Category Archives: Books

Black History Month Reading

I mentioned in my last books post that in honour of Black History Month in February I was reading books written by a POC or about the black experience. It took a while for my holds from the library to be available (and I still have a bunch of holds so I’ll be reading more of these types of books for a while — I don’t mind!) so I only ended up getting through three in February. All were fantastic. Here they are.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Synopsis:

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

This book was incredible, but also horrific. I have obviously read about slavery in the past but every time it hits me anew how horribly these people were treated. It is deeply saddening and disgusting. It makes me so angry that white people thought it was okay to discriminate against people who looked different than them. It’s beyond words awful and, being of British descent (somewhere over on my mother’s side), it makes me feel ashamed.

This book really drove home the point of how slavery and oppression and segregation has affected black people for hundreds of years, and how it still is. It will stay with me for a long time to come. And it was so well written — everyone needs to read it!

My only complaint is that you don’t get to spend a lot of time with each character. Every chapter is about someone new, a descendent of Effia, then a descendent of Esi, repeat, and I got so attached to some of the earlier characters that I could have read an entire book about just them! It moves on quickly, but it’s also pretty long, so I don’t think the author could have fit anymore in. I also enjoyed how the author made the characters imperfect, as they would be, for example in the more recent years the novel spanned, the addict who abandoned his children. People aren’t perfect. They weren’t all necessarily good people, they were absolutely flawed, but they didn’t deserve their circumstances.

It’s a stunning novel and I absolutely loved it. It was a perfect Black History Month read.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Synopsis:

Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home.

When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will lift the silence from their world and, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways.

This was the next book that became available on my library holds list and it wasn’t the first book I wanted to read by Chimamanda, but it was her first so I guess it worked out. I really enjoyed it and had a hard time putting it down. I loved Kambili and was so heartbroken for her. Her father was an abusive POS and I wanted to reach into the book and slap him across his smug face. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for Kambili and her brother (and her mother) living under his rule, for pleasing him to be their only goal in life. Awful.

I don’t think the synopsis does it justice at all — it’s beautifully written and an incredibly moving and intriguing story with a lot of depth. I loved it.

I also loved learning a bit about the Nigerian culture — the Igbo language, politics, religion and cuisine. One of my former coworkers turned friends (and the woman who is making our wedding cake!) is from Uganda and she would always bring in these dishes for lunch that had a savoury sauce made from groundnuts — usually over plantains or chicken. She explained to me that groundnuts were sort of like peanuts, but had a bit of a different taste. I loved it so much that a couple of times she actually made me a dish to bring home for dinner! In both this book and the next book I read (by the same author) those groundnuts were prominent. I didn’t realize how much of a staple they were in African cuisine. It also made me wish there were more African restaurants in Toronto, beyond the trendy Ethiopian and Eritrean ones.

Anyway, I highly recommend. I couldn’t put it down.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Synopsis:

From the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun, a dazzling new novel: a story of love and race centered around a young man and woman from Nigeria who face difficult choices and challenges in the countries they come to call home.

As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu—beautiful, self-assured—departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze—the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor—had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

Years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion—for their homeland and for each other—they will face the toughest decisions of their lives.

Another absolutely incredible read. I don’t know how I can even begin to review it because there is so much depth to this novel and there is a large cast of memorable characters. I loved Ifemelu and Obinze, together and apart, and I loved Ifemelu’s blog posts that would pop up from time to time. I could fully picture Ifemelu, she had so much substance and her character development was one of the strongest I’ve ever read in a book. She was a real person to me and I feel like I want to know her in real life!

What I found the most interesting was Ifemelu’s thoughts about race after she moved to America, specifically that she had never really thought about it, she never had to. She never thought of herself as “black” until she moved to America, because that was the label Americans gave her.

It’s an amazing read and I highly recommend.

I loved reading books written by people who have had much different life experiences than I did, growing up sheltered in a bubble in the middle of nowhere. I cringe when I think of the person I was before college, and before I moved to the city, when I met people who were different than me. I think it’s important to hear and learn about the various experiences of other people, so that we can try to understand them. This really inspired me to branch out from my usual, and I want to keep that up in the future!

Follow

Winter Reading

Now that I’m no longer commuting to work my reading time has cut down significantly. I don’t always miss taking the subway, but I do miss subway reading time (and the stories). I’ve managed to pack in a few books though and I better keep it up because I’ve set a goal for myself in Goodreads to read 40 books this year. I read 36 last year and I felt like I could have read a few more so I upped it. It’s definitely going to be harder now that I don’t have that subway reading time, but I’m trying!

In honour of Black History Month, this month I am only reading books written by a person of colour or about the black experience. I’m currently reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, but I’m hoping to get a few more in so please let me know if you have any recommendations!

Anyway, here are a few I’ve read lately.

It’s Not Okay by Andi Dorfman

Synopsis:

Millions of people tuned in to see Bachelorette star Andi Dorfman get engaged to her chosen suitor. But when the cameras turned off and the dust (or rose petals) had settled, Andi realized she was engaged to a man she’d known for barely two months. And as they endeavored to return to normal life, they discovered that happily ever after wasn’t as easy as it looked. In her own words, Andi delivers “plenty of surprise (and some disturbing) details” (Cosmopolitan) as she tells the whole truth about her entry into the exclusive Bachelor family, her experience on the show, and finally, what happened to make it all fall apart.

But this is much more than the diary of a very public breakup—Andi divulges her story along with some no-nonsense, straight-talking advice to other women dealing with their own romantic issues. In It’s Not Okay, Andi is the best friend we all wish we had, telling us the good, the bad, and the ugly to inspire us to always be true to ourselves and remember breakups may be hard, but it’s always going to be okay.

So like most people I really liked Andi in Juann Pablo’s season (because she stood up to him and I HATED him), but didn’t like her as much when she was the actual Bachelorette. And with her book. I enjoyed it when she was giving juicy details of the Bachelor, the cast, and her relationships, but could have done without her preachy breakup advice and to-do/don’t lists. My bestie warned me about that going in, so I was prepared, but I disliked that part of it and definitely did some skimming. I did enjoy that she wrote very conversationally.

Something that really bothered me was that she was so upset about Nick slut-shaming her on After The Final Rose (when he asked her why she would make love to him when she wasn’t in love with him), however she herself seemed to slut-shame other women MANY times in her own book. She also mentioned several times that she wasn’t slutty, wasn’t a whore, never slept around, etc. Um, we get it, but who cares? I’m not sure why that was necessary to mention. But maybe she still felt insecure due to her jealous and controlling ex-fiance who always thought she was cheating on him. That I can understand because I also have a jealous and controlling ex-boyfriend who constantly thought, for no reason, that I was cheating on him when we were together, so I also tended to get defensive about stuff like that. Josh reminded me a lot of that ex boyfriend, so it was interesting to read about his jealous behaviour because I recognized so much of it. In her book it felt like she was STILL trying to prove to him that she wasn’t slutty. That came across to me.

Other things that bothered me… Most of her stories/anecdotes seemed to put herself in the best (read: coolest and most laid back) light possible, and sometimes when she was explaining things that happened they just didn’t ring true. Especially when she described things she did after her breakup. I could sense a ton of exaggerating. And OMG when she was talking about her revised life timeline! She was saying if she wanted to get married and have kids now, by the time that happened she could be 35 and would be the oldest mother in the neighbourhood. 35. THE HORROR! She is STILL under 30. She was what, 27, 28 when this book was written? Her revised “emergency” timeline for life events is MY ACTUAL, PLANNED, TIMELINE. Ugh, STFU. It was enraging.

Something she wrote that I resonated with though was that she learned something from each of her relationships chronologically. I feel like that, too. I’ve learned things from each of my past relationships and those lessons have finally lead me to the creme de la creme, Evan. I hope she really did learn something this time and does not go back to her preferred jocky type of dude bro again. Andi, they’re all the same.

Whew, I didn’t realize how many opinions I had about that book until I started writing. Anyway, 2 stars. Not as good as Courtney Roberts’ book in my opinion, but Andi dishes!

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Synopsis:

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.
 
More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.
 
The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Going into this book I had NO IDEA how graphic and sexually violent it was going to be. So, just a heads up on that. It caught me off guard and I do think there should be a warning somewhere because I could see it being triggering to many people. It was one of the most extremely graphic books I’ve ever read. HOWEVER, maybe something is wrong with me because I loved it and I was enthralled the entire time. I could not put it down and it reminded me how much I love reading a good thriller! Though it was disturbing and admittedly left me feeling heavy, I think that the extreme graphic violence was almost necessary for the punch of the storyline. It was startling. It’s not for everyone but it’s definitely going to stay with me for a long time. I thought it was a good psychological thriller and I give it a solid four stars.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

Synopsis:

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is – a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friends – an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably – but only because it’s over.

I also gave this four stars and now I’m having a hard time remembering why. It was pretty good, though I was certainly not sobbing uncontrollably because it was over. I liked it more than Amy Poehler’s book, but less than Tina Fey’s and Mindy Kaling’s. I don’t think that I’m at all a prude (um, see the book above I just gave a raving review to), but sometimes Amy gets a bit cringey for me. I like that she’s upfront about sex — I feel that’s hard for women to do without being called certain labels. However, I think she relies a lot on that shock factor for laughs, which to me has always seemed like a cheap way out. I prefer a sharp wit.

I enjoyed reading about her family life and her childhood. I’m not sure if her parents would be able to say the same, though… Overall, she seems like a real, regular person, and I appreciate that. So, it was pretty good.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Synopsis:

In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. With wit and wisdom, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between these four women and their American-born daughters. As each reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined.

One of my former coworker friends, who is Chinese, recommended this to me. I do not know a lot about Chinese culture, so that was new to me and interesting to read about, and I enjoyed reading about the mother-daughter relationships and the rivalries between the women. I also like reading stories about people who have immigrated to North America in general (both fiction and non-fiction). But, it took a while for me to get into it. I found it picked up the last third of the book or so and then I was thoroughly engaged and into the story, but it was a long slog until that point. I’m okay with that because the last third had so many redeeming qualities, but I did put the book down and read others before coming back and finishing it.

I found the characters confusing, also. I’d start reading someone’s chapter and be all “wait, whose daughter is this again?” and have to go back to the character chart at the front of the book to confirm. That was a bit annoying.

It did sort of feel like a mandatory high school read but overall it was pretty good and I’d recommend it.

Follow

Good Reads

The holidays are coming up so just in case you find yourself with some leisure time and are looking for something to read, here’s a few books I’ve read lately.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Synopsis:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Heyyyy likeable characters, it’s been so long! A lot of the books I’ve been reading lately I’ve strongly disliked the major characters so this was a refreshing change. I didn’t read a synopsis or any reviews of the book before I started reading it so I did not realize it was more of a mystery and that a major theme was going to be domestic violence. But that was actually a pleasant surprise. While being a playful, light read it manages to cover some pretty serious topics. I’m really liking Liane Moriarty lately. This book had funny moments with women who felt like real people and who had believable relationships. I liked it a lot and I had a hard time putting it down once I got into it.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Synopsis:

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Once I realized this entire book was written in letters, a la Where’d You Go Bernadette, I was worried I wasn’t going to like it. But this book was so lovely. The letters back and forth between Juliet and her new friends gave the book a personal touch, it gave a glimpse into their lives, and I loved the way Juliet’s character in particular wrote. She was witty, funny and a good storyteller. I totally fell in love with her. I also loved hearing about this fantastic, badass woman Elizabeth. I actually felt like I knew the characters after reading their letters and I wish I could just take a boat over to Guernsey and meet them all! This is one of the first WWII book (well, aftermath WWII but it did describe disturbing events) that I’ve read that is funny and felt lighthearted. I have to say though, about three quarters of the way through I felt a change – the story sort of turned into more of a romance, a few minor plot things seemed to be dropped or downplayed, and I felt that it ended abruptly. I did not realize until afterwards that unfortunately the original author passed away before finishing the book and someone else stepped in and completed it, so I think that was probably the reason. I still loved it though. And it made me want to take up writing letters to my friends.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Synopsis:

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Twenty years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all.

A Canadian author! And you could tell, too. The story starts off in Toronto and the author name drops just about every Toronto landmark and downtown street name in the first chapter. Which I of course appreciated as a Torontonian, but it got me thinking – is it common in books for the city the book is set in to be like a minor character, or was I just hyper aware because the scenery was familiar to me? I still don’t know. It even mentioned Allan Gardens, where Evan took me with spiked coffees on our second date! So yeah, I experienced some nostalgia. Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. It made me want to read other apocalyptic novels (if anyone has any recommendations I’d take them!). Some things didn’t feel realistic to me (apocalypse aside), like seriously no one could figure out how to generate electricity again after 20 years? That surprised me for some reason. But I really enjoyed the plot and the characters, especially when the book went back and described their lives before the collapse. I do wish some more time was spent in the immediate aftermath of the collapse and how the characters made it because that was super interesting. Overall, I liked!

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Synopsis:

The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name.

Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves.

Ehhh. I was disappointed. It was okay but I expected so much more! I feel like there was so much potential but nothing really happened! I read it a couple months ago and when I think about it now no events stand out to me. Basically the story is about an Indian family assimilating into American culture as immigrants and what kind of adjustments they make to their lives. I really think that has the potential to be interesting but it just…wasn’t. The author is a beautiful writer, but the book consisted of a lot of descriptions and filler and a ho-hum main character. There was no payoff and the story needed more. In my opinion anyway, it does have some rave reviews. I don’t know what I was expecting but I did not love.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Synopsis:

Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.

So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes.

Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.

I guess I’m on a Liane Moriarty kick! I still love her and I liked this. It got me thinking how much my life has changed in 10 years and if something happened to me and I forgot everything and thought the year was 2006 and I was still living the life I was then… Actually, you know what, I’m glad I’m not. 2016 is much better for me. What I thought was the most interesting is that when Alice loses her memory everyone around her starts seeing their own lives in reflection to what her memory is of them 10 years ago, and they don’t like themselves, either. Another book that deals with some heavy topics (divorce, death, infertility, the breakdown of a family) but still manages to remain light and sometimes funny. I thought it was smart and thought-provoking and I enjoyed.

Follow

Books Lately

I’m home sick with a cold and I am SO SAD to miss work today because we have a team building event that includes a Loblaws Japanese cooking class. We have this delicious menu planned and I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks! I was really torn this morning, I thought a Tylenol cold might suppress my symptoms enough for me to make it, but nope. It’s doing jack all. I’m sneezing all over the place and my nose just WILL NOT stop running. No one is going to want to cook around this mess. I really enjoy my coworkers and, delicious food aside, I was excited to hang out with them doing something fun. I missed going to a play with them last night also, and I also missed my blogger book club on Wednesday, STUPID COLD. Hasn’t been the best week, but things are looking up. My pal Cely just reminded me that The Crown starts on Netflix today so I know what I’m doing while I wallow on my couch of pain surrounded by Kleenex.

the-crown-640x392

Since I haven’t been up to much this week aside from being sick, here’s a book update.

200_s

I do!

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child

harry_potter_cursed_child

Synopsis:

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

I loved it. Obviously, it’s Harry Potter, I knew going into it there was no way I wouldn’t love it. I enjoyed the storyline but I wish it was released as a novel rather than a script. Though I’d love to see it play out on stage (I really hope to one day!), it was a play, and it read like a play. That format was missing the detail that I love about the rest of the HP series, and to me it felt a bit like Harry Potter fan fiction. Also, the plot was very simple and everything wrapped up just a little too neatly…but again, it’s a play. So I get that. I loved it, but I can understand where the disappointed reviews are coming from.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

dead_until_dark

Synopsis:

Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She’s quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn’t get out much. Not because she’s not pretty. She is. It’s just that, well, Sookie has this sort of “disability.” She can read minds. And that doesn’t make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He’s tall, dark, handsome–and Sookie can’t hear a word he’s thinking. He’s exactly the type of guy she’s been waiting for all her life….

But Bill has a disability of his own: He’s a vampire with a bad reputation. He hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of–big surprise–murder. And when one of Sookie’s coworkers is killed, she fears she’s next.

I completely forgot I read this until I was looking through my recent reads on Goodreads, so I can’t say it was memorable. I watched the TV series before reading this and it’s basically exactly the same as season one of True Blood (as far as I can remember but it’s been a while since I watched it so I may be forgetting some details), so I knew what was going to happen and there were no surprises for me. That might affect my opinion, if I had read this before knowing much about the characters and the storyline I may have enjoyed it more. It did make me miss the early seasons of the show! I sooo missed Tara and Lafayette as characters – Lafayette is in the book but doesn’t have much of a role.

13153540

He’s the best.

It’s a fun, sexy read and I enjoyed it. Will I continue with the series? Ehh, maybe one day.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

the_last_anniversary

Synopsis:

Sophie Honeywell always wondered if Thomas Gordon was the one she let get away. He was the perfect boyfriend, but on the day he was to propose, she broke his heart. A year later he married his travel agent, while Sophie has been mortifyingly single ever since. Now Thomas is back in her life because Sophie has unexpectedly inherited his aunt Connie’s house on Scribbly Gum Island — home of the famously unsolved Munro Baby mystery.

Sophie moves onto the island and begins a new life as part of an unconventional family where it seems everyone has a secret. Grace, a beautiful young mother, is feverishly planning a shocking escape from her perfect life. Margie, a frumpy housewife, has made a pact with a stranger, while dreamy Aunt Rose wonders if maybe it’s about time she started making her own decisions.

As Sophie’s life becomes increasingly complicated, she discovers that sometimes you have to stop waiting around — and come up with your own fairy-tale ending.

I have really been liking Liane Moriarty books lately. I think she’s a talented storyteller and author. This was not my favourite book of hers, but I still enjoyed it. It’s well-written with a decent mystery component. I’m not one who typically figures out the mystery before it’s revealed and the ending was a surprise for me. I also liked that she wrote about post partum depression. It’s a tough subject and one that I think needs to be talked about more often. It was a charming and entertaining book and I’d recommend. Also, I wouldn’t mind living on Scribby Gum Island.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

the_nest

Synopsis:

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can’t seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the future they’ve envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

So many people seem to just rave about how great this book is, but I do not get what the big deal is. I was reading the prologue and thinking “Yes! I’m going to love this book!” but it sort of went downhill for me from there. I know I’m in the minority. I guess I expected more than just dysfunctional family dynamics between shallow, whiny characters. It’s not a terrible book but it didn’t live up to the hype for me.

The Storyteller by Jodi Piccoult

the_storyteller

Synopsis:

Sage Singer befriends an old man who’s particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone’s favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses… and then he confesses his darkest secret—he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.

What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who’s committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And most of all—if Sage even considers his request—is it murder, or justice?

Loved this book. Minka’s tale of surviving the Holocaust was totally the highlight and I could not get enough of her story. So heartbreaking. I do wish that Sage had been explored more, particularly her friendship with Josef. I also could have done without the typical “she’s so beautiful but she’s insecure and doesn’t know it” storyline about Sage. It’s been done so many times. But I still loved it and once again I did not see the twist coming. It was so good!

Follow

Summer Reading

I’ve been driving to work this summer instead of taking transit so my reading time has been cut down significantly…but I haven’t done a books update all summer so I have a few to talk about!

In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

in_a_dark_dark_wood

Synopsis:

In a dark, dark wood

Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

There was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room….

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.

Ehh, I didn’t love it. I was pretty disappointed actually because I felt like it had the opportunity to be awesome but it fell flat for me. I didn’t find anything about it new or innovative. It sort of reminded me of a RL Stine Fear Street novel or a Christopher Pike book from back in the day, but honestly it was not as thrilling and the plot wasn’t as good. The characters felt sort of flimsy to me and odd in an unrealistic way, especially the main character. I did not enjoy her at all. It wasn’t terrible, but it was not a favourite of mine.

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

the_good_girl

Synopsis:

One night, Mia Dennett enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn’t show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. At first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life.

When Colin decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota instead of delivering her to his employers, Mia’s mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them. But no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family’s world to shatter.

I really liked this! It was a refreshing read after that last book. Like many books in this genre recently, it’s been compared to Gone Girl which…just stop. Stop doing that. Not every book with a little bit of suspense is like Gone Girl. But it wasn’t what I was expecting at all, it felt fresh and different, and I got really into it. I definitely enjoyed. I’m also impressed it was Mary Kubica’s debut novel.

The Martian by Andy Weir

the_martian

Synopsis:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive.

But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

I read this after I watched the movie and I really liked both the movie and book. I thought they cast Matt Damon perfectly as Mark Watney, when I was reading the book I pictured Matt Damon in my head as I was reading and that felt natural. Mark’s humour was right up my alley and I loved the story. I only gave it three stars on GoodReads though (I would’ve gone for 3.5 if that was an option) because there was SO MUCH “here is the scientific explanation of exactly how I did this.” Like, I’m impressed you know those things, author, but I don’t care to. I didn’t think that amount of detail was needed. Sometimes we are talking entire chapters of a very scientific explanation of how something was rigged. So, there was some skimming happening on my part. The other thing was I had already seen the movie so I pretty much knew what was going to happen and that took away from the suspense a bit. But overall I really enjoyed it and would recommend.

You’re Never Weird On The Internet by Felicia Day

youre_never_weird_on_the_internet

Synopsis:

The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world… or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs.

After growing up in the south where she was “home-schooled for hippie reasons”, Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star.

Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.

Loved! I listened to this as an audio book and I loved the way Felicia told her story. Audio books narrated by the author are my favourite! Felicia is super relatable and likable. She is the creator of The Guild (a web series on YouTube based on World of Warcraft), and she also played Violet on Buffy. Ugh, the hate Felicia received for simply being a female gamer ENRAGED me. I didn’t know the background there, so reading that part of the book about all the hate Felicia received (from men) was really surprising (except not).

I have been known to be a bit of an internet geek and I got super into WoW a few years ago before I met Evan (and I found out Evan also played, haha.) I played it pretty religiously for about six months and I had two level 80s and even did some raiding — and then I realized that I was actually devoting my life to this game and there was no way to be just a casual player. I had to quit cold turkey if I wanted to be a productive member of society. Actually, I quit and then started my blog! This is a much more productive way to spend my spare time. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it though. I still think about it sometimes, but I know that if I play it I’ll be sucked into the void again. It was a dark time. Evan and I have already discussed that when we are in a nursing home one day and have nothing better to do we will basically live in the game. Something to look forward to!

Anyway I loved the book, and I think you’d like it even if you don’t know anything about online RPG. Actually it inspired me to just buck the F up and finish the book that I’ve been working on already (of my cartoon stories) and to make my own internet dreams a reality (start a web comic).

There’s a few more books, including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but I’ll save ’em for next time. Read anything good lately?! Tell me!

Follow

Books Lately

Time for some book reviews!

salem-reading

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

the-royal-we

Synopsis:

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.

So as you may have guessed (or already know if you’ve read it) The Royal We is very thinly veiled Will and Kate fan-fiction. Naturally, I loved it. It was a juicy read and I thought the characters were well done — it followed about eight years of their lives and you really got to know Nick, Bex and all their quirky friends. Freddie’s studly character (aka Prince Harry) was my favourite. Not a surprise. I don’t know how true to life the book actually is, but it gave me a glimpse of what it would be like to be in the royal family and honestly that kind of attention seems pretty tough to deal with. Story-wise it wasn’t anything new or shocking, but solid 4 stars from me for entertainment value. I enjoyed reading it immensely.

The Last Child by John Hart

the-last-child

Synopsis:

Thirteen year-old Johnny Merrimon had the perfect life: a warm home and loving parents; a twin sister, Alyssa, with whom he shared an irreplaceable bond. He knew nothing of loss, until the day Alyssa vanished from the side of a lonely street. Now, a year later, Johnny finds himself isolated and alone, failed by the people he’d been taught since birth to trust. No one else believes that Alyssa is still alive, but Johnny is certain that she is—confident in a way that he can never fully explain.

Determined to find his sister, Johnny risks everything to explore the dark side of his hometown. It is a desperate, terrifying search, but Johnny is not as alone as he might think. Detective Clyde Hunt has never stopped looking for Alyssa either, and he has a soft spot for Johnny. He watches over the boy and tries to keep him safe, but when Johnny uncovers a dangerous lead and vows to follow it, Hunt has no choice but to intervene.

Then a second child goes missing…

Undeterred by Hunt’s threats or his mother’s pleas, Johnny enlists the help of his last friend, and together they plunge into the wild, to a forgotten place with a history of violence that goes back more than a hundred years. There, they meet a giant of a man, an escaped convict on his own tragic quest. What they learn from him will shatter every notion Johnny had about the fate of his sister; it will lead them to another far place, to a truth that will test both boys to the limit.

I received this book as a birthday gift from my friend Dawn, so it was the first book I read in a long time that was an actual physical book and not an ebook. A real book! I read most of it in Cuba and I had a hard time putting it down on the beach, I delayed Evan’s proposal because I kept wanting to read for a few more minutes before we went swimming, ha. Anyway I was very impressed by this book. Who is this John Hart? I had never heard of him. This is not your standard murder-mystery thriller! Reading it was like a rollercoaster, with surprise twists and turns. It was gripping and well-written and heart-wrenching. Entertaining all around. Yes, parts of it were a bit far-fetched, but overall…I like. Solid 4 stars, maybe almost 4.5. Thanks Dawnald!

Defending Jacob by William Landay

defending-jacob

Synopsis:

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own–between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

I love mystery and crime thrillers, but I’m not really big on courtroom thrillers. Those have never been my genre. So I was skeptical of the courtroom part but I had heard good things so I decided to give it a shot. I liked it! I listened to an audiobook on my runs and though parts of it did drag a bit for me, overall it was an interesting read/listen. I finished it a few weeks ago and it has lingered with me, particularly the last third of the book, where it really picked up for me. I do think the ending was a bit contrived and everything wrapped up a little too quickly, considering how long the build-up was. But it was still worthwhile and enjoyable. I’m not sure if listening to it over reading it did much for me, but the narrator was good, which is important. I’d recommend.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

the-book-thief

Synopsis:

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Just finished this puppy! The Book Thief takes place during WWII Nazi Germany, and I love a good WWII book. This was no exception, but what made it different was that it was from the perspective of the Germans, namely a young German girl Liesel. I was apprehensive at first about the writing style, but once I got into it I loved how it was written. And having the narrator be Death was such a unique way to tell the story. I really enjoyed his vantage point. The Book Thief is heartbreaking and humourous and it made me both laugh and cry on the subway. I didn’t mind. 5 stars from me — I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read it! A new all-time fave for sure.

Read anything good lately?

Follow