry, bullies, friendship, and interpreting her parents problems.

Let’s get this straight, this definitely a YA novel. I used to be so opposed to reading YA novels, until I realized that they tackled big topics in such a readable way. It gives me a little bit of a vibe of Anne of Green Gables in the ’50’s. You just fall in love with Sally, and the way she sees the world. Although there really isn’t a plot in this book, it’s the stories of what happens in childhood that make you feel nostalgic, and keeps you so entertaining. There is this really delightful way that Sally is dealing with the way that her family had been affected in Europe by the concentrations camps, and Hitler. Sally’s dealt with heavy material by imagining she is the hero, and trying to save her family!

This is a really great story, and I had been reading several really heavy novels… I was in need of a story that just felt really fun to read. Do you ever feel like that?? Sometimes I just need to read something that makes me remember why I love to read again… and this type of book always snaps me around.

Now I’m off to write a review about the next book I read… which had a ton of hype, and of course, I was holding off on reading it… BUT it was fantastic!

Until next time, happy reading!

 

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

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Wolf Hall was the winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize, and one I’ve heard everyone who loves historical fiction RAVE about it. So when I got the urge to dig into a big old book, I ended up picking this one, because my fascination with the Tudors was just too much to resist! But I will start off by saying this is not an “easy-to-read” novel, it requires attention, but is so fascinating.

It’s the 1520’s and on, and Tudor England is in the throes of its own chaos. Henry VIII has begun the arduous feat of annulling his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, due to the fact that he hasn’t been born a living male heir. He is ending his marriage of 20 years, to marry the elusive Anne Boleyn. Although the Pope, England, and Europe is opposing this marriage, he leans on Thomas Cromwell to help him scheme his plan into action. Cromwell, who was known as a family man, lawyer, an entrepeneur, and a bully, slowly helps him work his plan into action.

You all know that I have an undying love for historical fiction, and Wolf Hall is probably one of the most researched, epic novels I’ve read in this genre. I had sat with my computer, or phone while I read this book, and looked SO many things up throughout it. From the terrible torture methods, to the plotting characters, Hilary Mantel nailed it. I cannot even imagine how long his novel must have taken her to write.

A great thing to know and use in this novel, is the Cast of Characters at the start of the book, because let me tell you, there are a whole lot of Thomas’, Henry’s, and Johane’s! The storyline tends to follow a linear path, with some little side trips along the way. Mantel tells us the past of Cromwell through these little side trips, which start to make the reader realize why he may have turned out to be the scheming character he was. Historically Cromwell has been seen as a villain, but Mantel chose to make him into the hero of this novel. This is an interesting point of view, and she does such a great job convincing you that he was a visionary who could be counted on to get the job done.

On the day of the trial, rivers breach their banks; the Thames itself rises, bubbling like some river in Hell, and washes its flotsam over the quays.

Lastly, I’d be remise if I didn’t mention the character that was not in the official cast… the setting! The descriptions of the city, and the river were just so well done you felt like you needed to pour yourself a cup of tea to get the dampness out of your bones.

Until next time, happy reading!